Big Ten

Buckeyes' Ezekiel Elliott named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year

ezekiel-elliott-1201.png

Buckeyes' Ezekiel Elliott named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year

Ezekiel Elliott’s Heisman hopes might have been dashed after he was underutilized and went up against a strong defensive effort in Ohio State’s loss to Michigan State.

But that one day wasn’t enough to prevent him from being the best offensive player in the Big Ten this season.

The Buckeyes’ junior running back was named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year on Tuesday, when the conference announced its offensive award and offensive members of the All-Big Ten teams.

Elliott rushed for 1,672 yards in 12 regular-season games, good for first in the Big Ten and fourth in the country. He led the conference with 19 touchdowns and 1,861 all-purpose yards.

Elliott brought a five-game streak of triple-digit rushing games into this season and extended it to 15 with at least 100 yards on the ground in each of the first 10 games of the season, including  a career-high 274-yard performance against Indiana. Against Michigan State, he gained just 33 yards on the ground, snapping the streak, but he was back at it in a big way in the regular-season finale, rushing for 214 yards and a pair of scores in a win over Michigan.

Elliott entered the season as one of the favorites to win the Heisman Trophy, though his chances were significantly damaged when the Buckeyes lost their biggest game of the season. Elliott, though, could still finish in the top three in voting for college football’s most prestigious individual award, getting an invitation to the ceremony in New York City.

Elliott’s win marks the third time in the past four seasons the award has gone to an Ohio State player. Braxton Miller, the team’s former quarterback and current receiver, won the award in consecutive seasons in 2012 and 2013. Overall, this is the seventh time a Buckeye has been named Offensive Player of the Year since the award’s first presentation in 1990. Former winners include Miller (twice), Troy Smith, Joe Germaine, Orlando Pace and Eddie George.

[MORE BIG TEN: Here's how Buckeyes could still make the College Football Playoff]

The conference handed out its offensive positional awards, as well, on Tuesday.

Elliott was also tabbed as the Big Ten Running Back of the Year, becoming the second Buckeye in the past three seasons to win the award. Carlos Hyde won in 2013.

Michigan State’s Connor Cook was named the Big Ten Quarterback of the Year. Cook, who will lead the Spartans in this weekend’s Big Ten Championship Game, ranks fifth in the conference with 2,730 passing yards and is tied for the league lead with 24 touchdown passes. Cook started his senior season in somewhat mediocre fashion before reeling off four straight games with at least 300 passing yards, totaling 1,428 yards and 11 touchdowns in those games against Rutgers, Michigan, Indiana and Nebraska. Cook is Michigan State’s all-time winningest quarterback.

Michigan State’s Aaron Burbridge was named the Big Ten Receiver of the Year. Burbridge led the league with 75 receptions and 1,158 receiving yards. He had seven games with at least 100 receiving yards and caught a touchdown pass in five different games, including a three-touchdown day in a win over Air Force. Burbridge follows Tony Lippett, who won last season, making it two straight Receiver of the Year wins for Michigan State wideouts.

Jake Butt was named the Big Ten Tight End of the Year. Butt caught 48 passes for 620 yards and three touchdowns this season, serving as an always-reliable target for Jake Rudock.

Ohio State’s Taylor Decker was named the Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year. The Buckeyes led the conference with 2,903 rushing yards and allowed just 17 sacks on the season. This is the sixth time a Buckeye has won the award, Decker joining LeCharles Bentley, Orlando Pace and Korey Stringer, the latter two winning two times apiece.

[SHOP BIG TEN: Get your Buckeyes gear right here]

The Big Ten also announced its all-conference selections on offense Tuesday after announcing the defensive and special teams selections on Monday.

Here are the offensive selections for the All-Big Ten First Team:

QB: Connor Cook, Michigan State
RB: Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State
RB: Jordan Howard, Indiana
WR: Aaron Burbridge, Michigan State
WR: Jehu Chesson, Michigan (coaches)
WR: Alex Erickson, Wisconsin (media)
TE: Jake Butt, Michigan
OL: Jack Allen, Michigan State
OL: Pat Elflein, Ohio State
OL: Jack Conklin, Michigan State
OL: Taylor Decker, Ohio State
OL: Jordan Walsh, Iowa (coaches)
OL: Dan Feeney, Indiana (media)

Here are the offensive selections for the All-Big Ten Second Team:

