Breaking down top candidates for Silver Football

Ohio State's Miller is lone quarterback among nine likeliest winners

Some have dubbed the Heisman Trophy the Davey O'Briesman award.

The Davey O'Brien Award goes to the nation's best college quarterback. Considering signal-callers have won 11 of the last 13 Heismans and the top eight players on ESPN.com's 2013 Heisman Watch are quarterbacks, the tag is apt.

By comparison, the Tribune Silver Football is positively old school.

There are no finalists for the award, which goes to the Big Ten's best player and is determined by a vote of the 12 head coaches.

I'm listing nine logical candidates. Only Ohio State's Braxton Miller plays quarterback, and he seems unlikely to repeat as the Silver Football winner given that he ranks ninth in the conference in passing yards.

Let's look at the top dogs, in alphabetical order:

Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska

Case for: The conference's top rusher is cranking out 133.6 yards per game. "Great change of direction, great vision," coach Bo Pelini said. "And he is tough. There is nothing he can't do."

Case against: Has had only one "monster" game — 225 yards against Illinois.

Chris Borland, LB, Wisconsin

Case for: Many believe the do-everything linebacker is the conference's best defensive player. Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald praised him as "relentless … with a great spin move."

Case against: A midseason hamstring injury hurt him statistically. His 8.9 tackles per game ranks third in the conference.

Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin

Case for: Tops in the Big Ten at 8.4 yards per carry. Extremely elusive and bounced back from a knee scare to pummel Northwestern with 172 yards.

Case against: Shares the spotlight with teammate James White, who has almost identical production in Big Ten play.

Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska

Case for: Leads the Big Ten with 81/2 sacks and is second to Ohio State's Ryan Shazier with 131/2 tackles for a loss. Tore through Michigan's offensive line.

Case against: Other than 2009 Silver Football co-winner Brandon Graham, defensive linemen have had a tough time gaining traction.

Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State

Case for: Averaging 164.2 yards over the last five games with multiple long rushes. Last season his longest carry was for 29 yards. "He's in great shape, down to 230 pounds," coach Urban Meyer said. "He's much better in the second level with his ability to move and shake and accelerate past people."

CHICAGO

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