Big Ten Football: 7 Greatest Receivers of the BCS Era
The BCS era has come to an end and it's been an amazing ride for college football. We've seen some of the best athletes ever to play the game during the last 16 seasons and any list of the best of the BCS era is also going to include some of the best of all time.
Our list of top wide receivers from the Big Ten during the BCS era is no exception.
It's hard to succinctly define greatness. There are so many ingredients to the recipe and stats, team success and individual awards can only take us so far. The rest is, admittedly, a combination of conjecture and what, as fans, stands out in our minds—even if it wasn't the pinnacle of statistical or championship success.
We pored over record books and took a fond trip down memory lane. The result is our list of the greatest Big Ten receivers of the BCS era.
Allen Robinson, Penn State
It's often difficult to figure out where a very recent college football player fits into history.
After all, we can all vividly remember great performances for the last season or two, but is it fair to put those recent memories up against the fog of a season that took place a decade ago with players that have not only long since left college behind, but have perhaps also concluded their pro careers?
Not so easy now, is it?
Still, we can't overlook the performance of Penn State's Allen Robinson. He led the Big Ten in receiving yards in 2013 after also accomplishing the feat in 2012. With nearly 2,500 receiving yards over those 24 games, it's hard to argue that Robinson doesn't belong on this list.
Robinson has opted to depart Penn State for the NFL a season early, but even without his senior season—which surely would have been impressive—Robinson will still go down as one of the best wideouts ever to grace Happy Valley and the only Nittany Lion to ever lead the Big Ten in receiving yards in a season.
Charles Rogers, Michigan State
Michigan State fans probably have mixed feelings about Charles Rogers. After all, many MSU faithful are also fans of the Detroit Lions—the impact Rogers had on these two football teams was distinctly different.
Despite his lackluster performance for the Lions, Rogers was a Big Ten standout at Michigan State. In fact, Rogers led the conference in receiving yards in 2002 with 1,351 yards. He also was the Big Ten's co-leader in receiving touchdowns that season with 13.
However, what really propels Rogers onto our list of Big Ten greats from the BCS era is the fact that he remains one of only four Big Ten players in history to average over 20 yards per reception—and the only one from the BCS era.
Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin
Wisconsin's Jared Abbrederis is another receiver on our list that just concluded his collegiate career in 2013.
Outside of Madison, fans may have a hard time picking Abbrederis out of a lineup. Still, his understated contributions over the past four seasons were a critical part of the Badgers' three Big Ten titles during his years at Wisconsin.
Abbrederis could perhaps be considered one of the best wide receivers ever to play at a program that has historically treated the passing game as an afterthought. Only two Wisconsin wideouts have reached the 3,000-yard plateau and Abbrederis is one of them.
It's hard to ignore such impressive receiving numbers given the fact that Abbrederis suited up for a team known almost exclusively for its supremely powerful rushing attack.
Taylor Stubblefield, Purdue
Purdue's Taylor Stubblefield had 16 receiving touchdowns in 2004, which amounts to the third-highest total in Big Ten history. That alone might be enough to get his name mentioned on a list of outstanding wide receivers.
We're not done quite yet, though. Stubblefield also ranks third in Big Ten history with 3,629 receiving yards and was a prime target for Kyle Orton. Stubblefield was also a big contributor to a Purdue team that made four bowl game trips in his four years in West Lafayette, Ind.
Purdue is known as the "Cradle of Quarterbacks," and rightfully so. However, you don't develop great quarterbacks without some quality passing targets.
Lee Evans, Wisconsin
Let's stick with the Badgers for our next selection and take a closer look at Lee Evans' standout career in Madison. He ranks as not only perhaps the best wideout ever to play at Wisconsin, but one of the best in the Big Ten.
In the modern era of college football, Evens is one of just two Badgers to lead the Big Ten in receiving yards in two separate seasons (Pat Richter, 1961 and 1962) and Evans is the only Badger to do so while gaining over 1,000 yards in each of his conference-leading seasons.
In addition to leading the Big Ten in receiving yards in 2001 and 2003, Evans finished just shy of 3,500 career yards, good enough for sixth on the all-time conference list.
Evans also ranks fifth all-time in yards per reception (19.8), tied for 10th all-time in most receiving touchdowns in a single season (13 in 2003) and tied for 12th all-time for receiving touchdowns (27).
There's little doubt that Evans deserves a spot on our list of best Big Ten receivers during the BCS era, even despite missing all of 2002 with a torn ACL. It's only Wisconsin's middling 21-17 record during Evans' three seasons that keep his conference-wide impact from increasing his spot on this list.
John Standeford, Purdue
Back to Purdue for another outstanding target from a school known for its outstanding quarterbacks. We're putting John Standeford on our list not only for his solid four seasons at Purdue, but also for his ability to rewrite the Big Ten's receiving record books.
In his true freshman season in 2000, Standeford was named a Freshman All-American, finished second on the team with 67 catches, had 744 receiving yards and six touchdowns—all from Drew Brees—while helping the Boilermakers to the 2001 Rose Bowl—their first trip since 1966.
His freshman season wasn't his only big year, either.
Over the next three seasons, Standeford amassed a career total of 3,788 receiving yards, which stands as the most in Big Ten history. If setting a new all-time conference mark in receiving yards isn't enough to get your name on this list, not much is.
Braylon Edwards, Michigan
For our top selection on our list of greatest Big Ten receivers of the Big Ten era, look no further than Michigan's Braylon Edwards.
His college resume is second to none among Big Ten receivers since 1998—the first BCS season—and it's hard to argue that Edwards played anything less than a major role in Michigan's back-to-back Big Ten titles and Rose Bowl trips at the end of the 2003 and 2004 seasons.
Here's Edwards by the numbers:
- Eighth all-time on the list of single-season receiving yards in the Big Ten (1,330 yards in 2004).
- He also ranks 24th in that category with 1,138 yards in 2003.
- He ranks both fifth and sixth in the Big Ten's list of most touchdown receptions in a single season (14 touchdowns in 2003 and 15 in 2004).
- He's fifth all-time in Big Ten career receiving yards with 3,541.
- Last, but certainly not least, Edwards still holds the Big Ten's all-time career receiving touchdowns mark with 39.
Being one of the best—if not the best—wide receivers the Big Ten has seen certainly qualifies Braylon Edwards as the greatest Big Ten receiver of the BCS era.
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