Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien was named Big Ten Coach of the Year on Tuesday, beating out fellow first-year leader Urban Meyer of Ohio State.
Meyer led Ohio State to a 12-0 finish, including a 35-23 win over Penn State on Oct. 27. The Buckeyes are one of just two undefeated teams left in all of Div. I football, and could be the sole unbeaten remaining come January. Meyer took over a team that finished 6-7 a year ago, but entered the 2012 season ranked No. 18 in the Associated Press Top 25.
O’Brien entered a situation at Penn State marred by the most horrific scandal in college football history and facing the first of a four-year bowl ban. The NCAA granted Penn State transfers amnesty, which resulted in the departure of nearly a dozen players including top running back Silas Redd. With the Nittany Lions who opted to stay, O’Brien led Penn State to a surprise 8-4 finish.
The Lions’ season culminated with a defeat of Big Ten championship game participant Wisconsin, and recognition as the Football Writers Association of America Tostitots Fiesta Bowl Team of the Week.
O’Brien introduced an offensive system in State College that allowed his players to flourish, namely quarterback Matt McGloin. McGloin far exceeded expectations with 24 touchdown passes to just five interceptions.
Similarly, Meyer’s system accentuated the talents of quarterback Braxton Miller, who was named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year. A dark horse Heisman Trophy candidate, Miller finished 2012 with 2039 yards passing and 15 touchdowns to go with 1271 yards and 13 scores on the ground.
On the other side of the ball, defensive end John Simon was among the nation’s most feared pass rushers and for his efforts, earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. Simon’s nine sacks ranked him among the game’s top producers in that category, and his 14.5 tackles for loss helped key the No. 14 ranked rush defense.
Ohio State is built for immediate success under Meyer, and should be very much at the forefront of Rose Bowl discussion next season. Penn State still has a long road ahead of it with three more years under a bowl ban left to serve. O’Brien said today he is committed to Penn State; if that proves true and the program weathers the remainder of its NCAA sanctions, this could mark the beginning of a beautiful rivalry.