Prior to the games this week, the Lou Groza and Ray Guy Awards announced their season finalists. I’ve previewed the Ray Guy Award already (see below), but it’s time to give kickers their due.
Like in the Ray Guy Award, the Big Ten boasts two of the three finalists for the Lou Groza Award. Michigan’s Jake Moody and Ohio State’s Noah Ruggles join Oklahoma’s Gabe Brkic (buy a vowel, Pat?) as the final three kickers standing for the coveted award. How do they stack up?
To be honest, I’m not sure how Brkic is a finalist. With two misses sub-40, and six misses overall, his profile does not line up with Ruggles and Moody. Now, it should be noted that finalists were chosen before this week, and so the stats above and below are not exclusively the information that the voters had. You can see where the stats were when they made their semi-finalist determinations here. But, Brkic did have six missed field goals at the time that finalists were announced, after last week’s games. In fact, half of those misses came between the announcements of semi-finalists and finalists. I don’t know if all of that information was present for voters, but I feel that what we have here is not the best three kickers in college this year.
I did not scour over all named semifinalists, but I did look at the Big Ten. Only one other Big Ten kicker was a Groza semifinalist, and that was Caleb Shudak. Just as Brkic benefited from voters perhaps not seeing his late season struggles, Shudak’s improvements went unnoticed. In the month of November, Shudak went 11-12 on field goals, including 3-4 from 50 yards and beyond. It is my opinion that not only should Shudak have been a finalist, but that he probably deserves to win the award all together. He gives up 3% in FG% to Moody, and 6% to Ruggles, but his 4-6 mark from beyond 50 justifies that. In fact, Shudak has fewer misses from within 50 (one) than Moody (two), and the same amount as Ruggles.
Anyways, this isn’t the first time a Hawkeye has been robbed of the Groza (Keith Duncan in 2019 lost to Rodrigo Blankenship despite being a consensus All-American), but it’s done. You can vote on which Big Ten kicker you think deserves the nation’s top kicking award here. I voted for Moody, but I think the difference is negligible.
Onto the punting.
Punter of the Week
It was Jordan Stout by a mile. Stout’s 52.567 PISS, was achieved thanks to a 48-yard average, no return yards yielded, and an average spot of the 5-yard line. As usual, it went unappreciated by his Penn State Nittany Lions, who lost 30-27 to the Michigan State Spartans, but it won’t go unappreciated by us. Not only is it a season high for Stout, but it’s also the highest total for a game (min 2 punts) in the Big Ten this year. Stout sure finished his season strong, with a 46.242 PISS over the last three games raising his season total to 41.744. He will take the first-ever OTE PISS Crown.
Blake Hayes likely finished his Illinois Fighting Illini career with another classic game. He had three kicks, averaging 40.3 yards on net, landing all three inside the 20, and putting one at the 2-yard line. His 41.588 PISS brings his season total to 39.239, good for third-best in the league that saw five Ray Guy semifinalists (and just behind the two finalists).
Woah look, it’s PISS scores before the end of the article.
Now who’s your Ray Guy vote?
This poll is closed
Korsak, no change
Stout, no change
Stout, from someone else
Araiza, I hate the Big Ten and statistics
Kicker of the Week
Also a run-away winner this week is Iowa’s Caleb Shudak, because if I can’t give him the Groza, I’ll give him something, dammit. Shudak had half of Iowa’s 28 points in their comeback victory over Nebraska that helped make the Iowa Hawkeyes West Division champs, if you haven’t heard. He had the three of the league’s four 40+ yard field goals this week, and the only one from 50+. His four field goals came from an average distance of 45 yards, which is pretty nuts. He also kept Iowa in a game that they didn’t score on offense in until the fourth quarter.
Illinois’s James McCourt was the only other kicker to hit from 40+, also tallying three more field goals and five extra points to total 17 of the Illini’s 47 points (remember, they were playing Northwestern). MSU’s Coghlin, Minnesota’s Trickett, Purdue’s Fineran, and Ohio State’s Ruggles all were perfect with minimum one field goal attempt.
Who’s your Lou Groza Award vote?
This poll is closed
People’s champion Caleb Shudak
Returner of the Week
Illinois’s Donny Navarro III had three punt returns for 66 yards, for a booming 22-yard average. He had nearly half the league’s 136 punt return yards on the week, and did it without attempting a return in the second half. The Iowa special teams unit tallied another touchdown, this one by Kyler Fisher off a blocked punt. The Big Ten totaled 546 kick return yards, though only for an 18-yard average. They were lead by PSU’s Ford, who had five returns with a 24-yard average.
That’s all I got, folks. Thanks for reading this through the season. I don’t know if I’ll publish anything next week. Probably not. If there’s punting content you’d like to see, either as this season closes, or next year, let me know. Now watch this drive.