October 17, 2005

Kings of the first half

Nobody has locked up the individual awards in college football yet. The Heisman race looks like it might come down to the final week of the season. Several defensive stars, a handful of small conference players and freshmen also have a shot to land big honors.

But, what if the season ended today? Just in case the players decide to go on strike or give up their scholarships to focus on academics I know who I would be voting for. Here's a list of midseason awards and an All-American team:

Heisman winner: Reggie Bush (USC) - When the Trojans are really in trouble and need a big play, they always turn to the best playmaker in college football. He is averaging a remarkable 8.8 yards a carry and scored seven touchdowns in comeback wins against Oregon, Arizona State and Notre Dame. Matt Leinart, the 2004 winner, isn't putting up the huge numbers he did last year. Runner up: Vince Young (Texas)

Biggest Surprise: Notre Dame - Nobody expected the Irish to be one of the nation's top teams. Nobody expected them to be in the top 25 (they received one vote in the preseason poll). Not after going 5-7 and 6-6 the last two seasons in South Bend, a coaching change and a brutal schedule ahead. Everyone is sold now. After their dramatic 34-31 loss to USC - the closest the Trojans have come to losing during their 28-game winning streak - the Irish didn't drop a single spot in the AP poll. Runner up: Georgia

Biggest Disappointment: Louisville - The Cardinals were supposed to dominate the Big East and land in the BCS. With another mega-talented offense and a weak schedule there was talk of an undefeated season and a trip to the Rose Bowl at the basketball school. But the Cinderella story is already over. The team hasn't even won a league game yet and its two losses have been extremely puzzling. First there was a 45-14 shocker at South Florida and last week they lost a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter and fell to West Virginia in triple overtime. Runner up: Michigan

Coach of the Year: Charlie Weis - The former New England offensive coordinator has transformed a team that had a mediocre offense in 2004 into one that is capable of outscoring any opponent in half a season. He also managed to completely change the mindset and attitude of the program. Recruiting in South Bend is also going extraordinarily well. The Irish, which are third in Rivals.com's team recruiting ranking for the class of 2006, have received commitments from three of the nation's top 100 prospects. That number could end up doubling. Runner up: Rich Rodriguez (West Virginia)

Freshman of the Year: Tyrell Sutton (Northwestern): Think the rest of the Big Ten schools regret not offering a scholarship to Ohio's 2004 Mr. Football? Barring any injuries, the true freshman is going to run away with this award. Literally. He ranks fifth in the nation with 861 rushing yards and is averaging 6.3 yards per carry. He has also been a valuable receiving target, making 19 catches for 169 yards. Runner up: Derrick Williams (Penn State)

Fred Biletnikoff award: Calvin Johnson (Georgia Tech) - Forget about the drop that cost Georgia Tech a win against N.C. State. No coach has a receiver they wouldn't trade for the 6-foot-4, 225-pound mismatch machine. Despite constant double teams and an inconsistent quarterback, he is averaging 18.2 yards a catch and has already put together another long highlight reel of spectacular grabs. If he played on one of the nation's top offenses, he would be making a trip to New York City for the Heisman banquet. Runner up: Dwayne Jarrett (USC)

Jim Thorpe award: Brandon Meriweather (Miami) - The hard-hitting safety has developed into the leader of the nation's top defense (227 yards per game). He plays a big role in run support and has made seven 1/2 tackles for loss and two interceptions. Runner up: Dion Byrum (Ohio)

Bronko Nagurski award: Elvis Dumervil (Louisville) - West Virginia is the only team that has really been able to block the defensive end on passing plays. He racked up six sacks against Kentucky and has 15 and 1/2 on the season. That's nearly twice as many as anyone else. He's also more than a pass-rushing specialist, leading the team in tackles. Runner up: D'Qwell Jackson (Maryland)

Lombardi award: Paul Posluszny (Penn State) - There are several strong candidates here, but Posluszny isn't surrounded by the same level of talent of other top linebackers. He has captured a share of Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week three times. Joe Paterno, who gives out compliments to his players about as often as Mike Leach thinks about running the ball on third-and-5, said the leader of the Nittany Lions' stingy defense played one of the best games he has ever seen against Ohio State. Runner up: A.J. Hawk (Ohio State)

Lou Groza award: Jad Dean (Clemson) and Mason Crosby (Colorado) - Without Dean, Clemson doesn't beat Texas A&M in its season opener. He made all six field goals, including the game-winner in a dramatic 25-24 win in Death Valley. He is 14-of-16 on field goals for the season. Crosby has the strongest leg and may have the most accurate one in the nation by the end of the season. He hit a 58-yarder and is 11-of-14 so far.
Runner up: Connor Hughes (Virginia)

