Few leagues had as much strength at the top as the Big Ten, with Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan State finishing 11-1 and tied for first. The power of those three programs is reflected in Rivals.com's All-Big Ten first team, with 12 of the 24 picks hailing from those three schools.
But the two most singularly impressive players come from other schools. Michigan's Denard Robinson enjoyed one of the most impressive seasons by any quarterback in NCAA history, and Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan was as dominant as any defender in the nation.
Robinson and Kerrigan weren't the only surprise winners. When 2010 dawned, expectations at Michigan State were modest coming off a 6-7 season. But the Spartans confounded experts by winning their first conference title since 1990. Our Big Ten coach of the year, Mark Dantonio, deserves credit, helping the team exceed expectations despite suffering a heart attack in September.
Wisconsin's James White is our Big Ten freshman of the year. He paced the league's newcomers with 1,029 rushing yards -- third in the nation among freshman -- and 14 rushing touchdowns. The speedy White was an effective complement to Badgers power backs John Clay and Montee Ball.
Particulars: 6-0/193, Soph.; Deerfield Beach (Fla.) High
Buzz: The most electrifying player in the nation, "D-Rob" became the first player in NCAA history to pass for 2,000 yards (2,316) and rush for 1,500 yards (1,643) in a season.
Particulars: 6-0/230, Jr.; Champaign (Ill.) Centennial
Buzz: Paced Big Ten running backs with 1,371 yards rushing, ranking eighth in the nation with a 124.6 per game average. Leshoure burned Northwestern for 330 yards rushing.
Particulars: 6-1/200, Sr.; Youngstown (Ohio) Cardinal Mooney
Buzz: The Hawkeyes' top target tied for the Big Ten lead with 10 touchdown catches. His ability to stretch the field opened the ground game for Iowa.
Particulars: 6-4/241, Sr.; Milwaukee Rufus King
Buzz: Kendricks, a Mackey Award finalist, is an athletic tight end who is as comfortable running a deep route as he is a crossing pattern in traffic. And tight ends in the Badgers' attack also must block.
Particulars: 6-7/327, Sr.; Monona (Wis.) Monona Grove
Buzz: He helped pave the way for a rushing attack that ranked No. 2 in the Big Ten (247.4 ypg). Carimi is the latest in a long line of dominating Badgers offensive tackles, and he's simply a road-grader in the run game.
Particulars: 6-5/323, Sr.; West Haven (Conn.) Notre Dame
Buzz: Moffitt, a three-year starter for the Badgers, is another vital part of a line that has opened holes for three backs who have rushed for at least 800 yards apiece.
Particulars: 6-2/287, Jr.; Lemont (Ill.) Lemont Township
Buzz: A Rimington Award candidate, Molk is a smart player who excelled at making line calls while also being the top blocker on a unit that paved the way for the Big Ten's No. 1 rushing attack.
Particulars: 6-4/263, Sr.; Muncie (Ind.) Central
Buzz: A pure dominator, Kerrigan ranked first in the nation in tackles for loss with 26 and third in sacks with 12.5. He also forced five fumbles, giving him 14 of those in the past three seasons. And he did it all with zero help from teammates on a moribund Purdue defense.
Particulars: 6-6/292, Jr.; Central Michigan transfer, preceded by Pewaukee (Wis.) High
Buzz: A disruptive force for the Badgers, the relentless Watt has 59 tackles, seven sacks and 21 tackles for loss. He also has seven pass breakups, 10 quarterback hurries, three forced fumbles and three blocked kicks.
Particulars: 6-1/240, Sr.; Cincinnati Archbishop Moeller
Buzz: Jones is a tackling machine who is as valuable for his on-field skills as he is for his intangibles. He leads the Spartans with 98 tackles, and is relentless from sideline to sideline.
Particulars: 6-4/250, Jr.; Chicago Simeon
Buzz: The former five-star recruit finally lived up to his billing, staying healthy and leading the Illini with 100 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and four sacks on a much-improved defense.
Particulars: 6-0/200, Sr.; Bettendorf (Iowa); Pleasant Valley
Buzz: He's half of the Hawkeyes' solid safety duo. He is tied for the league and team lead in interceptions with four and also has 50 tackles and three pass breakups.
Particulars: 5-11/185, Jr.; Westland (Mich.) John Glenn
Buzz: He led the league in punt returns, averaging 14.2 yards per attempt. He returned one for a touchdown in the Spartans' victory over Wisconsin.