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Monday, November 28, 2011

Fourth Annual Brainsplotch Big Ten Football Awards

It's time for the moment you've all been waiting for: the 4th Annual Brainsplotch Big Ten Football Awards: hereafter renamed the Brainsplotch/TFTSA Big Ten Football Awards (in honor of my new Michigan State Spartans sports-related blog, Treasures from the Spartan Attic).  So, without any further preamble, the winners are...

Most Valuable Player: Russell Wilson, Wisconsin.   A case could easily be made for Wilson's backfield teammate, Montee Ball, but Wilson added a dimension to the Badger's offense that made a huge difference for them.  His dual threat capabilities gave Wisconsin the most dynamic offense in the conference, if not the nation.  But beyond his athletic abilities, Wilson has proven to be a great leader and teammate.  Pretty darned good for a player who is essentially a one-year "free agent signee".

Best quarterback: Russell Wilson, Wisconsin.   For all the reasons listed above, and his stat line is incredibly impressive, with an astonishing 28 touchdown passes and only 3 interceptions, to go along with 2692 yards through the air. 

Honorable mentions: Kirk Cousins had an outstanding senior year for Michigan State, leading them to the Legends Division title. Denard Robinson improved throughout the season at Michigan and Brady Hoke eventually settled on an offensive scheme that utililized his abilities. Dan Persa of Northwestern once again demonstrated that he is one of the toughest and grittiest (not to mention elusive) quarterback in the conference.
Best running back: Montee Ball, Wisconsin.   A no-brainer if there ever was one, Montee "Bowling" Ball  easily led the Big Ten in rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, yards per game, and averaged an astonishing 6.5 yards per carry.  His 29 rushing TDs were almost double the number (16) his closest competitor (Denard Robinson) had this season.

Honorable mentions: Marcus Coker (Iowa) had a great sophomore season, Rex Burkhead (Nebraska), Silas Redd (Penn State).

Best wide receiver: Marvin McNutt, Iowa.   McNutt, in his senior year, led the Big Ten in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.  As a Michigan State fan who has watched this guy victimize the Spartans for three years, I won't miss him--but I wish him well at the next level.

Honorable mentions: B.J. Cunningham (Michigan State), A.J. Jenkins (Illinois), Jeremy Ebert (Northwestern).  I was so close to giving this to Cunningham, but don't want to be accused of being a homer.  Jenkins had a good year for the Illini, and I've always been a fan of Ebert's.

Best kicker: Brett Maher, Nebraska.  Maher had a great season for the Huskers.  He was perfect in PATs (42-42) and led the Big Ten in field goal percentage, making 19 of the 22 he attempted.  By the way, those 22 attempts and 19 conversions were tops in the conference.

Honorable mention: Mitch Ewald (Indiana). 13 of 16 of field goal attempts and perfect on PATs (30 for 30).

Best defensive lineman: Whitney Mercilus, Illinois. I didn't really see him play this year, but I sure wish I had because this guy sounds like a beast, and arguably has the most badass name in college football.  Mercillus led the conference in three different defensive categories: sacks, tackles for loss, and forced turnovers.  Mercillus anchored a solid Illini defense that finished third in total defense in the Big Ten.  His 13 solo sacks were easily the best in the Big Ten, far outpacing the runner-up John Simon (Ohio State) who had 7 solo tackles.  Mercillus also led the conference in total sacks (solo and assisted) with 13, five better than Denicos Allen (Michigan State) who had 8 (6 solo, 2 assisted).  His 9 forced fumbles outdistanced his closest competitors, Chris Borland (Wisconsin) and Sean Prater (Iowa), each of whom had 4.

Honorable mentions: Jerel Worthy (Michigan State), John Simon (Ohio State), Devon Still (Penn State)

Best linebacker: Chris Borland, Wisconsin.   Borland is a tough, gritty guy who is the lynchpin of the Badgers' defense.  He finished fourth in the conference in tackles, and third in tackles for loss.

