- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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September is in the rearview mirror, and the race for some of the Big Ten's top awards are wide smoking open. As they should be, with the heart of league play still ahead of us. Here's how we see those awards right now:
Graham–George Offensive Player of the Year
1. Iowa RB Mark Weisman (Last week: 3): The offensive player of the year trophy is totally up for grabs right now, but why not Weisman? He's second in the Big Ten in rushing (615 yards), leads the free world in carries (119) and has helped the Hawkeyes establish a definite identity.
2. Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon (LW: 1): Ohio State became the first team this year to slow down Gordon, holding him to 74 yards on 15 carries. Gordon also hurt his left knee in that game. But he still leads the country in rushing.
3. Illinois QB Nathan Scheelhaase (LW: 5): Five more TD passes last week against Miami (Ohio) gives Scheelhaase 12 in four games. He also leads the Big Ten in passing yards and pass efficiency. The true test of his candidacy will come in Big Ten play, starting this week at Nebraska.
4. Ohio State QB Braxton Miller (LW: Not ranked): What, did you forget about the reigning winner of this award? Miller basically missed three games but came roaring back last week with four touchdowns against Wisconsin. His time off and Kenny Guiton's success in his absence no doubt hurts, but if Miller can put up huge numbers in the Buckeyes' conference schedule, he'll have to be reckoned with.
5. Wisconsin WR Jared Abbrederis (LW: NR): Abbrederis was insanely good in the loss at Ohio State with 207 receiving yards, dominating All-America corner Bradley Roby. He has surpassed Penn State's Allen Robinson as the Big Ten leader in receiving yards and catches per game.
Dropped out: Robinson, Ohio State QB Kenny Guiton
Nagurski–Woodson Defensive Player of the Year
1. Wisconsin LB Chris Borland (LW: 1): Even in a losing effort, Borland cemented his case for this award with his performance against Ohio State. He was everywhere and had two ridiculous short-yardage stops against Carlos Hyde on his way to 16 tackles.
2. Ohio State LB Ryan Shazier (LW: NR): We figured Shazier would turn it on in conference play, and he definitely did last week. He was a major key to putting the brakes on Wisconsin's running game with nine tackles, 2.5 for loss and a forced fumble.
3. Iowa LB James Morris (LW: NR): The Big Ten defensive player of the week for his effort at Minnesota, Morris is leading a talented Hawkeyes linebacker group and captains a much-improved defense that is stuffing opponents' run games.
4. Michigan State DE Shilique Calhoun (LW: 3): The early turnover scores were nice. Now it's about whether he can make an impact in the conference race.
5. Penn State DT DaQuan Jones (LW: 5): Like Calhoun, Jones was off last week. Time to see what he's got for October.
Dropped out: Minnesota DT Ra'Shede Hageman, Iowa CB B.J. Lowery
Dave McClain/Hayes–Schembechler Coach of the Year
1. Tim Beckman, Illinois: Yes, it's true. Were the coach of the year award handed out today, Beckman would win it. Illinois has already exceeded last year's win total with its 3-1 start and is the most improved team in the league.
2. Urban Meyer, Ohio State: These awards usually go to coaches who exceed expectations. Meyer hasn't done that. But when you've won 17 in a row, isn't that worthy of some recognition?
3. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa: Like Beckman, Ferentz has turned fan grumbling into early optimism with his 4-1 start. We'll see whether Iowa or Illinois can keep this going.
4. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern: His Wildcats are 4-0 and weathered the loss of Venric Mark in September. Slightly big game coming up this week.