QB - Drew Tate, Iowa: The exploits of this Texas Tornado might be lost on voters outside the Hawkeye State, but the Black and Gold's success this season hinged on his rapid growth. Opponents knew Iowa needed to throw, and he still beat them. He robbed their houses by coming right through the front door. The fact that Iowa ranks in the middle of the Big Ten in scoring offense is a minor miracle considering the running game sits dead last in Division IA football. If you're not a fan of Drew Tate then you either follow another conference school or don't like football.
RB - Michael Hart, Michigan: Chris Perry? Hart helped the folks in Ann Arbor forget that name in a hurry. The true freshman twice rushed for at least 200 yards in a game this season and carried the ball an average of 28.5 times in a contest in league play. Hart averaged 151.8 yards in his eight Big Ten games, gaining 5.3 yards a pop. That's impressive.
RB - Laurence Maroney, Minnesota: The sophomore blends the dangerous combination of speed and vision. Hawkeyes fans saw first hand the kind of damage this guy can cause. Despite splitting time with Marion Barber III, the sophomore averaged 107.8 yards per conference contest (6.2 per carry) and scored nine touchdowns.
WR - Brayland Edwards, Michigan: This talented senior produced a highlight reel season, and that likely will transfer into him becoming a very rich man next spring. Even though opposing defenses focused on stopping him, he finished the season leading the conference in receptions (87) and receiving yards (1221) to go along with 12 touchdowns.
WR - Taylor Stubblefield, Purdue: Looking at this guy, you wouldn't think him capable of wreaking the kind of havoc he does on defenses. Yet, he will leave the Big Ten as its all-time leading receptions leader and likely will be playing in Sunday afternoons next season. Much like Edwards, the opposition focuses on stopping this guy, and he still caught 82 balls for 1014 yards and a league-best 15 scores.
C - Greg Eslinger, Minnesota: This senior simply produced the most dominant season of any blocker in the conference and anchored the best front five in the Big Ten. It wasn't fun to watch him and his mates roll over the Hawkeye defense, but it was pretty impressive.
G - David Baas, Michigan: We're going to cheat a little bit here being as Baas moved from LG to center after the first two games of the season. However, this Florida native is good enough to justify bending the rules. There's a reason the Wolverines lead the conference in scoring with freshmen at QB and RB, and this guy is a big one.
G - Dan Buenning, Wisconsin: The senior anchors an offensive line that pushed people around for the majority of the season. Buenning possesses decent athleticism, running a sub-5.0-second 40, but sometimes goes unnoticed during a game. That's often a good thing for an O-lineman.
T - Sean Poole, Michigan State: One of only two offensive linemen in the history of the conference to earn player of the week honors. The senior helped the Spartans roll over previously undefeated Wisconsin.
T - Rian Melander, Minnesota: Like his fellow Gopher blocking mates, the senior benefits from outstanding athleticism and quickness. It's not a great year for offensive tackles in the Big Ten, but Melander is a good one.
TE - Matt Spaeth, Minnesota: Gopher possesses good size, skills and athleticism. He finished the season with 24 catches for 298 yards and four scores.
K - Mike Nugent, Ohio State: Sensibly, the Heisman talk surrounding the Nuge ended shortly after it started. Still, the senior proved to the best kicker in the Big Ten, making five of six tries from 50 and beyond and not missing any inside the 40. He rang true on 87.0 percent of his attempts.
Second-Team Offense QB - Kyle Orton, Purdue RB - Noah Herron, Northwestern RB - Marion Barber III, Minnesota WR - Clinton Solomon, Iowa WR - Santonio Holmes, Ohio State C - Jonathan Clinkscale, Wisconsin G - Pete McMahon, Iowa: G - Zach Strief, Northwestern T - Mike Otto, Purdue T -Adam Stenavich, Michigan, TE - Eric Knott, Michigan State K - Kyle Schlicher, Iowa
E - Matt Roth, Iowa: The Animal enjoyed another outstanding season despite having most of the league hanging onto to his jersey. The senior produced seven sacks, seven hurries and 11 tackles for loss heading into the season finale against Wisconsin.
T - Jonathan Babineaux, Iowa: It's tough to push much out of JB during an interview, but he talks pretty loud on game day. The senior rolled up 17.5 tackles for loss, six sacks, forced two fumbles and recovered two fumbles leading up to Wisconsin.
T - Anttaj Hawthorne, Wisconsin: The senior doesn't display dominating statistics, but he's a dominating presence. He's the type of player the opposition tries to avoid. You can expect to hear his name early when the April NFL Draft rolls around.
