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College Football's 2012 Postseason Awards and Recap


With all of the BCS conferences finished with regular season play, it's time to take a look at the 2012 college football season and hand out some hardware. At the midpoint of 2012, all signs pointed to West Virginia's Geno Smith as the runaway Heisman favorite, while Oregon and Alabama appeared to be on a collision course for the national championship. And what a difference a couple of weeks can make. The Ducks were bounced out of the top five by Stanford, while the Crimson Tide lost to Texas A&M, yet rebounded back into No. 2 in the BCS standings. Before the road to the national championship begins on Dec. 15, Athlon takes a look at the best of the best from the 2012 regular season.

College Football's 2012 Postseason Awards

Offensive Player of the Year: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
It’s a close call between Manziel and Kansas State’s Collin Klein, but the edge goes to the redshirt freshman. Manziel finished with 3,419 passing yards and 24 scores, while adding 1,181 yards and 19 scores on the ground. In Texas A&M’s upset win over Alabama, the redshirt freshman threw for 253 yards and added 92 more on the ground. Manziel owns the single-game SEC mark for total offense (576 against Louisiana Tech) and broke Cam Newton’s record for most total offense in a season with 4,600 yards after 12 regular season games.

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Next in Line:
Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State
Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State

Defensive Player of the Year: Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame
Te’o doesn’t have earth-shattering numbers, but the senior is college football’s best defensive player and is a key reason why Notre Dame ranks as the No. 1 team in the BCS. Te’o led the Fighting Irish with 103 tackles, recorded 5.5 tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks, seven interceptions and 11 passes defended. Sometimes, a defensive player’s impact goes beyond the box score and that’s the case with Te’o. In addition to his 103 tackles, the senior’s leadership and presence on the field were critical to the Fighting Irish finishing first nationally in scoring defense and sixth in yards allowed.

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Next in Line:
Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia

Coach of the Year: Brian Kelly, Notre Dame
Just like the offensive player of the year honor, there’s not much separating Athlon’s No. 1 and No. 2 pick. A slight edge goes to Brian Kelly over Kansas State’s Bill Snyder, especially since the Fighting Irish are booked for a chance to win the national title in early January. Notre Dame went 8-5 in each of Kelly’s first two seasons but completed a perfect 12-0 mark in 2012.

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Next in Line:
Urban Meyer, Ohio State
Bill O’Brien, Penn State
David Shaw, Stanford
Bill Snyder, Kansas State
Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M

Top Freshman: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Is there really any doubt about the winner of this award? After averaging 373.4 yards of total offense in SEC games this season, Manziel could be the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy on Saturday night. The redshirt freshman was a big reason why the Aggies navigated through their first season of SEC play with a 10-2 record and will matchup against Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl.

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Next in Line:
Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
Duke Johnson, RB, Miami
Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
Stefon Diggs, WR, Maryland
Devonte Fields, DE, TCU

Best All-Around: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
Although the Mountaineers cooled off after a 5-0 start, their offense was still one of the best in college football this year. West Virginia ranked seventh nationally in scoring and averaged 518.5 yards per game. Austin is arguably the nation’s top all-around weapon, rushing for 598 yards and three touchdown, while catching 110 passes for 1,259 yards and 12 scores. He also added 738 yards and one touchdown on kickoff returns. Most of Austin’s production came at receiver, but he played more snaps at running back late in the season, including a 344-yard performance against Oklahoma in mid-November.

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Top JUCO: Morgan Breslin, DE, USC
A strong case could be made for Ole Miss’ quarterback Bo Wallace or Tennessee receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, but a slight edge goes to Breslin. The California native helped to turn the USC defensive line from a weakness into a strength this year, recording 53 tackles, 18 tackles for a loss and 12 sacks. He also broke up four passes and recovered one fumble in 12 games. Breslin recorded second-team All-Pac-12 honors this year and could be in the mix for a spot on the first team in 2013.

