The Best of the Big Ten in 2008: From A to Z
The Big Ten season has come to an end. Now, the waiting game begins.
Only Big Ten Co-Champion Penn State knows where they will be playing their bowl game.
Co-Champion Ohio State must wait to learn what their fate will be, along with Michigan State, Northwestern, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.
Should the Oregon Ducks come out victorious in Saturday's Civil War, the Buckeyes would most likely lock up a spot in the BCS.
An Oregon loss would be good news for the rest of the Big Ten bowl eligible teams, as well.
While we wait to see how the Big Ten bowl season shapes up, lets take a look at the players, coaches, and moments that made this Big Ten season so memorable.
Arrelious Benn, Illinois Receiver
Benn followed up a successful 2007 season, in which he was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year, with a successful 2008 campaign.
Benn is 16th in the country and first in the Big Ten in receiving yards per game (92) and became only the fourth Illinois receiver to have over 1000 yards in a season.
Benn is a candidate for both the Maxwell and Bliletnikoff awards and was named first team All-Big Ten by the media and second team All-Big Ten by the coaches.
Brit Miller, Illinois Linebacker
Miller finished the regular season with 110 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss, 6 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, and 2 interceptions. He also led the Big Ten in tackles per game (11.4).
Miller is a candidate for the Ronnie Lott award and was named to the AFCA Good Works team, as well as, the first team All-Big Ten by the media and second team All-Big Ten by the coaches.
Chris Wells, Ohio State Running Back
Wells' junior season was stalled early on when he missed three games due to a foot injury.
Once he returned to the lineup, he was every bit as impressive as expected. He finished the 2008 regular season with 1,091 yards in nine games for an average of 121 yards per game.
Wells is a consensus pick for second team All-Big Ten.
Daryll Clark, Penn State Quarterback
Clark passed for 2319 yards and 17 touchdowns for a passer rating of 145.23. He also rushed for 265 yards and nine touchdowns to lead the Nittany Lions to a share of their second Big Ten title in four years.
Clark is a semi-finalist for the Maxwell and Davey O'Brien awards and was a consensus pick for first team All-Big Ten.
Eric Decker, Minnesota Receiver
The Minnesota golden boy, Decker is the Gopher's leading receiver with 76 receptions for 925 yards. He caught nearly everything that was thrown his direction this season even though he faced double coverage a lot of the time.
Decker was a consensus first team All-Big Ten pick.
Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern Head Coach
Pat Fitzgerald's Wildcats went from 6-6, tenth in the conference and no bowl invite, to 9-3, a fourth place finish, and possibly a January bowl in only his third season in Evanston.
The Wildcats beat all the teams they were supposed to, save one poor performance against the Hoosiers, and played tough, physical football for much of the season.
The team has definitely taken on the persona of their young head coach; the future looks bright in Evanston.
Garrett Graham, Wisconsin Tight End
Though Wisconsin's season wasn't as successful as they had hoped for, the emergence of Garrett Graham has Badger fans excited for the future.
Graham's counterpart, Travis Beckum, had received all the attention prior to the season.
However, the injury riddled Beckum took a backseat to Graham who ended the regular season with 37 receptions for 478 yards and five touchdowns.
Graham was named first team All-Big Ten by the media and second team All-Big Ten by the coaches.
P.J. Hill, Wisconsin Running Back
P. J. Hill is a powerful, bruising running back who punished tacklers all season long.
Even though Hill shared time with John Clay for most of the season, he still rushed for 1,021 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Iowa's Upset of Penn State
Snow trickled down at Kinnick Stadium on the night of November 8 and against the lights, it looked like confetti. How appropriate.
After a skinny backup kicker from Iowa City named Daniel Murray drilled a 31-yard field goal to give his team a shocking 24-23 victory over Penn State. Iowa students poured onto the field.
They screamed "Yes, we can! Yes, we can!" as if warming up for a Barack Obama rally.
The mass of bodies represented far more than a caucus.
"It was a mob," Iowa defensive tackle Mitch King said. "They've rushed the field a few times. But that was the biggest by far."