QB: C.J. Beathard, Iowa
RB: Justin Jackson, Northwestern
RB: Saquon Barkley, Penn State
WR: Jordan Westerkamp, Nebraska
WR: Alex Erickson, Wisconsin (coaches)
WR: Chris Godwin, Penn State (media)
TE: Dan Vitale, Northwestern
OL: Austin Blythe, Iowa
OL: Brian Allen, Michigan State
OL: Jason Spriggs, Indiana
OL: Dan Feeney, Indiana (coaches)
OL: Alex Lewis, Nebraska (coaches)
OL: Jordan Walsh, Iowa (media)
OL: Tyler Marz, Wisconsin (media)

Here are the offensive selections for the All-Big Ten Third Team:

QB: Nate Sudfeld, Indiana
RB: Josh Ferguson, Illinois
RB: Jordan Canzeri, Iowa
WR: Michael Thomas, Ohio State
WR: Chris Godwin, Penn State (coaches)
WR: Leonte Carroo, Rutgers (media)
TE: Josiah Price, Michigan State
OL: Jacoby Boren, Ohio State
OL: Erik Magnuson, Michigan
OL: Donavon Clark, Michigan State (coaches)
OL: Billy Price, Ohio State (coaches)
OL: Tyler Marz, Wisconsin (coaches)
OL: Ted Karras, Illinois (media)
OL: Kyle Kalis, Michigan (media)
OL: Alex Lewis, Nebraska (media)

Northwestern set to play Wisconsin at Wrigley Field in 2020

Northwestern set to play Wisconsin at Wrigley Field in 2020

Weeks will separate a perfect 10-year anniversary where Northwestern will play at Wrigley Field for one of its regular season games in the upcoming years.

Back on Nov. 20, 2010, the Wildcats battled it out with Illinois, known as the “Wrigleyville Classic,” which saw the Illini take a 48-27 win.

Even though it’s still two years out, Northwestern still planned ahead and announced its opponent for its game at Wrigley Field on Nov. 7, 2020, against Big Ten rival Wisconsin.

“Obviously an exciting opportunity for our football program to come back to Wrigley Field, one of the Cathedrals of sporting venues in the world,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “When I announced it to our team, they were absolutely ecstatic.”

“The opportunity to play at Wrigley field is unique to us, being Chicago’s Big Ten team, and to have the chance to come down and play in an atmosphere like we did a few years back was a bowl game type atmosphere, and I look forward to this special opportunity.”

This game though will be a little different than it was back in 2010. Both the Wildcats and Illini played toward the west end zone due to a tight squeeze near the right field wall due to box seats that were added down the third base line.

Now, Northwestern and Wisconsin do not have to worry about that problem because the bullpens have since moved to the outfield.

Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney spoke at a news conference earlier on Tuesday at Wrigley.

“So excited to welcome back Northwestern to Wrigley Field to talk about football again,” Kenney said. “We had an incredible experience with them back in 2010."

Kenney also mentioned new seating is on a temporary platform that can all be removed and the dugout tops can be removed as well, and the field will expand west, to allow for a longer field.

With a sellout crowd in the last go around for the Wildcats, don’t be surprised for another sellout at the Friendly Confines.

See how they stack up: Week 12 college football top 25 rankings

1121_baker_mayfield.jpg
USA TODAY

See how they stack up: Week 12 college football top 25 rankings

With Week 12 in the books, here’s my top 25:

1. Oklahoma (10-1)

Still the team with the best resume in the country, no one can compete with OU’s wins over TCU, Ohio State and Oklahoma State, the latter two coming away from Norman. Baker Mayfield might not be a choir boy, but he’s the best player in the nation.

2. Miami (10-0)

You might think that being down 28-14 to Virginia in the second half was cringe-worthy, but the Canes made up for things by storming back with 30 unanswered points. Now they finally have to go away from South Florida for the first time since almost losing to North Carolina last month.

3. Alabama (11-0)

Tide gonna roll. But this Cupcake Weekend in the SEC has got to stop. While teams in other conferences are slugging it out against rivals, Bama gets to take a day off against Mercer? It’s just not fair. Also, Bama’s schedule is so soft, there’s no way it deserves to be the No. 1 team in the country.

4. Georgia (10-1)

The Dawgs should wrap an 11-1 regular season this weekend against Georgia Tech. But the SEC title game presents a kind of no-win scenario: undefeated Alabama or Auburn, who throttled Georgia earlier this month.

5. Wisconsin (11-0)

You didn’t need Wisconsin to do what it did to Iowa and Michigan to prove it had one of the best defenses in the country — but that sure didn’t help. Stockpiling national love with those two wins, a win in the Big Ten title game figures to make the Badgers a Playoff lock.

