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Last updated: 07/10/2013 2:29 PM
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Football
Sizing Up the Big Ten's 2013 College Football Awards Candidates
By Tony Gerdeman

It's college football awards watch list season, so it's time to take a look at the Big Ten's possibilities. If not for Wisconsin running back Montee Ball winning the Doak Walker Award, the Big Ten would have been shut out of college football's major awards last year.

This season, the Big Ten has a little better odds than they did last year. The Buckeyes alone have three legitimate candidates for some hardware. Add in experienced stars like Taylor Martinez, Venric Mark, Max Bullough and Chris Borland, and there could be some very close losses to Jadeveon Clowney this year.

While there aren't many favorites on this list, there is no one among us who pegged Johnny Manziel as a Heisman winner last year. In other words, just about anything can happen throughout the extended course of a college football season. The only guarantee is that the Heisman favorite won't be winning the Heisman.

Bronko Nagurski Trophy / Chuck Bednarik Award (Most Outstanding Defensive Player)

1. Ryan Shazier, LB Ohio State
2. Bradley Roby, CB Ohio State
3. Max Bullough, LB Michigan State
4. Chris Borland, LB Wisconsin
5. Darqueze Dennard, CB Michigan State

All five of these candidates are already on the Bednarik Award Watch List, and you can assume they'll be on the Nagurski Watch List when it comes out on Thursday. Ryan Shazier and Bradley Roby will be on most pre-season All-American teams this summer, and they are the two most likely winners of any defensive player of the year award.

Butkus Award (Top linebacker)

1. Ryan Shazier, LB Ohio State
2. Max Bullough, LB Michigan State
3. Chris Borland, LB Wisconsin
4. Damien Proby, LB Northwestern
5. Anthony Hitchens, LB Iowa

While some will match his tackle numbers, it's hard to imagine any linebacker in the Big Ten topping the hype that Ryan Shazier will receive this season. Of course, that hype comes as a response to his knack for big plays and big hits. However, if Michigan State makes a run, Max Bullough will get quite a bit of due as well.

Chicago Tribune Silver Football (Big Ten MVP)

1. Braxton Miller, QB Ohio State
2. Devin Gardner, QB Michigan
3. Taylor Martinez, QB Nebraska
4. Carlos Hyde, RB Ohio State
5. Max Bullough, LB Michigan State

Braxton Miller won the award last year, though Taylor Martinez could easily have won it as well. Devin Gardner is second on this list, however, because more players from Michigan (17) have won this award than from any other school. If Miller wins the award again, he will be the first repeat winner since Indiana running back Anthony Thompson in 1988 and 1989.

Davey O'Brien Award (Best quarterback)

1. Braxton Miller, QB Ohio State
2. Taylor Martinez, QB Nebraska
3. Devin Gardner, QB Michigan
4. Kain Colter, QB Northwestern
5. Joel Stave, QB Wisconsin

Braxton Miller should be a much more efficient passer this season, which will make him a much more productive player. Taylor Martinez gets the nod over Devin Gardner because of experience, and also because Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges has only produced two first-team all-conference quarterbacks in his 17 seasons as an FBS offensive coordinator.

Doak Walker Award (Top running back)

1. Venric Mark, RB Northwestern
2. Ameer Abdullah, RB Nebraska
3. Carlos Hyde, RB Ohio State
4. James White, RB Wisconsin
5. Melvin Gordon, RB Wisconsin

Venric Mark's 1,366 yards rushing was third in the conference last season, and given that Northwestern's offense should be even better this season, those numbers could go up. Ameer Abdullah won't have to give up any carries to Rex Burkhead this season, so he should improve on his 1,137 yards as well. Urban Meyer will want Carlos Hyde to have at least 1,000 yards rushing this season for recruiting purposes if nothing else.

Fred Biletnikoff Award (Top wide receiver)

1. Kenny Bell, WR Nebraska
2. Jeremy Gallon, WR Michigan
3. Allen Robinson, WR Penn State
4. Jared Abbrederis, WR Wisconsin
5. Philly Brown, WR Ohio State

This is a pretty underrated group of receivers, and I'm not sure Jeremy Gallon shouldn't be first. During Devin Gardner's five starts for Michigan, Gallon caught 31 passes for 511 yards. Projecting that out, Gallon could be in for the Big Ten's best receiving season. Kenny Bell has a senior QB, so that will help. Allen Robinson does not, so that will hurt. Philly Brown could catch 70 or 80 passes for Ohio State this season.

Jim Thorpe Award (Top defensive back)

1. Bradley Roby, CB Ohio State
2. Darqueze Dennard, CB Michigan State
3. Christian Bryant, S Ohio State
4. Isaiah Lewis, S Michigan State
5. Ibraheim Campbell, S Northwestern

The Big Ten has some legitimate candidates for Thorpe Award, but none are more legitimate than Bradley Roby, who is one of the nation's favorites to win the award. Roby is as methodical as he is explosive, and he puts in as much work off the field as he does on it. He also has no problem leading the charge against the run. Darqueze Dennard isn't much different. Christian Bryant, if he holds on to the passes he has dropped so far in his career, will lead the conference in interceptions by a lot.