Honorable mention: Lavonte David (Nebraska)

Best defensive back: Trenton Robinson, Michigan State.  Robinson, a senior, is a great leader on Michigan State's conference leading defense.  He tied with four other players (including teammate Isaiah Lewis) for the conference lead in interceptions.

Honorable mentions: Isaiah Lewis (Michigan State), Johnny Adams (Michigan State), Ricardo Allen (Purdue)

Best punter: Brett Maher, Nebraska.  Maher led the Big Ten in punting average at 45.0.  His 61-yard punt late against Penn State helped the Huskers cling to a 17-14 lead and get out of Happy Valley with a victory.

 Honorable mention: Cody Webster (Purdue).

Coach of the year: Brady Hoke, Michigan.  Hoke built a defense at Michigan (something Rich Rodriguez was never able to do) and performed an impressive turnaround in leading the Wolverines to a 10-2 record.

Honorable mentions: Mark Dantonio (Michigan State), Pat Fitzgerald (Northwestern).  Dantonio proved that 2010 was no fluke by leading the Spartans to the Legends Division championship and a 10-2 regular season record.  Fitzgerald continues to get the most out of the limited talent he has at Northwestern.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Another sign that I am an irreversible, middle-aged responsible (most of the time) adult

This Thursday night, my wife and I went to Grand Rapids to see one of my many favorite bands, the Meat Puppets.  The Pups, as they are affectionately called, were playing at a small club in G.R. called the Pyramid Scheme.

We were able to make last minute babysitting plans with my in-laws, and after a stop at the kids' Scholastic Book Fair at school, dropped them off with the understanding that, since the show started at 8:00 PM, we should be back into town by about 11:30.  My in-laws were not going to watch the boys any later that 11:30--and it wouldn't have been fair to ask them to do so since the next day was a school day.

We arrived at the Pyramid Scheme a little before eight.  The Pyramid Scheme is divided in half: the front half is a standard bar, while the back half is the performance area that is closed until that evening's show is ready to begin.  So for a show that, according to the ticket, was supposed to begin at 8:00 PM, we sat and waited.  And we sat and waited some more.  Finally the door opened at around 8:30 PM and we entered and grabbed two ridiculously expensive beers. 

Then we waited, and waited, and did a little more waiting.

At close to 9:00 PM the opening act, a sort of rustic cowpunk sort of band called Wildfire, took the stage.  (For what it's worth, their guitarist/lead singer was a dead ringer for George Harrison as he appeared on the Abbey Road album cover, complete with jean jacket).  Wildfire was on stage for maybe between a half-hour to 45 minutes.  Then the second supporting act, a garage rock duo from Denmark called Black Box Revelation (with an impossibly tall and skinny guitarist) came on--and some drunken idiot sitting next to us decided to do his interpretive dance/air drum routine and acted bent out of shape when we made it clear we weren't in the same jovial mood.  Anyway, it was clear to us that the Pups wouldn't hit the stage until at least 11:00.  Unfortunately, we had no choice but to leave for home, without seeing the band we'd paid to see.

The only good thing that came out of the night was buying, for only 10 dollars, a Pups CD I didn't own, 1987's Mirage.  But I'm still getting over not actually being able to see them live, so I am currently in no mood to listen to it.

It was a good thing we left when we did, because snow had just hit the Grand Rapids area and the giant snowflakes were making visibility a nightmare.  Luckily, we managed to pick up the boys at about 11:45.

Today, I noticed that the Pyramid Scheme had posted photos from the Meat Puppets' performance.  I'm so bummed out that I can't even look at them.

This is what happens when you hit middle-aged parenthood.  The days of carefree small-club concert going is over, unless we can find an all-night babysitter.  When we were single and/or childless, we'd have had no problem waiting around for the Meat Puppets to hit the stage, watching their entire gig, and getting home at 2:30 AM.  Farewell, youthful days.