Illini QB Scheelhaase or Badger RB White: Who's Big 10 Frosh of the Year?

Four weeks ago, The Sports Bank's founder and senior writer Paul Banks named Illini freshman QB Nathan Scheelhaase the most likely candidate to win 2010 Freshman of the Year. Deservedly so, as Scheelhaase grabbed Big Ten Offensive Player and Freshman of the week after a magnificent win over Purdue where he went for 118 on the ground and tossed four touchdowns through the air.

But, that was all before the Wisconsin Badgers took off as one of the
hottest teams in the country behind one of the most potent rushing
attacks in all of college football. An instrumental piece of the Badgers' rushing attack is freshman RB James White who has run for 1,029 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Together, Scheelhaase
and White have combined for nine of the twelve Big Ten Freshman of the
Week Honors given out throughout the season. When the Big Ten Freshman
of the Year Award is given out Monday night, one of these guys will
surely be the recipient. The question is, which one?

By: Nick Grays

Both Illinois and Wisconsin are familiar with this award as the two
programs have combined for three of the last four years; Wisconsin's RB
P.J. Hill (2006), Illinois' WR Arrelious Benn (2007) and Wisconsin's LB Chris Borland (2009).

Assuming this year's honor is not split between the coaches and media
like in 1988, 1992, 1995, 1996 and 2003, the Big Ten has quite the task
ahead of them in naming the conference's best freshman. Let's take a
look at Scheelhaase and White to consider who really has had the bigger year in college football.

Both freshman broke onto the scene with big games during the non-conference season.

Scheelhaase went crazy efficient on Southern Illinois by completing 14
of his 18 passes for 229 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Those numbers were good for a 221.31 passer rating, the sixth highest in
Illinois history when looking at single-game efficiency ratings.

Meanwhile, White burst onto the scene in a 70-3 rout of Austin Peay where he averaged 13.2 yards on 11 carries to rack up 145 yards and four touchdowns. White's four touchdowns tied a Wisconsin freshman record held by former Badger Ron Dayne.

Despite having huge breakout games to catch the nation's eye, both
players have also been important pieces to their respective programs'
success in 2010.

How many people predicted the Fighting Illini would be bowling this
season? In fact, they are 6-5 and have one remaining game at Fresno
State on Friday. If the Illini can pull out the win, they are most likely bound for the Texas Bowl or Insight Bowl.

Scheelhaase's double threat ability to pass and run the ball has
elevated this year's Illinois team to exceed expectations. On five
different occasions, the quarterback has ran for 70+ yards and has 19
total touchdowns.

We've all heard the Wisconsin Badgers' story by now as they have reeled off seven straight wins and look poised for the 2011 Rose Bowl. At 11-1, the Badgers won a share of the Big Ten Championship.

When it comes to the Badgers' three-headed monster of Montee Ball, John Clay and White,
White was the only back to eclipse the 1,000 yard mark by the end of
the season. Ball and Clay will get a chance to join White in the bowl
game. White has also played exceptionally well during the Badgers hot
streak while running over 100 yards in his last three games. White's not
even the feature back and he's found a way to go over 100 yards five
times this season.

After laying it all out, the only conclusion I can come to is that
both players boast some fairly heavy resumes this early in their
careers. In reality, the Big Ten is playing with house money because
either candidate would be a great decision.

If I had to choose I would give the award to Nathan Scheelhaase
because he has shouldered more of the load for an unexpectedly solid
Illinois squad. The Badgers also boast one of the best offensive lines
in the country and will most certainly rack up some other awards. Either
way, it's been a pleasure to watch both freshman in 2010 and I look
forward to a few more exciting years from these two guys.

Who do you think wins award? Let me know by commenting below!

Follow Nick Grays on Twitter by clicking here or visit his blog Nick Knows Best.


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