ACC MVP: Marcus Vick (Virginia Tech) - The first-year starter has made excellent decisions under center all season and made big plays when the Hokies needed them most. His 177.2 passer rating is No.2 in the nation and more than 30 points better than the next-highest ACC signal caller. Runner up: Calvin Johnson (Georgia Tech)

Big East MVP: Elvis Dumervil (Louisville) - This dominating pass rusher's remarkable stats overshadow the Cardinals surprising 0-2 start in league. With 15 1/2 sacks, he is on pace to break the single-season record of 24 and with seven forced fumbles needs just one more to tie that record. Runner up: Brian Leonard (Rutgers)

Big Ten MVP: Drew Stanton (Michigan State) - A strong case can be made for at least four other players in a league loaded with stars, but nobody means more to their team's success than Stanton right now. He leads the nation with a 184.0 passing rating and without him, the Spartans would be a .500 team. Runner up: Brian Calhoun (Wisconsin)

Big 12 MVP: Vince Young (Texas) - This is a no-brainer. The junior is putting together a brilliant season and proving that he is a dangerous and efficient passer. Against a decent Colorado defense, he completed 25-of-29 passes (school-record 86 percent completion percentage) for a career-high 336 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for three scores. Runner up: Taurean Henderson (Texas Tech)

Pac-10 MVP: Maurice Drew (UCLA) - Why is UCLA one of the seven undefeated teams still left? The No. 1 reason by a wide margin is Drew, who is the Bruins' top running back, receiving threat and kick returner. He has saved his biggest plays for the team's biggest games, racking up 299 all-purpose yards and five touchdowns in a 47-40 win over California. Runner-up: Kellen Clemens (Oregon)

SEC MVP: D.J. Shockley (Georgia) - The Dawgs have a good, but not great running game, and no star receivers, but still manage to keep winning and roll up big offensive numbers. The reason is Shockley, who has answered all the questions about his decision-making by not making any costly mistakes. He has passed for 11 touchdowns with just four interceptions and also run for 224 yards and three scores. Runner-up: Jay Cutler (Vanderbilt)

All-American team

DE: Elvis Dumervil (Louisville) - On pace to break Terrell Suggs' single-season sack record (24).
DT: Brodrick Bunkley (Florida State) - Frees up space up for Seminoles' heralded linebacking corps. Has 8 1/2 tackles for loss.
DT: Tamba Hali (Penn State) - No Nittany Lions' opponent (including Ohio State) has been able to block him.
DE: Darryl Tapp (Virginia Tech) - The relentless leader of what may be the nation's best defense.

LB: D'Qwell Jackson (Maryland) - Leads nation with 14.4 tackles per game.
LB: A.J. Hawk (Ohio State) - The leader of the nation's top linebacking corps.
LB: Paul Posluszny (Penn State) - Racked up 14 tackles in the Nittany Lions' 17-10 win against Ohio State.

CB: Jimmy Williams (Virginia Tech) - Has there ever been a corner this physical?
CB: Dion Byrum (Ohio) - Returned two interceptions and a fumble for touchdowns.
S: Brandon Meriweather (Miami) - The leader of the nation's top defense (227 yards per game). He has seven 1/2 tackles for loss.
S: Dwayne Slay (Texas Tech) - Has delivered some of the season's biggest hits and forced six fumbles.

QB: Matt Leinart (USC) - Doesn't have the stats of 2004, but still comes up with late-game heroics.

RB: Laurence Maroney (Minnesota) - Racked up a pair of 200-plus yard games and leads nation with 1,133 yards on the ground.
RB: Brian Calhoun (Wisconsin) - The best all-around back in any conference.

WR: Calvin Johnson (Georgia Tech) - Double teams do little to slow down the future NFL star.
WR: Dwayne Jarrett (USC) - The latest in a long line of great wideouts from Troy.

TE: Marcedes Lewis (UCLA) - Leads the Bruins with 28 catches for 368 yards.
OL: Jonathan Scott (Texas) - The best blocker on the nation's top offensive line.
OL: Taitusi Lutui (USC) - The best blocker on the nation's No. 2 offensive line. Creates huge running lanes for Bush and LenDale White.
OL: Greg Eslinger (Minnesota) - The center leads a team that is averaging a nation-high 299 rushing yards per game.
OL: Joe Thomas (Wisconsin) - The Badgers primarily run Calhoun behind this dominating blocker.
OL: Ryan O'Callaghan (California) - Held together an O-line that has been decimated by injuries.

Utility: Reggie Bush (USC) - This guy has to have a reserved spot on anybody's All-America team.

Punter: Danny Baugher (Arizona) - Averaging a nation-high 48.1 yards per punt, blasted a handful of deep ones on USC.

Kicker: Jad Dean (Clemson) - Made all six field goals, including game-winner, against Texas A&M.

Andrew Skwara can be reached via email at askwara@rivals.com. Feel free to send him your thoughts on this column.



 

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