The National Football Foundation released this year’s nominees for the College Football Hall of Fame on Monday. Voting will take place this month, and the class will be inducted in 2023.

This year’s ballot includes 80 FBS players and 9 coaches, as well as 96 players and 33 coaches from college football’s lower divisions. Of that group, 17 are former Big Ten players.

After combing through the ballot, you can’t quibble with any of the nominees. Many of them are bound to get in to the Hall at some point.

But some resumes are stronger than others. And these are the 5 former Big Ten legends who most belong in the College Football Hall of Fame Class of 2023.

Steve Hutchinson, OG, Michigan

The road to the Hall of Fame is always a bit windier for offensive linemen. Jumbo Elliott, a no-brainer Hall-of-Famer, wasn’t elected until 2020 — 33 years after his Michigan career ended.

Hutchinson’s wait is already inexplicably long, which makes it all the more important to bang the drum for him.

Hutchinson was a 4-year starter at Michigan, beginning as a freshman on the 1997 national championship team. He did not allow a sack his last 2 seasons. In 2000, he was a unanimous All-American — 1 of just 26 Wolverines to ever earn that recognition.

Pro accomplishments aren’t supposed to be a primary consideration, but they only validate Hutchinson’s greatness in college.

He was named first-team All-Pro 5 times and is on the NFL’s All-2000s Team. Hutchinson was also named 1 of the 50 Greatest Minnesota Vikings. He was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2021.

If you’re good enough to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame, you’re pretty clearly good enough for the College Football Hall of Fame.

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There is big news coming to the upcoming 2022-23 Big Ten football season (and NFL season). Ohio online sports betting will be officially launching on January 1, 2023. Ohio will join other Big Ten states where sports betting has become legalized such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois and more.

And Hutchinson shouldn’t just get in. He deserves to be the top vote-getter in the Class of 2023.

James Laurinaitis, LB, Ohio State

If seeing Laurinaitis as a Hall of Fame candidate makes you feel old, welcome to the club. But he shouldn’t be kept waiting on the ballot for another decade just because it would feel more age-appropriate. He’s worthy of immediate induction.

Laurinaitis was a consensus All-American every season from 2006-08, and was Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 2007 and ’08. He is the only player to ever win B1G DPOY twice.

At a national level, he won the Bronko Nagurski Trophy in 2006, the Butkus Award in 2007, and the Lott Award in 2008.

Basically, if an award is named after a dude who hit people hard, Laurinaitis won it. Which means there should probably be an award named after Laurinaitis. And that’s an automatic Hall of Fame qualifier.

Antwaan Randle El, QB, Indiana

Something I will maintain until my last day on Earth: If you swapped Antwaan Randle El and Eric Crouch in 2001, Randle El would have won the Heisman by a wide margin and Crouch would be just another in a forgettable line of Indiana quarterbacks.

That’s not how it went down, of course. Randle El finished 6th in the Heisman voting, while Crouch won playing for what turned out to be Nebraska’s last national championship contender. But even in that world, Randle El belongs in the Hall of Fame.

Randle El was the first FBS player to surpass 2,500 combined passing and rushing yards in 4 consecutive seasons. His freshman season in 1998 was so outstanding that the Big Ten co-named the league’s Freshman of the Year award in his honor.

Again — if there’s an award named after you, you’re a Hall of Famer.

Simeon Rice, OLB, Illinois

It’s absolutely stunning that Rice isn’t already in the College Football Hall of Fame. The only reasonable explanation is that his candidacy has been overlooked on account of Illinois’ place in the college football pecking order.

But it should not be. Rice was among the Big Ten’s best players, period, of the entire 1990s.

Rice was Big Ten freshman of the year in 1992, defensive lineman of the year in 1994, and a first-team All-American in ’94 and ’95. At the time his career ended, he was the Big Ten’s all-time leader in sacks (44.5) and tackles for loss (69).

If you’re a Big Ten career leader in multiple major categories at the time of your graduation, you’re a Hall of Famer.

Rice’s NFL career further cements his need to be in the Hall. The No. 3 overall pick in the 1996 Draft, Rice was Defensive Rookie of the Year and a 3-time All-Pro. He finished with 122 career sacks.

Troy Vincent, DB, Wisconsin

Vincent was the best player in a forgettable era of Wisconsin football. Which apparently explains why voters have forgotten about him.

In 1991, Vincent was named the Big Ten’s Co-Defensive Player of the Year. He was Wisconsin’s first All-American in 4 years and a central piece in Barry Alvarez’s program rebuild.

The Badgers were 1-10 and 5-6 in Vincent’s final 2 seasons, which were Alvarez’s first with the program. So he certainly wasn’t a household name in college football circles at the time. But his NFL career would go on to justify his considerable talent.

Vincent was drafted 7th overall despite Wisconsin’s lowly status at the time. He went on to have 5 Pro Bowl seasons, and is a member of the Philadelphia Eagles Hall of Fame.

If he’s good enough to be in the Eagles Hall of Fame, Vincent is quite clearly good enough to be in the College Football Hall of Fame.