The SEC has been by far the best college football conference for the past decade, and it wasn’t even close. They had better teams, and clearly better individual talent. But, now that the Buckeyes have slayed the “King’s of the South” in Alabama on the way to winning the first College Football Playoff, the debate can begin again. But, the B1G is filled with talent at more than just OSU. The Big Lead’s Ty Duffy released his Top 50 College Football players in 2015, and a few notable names from around the conference made the cut.
#46 Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State. Many scouts at the Pro level say he has number one pick talent, but if you look at his stats—2,977 yards with 12 touchdowns, 15 interceptions on 56 percent—it wouldn’t suggest that. Another year in Head Coach James Franklin’s system should do wonders for his development and confidence. He also has his top target, Sophomore DeSean Hamilton (who led the Big Ten in receptions with 82) returning.
#44 Von Bell, S, Ohio State. The Junior tied for the Conference lead in interceptions in 2014 with 6. He also finished second on the Buckeyes in tackles with 92.
#27 Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State. Along with the three-headed monster down in Columbus, Cook could vie for the best at the position in the Big Ten Conference. In 2014, Cook passed for 3,214 yards and 24 touchdowns. He needs to improve on his 58 percent completion rating and losing his top target Tony Lippett to graduation won’t help. But, with a 24-3 record and a Conference Championship under his belt at the helm of Sparty, he’s a proven winner.
#24 Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State. The 2013 Big Ten Defensive Lineman of The Year registered 8 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss in 2014 while being the focal point of attention for opposing offenses to stop.
#18 Taylor Decker, OL, Ohio State. The Senior lineman will lead an offensive line that rapidly improved from game one to fifteen in 2014. Who ever wins that QB battle, he will be charged with protecting their blind side, while also opening up holes for the Heisman Trophy front-runner, Ezekiel Elliott.
#14 Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State. The Junior registered 81 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks in 2014. Lee along with his counterpart Perry really burst on to the scene late in the season through the College Football Playoffs. The Buckeyes have a long-standing tradition of great linebackers from Tom Cousineau, Chris Speilman, Andy Katzemoyer, A.J. Hawk to James Laurinitus, and Lee along with Perry are admirably continuing it.
#5 Braxton Miller/J.T. Barrett/Cardale Jones, QB, Ohio State. One is the two-time Big Ten Player of the Year. The other set the school record for all-purpose yards in a season in his first season. The latter, lead the team to the three biggest wins of the season. All of them are on the preseason Maxwell Award watch list and will probably be on the Walter Camp Award list when it is released on Friday July 17th. Urban Meyer has an embarrassment of riches in Columbus. Which ever one wins the job of starter will be a favorite to win many of the most coveted awards in the game, as well as expected to lead this talented bunch to another title.
#3 Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State. He is hands down the leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy this season. We’re not sure who will be lining up next to him at QB in the backfield, and it probably won’t matter. Everything in Columbus will be going through number fifteen in Scarlet & Gray.
#1 Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State. Bosa is already projected to be a top three pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, if he decides to leave Buckeye City after this his Junior season. In 2014 he had 21 tackles for loss, 4 forced fumbles and 13.5 sacks including this game winner that turned Beaver Stadium into “Not-so-happy Valley.”