Why Does the Big Ten Hate Ryan Shazier?
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Well, it's that time of year again – the time when the Big Ten names their All-Conference teams, as well as their hyphenated position awards. That also means it's time to write about which local players were slighted, because local players are always slighted.
And as you might expect, today is no different.
Now, the Big Ten Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year are still to be named, as are the Freshman of the Year and Coach of the Year. Those awards will be handed out on Tuesday, so it would be appropriate to withhold some angst until all of the awards are out.
However, it would also be appropriate to point out one completely baffling result from the Monday award announcement. I'm speaking, of course, of Wisconsin's Chris Borland winning the Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year Award over Ohio State's Ryan Shazier.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Borland is certainly one of the best linebackers in the conference, and has been since his very first game four years ago, but I have no idea how human voters could have maneuvered their ballots in this way. I would expect this from one of Jeff Sagarin's computers, but not from people with organic thought processors.
I don't mean to be dismissive of Borland, because he is an absolutely fantastic player. He's the only linebacker in the country who has given it to Carlos Hyde as well as Hyde has given it to everybody else. But when you compare the seasons that Borland and Shazier have had, there is no comparison.
Take a look:
Ryan Shazier: 12 games - 122 tackles (84 solo), 21.0 TFL, 6 sacks, 4 FF
Chris Borland: 11 games - 102 tackles (64 solo), 8.5 TFL, 4 sacks, 1 FF
Shazier is leading the Big Ten in tackles, tackles per game, tackles for loss, forced fumbles, and is sixth in sacks. Borland is third in the conference in tackles and 19th in tackles for loss. This doesn't even translate. Granted, Borland played in one fewer games than Shazier, but I don't see how that helps his cause, considering Shazier was able to be relied on for every game this season.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Carlos Hyde and Braxton Miller won their position's individual player of the year awards, so it's not like Ohio State players were getting snubbed on the whole, I just don't see how a vote like this happens.
Shazier has 62 solo tackles in Big Ten play, Borland has 64 solo tackles for his entire season. Shazier has 10 tackles for loss in his last three games – that's 1.5 more than Borland has this season.
A couple of weeks ago Urban Meyer called Borland one of the best linebackers he has ever seen at getting into the backfield, and said Shazier was getting up there as well. The last two seasons, Borland has a total of 18.5 tackles for loss – that's over 23 games. Shazier has 19 tackles for loss in his last 10 games.
I don't think Shazier is “getting up there”, I think he's already gotten there.
If it seems like I'm piling on Borland, I'm not, I'm just typing statistics. If the statistics are piling on Borland, then I can't help that.
I'm tempted to believe that the reason Borland was given this award is because Shazier will be getting the conference's top overall defensive player of the year award on Tuesday, but that didn't stop the last four winners of the Smith-Brown Defensive Lineman of the Year Award from also winning the Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year Award.
Or perhaps it's a “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the voters, which would be a shame for an award that's only three years old.
Before you think I'm the only person baffled by this decision, you only need to do a Ryan Shazier search on Twitter, and you'll see a bunch of people just as puzzled as me. When words like “upset” and “shocker” are used, there's a reason.
This is the second time in as many seasons that Shazier has lost this award to a player whose numbers he dwarfed. A year ago, Penn State's Michael Mauti won the award with 19 fewer tackles, 13 fewer tackles for loss, and 2.5 fewer sacks. But the Nittany Lions were a nice story a year ago, as was Mauti, and so there you go.
There hasn't been a bigger playmaker at linebacker in the Big Ten over the last two years than Ryan Shazier, and to this point he has only one unanimous First-Team All-Big Ten selection to show for it.
I don't know what the various coaches and media who decide these individual awards base their votes on, but for the past two seasons the decision regarding the linebacker award hasn't involved the play on the field.
Those voters likely have one last chance to do right by Shazier, and that comes on Tuesday.
To borrow a phrase from Auburn athletics director Jay Jacobs, it would be a disservice to the nation if Ryan Shazier is denied the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Award.
Even then it still wouldn't make up for the slights that have already taken place these last two seasons.
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