Duke's David Cutcliffe is Athlon's pick for coach of the year.
With the exception of Saturday’s Army-Navy game, college football’s regular season is in the books. Only 36 games separate college football fans until the long offseason, but with another week until the bowl season starts, it’s time to take a look back at 2013 and some of the highlights of the year.
From the opener between North Carolina-South Carolina to the finale between Utah State and Fresno State, the 2013 season provided plenty of highlights, big performances and disappointments.
College Football’s 2013 National Awards
Offensive Player of the Year: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
Winston quickly went from a talented, inexperienced quarterback in September to arguably the best in the nation by December. The redshirt freshman completed at least 60 percent of his passes in 10 out of 12 games against BCS competition and threw at least one touchdown pass in every contest. Winston finished the regular season with 3,820 yards and 38 touchdowns, while rushing for 193 yards and four scores. He also completed 67.9 percent of his throws, averaged 293.8 passing yards per game and led the nation with a 190.1 passer rating. The Alabama native set FBS freshmen records with 38 touchdown passes and 3,820 passing yards.
2. Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor
3. Andre Williams, RB, Boston College
Defensive Player of the Year: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Donald dominated the line of scrimmage and opposing offensive lines during his four years in Pittsburgh, but he was at his best during his senior year. Donald recorded 54 tackles – no easy feat for a defensive tackle – 10 sacks and 26.5 tackles for a loss. He also recorded 16 quarterback hurries, forced four fumbles and blocked one kick. Donald finished his career in the Steel City with 64 tackles for a loss and 28.5 sacks. He was picked as a finalist for the Bednarik, Outland, Lombardi and Nagurski Awards, and was the ACC media’s pick as ACC Defensive Player of the Year.
2. C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
3. Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
4. Michael Sam, DE, Missouri
5. Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
Coach of the Year: David Cutcliffe, Duke
Cutcliffe guided Duke to its first ACC Coastal title and the program’s first season of double-digit victories. To illustrate how far along Cutcliffe has improved Duke as a program, from 2000-07 the Blue Devils won just 13 games. Under Cutcliffe’s direction (2008-13), the Blue Devils have won 31 contests, including 16 in the last two seasons. And this isn’t a one-year wonder: Duke has enough returning talent to be in the Coastal Division mix again in 2014.
2. Gus Malzahn, Auburn
3. Gary Pinkel, Missouri
4. Jimbo Fisher, Florida State
5. Art Briles, Baylor
Coordinator of the Year: Pat Narduzzi, defensive coordinator, Michigan State
For the third consecutive season, Narduzzi coordinated a Michigan State defense that ranked among the top six nationally in fewest yards allowed per game. The Spartans ranked fourth nationally in total defense last season and improved upon that total in 2013, finishing No. 1 overall by limiting opponents to just 248.2 yards per contest. Michigan State also led the nation in rush defense, finished fourth nationally in fewest points allowed per game and second in pass efficiency defense. Narduzzi’s defense allowed only three opponents to score more than 20 points in a game this year, while no opposing team managed to reach the 30-point mark for the second season in a row. Narduzzi’s work as a defensive coordinator has made him a hot commodity for open head coach vacancies.
2. Jeremy Pruitt, defensive coordinator, Florida State
3. Phil Bennett, defensive coordinator, Baylor
4. Philip Montgomery, offensive coordinator, Baylor
5. Tom Herman, offensive coordinator, Ohio State
Best Coach Hire for 2013: Gus Malzahn, Auburn
Malzahn brought immediate improvement to Auburn in his first season as the head coach. The Tigers went 3-9 last year and failed to win a SEC game. But under Malzahn’s watch, Auburn quickly rebounded. The Tigers finished 12-1 – with a huge victory over Alabama in the Iron Bowl – and claimed the SEC Championship. Thanks to a Michigan State victory over Ohio State, Auburn is headed to Pasadena to play Florida State for the national championship on Dec. 6. In two years as a head coach, Malzahn is 21-4 at the collegiate level.
