No rhyme or reason to this list. Just some Big Ten alums who could shine on Super Bowl Sunday.
10. Donovan Smith: Left Tackle, Penn State
Ten called penalties this season is cause for concern, but when he’s locked in, he’s a really good player at his position. He’s the highest-paid offensive lineman on either team in the Super Bowl.
9. Chad Henne: Quarterback, Michigan
When watching the Chiefs divisional round game versus the Cleveland Browns, who else said “Oh sh*t!” when Mahomes went down injured? Without Henne, and of course without his gutsy coach Andy Reid letting him throw the ball, the Chiefs don’t make it to the AFC Championship game, let alone the Super Bowl.
8. Anthony Hitchens: Middle Linebacker, Iowa
The heart of the Chiefs defense, Hitchens is a defensive captain and vocal leader for the reigning Super Bowl champions.
7. Frank Clark: Defensive End, Michigan
He’s not the disruptive force he was a couple of years ago, but he’s still a sack machine and quarterback-hitting nightmare on Kansas City.
6. Antoine Winfield Jr.: Safety, Minnesota
Coming into the NFL Draft, the biggest knock on Winfield was that at 5-foot-9 and just a shade over 200 pounds, he would be one of if not the smallest safeties in the NFL. He’s started every game he’s played in this season and was third on his team in tackles behind linebackers Devin White and Lavonte David. He’s an absolute baller at the safety position — and for those who closely watched and covered Big Ten football, his dominance at the professional level is no surprise.
5. Ndamukong Suh: Defensive Tackle, Nebraska
To this day, a majority of us have never seen a defensive player single-handedly dominate the sport of college football like we did when we watched Ndamukong Suh play for the then-Big 12 Conference Nebraska Cornhuskers. An 11-year NFL vet, Suh started all 16 regular games for the NFC Champions. He’s such a powerful human being, his primary job is to take on interior offensive linemen so his linebackers behind him can clean up the play and make the tackle.
4. Chris Godwin: Wide Receiver, Penn State
Overall his numbers are a bit down from last season, but considering the fact he was a top-5 wide receiver in the NFL and a Pro Bowler in 2019, he’s the best Big Ten alum pass catcher on either the Bucs or the Chiefs come Super Bowl Sunday. He’s started every game he’s played in this season and has 7 touchdowns on 840 yards receiving. He has Brady’s trust and there’s a decent chance he scores on the big stage.
3. Lavonte David: Linebacker, Nebraska
David and Devin White are the captains of the Tampa Bay defense. There is likely not a better linebacker duo in the NFL than those two. David is an all-around excellent athlete and plays pretty much every defensive snap for the Bucs. Already in his ninth NFL season, he consistently ranks as one of the best linebackers in the NFL.
2. Tom Brady: Quarterback, Michigan
The undisputed goat at the position — no one who followed Brady’s college career could have expected the success he’d have in the pros. Forget one Super Bowl appearance as a starter, but 10?! Books on books have been written and will be written about this guy. Legend.
1. Nick Allegretti: Left Guard, Illinois
You’re reading an Illinois blog, what did you expect? Of course we’d have Allegretti ranked ahead of Tom Brady.
Honorable Mention in no particular order:
Ben Niemann: Linebacker, Iowa — Started 5 games this year for the Chiefs and recovered two fumbles.
Damien Wilson: Middle Linebacker, Minnesota — A regular starter for Kansas City this year, he’s consistent and reliable.
Tyler Johnson: Wide Receiver, Minnesota — Buried on the depth chart behind the likes of Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown and even Scotty Miller, and that’s not even counting the tight end targets to Cameron Brate and Rob Gronkowski, Tyler Johnson can play. He’s one of the best 4-year wide receivers we’ve seen in the Big Ten in recent memory. He had an incredible catch against the New Orleans Saints in the AFC Divisional Round:
Tristan Wirfs: Right Tackle, Iowa — Thrown into the fire early, the rookie 13th overall pick has started every snap for the Bucs offense this season. He had 4 penalties on the year (2 false starts, 2 holding calls) but overall had a really nice first season in the NFL.
Le’Veon Bell: Running back, Michigan State: Injured, old and his status still up in the air for the Super Bowl, Bell’s best years are certainly behind him.
William Gholston: Defensive end, Michigan State: Gholston had a solid season and is regularly in the defensive backfield. His stats won’t wow anyone, but he gets to the quarterback every game.