6. Clemson (10-1)

Why’d Kelly Bryant have to go and get hurt for that Syracuse game? The Tigers would be No. 1 and the undisputed best team in the country. Still, though, a win over Miami in the ACC title game ought to get the champs back into the Playoff.

7. Auburn (9-2)

Great job pounding Louisiana-Monroe, Tigers. You shall not escape the wrath over Cupcake Weekend in the SEC. That dumb game aside, Auburn and Alabama will meet in a titanic Iron Bowl this weekend with a trip to the SEC title game on the line — and perhaps a Playoff spot, as well.

8. Ohio State (9-2)

Not that pummeling Illinois is any big deal, but the Buckeyes are still alive in this thing and look like a team capable of making some Playoff noise. First, Ohio State has to win The Game and then the Big Ten title game to knock out undefeated Wisconsin.

9. Notre Dame (9-2)

Out of the Playoff chase thanks to that loss at Miami, Notre Dame squeaked by Navy this past weekend. Hope a New Year’s Six bowl game is enough for the Irish. We know it’s not enough for those ND fans. So maybe join a conference? Just saying.

10. TCU (9-2)

The Frogs can still make their mark on the Playoff race, even if they can’t get in themselves. The Big 12 title game will almost surely be TCU’s attempt at revenge on Oklahoma. Unfortunately, if revenge does come, it will probably cannibalize the conference’s Playoff hopes, too.

11. Penn State (9-2)

Why Penn State gave up 44 points to Nebraska, I do not know. What I do know is that probably no one cared because Penn State is going to go down as the most inconsequential 10-2 team of all-time. Such a bummer considering the preseason expectations for both the team and Saquon Barkley.

12. USC (10-2)

Yeah, I guess there’s still a way for USC to make the Playoff, but it’s hard to imagine that madness unfolding, even in the oft-mad college football. The Trojans get the winner of the Apple Cup in the Pac-12 title game.

13. UCF (10-0)

Finally we get our much-anticipated UCF-USF showdown this weekend. Make it count, Knights. This is probably gonna be Scott Frost’s last regular-season game in Orlando.

14. Washington (9-2)

It’s hard to say who has the edge in the Apple Cup, but certainly the stakes are high, with the winner going off to play USC in the Pac-12 title game. Can either team make the Playoff? Well, probably not, no.

15. Washington State (9-2)

Is this it for Mike Leach on The Palouse? He could be a hot candidate this offseason and leave for perceived greener pastures. Winning the Apple Cup would go a long way toward making that happen.

16. Mississippi State (8-3)

A win in the Egg Bowl means a 9-3 regular season for the Bulldogs with their three losses coming against three top-10 teams.

17. Oklahoma State (8-3)

Poor Okie State has been so good all year and had two losses to the two best teams in its conference, and then it went and lost to K-State for some ridiculous reason. The Mullet deserved better in 2017.

18. Northwestern (8-3)

The Cats are the fourth-best team in the Big Ten, simple as that, with wins over Michigan State and Iowa and conference losses to Wisconsin and Penn State. As commendable an effort as you’ll find in a highly competitive league. Plus, Fitz’s team is on a six-game win streak that could end up extending to eight.

19. Stanford (8-3)

Already with a win over Washington, Stanford could close the regular season with two wins over top-10 teams in its final three games. Also Bryce Love is back in the groove after back-to-back 100-yard games.

20. Memphis (9-1)

The Tigers have lost just one game all season, to the best Group of Five team out there. Heck of a season by Memphis.

21. Michigan State (8-3)

A 17-7 win over Maryland couldn't have been the most exciting way for anyone to spend their weekend. Sparty's had a mighty fine season, though, considering how badly things went in 2016.

22. LSU (8-3)

The SEC has seemingly gotten increasingly better as the year has progressed, with LSU and Mississippi State making for a solid-enough middle tier. But remember when LSU lost to Troy? That wasn’t good.

23. South Florida (9-1)

If not for that loss to Houston, USF’s showdown with UCF this weekend would be for Group of Five supremacy. Even without that, though, this should be a highly entertaining affair.

24. Virginia Tech (8-3)

The Hokies have a chance to salvage their tumble at the close of the season with a win at Virginia. But given how well the Cavs played at Miami this past weekend, a VT win is no sure thing.

25. Iowa State (7-4)

I understand the math and all, but can't the Big 12 just suspend its rules and send Iowa State to the title game? We all want to see the OU-ISU rematch. Why are you preventing us from being happy, Big 12?