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Next in Line:
Bo Wallace, QB, Ole Miss
Damien Williams, RB, Oklahoma
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee

Rising Star in the Coaching Ranks: Gary Andersen, Utah State
Andersen was courted in coaching searches at Kentucky, Colorado and California but chose to stay another year in Logan. Since his arrival at Utah State, the Aggies are 25-24 and are making back-to-back bowl appearances for the first time since 1960-61. Utah State is also 17-8 over the last two years and claimed the outright WAC Championship this season. Andersen is one of college football’s rising stars in the non-BCS ranks and should have Utah State contending for the Mountain West title in 2013. 

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Next in Line:
Pete Lembo, Ball State
Mike MacIntyre, San Jose State
Willie Taggart, Western Kentucky

Biggest Surprise: Notre Dame
It’s been quite a season for the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame was unranked in the first Associated Press poll and jumped to the No. 22 spot after crushing Navy 50-10 in the season opener. The Fighting Irish climbed steadily in the polls, eventually claiming the No. 1 spot after Kansas State lost to Baylor on Nov. 17. Although it wasn’t a surprise Notre Dame managed to win 10 games and get back to a BCS bowl, it’s rare to see a team begin the year unranked and get into the national championship. Also, the Fighting Irish emerged as one of college football’s top defensive teams, a slight change from Brian Kelly’s offense-first mentality at Central Michigan and Cincinnati.

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Next in Line:
Kansas State
Oregon State

Biggest Disappointment: USC
Nothing seemed to go right for USC in 2012. The Trojans closed out 2011 as one of the hottest teams in the nation, winning seven out of their last eight contests, including a 38-35 victory against Oregon. Considering USC returned 15 starters, most expected it would continue that momentum and make a run at a BCS title. Instead, the Trojans slumped to a 7-5 overall mark and a 5-4 record in Pac-12 play. Quarterback Matt Barkley was supposed to be a Heisman contender, but his campaign never managed to get on track, and he missed the season finale against Notre Dame with a shoulder injury. For a team that had national title aspirations, playing in the Sun Bowl against Georgia Tech is quite a drop from the preseason.

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Best Coaching Hire of 2012: Urban Meyer, Ohio State
Meyer certainly didn’t inherit a bare cupboard, but he managed to lead the Buckeyes to a 12-0 record with no postseason possibility due to NCAA sanctions. Ohio State rebounded from a disappointing 6-7 mark in 2011 to a perfect record in 2012, winning at Michigan State, Penn State and Wisconsin, while picking up a huge victory over rival Michigan in the season finale. Meyer has Ohio State poised to regain its status as one of college football’s premier programs and could start 2013 ranked among the top three teams in most preseason polls.

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Next in Line:
Bill O’Brien, Penn State
Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss
Jim Mora, UCLA
Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M

Worst Coaching Hire of 2012: Ellis Johnson, Southern Miss
You have to look deep to find any positives about Johnson’s tenure at Southern Miss. And even an extensive examination doesn’t reveal anything that went right for the Golden Eagles under his watch. Johnson compiled the worst season in school history in 2012, going 0-12 with losses to Rice, UAB, UTEP and Memphis. Southern Miss had a tough schedule in the early part of the season, but this team struggled to be competitive and ranked near the bottom of the nation in scoring offense and defense. Johnson was fired at the end of 2012, which ended one of college football’s worst coaching tenures in recent years.

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Next in Line:
Tim Beckman, Illinois

Coach on the Hottest Seat for 2013: Lane Kiffin, USC
Considering the disappointing 2012 season, it’s not out of the question that Kiffin needs to win eight or nine games in 2013 to save his job. The Trojans were picked by many to win the Pac-12 this year but finished a disappointing 7-5 and out of the conference championship game. In addition to the struggles on the field, USC was also involved in the embarrassing deflated football incident against Oregon, as well as a jersey switch controversy against Colorado. Kiffin is 25-12 in his career at USC and is still navigating NCAA sanctions from the Reggie Bush scandal. Recruiting talent isn’t a problem for Kiffin, but it’s time to start winning games. With Matt Barkley off to the NFL, the Trojans may take a small step back on offense, and the Pac-12 South isn’t getting any easier, which only adds more troubles to Kiffin’s plate in 2013.

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The Next in Line:
Mack Brown, Texas
Kirk Ferentz, Iowa
Bobby Hauck, UNLV

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