Midseason Big Ten football awards and bold predictions for the second half of the 2016 college football season.
Top Big Ten Coach
Jeff Bartl – Urban Meyer – It’s pretty remarkable that Ohio State might be better than last year’s team considering all of the new starters on both sides of the ball.
Jonathan Bass – I really debated going with Paul Chryst, given how well his team has played thus far. However, in our SEC awards I lauded Nick Saban for having the nation’s best team despite turning over nearly the entire roster. The same has to go for Urban Meyer at Ohio State. Before the season when Meyer said this is his most talented team, it sounded like hyperbole. It looks as though the coach wasn’t bluffing.
Brian Stultz – I’m going against the grain and picking my friend* Kevin Wilson at Indiana. In two of the Hoosiers’ three losses, they have been right there with the chance to win. Football is an actual thing in Bloomington right now.
*He doesn’t know we are friends.
Top Big Ten Player
Jeff Bartl – Jabrill Peppers – One could argue J.T. Barrett for this, but the do-it-all Peppers gets my vote because of his versatility on defense, offense and special teams that will earn him plenty of Heisman votes.
Jonathan Bass – Flip a coin between J.T. Barrett and Jabrill Peppers – the best offensive and defensive players for the conference’s top two teams. I’ll go with Barrett simply because he handles the ball on every snap for the Big Ten’s best offense.
Brian Stultz – Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers is the new Deion Sanders.
Top Big Ten Team
Jeff Bartl – Michigan – I think the Wolverines have a better defense than the Buckeyes and that it’ll be the difference when they meet in the regular-season finale.
Jonathan Bass – Ohio State, with the obvious caveat being that this answer will truly be decided on November 26 in The Horseshoe.
Brian Stultz – Ohio State, with Michigan being a close second.
Jeff Bartl – Wisconsin – I don’t think anyone could’ve expected the Badgers being this good. It’s just a shame that two of the top three teams in the country reside in their own conference. The two losses by a combined 14 points still were impressive.
Jonathan Bass – Wisconsin is the best two-loss team in the nation. Few saw the Badgers beating LSU in the opener, and I’m willing to say even fewer people envisioned them playing Michigan and Ohio State so close.
Honorable mention to the work D.J. Durkin has done at Maryland.
Brian Stultz – How bad Michigan State has been. The Spartans are coming off a College Football Playoff berth and yet are only 2-4 this season and riding a four-game losing streak.
Jeff Bartl – Michigan State – What a rapid fall from grace it’s been for Mark Dantonio’s team. The trip to last season’s College Football Playoff seems like a distant memory for the 2-4 Spartans.
Jonathan Bass – September in Evanston. Northwestern should have been, at worst, 3-1 coming out of the season’s first month. Instead they went 1-3. The Wildcats have seemingly righted the ship, but they certainly squandered a scheduling gift of not having to leave home until October.
Honorable mention to Rutgers’ performances against Ohio State and Michigan.
Brian Stultz – Penn State honoring Joe Paterno. What a disgrace.
Bold Prediction For Second Half
Jeff Bartl – Wisconsin overcomes two-game deficit to win Big Ten West – Nebraska currently sits atop the West with a 3-0 conference mark, and the Badgers are 1-2. However, the Cornhuskers travel to Wisconsin next week, followed by a trip to Ohio State. Those two losses give the head-to-head tiebreaker to the Badgers, who run the table the rest of the way.
Jonathan Bass – Michigan State splits its final six games and misses out on bowl eligibility.
Brian Stultz – Ohio State will beat Michigan by at least 10 points.
Who Wins The Big Ten?
Jeff Bartl – Michigan – The Wolverines beat the Buckeyes on Nov. 26, beat Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game and go to the College Football Playoff.
Jonathan Bass – Ohio State defeats Michigan in a game that is a defensive battle in the first half, and then devolves into a second-half shootout. Buckeyes win a game that murders the over.
Brian Stultz – Ohio State. They are going to be awesome for quite some time.