College

Clemson and Crimson Tide Lead College Football Awards Finalists

As Americans across the world wake up on Thanksgiving Day, here at Ninety Nine Yards we’re thankful for College Football. We’re thankful for all the wild games and story lines so far this season. We have touchdowns and interceptions to be thankful for. We give thanks for the players who we’re just starting to see and those we’re looking forward to see playing on a Sunday next year and for years to come.

Some of those players will have the opportunity to have their talents celebrated at the Home Depot College Football Awards which take place on December 6th, live from the College Football Hall of Fame. On Monday this week, the finalists for many of the awards were announced and in this article I’ll list the contenders, alongside some notable former winners and my pick for the prize. Let’s go!

Chuck Bednarik Award

This award is given to the best defensive player in College Football. Notable previous winners include current NFL stars Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh, Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Matthieu. It is also worth noting the previous two winners have played for Alabama, which leads me to this years nominees:

  • Quinnen Williams (Alabama)
  • Josh Allen (Kentucky)
  • Christian Wilkins (Clemson)

As much as I love this year’s Clemson defensive line, which as a Boston College fan isn’t easy to admit, for me the winner here is Josh Allen. On a team that has surprised everyone, Allen has 13 sacks and a remarkable 5 forced fumbles on the year. Look out for him on Day One of the NFL Draft.

Biletnikoff Award

Awarded to the Outstanding Receiver in College Football, the winner will be in esteemed company. Randy Moss, Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald headline the list of previous winners. Looking to join them will be:

  • Andy Isabella (Massachusetts)
  • Jerry Jeudy (Alabama)
  • Tylan Wallace (Oklahoma State)

It’s hard to argue with Isabella’s nearly 1700 yards and 13 touchdowns as a case for him here. However, on half the receptions Jeudy has 10 touchdowns of his own and over 1000 yards in an offence that has rarely needed to hit top gear. I’m giving the award to Jerry Jeudy.

Maxwell Award

Is their a better accolade for a player than to be judged as Best All-round Player? The previous four winners of the Maxwell award (Mariota, Henry, Jackson and Mayfield) have all gone on to win the Heisman in that year. Previous winners include Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Hall of Famer Barry Sanders, Doak Walker and Chuck Bednarick who now have awards named after them.

Buyer beware, Tim Tebow has won the Maxwell twice.

This years winner will be one of the following:

  • Will Grier (West Virginia)
  • Kyler Murray (Oklahoma)
  • Tua Tagovailoa (Alabama)

Kyler Murray SHOULD win this award. Without him Oklahoma aren’t anywhere near the playoff conversation but with him they are one of the most dynamic offences in College Football. However, Tua Tagovailoa will walk away with it and he’ll take the Heisman home too. He truly is the golden boy of College Football.

Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award

The award that does exactly what it says on the tin! Previously won by Hall of Famer Troy Aikmen, College Football Hall of Famer Danny Wuerffel and a number of current starting NFL Quarterbacks including Baker Mayfield, Deshaun Watson and Cam Newton. Nominees are:

  • Gardner Minshew (Washington State)
  • Kyler Murray (Oklahoma)
  • Tua Tagovailoa (Alabama)

Another win for Tua? Put the nation on upset alert, I’m taking Gardner Minshew. With one of the best completion percentages in the country, over 4000 yards, and 36 touchdowns, Minshew has lead Washington State from unranked to playoff contenders with a 10-1 record. That one loss to USC, Minshew had over 300 yards and 3 touchdowns so it’s safe to say the play of the quarterback wasn’t to blame!

Outland Trophy

Given to the Best Interior Lineman, this award celebrates the big boys on both sides of the ball. The force of defensive destruction that is Aaron Donald is a previous winner, as is future Hall of Fame left tackle Joe Thomas. Two guys with gold jackets on their back already, Orlando Pace and Randy White are also previous recipients. Joining them this year will be one of these fantastic players:

  • Christian Wilkins (Clemson)
  • Jonah Williams (Alabama)
  • Quinnen Williams (Alabama)

Jonah Williams is a superb athlete and will probably be the first o-lineman off the board at the NFL Draft. I’m taking him for the trophy here.

PayCom Jim Thorpe Award

The award for the Best Defensive Back in College Football has some swag in it’s history, when you consider Deion Sanders is the highest profile former winner. Looking to join Deion, Patrick Peterson, Eric Berry and Charles Woodson will be:

  • DeAndre Baker (Georgia)
  • Julian Love (Notre Dame)
  • Greedy Williams (LSU)

I expect to see Greedy Williams early on draft day but give me Julian Love for the Jim Thorpe Award. He can do it all and has been a difference maker for a Notre Dame defence that could be one of the best they’ve ever had.

Doak Walker Award

Awarded for the Best Running Back in College Football. LaDainian Tomlinson, Reggie Bush and Melvin Gordon all picked up this award on their way to the NFL. So, however, did Trent Richardson! Hoping to emulate Tomlinson rather than Trent will be one of:

  • Travis Etienne (Clemson)
  • Darrell Henderson (Memphis)
  • Jonathan Taylor (Wisconsin)

All the talk around running backs focuses on Jonathan Taylor, with just cause as he is a weapon on offence. However, at an average of 8.7 yards a run and with 17 touchdowns in his pocket, I’d like to see Darrell Henderson walk (rush) away with the award.

Lou Groza Collegiate Place Kicker Award

Given the problems we are seeing with kickers in the NFL this year, maybe these guys should be drafted straight in now! Not that being drafted in the second round of the NFL helped former recipient Roberto Aguayo! Hoping to follow the lead of Dan Bailey, Graham Gano and “The Polish Cannon” Sebastian Janikowski will be:

  • Cooper Rothe (Wyoming)
  • Andre Szmyt (Syracuse)
  • Cole Tracy (LSU)

If you haven’t already read George Somerville’s article on ninetynineyards.com about Cole Tracy, then do it now. Combining a great story with a great leg and accuracy, Tracy takes the award here. Special mention to Rothe for accuracy on his 15/16 field goals but his attempts are far less than the other two contenders.

Ray Guy Award

As Pat McAfee once said “Punters are people too” or words to that effect. They get their own award Pat! New England Patriots leftie punter Ryan Allen headlines the previous winners of the award for Most Outstanding Punter. The nominees are:

  • Braden Mann (Texas A&M)
  • James Smith (Cincinnati)
  • Mitch Wishnowsky (Utah)

Following on from Texas Longhorns punter Michael Dickson, I think the Australian punter out of Utah Mitch Wishnowsky takes the award here.

Be sure to check back in with us after December 6th where I’ll recap all the winners including the prestigious Heisman Award.

 

photo credit: ESPN Media Zone

Article written by:

Oliver Hodgkinson is a New England Patriots and Boston College fan who has followed the game since 2012. He covers all aspects of College Football and the AFC West. You can find him on Twitter at @ojhodgkinson

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