It was a fantastic 2016 in the Big Ten as we get ready to tear up the calendar. Plenty of memories, both good and bad, but mostly a strong statement from the conference during the football season. As we get excited for the real bowl games that will include 10 schools from the conference, I thought it would be fun to have our own awards to commemorate the season. Hope you enjoy them and have a very happy holiday season!
Biggest non-conference win of 2016: Ohio State 45 Oklahoma 24
- This was a statement win for the Buckeyes as they blasted OU in their own backyard. The win was especially significant for both teams given their final place in the College Football Playoff rankings. You know OU would be playing in a second consecutive playoff had they defeated OSU.
Runner Up: Wisconsin 16 LSU 14
Worst non-conference loss of 2016: North Dakota State 23 Iowa 21
- NDSU is a great FCS program but Iowa, playing at home, was ranked #13 at the time and many felt they would be back in the conference title hunt. There were a few duds in non-conference play for the Big Ten but this one was the most surprising.
Runner Up: Illinois State 9 Northwestern 7
Conference Game of the Year: Ohio State 30 Michigan 27 (2 OT)
-Without question one of the toughest to pin down. So many great choices. This game was essentially a play-in game for the CFB playoff. Michigan dominated early then OSU came firing back. The game even had it's controversy on a 4th down conversion. It was definitely a heavy weight fight.
Runner Up: Ohio State 30 Wisconsin 23 (OT) and Penn State 24 Ohio State 21
Most Unwatchable Game of the Year: Iowa 14 Minnesota 7
- The Floyd of Rosedale matchup was not easy on the eyes. Both quarterbacks made so many mistakes and neither offense looked like they wanted anything to do with the endzone.
Runner Up: Iowa 14 Rutgers 7
Breakout Performance of the Year: Northwestern WR Austin Carr vs. Ohio State
- Austin Carr was large on the scene in many games but his performance against the Buckeyes on the road was fantastic. He had 8 receptions for 158 yds and a touchdown (had a second called back that should have been challenged) and finished with 19.8 yds per reception. Carr was a Biletnikoff finalist and this game was a big reason why.
Runner Up: Michigan ATH Jabrill Peppers vs. Rutgers
Biggest Surprise of 2016: Penn State wins the Big Ten
- Did anyone else think Penn State would be able to leap Ohio State, Michigan and even Michigan State at the beginning of the season?
Runner Up: Conference Champ doesn't make CFB Playoff
Most Disappointing team of 2016: Michigan State
- This is a no brainer. Michigan State was bringing back a very impressive defense and still had some offensive weapons from a team that won the conference and played in the playoff. Sure there could be a few challenges along the way when you replace a 3 year starter at quarterback but winning just one conference game and finishing 3-9 overall was absolute rock bottom.
Runner Up: Northwestern
Most Impressive team of 2016: Penn State
- They overcame a 2-2 start and rattled off 9 wins in a row including huge w's over Ohio State and Wisconsin. Winning the conference this season is extremely impressive considering how they had to do it. Star RB Saquon Barkley was great all year but the emergence of QBTrace McSorley was a lot of fun to watch. Even though they did not find themselves in the playoff, James Franklin and his team made a huge statement.
Runner Up: Ohio State
Player of the Year: Penn State RB Saquon Barkley
- The sophomore tailback rushed for 1,302 16 TDs, and averaged 5.3 yds a carry. He was the constant driving force for the Nittany Lions in leading them to the Big Ten title.
Runner Up: Ohio State RB Curtis Samuel
Coach of the Year: James Franklin Penn State
- After a tough loss to PItt and a blowout loss to Michigan, many wondered if Franklin would be around in 2017. He was able to circle the wagons and emerge out of the very challenging East division and then go on to defeat Wisconsin in the championship game. Penn State looks to be a contender for years to come.
Runner Up: Paul Chryst Wisconsin
Team of the Year: Ohio State
- Even though the Buckeyes did not win the conference title they will represent the league in the College Football Playoff. This was a team that had lost so many players in the draft the year before but continued it's winning ways and will have a chance to play for it's second national title in three years.
Runner Up: Michigan