Happy bowl season to most of you; happy basketball season to others.
The Big Ten made its selection for the regular season’s awards, but we here at Off Tackle Empire delight in snubbing the mainstream media and snarky contrarianism, so we’ve created the All-Empire Awards for 2016 Big Ten Football Excellence, also known as The Shermies.
Flamin’ Atlanta Trophy for Offensive Player of the Year: J.T. Barrett, Ohio State Buckeyes (48 pts)
Also Receiving Votes: Saquon Barkley (27), Trace McSorley (23), Austin Carr (21), Justin Jackson (11), Curtis Samuel (5), Tommy Armstrong (5), Akrum Wadley (2)
The Flamin’ Atlanta Trophy goes to the offensive player who most exemplifies the values of burning opposing defenses to the ground. Our runaway winner was the Ohio State signal caller, who was in firm command of a young Buckeye offense and led them to the College Football Playoff. Everything ran through Barrett, who threw 24 touchdowns to 5 interceptions and added 9 scores on the ground.
TwinTurboButkus Trophy for Defensive Player of the Year: Tegray Scales, Indiana Hoosiers (28 pts)
Also Receiving Votes: TJ Watt (25), Raekwon McMillan (24), Josey Jewell (7), Malik Hooker, Jourdan Lewis (4), Jabrill Peppers, Marcus Oliver, Ifeadi Odenigbo (2), Carroll Philips (1)
Add two turbos to a Butkus and you have a heavily-boosted defensive machine like our winner of the trophy, Tegray Scales. The Indiana linebacker finally provided the Hoosiers with the long-awaited defensive presence to balance out their offensive prowess. Scales was everywhere, racking up 115 tackles over the course of the season including seven games with over ten tackles. 21 were for loss with 5 sacks, and he added a pick-six early in the season. The junior linebacker had one of the great seasons for an Indiana defender in history.
Foltz-Sadler Trophy for Special Teams Player of the Year: Emmitt Carpenter, Minnesota Golden Gophers (33 pts)
Also Receiving Votes: Ron Coluzzi (20), Jabrill Peppers (12), Desmond King (9), Cameron Johnston (7), Tyler Davis (4), Kenny Allen, Tyler Durbin (3)
One of the more conventionally-named trophies, the Foltz-Sadler Trophy commemorates Sam Foltz and Mike Sadler, the tragically late Big Ten punters. Though Iowa’s Ron Coluzzi was seen as a favorite, we betrayed their legacy and selected a kicker. Minnesota’s Emmitt Carpenter was 21 for 23 on field goals and 41 for 42 on extra points, scoring a total of 104 points with his foot. He was 9 for 9 on kicks longer than 40 yards, including 2 past 50.
Willy T. Sherman Trophy for General of the Year: Urban Meyer, Ohio State Buckeyes (35 pts)
Also Receiving Votes: James Franklin (27), Paul Chryst (22), Jim Harbaugh (13), DJ Durkin (9), Mike Riley (5), Kevin Wilson (2), Kirk Ferentz (1)
Forget the official selections of James Franklin and Paul Chryst. Our General of the Year is going to the College Football Playoff with the youngest team in the Big Ten. Nobody in the league won more games in the regular season. We know Big Ten Coach of the Year isn’t supposed to go to the Ohio State coach, but we actually felt he did the best this year and rewarded him accordingly.
Appomattox-Watts-Jackson Trophy for Play of the Year: Noah Brown’s Circus Catch in Norman (25 pts)
Also Receiving Votes: Iowa Safety vs Michigan (20), Curtis Samuel Wins The Game (13), Penn State Kick Six (12), Kyle Queiro’s interception (9), Jourdan Lewis’ pick vs Wisconsin (7)
Nope. We didn’t forget about this one. Though many more meaningful plays happened in a truly remarkable Big Ten season (and a great season nationally, if you ignore the looming specter of Alabama), this play from week three of the season gained our top honors as the Buckeyes buried Oklahoma in Norman. Why? Because watch it:
Brewster-Beckman Trophy for Fail of the Year: Minnesota Targeting Epidemic (23 pts)
Also Receiving Votes: Rutgers’ Entire B1G Season (22), Mitch Leidner’s second half against Wisconsin (15), Northwestern loses to Illinois State (12), Illinois drops to 0-2 at home against Darrell Hazell, pushing back his firing one week (8), official signals touchback on Illinois’ game-winning touchdown against MSU (7), defending conference champ MSU loses to Jeff George Jr’s Illinois team for their seventh straight loss (6), Clayton Thorson’s goal line fumble against WMU (4), Drake Martinez leaps against Indiana (3), Iowa gets power-footballed by NDSU (2)
This trophy is named after Tims Brewster and Beckman, who not only lost a ton of games but embarrassed themselves in other ways. The Minnesota Golden Gophers managed to get two entries on the podium, with Mitch Leidner’s unbelievably bad second half against Wisconsin failing to measure up to the awfulness that was Rutgers’ entire conference slate of games. However, not even that performance could garner our top honors. No, we sent the trophy to one of its spiritual homes by rewarding the Minnesota Targeting Epidemic. Jerry Kill’s Golden Gophers were a fundamentally sound and disciplined team, both on and off the field. Captain Claeys has completely turned around the culture of the program. Off-the-field is a totally different issue, but on the field, Minnesota had seven ejections for targeting. One of these brutal hits played out right in front of me, as Duke McGhee launched the crown of his helmet into Malik Turner’s face. Turner held on to the ball for the third down conversion, but then lay motionless on the field for several minutes. The whole time, McGhee was high-fiving his team and generally strutting around like he hadn’t just allowed a third down conversion. He received a chest bump from an assistant coach nearly a minute after the medical staff began rushing to Turner’s aid. The celebration went on so long that a hushed Memorial Stadium began to boo the scene unfolding on the visiting sideline.
Since I anticipated being able to talk about something much funnier in Fail of the Year, I would like to offer a revised description of our third place finisher: With Paul Bunyan’s Axe In Hand For The Gophers, Mitch Leidner Takes Axe, Hacks Own Team To Death, Returns It To Badgers.
And finally, the most important award in my mind...
Big Ten Football Name of the Year: TIE! Taco Charlton and Eddie McDoom, Michigan Wolverines (42 pts)
Also Receiving Votes: Illinois: Man Berg (24), Gimel President (6); Nebraska: Freedom Akinmoladun (19), Tanner Farmer (14), DiCaprio Bootle (6); Michigan: Jake Butt (15); Northwestern: Jango Glacklin (14), Simba Short (11); Wisconsin: Jazz Peavy (13); Indiana: Alex Rodriguez (1)
Michigan was riddled with incredible names. I was quite partial to freshman receiver Eddie McDoom, but Taco Charlton made a big beefy impact and Jake Butt is just tremendous and will hopefully play 15 years in the NFL. Nebraska had a strong showing, though even if we doubled Tanner Farmer’s point total because he plays for Nebraska and it’s that much better, he still wouldn’t have gotten into the top spot. Gimel President showed up for Illinois, and since he didn’t win, he doesn’t have to change it to Gimel President-Elect. Walk-on QB/WR Man Berg managed to get third place despite his inability to find the field; perhaps the new coaching staff has only seen the tip of the ManBerg.
Let’s settle this: