Though it is without a doubt the B1Gest national award in football, only three Big Ten athletes have won the Ray Guy Award in its 21-year history, and none since Ohio State’s BJ Sander did so in 2003. This year, five of the ten semifinalists are from the Big Ten, including what I believe to be two of the three frontrunners.
Below are the criteria that the voters consider, taken from the Ray Guy website, but in addition I will be factoring in number of punts, gross average, punts inside the 5, touchbacks, average field position, and OTE’s own Punting Index System Score, or PISS. I will also be using the difference between net and gross average to represent percentage of punts not returned, which is not perfect but frankly I already looked at all ten of these guys’ every punt several times over, and I’m not doing it again. Plus, touchbacks matter. I don’t know why the voters wouldn’t consider touchbacks.
The Ray Guy Award winner is selected by a voting body of Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) sports information directors, national media and former Ray Guy Award winners. Punters are evaluated on their overall statistics and contribution to the team. Particular emphasis is placed on the following statistics; net average, percentage of total punts inside the 20-yard line and percentage of punts not returned.
*For those not in the know, the Punting Index System Score is a metric developed by OTE commenter Ardichoke and myself to quantify greatness in punting. There are multiple systems to rate quarterbacks; we’ve developed a system to rate the most important position. For reference, an average PISS is about 35. For more information including the formula, read the related article.
Tier IV: The Snubs
Simply going by PISS, because it’s the stat I have most readily available, there are two punters above and one just below the lowest nominated score, which is a 37.567 belonging to Tulane’s Ryan Wright. Ohio State’s Jesse Mirco boasts a 38.471, Minnesota’s Mark Crawford a 37.856, and Michigan State’s Bryce Baringer a 37.274. The Big Ten is really good at punting, and so it was expected that someone had to get left out. Still, those three are very good at what they do, and while none were in contention for the top prize, all have cases to be semifinalists.
Tier III: Happy to Be Here
We’ll start by taking the bottom five in each of the three stats taken into account by the voters. Two semifinalists are in the bottom five in all three, and I do not expect those two to move on and become finalists. Tulane’s Ryan Wright has the 6th best net average, the 8th net/gross difference, and the 9th i20%. He also has the lowest PISS of the semifinalists, so that isn’t too surprising. A great season, but not going to be enough. The second was a little more surprising; Colorado State’s Ryan Stonehouse had the 5th-best PISS, but the 9th net average, last net/gross difference, and 8th i20%. I should note at this point that I am not counting touchbacks as being inside the 20. Stonehouse has nine thus far this season.
Three punters were bottom-five in two of three categories. The Iowa Hawkeyes’ Tory Taylor was last in net average, 7th in net/gross difference, and 5th in i20%. Miami’s Lou Hedley was 8th in net average, 5th in net/gross difference, and 6th in i20%. Texas’s Cameron Dicker was 4th in net average, 6th in net/gross difference, and last in i20%. Of those three, I would say Taylor and Hedley are in tier III, while Dicker moves on to tier II. For the record, Wright, Taylor, and Hedley were on the only sub-38 PISS named as semifinalists.
Tier II: Outside Looking In
So, rinse and repeat. Of the six remaining candidates, in the three categories, only one placed in the lower half in all three. Predictably, that was Cameron Dicker. His 38.166 PISS was also the lowest remaining. He will have the hardest case to be one of five finalists.
Two candidates have two bottom-half stats, which will leave us with an even three in this tier, and three frontrunners. Those two are the Illinois Fighting Illini’s Blake Hayes, who had the 6th-best net average and 4th-best net/gross difference, and the Michigan Wolverines’ Brad Robbins, who had the 5th-best net average and 5th-best i20%. It also so happens that they had the 4th and 5th best PISSes, respectively. Makes me feel kind of good about this stat, given that the three highest scores are the three most-likely finalists.
How many B1G punters make finalist?
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Two or fewer
All five, baby!
Tier I: The Front-Punters
Now it’s time for the main show. The three remaining punters (Adam Korsak, Jordan Stout, and Matt Araiza) are all sights to be seen. If you’re here, you probably know that (I mean, I’ve harped on the two Big Tenners enough, and national media sure like Araiza), but seriously, watch these guys play if you haven’t already.
Matt Araiza, San Diego State
Let’s start with the non-B1G guy. Araiza has gotten quite a bit of national attention for his long punts, and that he should. The Aztec has two 80+ yarders and two additional 70+ yarders. He has the longest PISS I’ve seen this year, with an 84.464 for an 86 yard punt from his own 11, downed at the opponent’s 3. That said, if the committee weighs heavily the three stats I’ve been talking about, Araiza has an uphill battle.
At 45.28 yards/punt, his net average is third-best among semifinalists. Unfortunately for him, that’s behind Stout and Korsak, respectively. To make matters worse, his 6.97 yards/punt net/gross difference is the second-worst among semifinalists, though that’s made worse by the fact that he has a semifinalist-leading 13(!) touchbacks, meaning that may not be factored as heavily by the voters. Still, even if you removed the touchbacks, his net/gross difference would still be worse than Stout and Korsak, who each average less than one yard difference between gross and net yardage. Araiza does has an impressive 54.1 i20%, and that would go up if we considered touchbacks as inside the 20. He leaves his opponents with a worse average field position than any other semifinalist. As it stands, it’s second among the semifinalists, though it’s second to Adam Korsak.
One place where Araiza could make up ground is on team impact. I don’t know how to quantify his impact on his team’s success, but I did find a good stat for his team’s success generally: 9-1. San Diego State has a better record and is ranked higher than Penn State or Rutgers, and that will play to Araiza’s benefit. There also is no ignoring the national hype around Araiza. Of the three frontrunners, he’s also the most likely to succeed on Sunday. El es bueno.
Una de las mayores armas defensivas este año en el college football, no es un defensive end... no es un linebacker... es... un PUNTER! Matt Araiza, de San DIego State, está consiguiendo punts de más de 80 yardas y además, hace field goals y extra points! pic.twitter.com/E9XmADKNsL— Juan Jiménez (@TheQbNerd) November 13, 2021
Adam Korsak, Rutgers Scarlett Knights
If you’re familiar with me, you know I love me some Adam Korsak. I’ve loved him since he kicked our ass in 2019 and didn’t get the Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week award (which regularly snubs punters, by the way). I am going to try to present this case as honestly and as without-bias as I can, but just to let you know, if I had a vote (which I hope someday soon I will), it would go to Korsak.
Korsak is second in net yards average, first in net/gross difference, and first in i20%. He’s also second in i5%, first in PISS, and has no touchbacks in 56 punts thus far this year.
However, Korsak’s stats have been going down the last few games. Just using PISS, because again it’s the easiest for me, He has had three games below 40 in his last four. 40 is really, really good, and he did have 39.959 against Northwestern, but he needs to have a good last two games still, same as everyone else. Recency bias is real, and Korsak, like everyone else, needs to leave a good impression on the voters’ minds.
We'll say it again: These B1G punters are always doing it #ForTheBrand. @AdamKorsak // @RFootball pic.twitter.com/fgMDZ7XS3o— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) September 4, 2021
Jordan Stout, Penn State Nittany Lions
Now, as a fan of Adam Korsak, one man has really impressed and scared me as of late. Stout has the best net average in the country, the second-best net/gross difference, and the fourth-best i20%. His PISS is second only to Korsak, and his numbers have been on the rise. In his last five games, only once did he not post a score above 40.
Unfortunately, if it’s all numbers, Korsak is going to win, and if it’s about profile, it’s going to Araiza. But if there’s room in the middle, for a workman on a good-not-great team, there’s Jordan Stout.
Jordan Stout: Pin Seeker pic.twitter.com/uIXtgAfTVp— Oliver Hodgkinson (@ojhodgkinson) November 13, 2021
Who wins the Ray Guy Award?
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