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There were many headlines in the Big Ten in 2013, but the Spartans stole the spotlight.
The 2013 regular season is in the books and the Michigan State Spartans are the champs.
The improbable run to the Rose Bowl for Mark Dantonio is the main headline for what turned out to be a very memorable campaign in the Big Ten, but it’s not the only one.
The league welcomed two new coaches to the fray with Wisconsin’s Gary Andersen and Purdue’s Darrell Hazell achieving wildly different outcomes. Kirk Ferentz saved his job and returned Iowa to relative prominence with wins over rivals Nebraska and Michigan. Minnesota inspired the nation by winning eight games despite Jerry Kill’s health issues. Bill O’Brien posted his second consecutive winning season in the face of crippling NCAA sanctions with a true freshman quarterback.
Then there were the Buckeyes. Urban Meyer began his Big Ten career a perfect 24-0, including a win in one of the greatest Michigan-Ohio State games ever played. But, much to Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany’s chagrin, Meyer’s Buckeyes couldn’t finish the season as Big Ten champs and therefore cost the league a berth in the BCS National Championship Game.
And next year, the league will have a totally new look as both Maryland and Rutgers join and new divisional lineups take shape.
Big Ten 2013 Season Awards
Coach of the Year: Mark Dantonio, Michigan State
Michigan State did the unexpected by running the Big Ten table for the first time since 1966, capping their magical season by stunning the Buckeyes 33-24 in the third annual Big Ten Championship Game. Dantonio has returned the Spartans to the promised land — i.e., the Rose Bowl — for the first since 1987 when Lorenzo White and Nick Saban roamed the sidelines. He is fifth all-time in Michigan State history with 51 wins and could be as high as third all-time by next season. He has the highest winning percentage of any coach in East Lansing since Biggie Munn’s remarkable 84.6 percent benchmark set back in 1953. Michigan State had three 10-win seasons prior to his arrival and Dantonio has had three in the last four seasons. After being picked fourth in the Legends Division by most, Dantonio is clearly the Coach of the Year in the Big Ten.
Offensive Player of the Year: Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State
A (very good) case can be made for either Connor Cook or Jeremy Langford from Michigan State. Or even Penn State’s Allen Robinson. But the most dynamic player in the league this fall was Ohio State’s Miller. He finished seventh in the league with 1,033 yards rushing — fourth nationally among quarterbacks — and scored 10 rushing touchdowns. He led the league in passing efficiency (157.94) with 1,860 yards, 22 touchdowns and only five interceptions. Miller had been unbeaten as a starter until the conference championship game loss to the Spartans.
Defensive Player of the Year: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
Wisconsin’s Chris Borland is a truly great player who epitomizes all that Badgers football represents. And while he is a deserving challenger to Shazier, only one player in the Big Ten led the league in tackles (135), tackles for a loss (23.5) and forced fumbles (4) while leading his team to 24 straight wins. Shazier also finished fifth in the league in sacks (7.0). He was fifth nationally in tackles and second nationally in tackles for a loss on a team that won its division and didn’t lose a regular season game. Few players make as many big plays or big hits as Ohio State’s talented linebacker.
Newcomer of the Year: Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State
It cannot be understated how good Hackenberg was in just his first season in college football. He finished third nationally among freshman quarterbacks to only Jameis Winston (38) and John O’Korn (26) in passing touchdowns (20). Hackenberg also was third nationally among freshmen in yards (2,955) and was fourth nationally in passing efficiency (133.99). He finished five yards out of second in the Big Ten in passing (Devin Gardner, 2,960) after setting every major Penn State freshman passing record. He led his team to furious comeback wins against Michigan and Illinois and performed like a seasoned vet (339 yards, 4 TDs) in the regular-season finale road upset of Wisconsin. This was a total slam dunk.
Biggest Disappointment of 2013: Michigan
Picked by most to win the Legends Division and possibly press Ohio State for Big Ten supremacy, Michigan finished eighth in the Big Ten power rankings. The offense looked downright atrocious for most of the season as Michigan won two games against teams with winning records (Notre Dame, Minnesota). Otherwise, the Wolverines fell flat on their faces against good teams, losing in ugly fashion to Michigan State, Nebraska, Iowa and Penn State. Brady Hoke’s bunch did save its best showing for last in what turned out to be a historic meeting with rival Ohio State, but that didn’t salvage what has to be considered the most disappointing season in the Big Ten this fall.
Biggest Surprise of 2013: Iowa
Ohio State did exactly what it was supposed to by going 12-0. Gary Andersen had a fabulous first season in Madison. Indiana showed improvement. Michigan State overachieved and is in the Rose Bowl for the first time since ’87. And Minnesota was a heart-warming story. But Iowa and Kirk Ferentz — with the help of an extraordinary trio of linebackers — did the most with the least of any team in the league. Picked by most to finish last in the Legends Division (4-8 by Athlon Sports), the Hawkeyes eventually finished fourth in the overall final B1G power rankings. Wins over rivals Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska and Northwestern gives Ferentz new life in Iowa City after a 4-8 showing last season.
Athlon's 2013 All-Big Ten Team
|First-Team Offense||Second-Team Offense|
|QB Braxton Miller, Ohio St||QB Connor Cook, Michigan St|
|RB Jeremy Langford, Michigan St||RB Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin|
|RB Carlos Hyde, Ohio St||RB Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska|
|WR Allen Robinson, Penn St||WR Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin|
|WR Jeremy Gallon, Michigan||WR Cody Latimer, Indiana|
|TE C.J. Fiedorowicz, Iowa||TE Devin Funchess, Michigan|
|C Corey Linsley, Ohio St||C Cole Pensick, Nebraska|
|G John Urschel, Penn St||G Andrew Norwell, Ohio St|
|G Ryan Groy, Wisconsin||G Blake Treadwell, Michigan St|
|T Jack Mewhort, Ohio St||T Brandon Scherff, Iowa|
|T Taylor Lewan, Michigan||T Rob Havenstein, Wisconsin|
|AP James White, Wisconsin||AP Josh Ferguson, Illinois|
|First-Team Defense||Second-Team Defense|
|DE Shilique Calhoun, Michigan St||DE Frank Clark, Michigan|
|DE Randy Gregory, Nebraska||DE Noah Spence, Ohio St|
|DT Ra'Shede Hageman, Minnesota||DT Carl Davis, Iowa|
|DT DaQuan Jones, Penn St||DT Michael Bennett, Ohio St|
|LB Ryan Shazier, Ohio St||LB James Morris, Iowa|
|LB Chris Borland, Wisconsin||LB Denicos Allen, Michigan St|
|LB Max Bullough, Michigan St||LB Anthony Hitchens, Iowa|
|CB Darqueze Dennard, Michigan St||CB Blake Countess, Michigan|
|CB Bradley Roby, Ohio St||CB Ciante Evans, Nebraska|
|S Isaiah Lewis, Michigan St||S Brock Vereen, Minnesota|
|S Kurtis Drummond, Michigan St||S C.J. Barnett, Ohio St|
|First-Team Specialists||Second-Team Specialists|
|K Jeff Budzien, Northwestern||K Mitch Ewald, Indiana|
|P Mike Sadler, Michigan St||P Cody Webster, Purdue|
|KR Akeem Hunt, Purdue||KR Kenny Bell, Nebraska|
|PR Kevonte Martin-Manley, Iowa||PR V'Angelo Bentley, Illinois|