Without further adieu, here are a few of The Rivalry's Big 10 Awards for the 2008 season. Since standard Big 10 Awards were pretty obvious this year (Shonn Green, Aaron Maybin, Fitz/Paterno), here are a few new ones.
The Mother Theresa Award: Most Selfless Team Decision
This award goes to the entire Penn State football team who made the challenging, albeit correct, decision to lose to Iowa and spare the Big 10 from another BCS National Championship loss. When it became clear that the Nittany Lions might go undefeated, the national media took up their cross to beg Penn State to lose. After being called undeserving and every other word in the MSM's cliche book, Joe Paterno sat his Nittany Lions down in the locker room and asked his players if they would rather win all their games and play for a national title...or blow the game to Iowa and allow the Big 10 to save face. I hear the team voted 98-1 against winning, with only senior WR Deon Butler voting for it. A poor selfish contrarian that Mr. Butler is.
The Todd Helton 2001 Award: Best Unknown Home Run Hitter
Indiana's Marcus Thigpen, obscured from the national consciousness by the relative apathy towards Indiana football that exists even in Bloomington, takes home this award. The former 100 meter Michigan state champion broke touchdown runs of 67, 78, 57, and 77 yards, and also scored on passing plays of 77 and 79 yards. He runs a 10.6 100 meter dash and opponents can attest that when Thigpen gets open space, he's gone. If Indiana improves from its last place 2008 finish in the Big 10, Thigpen's speed and gamebreaking ability might get some attention next year.
The Big Ugly's Award: Best Offensive Line
I love watching offensive lineman work - these attentionless giants don't get enough honor, probably because their work isn't sexy. I mean, most kids don't grow up wanting to be offensive lineman:
"Mom, guess what? Today at recess, I pancake blocked Jimmy, rolled off him, and moved to the next level to occupy the safety!"
The lines of Iowa and Penn State receive this prestigious first time award. Penn State reaped most of the glory and it was well deserved - A.Q. Shipley, Gerald Cadogen, Rich Ohrnberger each received All-Big 10 1st Team honors. These monsters opened up holes all year and gave the Spread HD time for its many moving parts to get in sync. Shipley was the star, overpowering defenders and solidifying his spot as the Big 10's premier offensive lineman. The Hawkeye line, fresh off a 2007 season where they gave up almost 50 sacks, showed vast improvement in run blocking for Big 10 leading rusher Shonn Greene and protecting newly minted starter Ricky Stanzi. Seniors Seth Olsen and Rob Bruggeman received All Big 10 honors, as did SO Bryan Bulaga and JR Kyle Calloway. How did we know the Iowa line was dominating defenses? People began commenting about Bulaga a couple weeks into the season because apparently he was knocking defenders 10 yards off the line of scrimmage and finishing them off ferociously.
The General Sherman Award: Best Leader
Presented by the man himself, the General proudly gave this award to Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio. Sherman doesn't care if the Spartan's success was boosted by a weaker Big 10 and an end game coaching breakdown by Bret Bielema. All Willy T knows is that Dantonio changed the lockerroom culture in East Lansing, beat hated rival Michigan, won 9 games, and is recruiting the hell out of the State of Michigan. And that's enough to satisfy a man like William Tecumseh Sherman. Plus Dantonio is sure to endear himself to Sherman with his signature scowl and his strong Ohio roots.
" A fellow Ohioan who hates his rivals and scowls constantly? I could use a man like that..."