John Mackey Award (Most outstanding tight end)

1. Devin Funchess, TE Michigan
2. Kyle Carter, TE Penn State
3. Ted Bolser, TE Indiana
4. C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE Iowa
5. Dan Vitale, SB Northwestern

Devin Funchess has tons of potential, but he has yet to catch more than one pass in any Big Ten game. He is on top of this list because of what he could do with Michigan's bootleg game. Kyle Carter would be number one on this list if Penn State had a quarterback with experience. The same could be said for C.J. Fiedorowicz. Dan Vitale may end up with more catches than any of them.

Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Trophy (Outstanding senior quarterback)

1. Taylor Martinez, QB Nebraska
2. Kain Colter, QB Northwestern
3. Andrew Maxwell, QB Michigan State
4. Nathan Scheelhaase, QB Illinois
5. Kenny Guiton, QB Ohio State

Considering Kain Colter gets pulled when it's time for Northwestern to throw the ball, there's no way he's going to be ahead of Taylor Martinez on this list. Andrew Maxwell needs actual help from his handsless receivers this season. Can Nathan Scheelhaase return to form...whatever that might be? Kenny Guiton is on this list because there aren't many senior quarterbacks in the Big Ten.

Lombardi Award (Best lineman or linebacker)

1. Ryan Shazier, LB Ohio State
2. Max Bullough, LB Michigan State
3. Ra'Shede Hageman, DT Minnesota
4. Chris Borland, LB Wisconsin
5. Deion Barnes, DE Penn State

It's going to be hard to argue the top two guys on this list. Depending on how their seasons go, they could be virtually interchangeable on the awards circuit. Ra'Shede Hageman is a good player, but he'll be fighting a losing battle all season long.

Lou Groza Award (Top placekicker)

1. Brendan Gibbons, K Michigan
2. Jeff Budzien, K Northwestern
3. Mike Meyer, K Iowa
4. Drew Basil, K Ohio State
5. Mitch Ewald, K Indiana

If you remember Brendan Gibbons back in 2010 when he went 1-5 on field goals, then you would be as surprised as me that he would be on top of this list. However, he has since turned himself into one of the conference's most consistent kickers.

Outland Trophy (Best interior lineman)

1. Taylor Lewan, OT Michigan
2. Jack Mewhort, OT Ohio State
3. Andrew Norwell, OG Ohio State
4. Spencer Long, OG Nebraska
5. John Urschel, OG Penn State

Taylor Lewan is one of the favorites in the nation to win this award, provided Jadeveon Clowney allows it. Four of the five players on this list were First-Team All-Big Ten members last season. They will all have to turn it up quite a bit in order to win the Outland.

Ray Guy Award (Top punter)

1. Mike Sadler, P Michigan State
2. Drew Meyer, P Wisconsin
3. Justin DuVernois, P Illinois
4. Cody Webster, P Purdue
5. Brandon Williams, P Northwestern

After winning the award three of the first four years of its existence, a Big Ten player hasn't won the Ray Guy Award since Ohio State's B.J. Sander in 2003. It's time to bring the title back home.

Rimington Trophy (Most outstanding center)

1. Corey Linsley, C Ohio State
2. Brandon Vitabile, C Northwestern
3. Travis Jackson, C Michigan State
4. Austin Blythe, C Iowa
5. Ty Howle, C Penn State

The Big Ten is only returning three starting centers, so things are admittedly a little thin here. The top three candidates are all First-Team All-Big Ten possibilities, and as the center of the conference's best offense, Corey Linsley goes first on this list. Austin Blythe and Ty Howle were guards last year.

Ted Hendricks Award (Top Defensive End)

1. Deion Barnes, DE Penn State
2. Tyler Scott, DE Northwestern
3. Marcus Rush, DE Michigan State
4. Frank Clark, DE Michigan
5. Noah Spence, DE Ohio State

Tyler Scott finished with more sacks last year (9) than Deion Barnes (6), but Barnes did his damage as a redshirt freshman. Marcus Rush is a junior entering his third season as a starter. He should have his best season ever. Frank Clark is frequently in the backfield for the Wolverines. How will he fly without Jake Ryan around? Noah Spence gets the nod here over teammate Adolphus Washington because of a coin flip.

Walter Camp Award / Maxwell Award / Heisman Trophy

1. Braxton Miller, QB Ohio State
2. Devin Gardner, QB Michigan
3. Taylor Martinez, QB Nebraska
4. Kain Colter, QB Northwestern
5. Carlos Hyde, RB Ohio State

Voters would rather vote for somebody new than somebody who has been around forever. That thinking is why Devin Gardner is on top of Taylor Martinez here. Both are quite a distance from Braxton Miller, however. Kain Colter will get a lot of press for his versatility. Carlos Hyde may get more carries than even he expects as Urban Meyer attempts to end the negative recruiting against his running back history.

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