Again, how appropriate. This was no ordinary finish.
The Boot Heard Round the Country knocked then No. 3 Penn State and the Big Ten from the national title hunt.
But, even a nation of Big Ten naysayers had to feel for Joe Paterno, Penn State's 81-year-old head coach. This might have been his last great chance to hold the crystal trophy.
Paterno, his hands shaking and his voice barely audible, looked weak afterward. But he managed a smile in his interviews, saying "What can I tell you?"
Javon Ringer, Michigan State Running Back
Javon Ringer burst onto the college football scene in his senior season and spent the entire season ranked in the top three for rushing yards.
Ringer, in a four game stretch, rushed for over 800 yards and 10 touchdowns. He finished the regular season with 1,590 yards, 21 touchdowns, and no fumbles.
Ringer is a semifinalist for the Doak Walker, Maxwell, and Walter Camp awards. He is also a Heisman Trophy candidate and a consensus first team All-Big Ten selection.
Mitch King, Iowa Defensive Tackle
Mitch King became the first Hawkeye to be named Defensive Lineman of the Year since 1997.
King's stout interior play helped Iowa lead the Big Ten in rushing defense for the first time since 2002 by allowing only 97.9 yards per game.
The Hawkeyes also ranked third in conference play by limiting their opponents to only 16.2 points and 306.5 yards of total offense per contest.
King led the team with 15.5 tackles for losses and added 51 total tackles, four sacks and a forced fumble in 12 games.
King was a consensus first team All-Big Ten selection.
James Laurinaitis, Ohio State Linebacker
After earning consensus All-America honors the last two seasons, Laurinaitis returned to Columbus to spearhead a Buckeyes unit which led the Big Ten in in-conference scoring defense for the fourth straight year.
The two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year boosted the Buckeyes to a share of their fourth straight championship for the first time since 1977.
In all games, the senior linebacker led Ohio State and ranked second in the conference with 10.1 tackles per game (121 total) while also collecting 5.5 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 2 interceptions and 1 forced fumble in 12 games.
Laurinaitis is a finalist for the Lombardi Award, a semifinalist for the Walter Camp Player of the Year and Bednarik Awards and a candidate to repeat as the Butkus Award winner.
He is also a consensus first team All-Big Ten selectioin.
Malcolm Jenkins, Ohio State Cornerback
Malcolm Jenkins, arguably the best corner in the country, was a force all season long at the corner spot and was an emotional leader for the Buckeye defense.
He finished the season with 54 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, and one sack. He also broke up 9 passes, forced 3 fumbles, had 3 interceptions, and blocked 2 field goals.
Jenkins is the leading candidate to win the Thorpe award and was a consensus first team All-Big Ten selection.
Navarro Bowman, Penn State Linebacker
The senior linebacker was a force for the Nittany Lions this season and finished the regular season with 98 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 5 pass break-ups, 1 interception, and 2 forced fumbles.
Bowman also recovered the fumble in the Ohio State game that changed the momentum in that game for good.
Bowman is a consensus first team All-Big Ten selection.
Otis Wiley, Michigan State Safety
Otis Wiley leveled players all season long with huge hits and finished the regular season with 71 tackles, two tackles for loss, seven pass break-ups, 1 forced fumble, and 4 interceptions.
Wiley is a consensus first team All-Big Ten selection.
Joe Paterno, Penn State Head Coach
JoePa guided the Nittany Lions to their second Big Ten title in the last four seasons, and third since joining the conference, to earn Big Ten Coach of the Year honors.
After finishing 4-4 in the conference last season, Penn State produced a 7-1 mark, with its lone loss coming on a last-second field goal at Iowa.
The Nittany Lions ended the regular season 11-1 overall, posting 10 or more victories for the second time in four seasons and the sixth time since joining the conference in 1993.
Paterno struggled through most of the season with a hip injury and the iconic photo of JoePa in the coaches box will always serve as a reminder of the 2008 season.
A.Q. Shipley, Penn State Center
With a Big Ten title and a Rose Bowl berth on the line, senior center A.Q. Shipley was the lead dog on PSU's talented offensive line, something he has been all season long.