E - Erasmus James, Wisconsin: Before a dirty play by Purdue tight end Charles Davis, James was running wild in the backfields of the opposition. Still, the senior was tied with Roth for the league lead in sacks heading in to the final week.
LB - A.J. Hawk, Ohio State: Hawk relentlessly pursues offensive players and rarely endures an off game. The buckeye senior averaged 12.5 tackles per game.
LB - Chad Greenway, Iowa: It got to the point where offenses were creating schemes to neutralize the Hawkeye junior. He still racked up nearly 10 tackles a game, and none were bigger than his tackle for loss at the end of the Minnesota game.
LB - Abdul Hodge, Iowa: The junior didn't create as much noise as his good friend, Greenway, from a publicity standpoint, but he proved steady week in and week out. He also averaged around nine tackles a game and discouraged teams from considering the run.
SS - Ernest Shazor, Michigan: The senior paced a balanced Wolverine defense in tackles this season. And at 6-4, 229 pounds, people knew when they were hit by Ernest Shazor.
CB - Marlin Jackson, Michigan: Jackson is a dominating cover corner likely to be much sought after in the upcoming draft.
CB - Anwar Phillips, Penn State: In his first season as a full-time starter, Phillips proved to be one of the brightest spots on a Nittany Lions defense as good as any in the conference. The former WR tied for the league lead in interceptions (4) and was ranked among conference leaders in pass breakups (10).
P - Kyle Turano, Ohio State: The senior averaged 43.1 yards per punt, and the Buckeyes allowed just 3.3 yards per return. He dropped 19 punts inside the 20.
Second-Team Defense E - Rob Ninkovich, Purdue T - Brandon Villarreal, Purdue T - Louis Castillo, Northwestern E - LaMarr Woodley, Michigan LB - Paul Posluszny, Penn State LB - Tim McGarigle, Northwestern LB - Bobby Carpenter, Ohio State FS - Sean Considine, Iowa SS - Donte Witner, Ohio State CB - Antwan Allen, Iowa CB - Ashton Youboty, Ohio State P - Brandon Fields, Michigan State
JON MILLER HANDS OUT THE HARDWARE
Thanks to Rob for taking care of the heavy lifting. I think I will slide in the back door and focus on 'the hardware', or the players and coaches who I feel will win the individual honors.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
I think Braylon Edward will win this award, but if I had a vote, it would go to Drew Tate. Take Edwards off of Michigan, and they would still compete for the Big Ten title. Take Tate off of Iowa's team, and Iowa might not even make it to a bowl game this year.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
I am sticking with my preseason prediction here, and feel that Matt Roth will win it. He terrorized nearly every team he faced, so I suspect the coaches will at least give him the nod here. I think he will get the call from the media, as well. Erasmus James and Jonathon Babineaux deserve mention.
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN OF THE YEAR
Again, sticking with my preseason prediction, I will go with Eslinger of Minnesota.
NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR: Michael Hart, Michigan. Leading the league in rushing as a freshman is no small feat.
COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR: I don't think they award this, but if they do, Clinton Solomon wins it, hands down.
Well, go back to my Offensive MVP argument. I think Edwards wins it, but no one player was more valuable to his team than Tate was to Iowa. Tate also led the league in passing yards and passer efficiency, as a true sophomore with the lowest rated rushing offense in the nation.
COACH OF THE YEAR
Is there an easier pick than Kirk Ferentz? I really don't think so. It should be unanimous. He should also win National Coach of the Year honors, but he probably won't. That's OK, though, as we expect him to sign a contract extension through 2012 on Tuesday.
BEST GAME OF 2004
This one is always difficult to call. I will probably have to go with Michigan's win against Michigan State in multiple overtimes as the best game of the year in the league.
BREAKOUT TEAM FOR 2005
Iowa and Michigan can't be considered, as they are the champs. Both should compete for the title next year. Purdue might be ready to 'break out', but they have lost nearly every close game over the past three years. They return a ton of starters, even though they lose Orton and Stubblefield. Ohio State will probably bounce back and compete for a title, so they might be the easy pick here. Minnesota returns a lot of players, but they have yet to beat any team of significance since 2000.
I will go with the Michigan State Spartans. Thankfully, Iowa misses them on its schedule the next two seasons.
EARLY LOOK AT THE BIG TEN FAVORITES FOR NEXT YEAR
I will stick with how things ended this year; Iowa and Michigan are my two front runners to win the Big Ten title, with Ohio State and Michigan State just behind them, and Purdue and Wisconsin behind them.