COLUMBUS — Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins doesn’t need validation.
Dobbins is No. 2 all-time on the Ohio State career rushing list, trailing only two-time Heisman winner Archie Griffin. Dobbins is going to finish near the top of the list of Heisman candidates himself next week, and he is an offensive wrecking ball on the country’s top team.
What he is not, though, is the guy who will get the Big Ten’s running back of the year trophy — and that is a travesty.
The Big Ten announced Jonathan Taylor as the league’s top running back on Wednesday, handing the Wisconsin tailback that award for the second straight season. Last year, Taylor had a great case while others in the Big Ten didn’t. This season, a blind loyalty to crowning Taylor as the best in the league cost Dobbins an award that should be his.
This isn’t taking anything away from Taylor, who is an excellent back who has had a brilliant career — unless he was facing the Ohio State defense, the best he plays each year. Taylor simply receives more carries in a pro-style offense than Dobbins does in Ryan Day’s wide open Ohio State attack.
Taylor: 279 carries, 1,761 yards, 20 touchdowns (20 carries for 52 yards and zero touchdowns against Ohio State)
Dobbins: 250 carries, 1,657 yards, 19 touchdowns (20 carries for 163 yards and two touchdowns against Wisconsin)
So, is it really an award for the best running back in the Big Ten? The Buckeyes have run roughshod through nearly the entire league, sending Dobbins to the bench for second half in more than half of Ohio State’s games. If the Buckeyes weren’t so historically dominant, maybe Dobbins would have the 29 additional carries that Taylor has — a total that is essentially an entire extra game. Those would likely push his rushing total past Taylor’s.
Maybe that would give Dobbins the validation he deserves, a year after last season’s self-proclaimed “failure” while Taylor was winning the award for the first time. Or maybe Dobbins doesn’t care about the award, because when Taylor is fighting to eclipse the 100-yard mark against the Buckeyes in the fourth quarter Saturday night in Indianapolis, Dobbins will have already dropped his helmet and began the Big Ten championship celebration, waiting to find out who Ohio State’s next victim will be in the College Football Playoff.
Taylor is a fantastic back who has had a stellar career. Dobbins has unfairly been in Taylor’s shadow since their freshman season in 2017. Dobbins didn’t get the validation, but he’ll have a great time playing for a national title instead of the Consolation Bowl.
Dobbins isn’t the only player the Big Ten coaches and media incorrectly recognized. To the conference’s credit, it also made some correct calls. Lettermen Row examines the offensive all-conference awards.
Wrong: Wyatt Davis, Josh Myers underrated
As good as Dobbins has been, his offensive line has made it easy at times for the best tailback in the Big Ten. First-year full-time starters Wyatt Davis and Josh Myers have mauled defenders in the interior of the offensive line, with the help of Jonah Jackson, who also was on the all-conference list. Davis was a first-team selection by the media and a second-team selection by the coaches. A fair argument can be made that the media got it correct, but the coaches did not.
Where it gets quite egregious along the offensive line is at center. Yes, Wisconsin’s Tyler Biadasz has been good this season. But Myers is leading the Ohio State offensive line the same way Billy Price and Pat Elflein used to, and Myers is certainly going to have the choice to jump to the NFL after this year. Myers was a third-team all-conference selection from the coaches and second-team from the media. That’s borderline criminal.
Right: Justin Fields wins offensive player of the year
Justin Fields has been incredible since the first drive of his first game as the starting quarterback at Ohio State. In Big Ten play, he has elevated his game as the cornerstone of the Ohio State offense. Fields has 47 total touchdowns this season, and he has thrown just one interception all year. The remarkable season should earn Fields a trip to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony. It already earned him Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, and for good reason.
Wrong: Chris Olave named third-team All-Big Ten
Chris Olave has become somewhat of a Michigan killer. Olave has three touchdowns in two career games against the Wolverines, including a 57-yard touchdown grab last week. He also has become a complete receiver, leading the Buckeyes in receiving yards (696) and touchdown catches (11). The best wide receiver on the best offense in the country is almost certainly going to get a first-team all-conference nod, right? Think again. Olave couldn’t even crack the second team. Ohio State legend Michael Thomas could never get a first-team nod either, probably because the ball is distributed so evenly in Ohio State’s offense. Maybe Olave can finally earn a vote next year as a junior. For now, third-team seems a bit low for the rising superstar.
First-team All-Big Ten selections
Quarterback: Ohio State QB Justin Fields
Running backs: Ohio State RB J.K. Dobbins, Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor
Wide receivers: Minnesota WRs Rashod Bateman and Tyler Johnson
Offensive line: Wisconsin C Tyler Biadasz, Michigan G Ben Bredeson, Ohio State G Jonah Jackson (coaches), Ohio State G Wyatt Davis (media), Iowa T Tristan Wirfs, Michigan T Jon Runyan
Tight end: Purdue TE Brycen Hopkins