Now that the regular season is over and OSU fans everywhere are anxiously awaiting bowl season, it might be a good time to look back with 20/20 hindsight at some preseason predictions. Back in June, we participated in the annual Big Ten Blogger Preseason Awards, and we posted our ballot for all to see. For 11W, it was a democratic process, as the ballot reflected a composite of the individual picks of all of the writers (6 at that time). This is a good opportunity to evaluate how we did as a whole with these predictions, and also see if we did well as individuals whenever there was significant disagreement.
Coach of the Year: Mark Dantonio
This was a close vote: Alex, Jason, and Luke went with the Spartans' head man while Chris chose JoePa and Corey and I both went with The Vest. None of us chose the eventual winner, Iowa's Kirk Ferentz. On an individual level, I have to admit that I was swayed by the Dantonio factor into being a little more optimistic about the Spartans this season then they probably deserved. I picked them to finish 3rd in the conference and I remember arguing passionately with one commenter that they deserved to be a top-25 team. As it turned out, MSU finished 6th in the Big Ten with a 4-4 record and finished 6-6 overall, and that's without having Ohio State on their schedule. I still love coach D, but I have to admit that this season did not reflect well on him. Here's hoping that it was an anomaly. Grade: D.
Best Heisman Candidate: Terrelle Pryor
This one might seem like a clear case of homerism, but the truth is that the pick made a lot of sense at the time. Northwestern blog site Lake The Posts not only picked Pryor, but they also made a strong argument that the only real choice was between Pryor and Penn State's Evan Royster. All of the 11W writers chose Pryor for this award, although Chris added the "or Royster" qualifier. While it is true that Pryor never came close to being a legitimate Heisman candidate, neither did anyone else from the Big Ten and so the most you can say about this one is that it's a wash. Grade: C.
Sleeper Team to Crack the Upper Tier: Minnesota
For this one, we defined "Upper Tier" to mean the top 4, and so only Ohio State, Iowa, Penn State, and Northwestern/Wisconsin qualified this season. Out of those teams, the only one that could have been considered a "sleeper" was Northwestern. This was another close vote among 11W writers. Alex, Jason, and Luke chose Minnesota, Chris and Corey took Michigan State, and I chose Northwestern. I didn't really think Michigan State qualified as a "sleeper" team since most of us picked them to do well this season. But Minnesota certainly was. They had started out well in 2008 before fading late in the season. The thought was that the new stadium might be worth a game or two. As it turned out, the Gophers mostly disappointed after a decent start. They seemed to be in good shape after a victory over Purdue put them at 4-2. But lousy weather and an injury to star receiver Eric Decker hurt them in a 20-0 road loss to Penn State, and the wheels seemed to come off after that. Minnesota limped to a 3-5 finish in the Big Ten and 6-6 overall. Grade: D minus.
Most Likely to John L Smith (Lose It): Tim Brewster
For this award, the votes were fairly well scattered. Chris and Jason went with Brewster, Luke and I chose Ron Zook, Alex took Brett Bielema and Corey went with Rich Rodriguez. While none of the B10 coaches went into meltdown mode this season, we did get to see RichRod break down into tears. Zook might not have had a Smith-style sideline tirade, but he should have. His team finished 3-8 this season and in general has severely under-performed in the 2 years since that Rose Bowl beat-down at the hands of USC. A bit of histrionic rage might have inspired the Illini to play up to their potential a little more this season. Maybe. Grade: B minus.
Shonn Greene Award (Player to Come from Nowhere): John Clay
There were debates internally as to whether a highly-regarded recruit like Clay (or Devier Posey) could be said to have come "from nowhere", but the interpretation we settled on was that the guy couldn't have been a regular starter the previous season. Corey and Chris went with Posey on their ballots, while Jason and I both chose Clay. Alex was torn between OSU's Brandon Saine and Minnesota's DeLeon Eskridge, while Luke was torn between Clay and Indiana's Ben Chappell. So as a group we went with Clay by the slimmest of margins, and it paid off as he was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year by both the media and the coaches. Posey and Saine both had excellent seasons, with the latter garnering 2nd team All-Big 10 status. Chappell completed over 62% of his passes for over 2900 yards, but also threw 15 INT's. Grade: A.
Must See Game of the Year: Ohio State @ Penn State
This was a unanimous selection and you can make an argument that it truly was the game of the year in the Big Ten, at least from a Buckeye perspective. But I would argue that the de facto Big Ten Championship game between Ohio State and Iowa was the true "must-see" thriller of this season. Not only was it for all the conference marbles, but it was a dramatic game that went into overtime. Add to that the gritty performance by Iowa's back-up QB and the game-winning FG by OSU's back-up kicker and you have all the elements that make up a classic. Grade: B.
Upset Special: Penn State @ Michigan
This one was a toss-up in the voting, with Luke and Corey going with MSU over PSU. Jason and I went with Michigan over Penn State and Alex went with Michigan over MSU (Chris did not choose an upset). It seems like not many of us had faith in the Nittany Lions, even though we all picked them to finish in the top 2 in the conference. Of course, none of those upsets actually happened, and the upset of the year has to be Purdue over OSU. Apparently, we were all swayed by coach Tressel's record against non-ranked teams. Grade: F.
The Big Finish
Here was our composite prediction for the final Big Ten standings:
- Ohio State
- Penn State
- Michigan State