We are through eight weeks and have finished almost two-thirds of the college football season, but the glorious part about this sport is that almost all of the best is still to come. Well that is at least what a lot fan bases are hoping for.
For this week’s column, I will be looking at who has a chance at winning the Player of the Year, the Coach of the Year and the Freshman of the Year for the Big Ten Conference after two-thirds of the season.
Player of the Year
This award is once again open for people not named Saquon Barkley! The Penn State running won the award in each of the last two seasons before taking his talents to East Rutherford.
Before the season this seemed like it was going to be a pretty each choice. After rushing for 1,977 yards as a true freshman and running behind that massive Wisconsin offensive line once again, running back Jonathan Taylor seemed like the easy choice. Taylor is once again having a great year, already rushing for 1,109 yards and eight touchdowns through seven games. He is in a good position to win the award but isn’t exactly pulling away with it.
Another candidate is Rondale Moore. The freshman from Purdue is exhilarating to watch and is also putting up big numbers. (More on him in the freshman of the year category)
Two other players who will be major factors in this category are Karan Higdon and Shea Patterson of the Wolverines.
Patterson does not have the numbers you would typically see from a player of the year candidate but as the quarterback and maybe the best player on Michigan, he has a real chance if Michigan continues to roll.
Higdon has been ridiculous this year. He finished the 2017 campaign with 994 yards and though seven games he already has 831 yards. He has six straight games with at least 100 yards and in every game the Wolverines have won this year he has rushed for 100 yards. Just based purely on his production he is going to be in the mix.
Dwayne Haskins, the Ohio State quarterback is another name to look out for. He has been putting up ridiculous numbers all year. He has three games with over 300 yards and he has thrown for over 400 yards in his last three games. In total, he has 2,801 yards and 30 passing touchdowns.
If the Buckeyes right the ship after their blowout loss to Purdue and end up winning the conference, Haskins is going to be the name most likely to be chosen for this award.
Freshman of the year
Freshman of the year is not a real contest. Purdue’s incredibly dynamic utility player Rondale Moore is running away with the award at this point (pun intended.) Standing at just 5’9”, Moore has the potential to break open a game at any second with his mind blowing speed. Watching him play is a lot like watching Tyreek Hill of the Kansas City Chiefs. He possesses a different type of speed that somehow makes fantastic athletes look slow.
It has not just been flashes from Moore either. He is backing it up with stats as well. In seven games this season, Moore has 57 catches, 728 receiving yards and seven touchdown catches. He also has 163 rushing yards and a touchdown on just 11 carries.
The other candidate for the award would be Adrian Martinez, the freshman quarterback at Nebraska. The Cornhuskers just won their first game of the season against Minnesota, which would normally rule him out but he has been putting up big numbers ever since his Week 4 game against the Wolverines. In total he has 1,443 passing yards and nine passing touchdowns. He has also added 415 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns, including two separate occasions of 100 yard rushing games.
The Cornhuskers definitely don’t have everything figured out yet, but it looks like they have something at the quarterback position.
Coach of the year
If Michigan wins the Big Ten East then Jim Harbaugh has the award locked up. If not, then things could get very interesting. The way Michigan rebounded from the tough loss to Notre Dame and how they have basically answered every question from last years team has been really impressive. In addition, the Big Ten East is an incredibly difficult division and if someone wins it who is not expected too, that coach has a major edge at winning the award.
The other candidates are where it gets complicated. Because of the expectations that Ohio State has every year, once OSU lost a game Meyer was basically eliminated from getting the award even if the Buckeyes were to win the conference. James Franklin and Mark Dantonio are eliminated since they both already have two losses in the conference. That means that the only real competitor for Harbaugh is in the West division.
So much is yet to happen in the West but the same rules that apply to Meyer and OSU go for Wisconsin and coach Paul Chryst. Expectations were so high for the Badger coming in to the season so now that he has a loss, especially a blowout loss, he is virtually eliminated from the competition.
That leaves three coaches standing. Purdue’s Jeff Brohm, Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald and Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz. All three of those coaches have a real chance at winning the award as it stands right now.
I’d say the leader in the clubhouse right now is Brohm. After losing the first three games of the season, including a 20-19 loss to Eastern Michigan at home, the Boiler Makers have won four straight including their most recent victory that was a 49-20 blowout against OSU. The thing Brohm has going for him is that even if Purdue were to not win the conference but they had a strong finish to the season, he would still have a good chance of winning the award. That is not the case for a majority of the other coaches.
Northwestern’s season has gone very similarly to Purdue. They actually opened the season with a win over the Boilermakers but then followed that up with three consecutive losses including a 39-34 home loss to Akron. Since their close 20-17 loss to U-M, the Wildcats have ripped off three straight wins, including a 29-19 victory against Michigan State. Northwestern’s next two conference games are against Wisconsin and Iowa so it will be prove it time for Pat Fitzgerald and Northwestern.
The last name is good ole’ Kirk Ferentz. Iowa is always going to be a team you have to take seriously and despite their early 28-17 loss to Wisconsin, they are by no means out of the Big Ten West race. The only ranked team left on their schedule is No. 17 Penn State, who doesn’t look nearly as menacing as they once did. If Iowa wins out and Wisconsin loses one more time, they will be the Big Ten West champs and if that happens Ferentz would be sitting golden.