Handing out awards from the first month of action.
The first month of the 2015 college football season is in the books. Unfortunately, that means this year is almost a third of the way finished. However, the next two months (plus a week in December) should bring plenty of crazy plays, memorable moments and great games. And of course, there is still plenty to be decided in every conference race, as well as the playoff picture.
With the first month completed, it’s time to hand out a few awards and look back at the four weeks of action so far.
College Football's Awards from September
Offensive MVP: Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
Fournette is the clear favorite after September to win the Heisman and is off to a record-setting start through three weeks. The sophomore has 631 yards and eight scores on 73 attempts, including back-to-back 200-yard games.
Defensive MVP: Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith is another strong candidate here, but a slight edge goes to Garrett. The sophomore end has 18 tackles (7.5 for a loss) and 6.5 sacks through four games.
Coach of the Year: Brian Kelly, Notre Dame
It’s a tough call after just one month of action, but Kelly has the Fighting Irish in the mix for a playoff bid despite several key injuries. Quarterback Malik Zaire, running back Tarean Folston, safety Drue Tranquill, tight end Durham Smythe and defensive tackle Jarron Jones were all lost for the year due to injuries. However, Notre Dame continues to win and rank among the nation’s top teams after the first four weeks of 2015.
Best Coach Hire: Jim Harbaugh, Michigan
Harbaugh is already making a difference in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines have made steady improvement from the opener to Week 4 and may spoil another team’s season before the year is over.
Best Coordinator Hire: John Chavis, Defensive Coordinator, Texas A&M
The Aggies hit a home run by pulling Chavis away from LSU this offseason. The Aggies are allowing 22 points per contest through the first four weeks and rank second nationally with 17 sacks recorded.
Heisman Frontrunner: Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
Fournette was unstoppable in September. He’s the clear favorite heading into October.
Best Freshman: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
Rosen has been sharp in four starts for the Bruins, completing 62.5 percent of his throws for seven scores and 963 yards. And here’s another key stat: UCLA is 4-0 and is a playoff contender.
Breakout Player: Carl Nassib, DE, Penn State
Nassib has been a force for Penn State’s defensive line this season, recording seven sacks and nine tackles for a loss.
Breakout Quarterback: Chad Kelly, Ole Miss
Is Kelly the missing piece for an Ole Miss team that was in the thick of the SEC West title race before a rash of season-ending injuries last season? Through four games, Kelly has passed for 10 scores and 1,219 yards.
Most Improved Quarterback: Tommy Armstrong, Nebraska
Armstrong still has room to improve in new coach Mike Riley’s system, but the junior has made considerable progress, throwing for 1,266 yards and 11 scores through four games.
Most Disappointing Team: Auburn
The Tigers were a popular pick as a playoff team this preseason, but coach Gus Malzhan’s team is 2-2 after four weeks and 0-2 in the SEC.
Biggest Surprise: Utah
A quick look at the preseason consensus rankings for the top 50 teams in 2015 shows the Utes were projected as a top 40-50 team. After wins at Oregon and home against Michigan, Utah has to be considered a Pac-12 title and playoff contender.
Most Improved Team: Northwestern
The Wildcats scored one of the top non-conference wins of September with an upset over Stanford in the opener and followed that game with wins over Eastern Illinois, Duke and Ball State. Northwestern’s defense is allowing just 8.8 points per game, and the offense should continue to improve under redshirt freshman quarterback Clayton Thorson.
Most Disappointing Player: Jeremy Johnson, QB, Auburn
High expectations surrounded Johnson this preseason, but the junior appears to have lost his confidence and was benched in favor of redshirt freshman Sean White.
No. 1 Coach on the Hot Seat: Mike London, Virginia
2015 is a make-or-break season for London’s tenure and a 1-3 start won’t get it done. Virginia has played a tough non-conference schedule, but a blowout loss to Boise State and a close win over William & Mary isn’t setting well in Charlottesville.
Six Coaches on the Rise
1. Bryan Harsin, Boise State
2. Justin Fuente, Memphis
3. Tom Herman, Houston
4. Matt Campbell, Toledo
5. Dino Babers, Bowling Green
6. P.J. Fleck, Western Michigan
Coordinator on the Rise: Doug Meacham, Offensive Coordinator, TCU
TCU’s offense continues to rank among the nation’s best under Meacham. The Horned Frogs ranked second nationally by averaging 46.5 points per game last season and rank fifth after four games with an average of 51 points per contest.
Biggest Heartbreaker: BYU
The Cougars broke plenty of hearts after last-minute wins against Boise State and Nebraska.
Best Transfers: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma and Jordan Howard, RB, Indiana
As expected, Mayfield has been a good fit for coordinator Lincoln Riley’s offense, while Howard has been a perfect replacement for Tevin Coleman.
Player That Could Shape Rest of Season: DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame
Kizer has passed his first two tests, but tougher games are ahead for the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame travels to Clemson in Week 5 and still has to play at Stanford and hosts USC on Oct. 17.
Best Play of September: Ole Miss’ Deflected Touchdown Pass at Alabama
Next up: Notre Dame’s last-minute touchdown pass against Virginia, BYU’s Hail Mary wins over Nebraska and Boise State, TCU’s tipped pass for a score against Texas Tech
Early Projected Playoff Teams
(Combination of preseason predictions, results so far and projection for the rest of 2015)
1. Ohio State
2. Ole Miss
4. Notre Dame
Next Six: UCLA, Utah, Michigan State, TCU, LSU, Florida State
Don’t Forget About These Four One-Loss Teams
Best Group of 5 Teams
American: East: Temple, West: Memphis
Conference USA: East: WKU, West: Louisiana Tech
MAC: East: Bowling Green, West: Toledo
Mountain West: Mountain: Boise State, West: Nevada
Sun Belt: Georgia Southern
Conference Title Sleepers to Watch
(Teams that weren’t picked as the favorite in the preseason that should be a huge factor over the next two months.)
ACC: NC State and Duke
Big 12: West Virginia
Big Ten: Michigan and Iowa
Pac-12: California and Utah
SEC: Florida and Texas A&M