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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Henson: UW deserves Big Ten award sweep

In college football, the next game is always the biggest one on your schedule, especially at this time of year.

That means this week’s critical game for the Badgers takes place at Ryan Field, the home of the always dangerous Northwestern Wildcats. You see, Northwestern has had a history of giving UW trouble, and those purple jerseys always seem to find a way to pull off an upset (Iowa knows a thing or two about that).

With a win, the Wildcats would leap over the Badgers in the standings, making this game crucial for both teams’ future bowl destinations. UW is still hanging on to a slim chance at a BCS at-large berth, and with a little help from Michigan, UW could earn a share of the Big Ten title for the first time since 1999.


But while this game obviously has an impact on the way the 2009 season ends for the Badgers, it also presents an opportunity for three individuals to make a stronger case for some postseason accolades.

It might sound crazy, but UW ought to claim the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and Big Ten Freshman of the Year awards. How could a team that will most likely finish as the fourth best team in the conference win so many awards?

Allow me to explain.

The first one, Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, is really a no-brainer. It has to be John Clay. Look around the Big Ten and find someone more deserving of the award.

Penn State’s Daryll Clark has had his struggles this season, the Buckeyes’ Terrelle Pryor doesn’t have the statistics to win the award, and while Iowa’s two wide receivers, Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and Marvin McNutt, have made spectacular plays all year long, they just don’t have the numbers deserving of the honor.

Clay becomes the obvious choice by default. The bruising back has carried this potent Wisconsin offense, and at times he has looked nothing short of dominant. In a league that puts such an emphasis on running the football, Clay has become the Big Ten’s premier tailback, averaging more than 100 yards a game and leading the conference with 12 rushing touchdowns.

Clay should run away with this award, but the Defensive Player of the Year honor isn’t so clear-cut.

After watching Iowa and Ohio State battle, it was made incredibly obvious that those are the two best defensive teams in the conference, and as they say, defense wins championships (man that gets old). So a player from Iowa or Ohio State defense has to win the award, right?

Not in this columnist’s opinion.

If this were an award for defense of the year in the Big Ten, sure, I’d give it to Ohio State or Iowa. And if this were an award for defensive line of the year, I’d have to hand it over to the Buckeye D-line, which single-handedly won that game and a trip to the Rose Bowl in overtime for OSU.

But this is an individual award, and it’s an award that should go to O’Brien Schofield.

The Wisconsin senior captain has gotten a lot of praise in my columns in recent weeks, but it’s hard not to talk about the guy.

The tackles-for-loss numbers are astonishing, the sacks speak for themselves, and the fact that he is the central leader of this improved run-defense (ranked No. 1 in the conference) is impossible to overlook.

Now Iowa’s defensive end Adrian Clayborn and ball-hawking safety Tyler Sash have had tremendous seasons and you can’t overlook their accomplishments. Throw in Ohio State safety Kurt Coleman and Michigan State Linebacker Greg Jones (a tackling machine) who have led their respective units and this becomes a tough one to call.

So this award is a true toss-up, and a number of players have made a strong case. I honestly could see any one of those players winning it, but if Schofield puts up another strong performance against the Wildcats, and if he can take the national lead in tackles for loss or make another game-changing play like he has all season, it will be hard to deny that Schofield has been the best defensive player in the conference from start to finish.

Now lets move from Wisconsin’s senior leader, to the program’s promising freshman linebacker — Chris Borland.

Borland, the true freshman from Kettering, Ohio, has got to be the Freshman of the Year award-winner in the Big Ten. The guy is a playmaker in every sense of the word. Forced fumbles, fumble recoveries, one-handed interceptions, blocked punts, kick returns (the best one by a Badger all season) — he’s done it all.

Honestly, I bet Borland could play running back for the Badgers if he had too; heck he could even serve as a place kicker.

“Probably to seal the deal I got to let him kick a field goal,” head coach Bret Bielema said to reporters on Monday.

That would be cool to see, coach, but there is no need. Borland has earned the award with his relentless play at the linebacker position and on special teams all season long.

Now, Iowa running back Adam Robinson would have made a strong push for the award had he stayed healthy, and Tate Forcier, well, let’s just say it takes more than a cocky attitude and a gunslinger mentality to win in this league.

With another solid outing this weekend, Borland should cement himself as the conference’s most outstanding freshman.

So there you have it, three of UW’s best players vying for three of the Big Ten’s highest honors.

After tomorrow’s game we’ll see if the Badgers claim a piece of the Big Ten title, but with impressive showings, Clay, Schofield and Borland should each take home some hardware of their own.

Max is a junior majoring in journalism. Think he forgot about someone who is more deserving than Clay, Schofield or Borland for their respective awards? Let him know at [email protected]

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