We’ve spent some time this offseason debating the Big Ten’s best – from the conference’s top offensive player to the defensive MVP – so we recently decided to take those debates directly to the players themselves.
During Big Ten media days in Chicago, we pulled aside 14 of the 39 player representatives and asked them four questions: Who is the Big Ten’s best offensive player? Who’s the best on defense? What other coach would you most like to play for? And what’s the toughest place to play?
We kept players’ names anonymous so they’d feel free to vote and speak their minds. There was only one catch: Any pick you made could not come from your own team. Some players declined to come up with an answer for every category, so you’ll also notice that the votes don’t always add up to 14.
Next up: Where is the toughest place to play in the Big Ten?
Toughest Place to Play (13 votes)
Penn State (Beaver Stadium) -- 6 votes
Nebraska (Memorial Stadium) -- 5 votes
Ohio State (Ohio Stadium) -- 1 vote
Wisconsin (Camp Randall Stadium) -- 1 vote
It's Penn State, Nebraska -- and then everyone else.
Most players seemed to pick Penn State for the sheer volume in Beaver Stadium, while Nebraska offered a pretty unique experience. Said one player, about Memorial Stadium: "It's just a different place. You walk out on the field and they're not swearing at you, it's like the reverse for them. They're like, 'Oh, thanks for coming to Nebraska.' It's like reverse psychology. Aren't you supposed to be yelling at me, screaming at me? It's a different atmosphere, but it's a really intense atmosphere."
Said another player: "They're friendly and everything -- it's weird -- but it gets really loud there. They have a homefield advantage for sure."
"Friendly" was not one of the adjectives used to describe Penn State. Some players specifically pointed to the student section, while everyone commented on just how loud the stadium can get. Said one player: "I remember I had my hand in the dirt when we were near the student section, and I could feel the ground shaking."
Said another: "We played them in a day game, and it was real electric. I can't imagine a night game there." And another: "The atmosphere in that place is ridiculous."
Wisconsin and Ohio State were the only other places to receive votes here. One Big Ten East vet eschewed the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions for the Badgers -- in part because he was struck by the "Jump Around" tradition between the third and fourth quarters. "The fans are just so into it," he said. "It's just crazy. I really like that stadium."
Check back later Friday morning for our final poll question on what Big Ten coach the players would most like to play for.