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Predicting the National College Football Awards for 2014

Alabama Crimson Tide

Alabama Crimson Tide

Walk into any major college football facility and you will likely be greeted by some sort of massive trophy case.

Some are bigger than others, some are more stocked than others and some are featured more prominently than others. But every school has one.

Largely, they are used to show off former exploits and accomplishments on the field to future recruits. “Come to State U and you can win a Heisman Trophy.”

Yes, there are also bowl trophies in those same cases but the BBVA Compass Bowl championship trophy doesn’t resonate with a star athlete like an individual award can.

Who are the front-runners to win those esteemed and coveted national awards in 2014? Here are Athlon Sports’ preseason predictions for each of the major individual awards:

Heisman: Marcus Mariota, Oregon

The odds are stacked against Jameis Winston repeating and the safest bet, should he stay healthy, is the Ducks' superstar signal-caller. Mariota has the numbers, the stats, the highlight-reel plays and a potential run at a national championship. Finalists: Jameis Winston, Braxton Miller, Brett Hundley

Maxwell: Jameis Winston, Florida State

The Heisman Trophy winner rarely gets the nod as “Player of the Year.” Tim Tebow was the last player to win both and only one defensive player since Hugh Green in 1980 has won it (Manti Te’o). The Maxwell is a nice consolation prize for Winston. Finalists: Melvin Gordon, Marcus Mariota, Brett Hundley

Davey O’Brien: Jameis Winston, Florida State

Part of the reason Mariota is the pick to win the Heisman is his athletic ability. While Winston may not repeat as the stiff-armed champion, he is still likely to be the best passer in the game this fall. Again, a nice consolation prize for the Noles' quarterback. Finalists: Bryce Petty, Marcus Mariota, Brett Hundley

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Doak Walker: Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin

This class of tailbacks is absolutely loaded and a dozen of them have a legit case to be the Doak Walker winner. Gordon, who posted over 1,600 yards in a timeshare situation last fall, is the star of the show for an offense known for producing elite running backs. The outstanding O-line, easy schedule and Todd Gurley’s penchant for missing time pushes Gordon to the top of the list. Finalists: Todd Gurley, Ameer Abdullah, Mike Davis

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Biletnikoff: Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss

This is certainly a bit of a projection but there is little doubting Treadwell’s overall ability. He is a sure-fire, first-round NFL talent who is playing in an up-tempo offense in the nation’s toughest league with a senior quarterback. The production is there and one or two upsets over, say, Alabama or Auburn would only increase Treadwell's profile nationally. Finalists: Nelson Agholor, Amari Cooper, Tyler Boyd

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Mackey: O.J. Howard, Alabama

Bama wideout Christion Jones told me at SEC Media Days that Howard was the best and most important player on the Tide roster. He is a freakish athlete, both physically and mentally, and he might be the best blocker on a team picked to play in the national championship game. Finalists: Nick O’Leary, Jeff Heuerman

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Outland: Andrus Peat, Stanford

This team is known for producing elite offensive lineman and Peat might be the best of the bunch. He has the size, athleticism, production, team success and every other aspect to a resume deserving of being labeled the best in the nation. Finalists: Cameron Erving, Brandon Scherff, Cedric Ogbuehi

Rimington: Hroniss Grasu, Oregon

Grasu plays for one of the best offenses in the nation, one picked to win the Pac-12 championship. He was named first-team All-American in the preseason this summer and that makes him the front-runner to claim the honor of best pivot in the land. Finalists: Reese Dismukes, B.J. Finney

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Johnny Rodgers: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State

Lockett has elite speed, quickness, burst and has proven to be extremely dangerous in the return game. The first-team preseason All-American return man will have many chances to post highlight-reel plays against top-10 teams Auburn, Oklahoma and Baylor. Finalists: Ty Montgomery, Nelson Agholor

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Bednarik/Nagurski: Shaq Thompson, Washington

Thompson is in a great situation to excel in 2014. After shifting to linebacker, Thompson may actually add running back to his already impressive resume. The Huskies' star tackler will post huge numbers for a team that could very easily be the story of the Pac-12 by season’s end. He has elite physical ability and won’t disappoint this fall. Finalists: Shilique Calhoun, Vic Beasley, Eric Striker

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Lombardi: Chris Jones, Mississippi State

As just a true freshman, Jones proved he was worthy of his lofty five-star recruiting status. The 6-foot-5, 300-pounder appears to be a lock as a future NFL star and should be virtually unmovable in the SEC West this fall. Watch for the Bulldogs to surprise some people based on Jones and a very stout defensive front seven. Finalists: Leonard Williams, Vic Beasley, Randy Gregory

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Hendricks: Shilique Calhoun, Michigan State

There are a lot of great defensive ends around the nation but Calhoun could be the best. He makes game-changing plays (see three defensive TDs last fall) and he will be the star of what should once again be one of the nation’s elite defenses. A win over Ohio State and another Big Ten title would supplant Calhoun as the nation’s top DE. Finalists: Leonard Williams, Vic Beasley, Randy Gregory

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Butkus: Shaq Thompson, Washington

Thompson is a tackling machine who uses superior physical ability to fly all over the field. He will be in most national defensive award races all season long and should the Huskies upset the cart in the Pac-12 North, it will be because of guys like Thompson. Finalists: Jaylon Smith, Eric Striker, Myles Jack

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Thorpe: Vernon Hargreaves, Florida

Much like Jones at Mississippi State, Hargreaves quickly established himself as a superstar as just a freshman last fall. He is the nation’s top pure coverman and he could play for one of the most improved teams in the nation in Gainesville. Finalists: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Landon Collins, Jalen Ramsey

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Coach of the Year: Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss

This one is nearly impossible, as the Coach of the Year is rarely the guy who is picked to win the league or national title. Names like Chris Petersen, Gary Pinkel, Todd Graham, Dan Mullen and Bill Snyder could dramatically overachieve this fall. Freeze, should he lead Ole Miss to a nine- or 10-win season, would certainly fall into that category. Finalists: Chris Petersen, Gary Andersen, Dan Mullen

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Freshman of the Year: Leonard Fournette, LSU

There are few names on this list I feel better about getting correct than Fournette at LSU. The superstar No. 1 running back in the nation will be running behind a great veteran O-line and there is little doubt he will burst onto the national scene in just his first year. Finalists: Jabrill Peppers, Kyle Allen, Joe Mixon

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Frank Broyles: Chad Morris, Clemson

The top offensive assistant in the land has his work cut out for him as stars Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins, Martavis Bryant and Roderick McDowell have all departed. Despite all of this turnover, look for Morris to turn Cole Stoudt into an All-ACC passer and for the Tigers to push for 10 wins again this fall. Finalists: Pat Narduzzi, Mike Stoops, Justin Wilcox