College football awards are becoming a farce, unfortunately.
I said as much when Tyrann Mathieu went to the Heisman ceremony last year despite repeated warning signs that the talented safety failed to live up to the award's mission of "pursuit of excellence with integrity."
This week, the members of the selection committee for The Butkus Award®, are the ones who should be looking over their ballots.
No one likes to listen to someone whine who obviously covers a specific team as I do the Wisconsin Badgers. People will obviously cry "homer" as they read this article and question my objectivity based on my familiarity with the team. At the end of the day, four Big Ten linebackers made the list of 12 semifinalists to be recognized as the best linebacker in America.
The professional and collegiate football journalists, coaches and administrators who make the decisions left out the best linebacker in the conference in Mike Taylor.
It's in the numbers.
Taylor has 84 tackles on the year, 42 solo and 42 assisted. Ten of those stops were for losses to go along with a sack and three pass break-ups.
Gerald Hodges of Penn State, for example, does not come close to Taylor's tackle total, and his only discernible differentiator can be found in his lone interception. Michigan State's Max Bullough seems to be inordinately benefiting from a single interception as his tackles also do not come within spitting distance of Taylor's, nor does he or Hodges have a sack on the record.
Nittany Lion Michael Mauti has more interceptions with three, and one and half more sacks. But Taylor outdoes Mauti in assisted tackles, solo tackles, tackles for loss and passes broken up. Illinois' Jonathan Brown's place on the list is a real head-scratcher. Brown has been woefully outperformed by Taylor in almost every category with the exception of sacks and forced fumbles. In fact, the Badger linebacker has almost twice the amount of tackles.
Where the numbers fail though, Taylor's intangibles certainly make him worthy of being a semi-finalist. He has shown himself to be the rock on which the Wisconsin defense has been built.
Isn't that what a linebacker is supposed to be? I guess that is not for us to decide.