With the bowl bids all settled and the regular season completely in the books across the nation, it's time for the postseason awards. The Heisman Trophy will be given out in New York City this weekend. Only three players were invited. Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy will be in attendance. That Graham Harrell from Texas Tech shouldn't win the award outright is debatable at best, given he has the least supporting cast of any of the contenders, but the fact the Red Raider signal-caller isn't even on the guest list is outrageous.
No one in the Big Ten made a real push for the honor, but there were still worthwhile candidates for league MVP. Javon Ringer was the focal point of Michigan State's powerful ground attack as they ran their way to the Capital One Bowl. Chris Wells was a preseason favorite for the Heisman, but an early foot injury kept him out of the USC game and two other non-conference matchups. Wells bounced back to have a good conference year, and actually outrushed Ringer in Big Ten games.
But the runaway winner is Iowa's Shonn Greene. He rolled up 1,729 yards, going over 100 yards every single game. If we restrict the focus to Big Ten games, he widens his edge over Ringer for the rushing title substantially, moving from about a 200-yard lead to one that is approximately 500 yards. Greene was the lynchpin for a team that played its best down the stretch and made it to a New Year's Day bowl. It's as complete a definition of MVP as there is, and he is a worthy winner.
Coach of the Year is a tougher call. Of the seven coaches who made it to bowls, only Jim Tressel and Bret Bielama really lack an argument. Of the four teams that didn't go to bowls, all were teams that were in the postseason a year ago, so there is obviously no argument for any of them. But if you focus in on the big five, Joe Paterno, Mark Dantonio, Kirk Ferentz, Pat Fitzgerald and Rick Brewster have to at least be considered.
While I think Ferentz did a nice job, it wasn't so eye-popping as to make me think "Coach of the Year." Similar for Paterno. Both teams were better then I expected, but in neither case was it shocking. Rick Brewster did an admirable job in turning the Gophers from 1-10 to 7-5, but it must be noted that the program is still no better off then it was when Brewster was hired. He shouldn't be rewarded for the collapse of '07 by using that as a benchmark to make him Coach of the Year this year.
So that leaves us with Mark Dantonio and Pat Fitzgerald. I like and respect Dantonio enormously, and his team is a definite overachiever--something we haven't said about Michigan State football in a long time. But there's still considerably more talent in East Lansing then in Evanston. Fitzgerald's Wildcats got better as the season went on and hit the nine-win plateau, something even the most optimistic of observers would never have guessed. Based on that, I would give the nod to Pat Fitzgerald as the 2008 Coach of the Year.