Halfway through the Big Ten season, we aren't anywhere near where we thought we would be at the beginning of the season. Iowa is undefeated and leads the conference, while Ohio State is 5-2 and Wisconsin, also at 5-2, is suddenly an outside conference contender. Illinois has dropped to the bottom of the conference and it keeps looking as though the Illini's 2007 Rose Bowl season was a fluke.
But how are the players doing at midseason? Some, such as Illinois quarterback Juice Williams, have underachieved, while others, such as Wisconsin defensive end O'Brien Schofield, have overachieved. Let's take a look at the Big Ten All Confernce team halfway through the season.
While Forcier has been inconsistent at times, the freshman quarterback has been the spark that Michigan needed on offense. He has led comeback victories against Notre Dame and Indiana and has been a threat both through the air and on the ground. He hasn't been Tim Tebow by any means, but in a league of inconsistent quarterback play, Foricer gets the prize. Look for him to continue to be a force in the Big Ten down the road and to improve on Michigan's already impressive 5-2 start.
After a slow start, Clay has been the main reason for Wisconsin's surprising 5-2 record. He has accumulated over 700 yards and seven touchdowns thus far this season, including 143 yards against Fresno State, 142 yards against Michigan State, and 184 yards against Minnesota. His production has dropped off during the past few games, but is should pick up again since those games were against Ohio State and Iowa, arguably the league's two best defenses.
Royster surely hasn't lived up to his preseason hype, but he hasn't been bad either. He has accumulated 641 yards and four touchdowns in an up and down year for the Nittany Lions. After poor games against Akron and Syracuse, he bounced back to rush for 134 yards against Temple. A bad game against Iowa was expected, but he hasn't been overly impressive since then. We know his potential and he should improve on a decent first half.
Decker is the obvious wide receiver choice for All-Big Ten. He has been the one consistent element of Minnesota's offense and makes game-changing plays week after week. So far, he has over 700 receiving yards and four touchdowns, although he has disappointed the past few weeks, especially last week against Penn State, with just one catch for 42 yards. He is the key to Minnesota's offense and when he rolls, they roll. But if he keeps up his overall first half production, he could be an All-American come December.
Michigan State receiver Blair White was in a battle with Purdue receiver Keith Smith for this spot, but Smith, the more consistent of the two, wins out. Unlike White, he has been productive all year long and checks in at second in the Big Ten with 710 receiving yards. He also has four touchdowns to his name. He has been a major asset to young quarterback Joey Elliot. If he continues to make plays, he could lead the Boilermakers all the way to a bowl game in the second half.
Since coming back from injury, Moeaki has been one of the stars on the Iowa offense. He has 247 yards in only four games and has also caught two touchdowns, including a 24 yard diving touchdown catch last Saturday against Wisconsin. He has helped Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi become much more comfortable and has proven himself as Stanzi's go-to receiver. Look for big things out of Moeaki in the weeks to come.
Eubanks has been one of many players on Iowa's offensive who has stepped up this year and helped protect freshman running backs Adam Robinson and Brandon Wegher. So far, he has done a very good job, as Robinson and Wegher combined have basically accounted for the yards that Shonn Greene got last season. Iowa will need this production to continue if they want a shot at the BCS National Championship game in January.
We finally have our first Buckeye on this list, which is a bit surprising given Ohio State's offensive success in recent years. But this year is a different story and the one thing holding the OSU offense together has been the offensive line. Boren is arguably the best player on that unit and he will need to step up even more if Ohio State still wants a shot at the Big Ten title.
Schilling has been the best player on a surprisingly impressive Wolverines offensive line. He has helped to protect freshman quarterback Tate Forcier very well and has helped to open up big holes for the Michigan running backs. If he keeps playing at this high level, Michigan could surprise even more people in the Big Ten.
Carimi is the best lineman on one of the best offensive lines in the Big Ten. He has helped to clear the way for Wisconsin running back John Clay and provided great protection for new quarterback Scott Tolzien. His play is crucial to the Badgers' future success in an already surprisingly good season.
After missing a few games with an illness, Bulaga has come back to be one of the Big Ten's best offensive linemen, as expected. The junior is a future NFL prospect and is seen by many as a possible top five pick. He is big, but also very fast and athletic and has done an excellent job of leading Iowa's outstanding offensive line.
