Silver Football race looks like a close one

Silver Football race looks like a close one
Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin throws a pass against Wisconsin. (Abby Drey/Centre Daily Times Photo)

The Heisman Trophy race is up in the air. Same for the Tribune Silver Football, awarded annually to the Big Ten's best player.

Or so we assume. The coaches vote, and their ballots are due Monday.


"I'm sure it will be tight," Wisconsin's Bret Bielema said.

Last year the Badgers dominated. Montee Ball won the award after being named on all 11 eligible ballots. (Coaches cannot vote for their own players.)


Quarterback Russell Wilson came in second and Michigan State's Kirk Cousins took third.

Bielema lobbied for Ball on Tuesday, saying: "He has put the team on his back at times."

Penn State has two defenders who will get surely garner support — linebacker Michael Mauti and defensive lineman Jordan Hill, whom Iowa's Kirk Ferentz called a "tremendous player."

Earlier this month the Big Ten Network identified four players that might be the leading candidates. They're not only close statistically, they're neck and neck in alphabetical order …


Venric Mark, Northwestern

Case for: The converted receiver has rushed for 1,188 yards. That's NU's highest total since 2005, when Tyrell Sutton chewed up 1,474 yards. Mark's 6.1 yards per carry is tops among Big Ten tailbacks, and his punt return average of 20.1 is best in the nation by more than 3 yards.

Case against: He aggravated a shoulder injury Saturday at Michigan State, leaving the game after carrying six times for just 7 yards. He did practice Tuesday and expects to play against Illinois.

Taylor Martinez, Nebraska

Case for: The quarterback is tops among Big Ten regulars with a 63.6 completion percentage and second with 21 touchdown passes. A phenomenal straight-line runner, he had huge passing games against Northwestern and Minnesota and put up triple-digit rushing numbers against Wisconsin, Michigan State and Penn State.

Case against: He threw three picks against both Ohio State and Michigan State and has fumbled 12 times, losing six.

Matt McGloin, Penn State

Case for: The quarterback has flourished under coach Bill O'Brien, passing for a league-best 3,071 yards and 23 touchdowns. Also an outstanding leader.


Case against: He lacks mobility and struggled in a loss to Nebraska.

Braxton Miller, Ohio State

Case for: Every snap he takes is a potential highlight. The quarterback is responsible for 27 touchdowns (passing/rushing combined) and innumerable broken ankles. His team is 11-0.

Case against: He didn't break 100 yards in passing or rushing at Wisconsin, but Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer said: "I take fault; we were very conservative in the second half, we had very negative field position. We have to open it up a little bit and we will this week (against Michigan)."