From time to time, all of us Big Ten sites here at SB Nation will put aside our on-field rivalries to work together and create something that benefits the group as a whole — yes, even Maize n Brew.
This time, the site managers of the miscellaneous B1G blogs at the mothership have taken a stab at predicting this year’s Big Ten award winners, as well as predict who will be crowned conference champs at the end of the 2020 season. Not every site participated, but we have collectively compiled a list of who we think will take home the trophies this year.
Without further ado, let’s get to the categories.
Big Ten East Champions: Ohio State (Consensus Pick)
Of the nine managing editors that took part in the survey, all nine selected the Ohio State Buckeyes to win the East division. Penn State originally entered the season with high aspirations, but the losses of star linebacker Micah Parsons and now potentially RB Journey Brown have put a damper on the Nittany Lions’ outlook. Michigan could sneak into the conversation as well, but Jim Harbaugh has yet to have his Wolverines finish higher than third place in the division.
Big West Champions: Wisconsin/Minnesota (Tie)
There is some dissension as to who will come away victorious in the West, as there were four votes each for the Badgers and the Golden Gophers — with one lone vote for Nebraska by Corn Nation thrown in the mix. Wisconsin will need to replace Jonathan Taylor, but they will still feature their usual stout offensive line and perhaps see an improvement in the passing game with Graham Mertz at the helm. Minnesota returns Tanner Morgan at QB, but they have to replace a ton of talent on the defensive side of the ball in year four under P.J. Fleck. As LGHL’s representative, I chose Wisconsin to win the West.
Big Ten Champions: Ohio State (Consensus Pick)
Regardless of who the Buckeyes play in Indianapolis, everyone agrees that they will emerge as victorious and secure a fourth-straight Big Ten title. Personally, I think it would be a much more competitive game if Ohio State has to play Minnesota rather than Wisconsin — at least with what we know heading into the regular season. We’ve seen the Buckeyes tangle with the Badgers more than a few times recently, and it just doesn’t appear that the Wisco offense is built to beat a team that can score like OSU. The Gophers, on the other hand, employ a more pass-heavy offense that could potentially make things interesting at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Big Ten Player of the Year: Justin Fields
Offensive Player of the Year: Justin Fields
Eight of the nine votes for both awards came in favor of Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, with the lone defector being The Daily Gopher’s vote for Minnesota wide receiver Rashod Bateman.
Fields was nothing short of phenomenal in his first year as a starter in 2019, completing over 67% of his passes for almost 3,300 yards and 41 TDs with only 3 INTs — two of which came in the Fiesta Bowl loss to Clemson. Entering the 2020 campaign as one of the favorites for the Heisman Trophy, it will be interesting to see just how much Fields can improve on such a stellar debut with another offseason of work next to Ryan Day under his belt.
Defensive Player of the Year: Mixed bag
There was no true consensus for who will win Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, with four different players each earning two votes apiece: Northwestern LB Paddy Fisher, Ohio State CB Shaun Wade, Purdue DL George Karlaftis, and Wisconsin LB Jack Sanborn. The one other vote was for Michigan DE Kwity Paye.
Myself, alongside Drew Hamm of Bucky’s 5th Quarter, voted for Karlaftis. While two other people voted for Shaun Wade, in making my selections I took into account that teams could treat Wade much like they treated Jeff Okudah — avoid him at all costs. When you don't throw at a player out of fear, that guy doesn't put up the stats necessary to win this type of award. So, I went with Karlaftis, who had 17 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks as a freshman a year ago, and is gearing up for another monster season off the edge for the Boilermakers.
Offensive Freshman of the Year: Rakim Jarrett/Graham Mertz (Tie)
While it was another mixed bag for responses here, two guys separated themselves from the pack with two votes apiece: Maryland WR Rakim Jarrett and Wisconsin QB Graham Mertz. Ohio State WR Julian Fleming received one vote — two if you count Corn Nation’s vote of “probably someone from Ohio State.”
Jarrett, who was my selection, arrives in College Park as a five-star prospect, and the No. 4 WR in the country in the 2020 class. A flip from LSU, the 6-foot, 190-pound receiver instantly becomes one of the most talented players on Maryland’s roster. At Wisconsin, Mertz is expected to take over the starting QB duties with Jack Coan on the shelf with an injury. He was the No. 3 pro-style QB in the 2019 class, and is the highest-rated QB recruit in program history.
Defensive Freshman of the Year: Andre Seldon
Another category with very little consensus, Michigan CB Andre Seldon won the Defensive Freshman of the Year ballot by being the only player with more than one vote.
At 5-foot-8, Seldon is incredibly undersized for a corner, but he makes up for his lack of height with excellent closing speed and instincts. A four-star prospect rated the No. 11 CB in the 2020 class, Seldon features great ball skills, clean footwork, and an impressive vertical jump that could make him a star in Ann Arbor. If Michigan is going to stop letting up 60 points to Ohio State every time they play them, they will need guys like Seldon to be elite.
Big Ten Coach of the Year: Ryan Day
Ohio State head coach Ryan Day came away as the selection for Big Ten Coach of the Year with four votes. Paul Chryst at Wisconsin and Tom Allen at Indiana were the runner-ups with two votes apiece, while Nebraska’s Scott Frost received one vote.
Day was selected as last years co-Big Ten Coach of the Year alongside Minnesota’s P.J. Fleck, marking the first time the headman of the Buckeyes earned the honor since Earle Bruce in 1979. Funny enough, it is actually way harder to win the award as the head coach at Ohio State, since everyone just naturally expects you to be great and win all your games. If Day can accomplish the lofty goals he and his team have set for this season, it could be his trophy to lose.
A big shoutout to all the other managing editors that took part in this collaboration. A special thanks to Anthony Broome of Maize n Brew for being a driving force in putting this all together. I look forward to rooting against all of your teams if/when they come face-to-face with Ohio State this season — especially yours, Broome.