Clayborn has been one of Iowa's breakout players on defense this season and has come up big for the Hawkeyes on many occasions. He blocked a punt against Penn State to give his team the lead in Happy Valley and made many other big plays on defense. He has very impressive speed that he showcased by running down Arizona running back Nic Grigsby from behind. He has also been one of Hawkeyes' emotional leaders and his continued production is one of the main reasons Iowa is 7-0.
Odrick came into the season as one of the most highly touted defensive linemen in the Big Ten and the country. He has certainly lived up to the hype and leads one of the best defensive lines in the Big Ten. His production will be vital down the stretch, as Penn State still has to visit Michigan and play Ohio State.
Klug has stepped up nicely this year for the Hawkeyes and helped them forget the production they lost from Mitch King and Matt Kroul. Klug has done an outstanding job of getting to the quarterback this season and has swatted down his fair share of passes. His speed has been a vital asset to Iowa's defensive line and he should continue his high level of play in the future.
Schofield has been perhaps the best defensive linemen in the Big Ten, and possibly the country. He is extremely quick and shut down many running games this season. He is extremely dangerous and has penetrated through some of the league's best offensive lines (ie. Iowa and Ohio State). Look for him to be on a few All-American teams by season's end.
Jones leads the nation in tackles and is quickly becoming one of the best linebackers in the country. He is Michigan State's defensive leader and continues to be a playmaker for the Spartans. Expect even more big things to come for Jones who could end up as an All-American.
The name is fitting for Angerer who is one of the toughest linebackers in the Big Ten. He is everywhere on the field and helps to lead the Hawkeye defense both physically and emotionally. He isn't big for a linebacker, but is very fast and is in on almost every play. Don't be surprised if he, too, ends up on some All-American teams.
While Bowman has been solid, he hasn't been the linebacker he was hyped up to be. He certainly deserved it after a great season in 2008, but his production has dropped off somewhat this season. He still is a very solid player and one of the best players on Penn State's defense. Look for him to step up in the future, as the Lions will need his help against the likes of Michigan and Ohio State.
Spievey has been quietly having a very solid season for Iowa. He is possibly the best coverage corner in the Big Ten, but has also stepped up to make some big plays against the run. He had his best game of 2009 last week against Wisconsin in which he recorded two interceptions, including a diving pick in the game's final minutes that put the Badgers away for good. Look for him to step up even more for the Hawkeyes in the weeks to come.
Warren continues to come up with big plays for the Wolverines and is the lone bright spot on a fairly weak secondary. He came up big with a pick six against Iowa and is a very good coverage corner. He has tremendous speed and looks to be one of the defensive leaders for the Wolverines in the weeks to come.
This is a no-brainer. Iowa sophomore Tyler Sash has been unbelievable this season, accumulating five interceptions, with three coming in one game against Iowa State. He has also come up big against the run, which is a very impressive skill in a safety. Look for Sash to continue his production and be a big name for Iowa in the future.
Coleman has been phenomenal for the Buckeyes this season and leads one of the best defenses in the Big Ten. He continuously comes up with big plays and interceptions and is making a strong case for All-American honors. After being suspended for a helmet-to-helmet hit in a game against Illinois, Coleman has come back with a vengeance to become the best safety in the Big Ten.
Demos is nine for ten on the year for field goals and has been very consistent for Northwestern over the years. He has a long of 40 yards in 2009 and kicked the game winner for his team against Eastern Michigan to win the game 27-24. His stats aren't overwhelming, but they would be much more impressive if his team got into field goal range more often.
Besides possibly having the best name in the Big Ten, Mesko is a very good punter. He has averaged 45.6 yards per punt in 2009 and doesn't show any signs of slowing down. He is extremely good at pinning opponents inside their own 20 yard line and could have a future in the NFL.
Stoudermire has become one of the Big Ten's best return men, building on an impressive freshman year. He is averaging 25.46 yards per return, 87 yards per game, and 611 yards total. He still has plenty of time to progress, as he is only a sophomore, and looks to be a very dangerous return man for the Gophers inn the future.
Valentin has proven himself to be a threat not only as a receiver, but also as a punt returner. 13.7 yards per return and has 137 yards total. He is extremely fast and explosive and makes Purdue's special teams very dangerous. Look for him to keep building on an already impressive year.