Rivalry Week Will Lock Up Big Ten Season Individual Award Winners

Nov 5, 2016; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines quarterback Wilton Speight (3) passes in the second half against the Maryland Terrapins at Michigan Stadium. Michigan 59-3. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 5, 2016; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines quarterback Wilton Speight (3) passes in the second half against the Maryland Terrapins at Michigan Stadium. Michigan 59-3. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Players in the hunt for individual Big Ten awards going into the final week of the regular season.

With just a few days remaining in rivalry week, anticipation is rising to finally settle who gets to play for the Big Ten Championship and likely get selected into the College Football Playoff.

‘The Game’ is the best rivalry in sports and has even more attention this year as playoff hopes for many teams lie in the balance on the outcome.  Penn State, Wisconsin, Washington, Colorado, USC and Oklahoma’s chances are not solely dependent on who wins, but the Nittany Lions will be the only team rooting for the Buckeyes.

Of course all of these teams have difficult games remaining so anything can happen, but if the Buckeyes beat Michigan and Penn State beats the Spartans, Ohio State has the resume to challenge the College Football Playoff Committee’s precedent of only selecting conference champions.

Debating which teams get in or left out is irrelevant, at least for another week and half.  What is clearly evident is the Committee believes the Big Ten’s top teams are all worthy of playoff consideration.

Expectations are high that these games will prove the Committee is right.  It is up to the players to deliver.

Each week, I have been providing a ranking of the Big Ten quarterbacks and running backs.  Since it is the last week of the regular season, I am going to change it up and rank the top three in each category that will be contending for the Big Ten’s individual awards.

Here are the top three quarterbacks that will contend for Griese-Brees Quarterback of the Year:

Until last week, I thought this was J.T. Barrett’s to lose, but after a mediocre performance at Michigan State it might not be a given anymore.

I know the Spartans have been the Buckeyes’ kryptonite two out of the last three seasons and just beating them should be good enough, but this is not the same Michigan State team as in years past.  Barrett needs to be much sharper if he wants to take down the Wolverines.

The biggest question mark heading into Michigan’s season was quarterback play. Wilton Speight won the job and has answered every question except one.  Will he beat Ohio State?

He is questionable for Saturday’s game against the Buckeyes, but I expect him to play.  If he wins, he will grab this award.

If Barrett and Speight falter, the wildcard is Trace McSorley.  Saquon Barkley grabs the headlines, but McSorley’s consistent play over the last month has provided balance to the Nittany Lions’ offense allowing Barkley to run wild.  He is a huge reason why the team is in position to win the Big Ten East.

Prediction:

I am calling an upset for the top quarterback in the Big Ten.  McSorley shines against Michigan State and ‘The Game’ is a defensive battle with Barrett and Speight both struggling to produce points.

Sep 3, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; Wisconsin Badgers running back Corey Clement (6) during the Lambeau Field College Classic against the LSU Tigers at Lambeau Field. Wisconsin won 16-14. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 3, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; Wisconsin Badgers running back Corey Clement (6) during the Lambeau Field College Classic against the LSU Tigers at Lambeau Field. Wisconsin won 16-14. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Running Backs

With five players already over a 1000 yards on the season, competition is stiff for determining the league’s best running back.  For 11 weeks, the workhorses have been grinding out yards in true Big Ten fashion.  Here are the top three running backs that will contend for Ameche-Dayne Running Back of the Year:

Barkley was the favorite heading into the season and he is the favorite at the end of it too.  His 1205 yards is the league’s best right now and another strong performance against the Spartans should lock up the award for the sophomore.

Considering the award is named after two great Wisconsin running backs, it only seems fitting that a Badger be in the thick of the race.

After a slow start, Corey Clement has rushed for 100 yards in five out of the last six games.   He also has six touchdowns over the same period.

It is easy to dismiss his stats as standard operating procedure for Wisconsin football, but he’s doing it without any help from the passing game.  Defenses have loaded up to stop him and he continues to get his yards.

Clement will carry the team to a win over Minnesota this week and might just get a head-to-head with Barkley to settle the debate.

It is never easy to replace a superstar, but Mike Weber is doing so admirably.  Compared to Ezekiel Elliott’s sophomore season in 2014, Weber has the same number of touchdowns and 15 less yards through 11 games.

Getting Weber to Ohio State was a little bumpy, but he is delivering. Weber can etch his name in Buckeye Nation’s heart permanently with an epic performance against the TTUN.  Will it happen?

It is hard to imagine Urban Meyer not leaning on Curtis Samuel and Barrett to win the game but it is Weber that gives the Ohio State offense the power that will be needed to wear down the Michigan defense.  The Wolverines want a street fight and Weber is the right weapon to deliver the knockout.

Prediction:

Barkley will get about 175 yards and two touchdowns against the Spartans to seal the deal and win the award.

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