2. Gary Andersen, Wisconsin
3. Steve Addazio, Boston College
4. Matt Wells, Utah State
5. Tommy Tuberville, Cincinnati
Biggest Surprise: Missouri
Even though Gary Pinkel’s team lost to Auburn in the SEC Championship, let’s give the nod here to Missouri. Sure, Auburn’s rise to the national championship was a huge shocker, but Missouri’s 11-2 season was an even bigger surprise. After a 5-7 mark last year, Missouri was picked to finish lower than Auburn in Athlon’s 125 power rankings for 2013, and there was plenty of talk about the future of coach Gary Pinkel if the Tigers had another losing mark. But Missouri rebounded with a SEC East title and claimed its fourth season of at least 10 victories over the last seven years. The Tigers will have some holes to fill on the roster in 2014, but Pinkel’s team should remain in the mix for a finish in the top half of the SEC East.
5. Boston College
Biggest Disappointment: Florida
Coming into 2013, Florida was expected to have a hard time matching its 11-2 mark from 2012. However, no one expected what transpired in Gainesville this year. The Gators had their worst season since 1979, recording a 4-8 final record and a seven-game losing streak to close out the year. Florida won only two SEC games – Tennessee and Arkansas – and was routed by Florida State in the season finale. The offense was the primary culprit of the 4-8 record, and coordinator Brent Pease and line coach Tim Davis were canned after the loss to the Seminoles. Will Muschamp plans to hire a coach to run an up-tempo attack in 2014, but this team has significant personnel concerns on offense, particularly at quarterback and in the receiving corps.
Top Freshman in 2013: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
2. Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida
3. Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
4. Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss
5. Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State
6. Myles Jack, LB, UCLA
Best All-Around in 2013: Myles Jack, LB/RB, UCLA
By the end of 2013, Jack was not only one of UCLA’s best defenders, but the freshman also emerged as one of the Bruins’ top offensive weapons. In 12 contests, Jack recorded 70 tackles (five for a loss), one interception, one blocked kick and 10 pass breakups. On the offensive side, Jack rushed 37 times for 267 yards and seven scores. He averaged a whopping 7.2 yards per carry and had a 66-yard touchdown run against Arizona. Jack will be one of the Pac-12’s top returning players in 2014 – but will he play more on offense or stick to defense? With Anthony Barr headed to the NFL, Jack should be one of the top pass rushers in the Pac-12 and a preseason All-American.
2. Antonio Andrews, RB, Western Kentucky
3. De’Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon
4. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
5. Albert Wilson, WR, Georgia State
Most-Improved Player: Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU
Mettenberger’s season ended prematurely due to a knee injury suffered against Arkansas, but the senior made considerable progress in 2013. Under new coordinator Cam Cameron, Mettenberger had a solid year, throwing for 3,082 yards and 22 touchdowns. He also improved his completion percentage to 64.9 percent – a six-point increase from 2011. Mettenberger tossed only eight picks and threw 20 completions of 30 yards or more. By comparison, Mettenberger had only 17 passing plays of 30 or more yards in 2012. The senior also averaged three more yards per completion in 2013 than he did in 2012.
Three Coaches on the Rise
1. Pete Lembo, Ball State
Lembo could be in the mix for open jobs this offseason. In three years with Ball State, he is 25-12 and has guided the Cardinals to back-to-back bowl appearances.
2. Mark Hudspeth, Louisiana-Lafayette
It’s only a matter of time before a BCS job hires Hudspeth away from the Ragin’ Cajuns. In three years with Louisiana-Lafayette, Hudspeth is 26-12 with three bowl trips.
3. Curtis Johnson, Tulane
Johnson is just 9-15 overall, but the Green Wave improved their win total by five games from 2012 to 2013. Tulane is also set to play in the New Orleans Bowl on Dec. 21, which is its first bowl appearance since 2002.
Five Coaches on the Hot Seat for 2014
1. Will Muschamp, Florida
2. Bo Pelini, Nebraska
3. Tim Beckman, Illinois
4. Mike London, Virginia
5. Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia
Five Players to Watch in 2014
1. Dontre Wilson, RB, Ohio State
2. Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn
3. Thomas Tyner, RB, Oregon
4. Karlos Williams, RB, Florida State
5. P.J. Walker, QB, Temple
Three Programs on the Rise for 2014
2. North Carolina
3. Ole Miss
Best Play: Auburn's Chris Davis returns missed field goal to beat Alabama
Best Catch: UCF's J.J. Worton against Temple
Best Coaching Soundbyte: Les Miles after beating Florida
Best Coaching Rant: Iowa State's Paul Rhoads after losing to Texas
Best Trick Play: Fresno State's fumblerooski against New Mexico
Worst Officiating Moment: Arizona State-Wisconsin clock fiasco