Shipley became the first Nittany Lion to earn Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year accolades as voted by the coaches.
He spearheaded a Penn State attack that led the Big Ten with 33.9 points per conference game while also ranking among the top four in total offense, rushing offense and passing offense.
Shipley, a two-time first-team All-Big Ten selection, has started the last 37 games at center and played in every game the last three years.
Evan Royster, Penn State Running Back
Sophomore Evan Royster was a surprise this season. Not many new about the speedy runner and they definitely weren't aware of how powerful he could run.
Royster finished the regular season with 1,202 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns and was a consensus second team All-Big Ten selection.
Shonn Greene, Iowa Running Back
Perhaps no player in the country was a bigger surprise than Iowa's Shonn Green.
In the span of one year, he went from working in a furniture store to being named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and being a Heisman Trophy finalist.
The junior running back led the Big Ten with 1,729 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns, averaging 6.2 yards per carry.
He currently ranks second in the nation with 144.1 yards per game and is the only player in the country to rush for 100 or more yards in every game.
Greene is a semifinalist for the Maxwell and Doak Walker Awards and is a consensus first team All-Big Ten selection.
Terelle Pryor, Ohio State Quarterback
Terrelle Pryor became the sixth Ohio State player to earn Freshman of the Year accolades.
Pryor led the Big Ten with a pass efficiency rating of 151.3 in conference games only, making him the first freshman to top the conference in that category since 1980.
In all games, Pryor completed 95 of 152 passes (62.5 percent) for 1,245 yards and 12 touchdowns and ranked second on the team with 553 rushing yards and six touchdowns.
He produced an 8-1 record as a starter and became the first OSU true freshman to start behind center since 1978.
Kraig Urbik, Wisconsin Guard
Kraig Urbik made his 49th career start against Cal Poly on November 22 and was the leader of the Wisconsin offensive line. During his career, he played both tackle and guard for the Badgers.
Urbik had a streak of 45 straight starts before suffering a knee injury against Penn State that held him out of two games.
Urbik is a consensus second team All-Big Ten selection.
Vontae Davis, Illinois Cornerback
Davis is widely considered one of the best corners in the country. He finished the regular season with 69 tackles, 7 tackles for loss, 3 forced fumbles, and 1 interception.
Davis was named to the 2008 Playboy All-America team and a consensus pick for first team All-Big Ten. He is a candidate for the Nagurski, Bednarik, and Thorpe awards.
Derrick Williams, Penn State Receiver
Derrick Williams was one of the most dangerous all purpose players in the Big Ten this season.
He caught 40 passes for 451 yards, ran 39 times for 221 yards, returned 18 punts for 169 yards, completed a 23 yard pass, returned 18 kick-offs for 486 yards, and scored 9 touchdowns.
Williams was a first team All-Big Ten selection by the coaches and a second team selection by the media.
Xavier Fulton, Illinois Defensive Tackle
Fulton was the leader of an offensive line that helped Illinois rank first in the Big Ten in total offense, pass offense, and second in scoring offense.
Fulton is a Lombardi award candidate and was a consensus pick for second team All-Big Ten team by both the media and coaches.
Year of the Running Back
Led by Iowa's Shonne Greene, this was a banner season for the running backs in the Big Ten.
Greene finished with 1,729 yards and 17 touchdowns, Javon Ringer (1,590, 21), Chris "Beanie" Wells (1,091, 8), Evan Royster (1,202, 12), Kory Sheets (1,131, 16), P.J. Hill (1,021, 13), John Clay (845, 9), Daniel Dufrene (663, 0), DeLeon Eskridge (652, 7), and Marcus Thigpen (631, 7).
And those are just the backs to notch over 500 yards.
Zoltan Mesko, Michigan Punter
One of the bright spots for the struggling Michigan Wolverines was Zoltan Mesko.
The junior punter became known for his powerful leg and had plenty of opportunity to showcase that leg this season.
Mesko punted 80 times this season for 3,436 yards for an average of 42.95 yards per punt.
Mesko was a consensus first team All-Big Ten selection.