Here is the conundrum:
How is a guy whose success in the general public’s mind is defined by being invisible during games supposed to get any substantial love from the general public when he is, in fact, invisible?
Was that rhetorical mouthful more convoluted than a defense of the BCS? Let me put it another way.
How is Gabe Carimi not the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year?
Acknowledging up front that this is like any argument made for a political third party in the United States – centered on principle rather than reality – and the inevitable homerism and bias that shines through since I am a student at UW and have covered the team for two years, my tongue is absolutely not stuck in my cheek. I am serious. What other offensive player in the Big Ten has helped his team score more points than Carimi?
Let’s put this equation together like Ted Thompson or Scott Tolzien; slowly, deliberately, but ultimately effectively.
The Badgers are rolling to 43.3 points per game, first in the Big Ten by a four-point margin over Ohio State and the fourth-best mark in the country. Michigan and Denard Robinson, who actually won the award, put up 34.3 points per game, a full touchdown and safety less. Without a doubt, the Wisconsin offense is superior.
Robinson won the award on the basis of what were supposed to be absurd stats. He is the first quarterback ever in college football history to run for 1,500 yards and pass for 1,500 yards in the same season. He accounted for 30 total touchdowns and led Michigan to its first bowl game in three years.
And yes, I just wanted to write it was the first bowl game in three years for Big Blue and RichRod. Ha.
Robinson also tossed 10 interceptions, fumbled five times, was just seventh in the conference in passer efficiency and needed 495 touches to amass his 3,959 yards. It takes the shine off a bit on those numbers, bringing them down from otherworldly to merely great.
Now it is Carimi’s turn. The Badger running game amassed 2,968 yards this season, punched in 46 touchdowns on the ground and produced three running backs who were considered for All-Big Ten honors. Every single time a crucial 3rd or 4th-and-1 came up, UW running backs just followed the right butt cheek of Carimi to pick up the first down. With Carimi protecting Tolzien’s blind side, the Badgers gave up just 12 sacks on the season.
Even more impressive, Carimi matched up against the conference best and came out wayyyy on top. Going up against Ohio State’s Cameron Heyward, Iowa’s Adrian Clayborn and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Ryan Kerrigan, Carimi limited the future NFL D-linemen to five tackles and one sack – combined.
So, of course, the doubters right now are stammering indignantly that you can’t give Carimi credit for the Badgers run game. That is five O-linemen and three backs. Very true, my shortsighted critics. Of course, Robinson cannot get all the credit either, seeing as he had receivers and an offensive line and a coach who has done the exact same thing with Pat White and Shaun King before him. Robinson isn’t exactly an original among RichRod disciples. The Badgers scoring 43 points a game, however, is completely unique to Wisconsin.
Part of what makes this argument an exercise in futility is the silliness behind naming one player the most valuable of all offensive players when each of the 11 players on the field needs to do their job every single play. And since offensive linemen have an inverse ratio of fame to poundage, Carimi has as much chance of being recognized as the top offensive player in the conference as Bielema does getting BFF necklaces to split with Tim Brewster.
Wisconsin dominated foes using a different formula than all other top teams this season. Michigan should know best, seeing the Badgers called 28 straight running plays in the second half to embarrass the Wolverines in the Big House. At the head of the you-know-what’s-coming-and-you-still-can’t-stop-it attack was Carimi the whole way, bullying overwhelmed opponents.
Groupthink tells us an offensive lineman can’t be the most important player on the field. Wisconsin’s results suggest a different story.
Michael is a senior majoring in journalism. Hit him up at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him on Twitter @michaelbleach or check out “Paulbunyansaxe.com.”