Coach of the year?

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Last updated: 11/28/2012 2:13 AM
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PSU's O'Brien is Big Ten Coach of the Year?
By Tony Gerdeman

This being the Big Ten, a conference that will soon have 14 teams in it, it should come as no surprise that the conference's coaches and media would be similarly numerically challenged, and view 8-4 as being better than 12-0.

With both the media's Dave McClain Coach of the Year Award, and the coaches' Hayes-Schembechler Coach of the Year Award going to Penn State's Bill O'Brien, the voters once again showed that in order to win a Big Ten Coach of the Year Award, you must be deemed to have done the most with the least.

Which is ironic, considering the Big Ten is notorious for doing the least with the most.

It's clear why O'Brien won the award. After the NCAA handed down its punishment and the Nittany Lions lost 13 players (including a walk-on redshirt freshman kicker) to either transfer or quitting, those who make a living in the sport viewed Penn State as an unwinnable situation this season.

Either they were completely wrong, or Bill O'Brien did the best coaching job in the Big Ten this season.

As a sportswriter, I can tell you that it sucks to be wrong because there are certain people who live for things like that. Which is why in this industry, not everybody likes to admit when they are wrong, and it appears that nobody wants to admit that they were completely wrong about Penn State's lack of talent.

Basically, voters refused to believe they erred in proclaiming Penn State's 2012 death, so the only logical answer for an 8-4 season is that Bill O'Brien is a coaching witch. (Which I think he is.)

I am here to admit that I was wrong about Penn State. I had them picked fifth in the Leaders Division. The work that O'Brien did with quarterback Matt McGloin alone should garner O'Brien coach of the year consideration.

But can a team really be bereft of talent when they have the league's top passer – McGloin threw for 537 yards more than anybody else in the conference, the Big Ten's Best Receiver – Allen Robinson had 213 more yards receiving than anybody else, the top tight end according to the media, two All-Big Ten offensive linemen, a consensus All-Big Ten defensive tackle, the Big Ten's Best linebacker, and the conference's top freshman in defensive end Deion Barnes?

I don't see how.

Bill O'Brien has done a fantastic job this season. His team had a very slow start, but they picked it up as the season went on. But they also lost to the two best teams they faced, and their best win of the season was against Northwestern, who will need a bowl win in order to finish the season ranked.

Yet nobody was surprised with the voters' thinking.

Let's not forget that Northwestern's Dennis Green won the media's vote in 1982 for going 3-8 while Ohio State's Jim Tressel never won it once while dominating the league like a sweatervested tyrant. O'Brien now joins Green as one of four Coaches of the Year to lose to a MAC team, along with Gary Barnett and Joe Tiller.

One of the major problems that I have with this entire deal, is with Penn State's incorrectly-viewed insurmountable situation weighing heavy, it seems that voters have forgotten that things weren't exactly rosy for Urban Meyer and Ohio State.

Bill O'Brien lost 13 players since July? Meyer lost 15 underclassmen since January. That's what happens under a new coach, scandal or not.

Yet Meyer and the Buckeyes still found a way to win every single game.

Meyer took a team that was 6-6 in the regular season last year and turned them into a 12-0 team this season. O'Brien took a team that was 8-4 in the regular season last year and turned them into an 8-4 team this season.

The status quo wins again. We don't like boat rockers in this here league.

Honestly, I've just never agreed with the "doing the most with the least" philosophy. What's wrong with "doing more with more"?

Just looking back at past winners like Ron Zook, Ron Turner, John L. Smith and Joe Paterno in 2008 when everybody knew he was no longer actually doing what head coaches do, and you get the idea that maybe the voters should change their strategy, because history looks back on them and laughs.

Frankly, Bill O'Brien won this award on October 20th, following Penn State's win at Iowa to move to 5-2 on the season. Winning five games in a row after opening the season with losses to Ohio and Virginia sealed the deal. Ohio State, which was 8-0 at that point, somehow wasn't as interesting. And the Buckeyes beating Penn State the following week would do nothing for Meyer's chances.

The Nittany Lions closed the season on a 3-2 run, with wins over Purdue, Indiana, and a Wisconsin team that had absolutely nothing to play for. Ohio State closed the season with wins at Penn State, at Wisconsin (when they were still playing for something) and home against Michigan.

Bill O'Brien closed his season with two Big Ten Coach of the Year Awards. Urban Meyer closed his season without losing a single game, let alone four.

You tell me which one was more successful.


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