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Heisman Hopeful Leads Big Ten Midseason Awards

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The Buckeyes' 18-game winning streak, along with Urban Meyer's early success in Columbus, has been largely overlooked around the country. Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images.
The Buckeyes' 18-game winning streak, along with Urban Meyer's early success in Columbus, has been largely overlooked around the country. Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images.

This player is a possession receiver, but the other is a deep threat. This player is a pocket passer, but the other is a scrambler. This player is a run stopper, but the other is a pass rusher.

We’re always trying to label players to describe their value, but awards define just how valuable those players are.

And we can’t help the natural instinct to want to determine the best player.

The only problem is that while football can determine a winner and a loser, end of the year awards, much like the Big Ten midseason awards you are about to see, are subjective.

You can pound your fists against your desk, shout until your face is blue, type until the letters on your keyboard disappear, but no matter what you say, I’m right. Even if you somehow prove me wrong.

Offensive MVP

When an offensive player averages 9.7 yards every time he touches the ball, you likely would assume he’s a possession receiver.

What if that player is a running back?

Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon has 870 yards on 90 carries in six games for the Badgers, and he has rushed for less than 140 yards in a game just once.

No one player in the Big Ten is anywhere close to reaching Gordon’s Heisman-esque production. Allen Robinson and Ameer Abdullah?

Puh-lease.

Defensive MVP

Penn State’s DaQuan Jones isn’t a run stopper or pass rusher.

He’s both.

Jones leads the Big Ten with 8.5 tackles for loss because there simply isn’t anyone, or any two offensive linemen, who can block him.

Problem is, Jones can’t compare to Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier. Shazier is seventh in the Big Ten in tackles and second in tackles for a loss. No one covers ground quite as quickly and fiercely as he does. If you watch Ohio State at all, keep your eyes on him when he's playing defense.

It's fun to watch if you're not a fan of the other team.

Biggest Surprise

Say what you will about Nathan Scheelhasse’s stunning emergence for the Fighting Illini after three years of mediocrity. He did it against creampuffs early in the season.

Nate Sudfeld is the Big Ten’s biggest surprise. He was supposed to be Indiana’s third-string quarterback, a forgettable speck on the roster.

If only the Hoosiers had paid more attention last season when, in limited playing time, Sudfeld tore apart opposing defenses.

If paid any attention to Sudfeld last season — no one did — his ascent wouldn’t be a surprise.

Best Freshman

Wisconson’s Sojourn Shelton.

Just Kidding.

Sort of.

Christian Hackenberg has led the Nittany Lions to an early 4-2 record and quickly is becoming beloved by Penn State fans for being a gunslinger in the pocket.

The young quarterback learns quickly, evidenced by his fourth-quarter numbers where he accumulates a 175.0 quarterback rating, more than 40 points higher than any other quarter.

However, Hackenberg and Shelton will meet in the last week of the regular season, meaning Shelton will have every opportunity to jump Hackenberg.

Biggest Disappointment

Cornerback Bradley Roby was supposed to be a polished, shutdown cornerback for the Buckeyes.

Instead, he has flopped in Ohio State’s first two Big Ten games against Wisconsin and Northwestern, getting individually beat for nearly 300 yards and two touchdowns in just eight quarters of football.

Roby would have been a first-round draft pick had he been eligible last April, but now he has a lot to prove in very little time if he plans to play in the NFL in 2014.

Best Coach

Bill O’Brien deserves a lot of credit for keeping Penn State’s football program above water while the team is strapped by multiple sanctions.

However, the Cinderella story in Happy Valley is playing second fiddle to what Urban Meyer is accomplishing in Columbus.

Ohio State is on an 18-game winning streak in Meyer’s short tenure and may have won a national title last season if not for a bowl ban.

The Buckeyes are the favorites to win the Big Ten title, which could put them in the national title game they missed last season.