J.T. Barrett or Jabrill Peppers?
Saquon Barkley or T.J. Watt? Or Tommy Armstrong Jr.?
With two weeks left in the Big Ten’s regular season, roughly half the league is still mathematically alive to try to stake a claim on a division crown. Which means a lot of candidates in the running to be tapped as the league’s most valuable player.
And a lot of good — dang good — arguments for each and every one.
Where would the Cornhuskers be without senior quarterback Armstrong (13 passing touchdowns, eight interceptions)?
Or the Lions without Barkley (15 total touchdowns, 13 on the ground) carrying the load in the backfield?
Has there been a more dominant quarterback this fall, when he’s “on,” than Ohio State’s Barrett (23 passing touchdowns, eight rushing scores)?
Or a more electric individual talent than Michigan three-way star Peppers (14 tackles for losses, 164 yards from scrimmage, three rushing TDs, 17.3 yards per punt return, 24.3 per kick return)?
Or a more relentless force off the edge than Watt, one of the biggest hammers (six solo sacks, six assisted sacks, 10.5 tackles for losses) of the Big Ten West’s most smothering defenses?
And the coaching pool? Almost as deep. Ohio State’s Urban Meyer and Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh snatch the headlines and the clicks, but as strong as the Buckeyes (9-1, 6-1 Big Ten) and Wolverines (9-1, 6-1) have been, the men leading the other teams in the East and West division chases might be toting even stronger cases.
The most pressure? James Franklin, who’s piloted Penn State to an 8-2 mark (6-1 Big Ten) after a shaky September.
The most on-field challenges? Paul Chryst at Wisconsin (8-2, 5-2), who’s helped his Badgers overcome a harrowing dance card.
The most off-field challenges? Mike Riley at Nebraska (8-2, 5-2), who’s helped his steer his Huskers past a harrowing … well, everything.
Tracy Claeys has Minnesota (7-3, 4-3) bowling in his first full season as a Division I coach. DJ Durkin can secure a postseason berth for Maryland (5-5, 2-5) in Year 1 with a win over Nebraska or Purdue; the Terps were 3-9 a year ago.
Did we miss a favorite? Write-in candidates are welcome, too. Vote and share as you like. We’ll publish the results Sunday in The Wrap.
Next week: Individual offensive awards. Happy voting, folks.