Who are the nation's best players at the halfway point of the 2011 season?
As is the case at every halfway point of the college football season, many preseason predictions have come true exactly as anticipated – Alabama, Oklahoma, LSU, Oregon, Stanford – while others have fallen painfully into bust category – Florida State, Ohio State.
One prognostication that is still very much in hand is the Heisman Trophy voting at halfway. Stanford’s Andrew Luck has been atop the Athlon Sports Heisman balloting each and every week of the season.
Here are some of the other major college football awards Athlon Sports would hand out if the season ended at the halfway point:
Editor’s Note: In an effort to include all the NCAA greats, no player can win more than one award.
Davey O’Brien Award
Winner: Robert Griffin III, Baylor
In order to spread the wealth amongst the deepest Heisman Trophy class in recent memory, the Award for best quarterback in the nation goes to Baylor’s Robert Griffin III (since Luck gets the Heisman – and pretty much every other award for that matter). RG3 is leading the nation in touchdown passes with 22 and is second in the land with a 205.71 passer efficiency rating.
Runners-Up: Andrew Luck, Landry Jones, Brandon Weeden
Johnny Unitas Award
Winner: Russell Wilson, Wisconsin
In order to keep spreading the wealth, the top senior quarterback goes to NC State-turned-Badger Russell Wilson. The nation’s top passer with a 210.93 passer rating, Wilson has lead the Badgers to six victories in as many starts. His lowest margin of victory was a 31-point win over Nebraska. He is completing 74.2% of his passes.
Runners-Up: Andrew Luck, Kellen Moore, Brandon Weeden
Winner: Trent Richardson, Alabama
The Crimson Tider gets the nod for nation’s best collegiate football player. He is leading the SEC in rushing and has been at his finest against the best competition. He has six straight 100-yard efforts and has scored at least two touchdowns in five of seven games this fall. He is the most important cog in the nation’s best team’s offense and is likely the top challenger to Luck for the Heisman.
Runners-Up: Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson
Doak Walker Award
Winner: Montee Ball, Wisconsin
With Richardson getting the nod for the Maxwell, Ball slides in as the winner of the nation’s best running back. The Badgers’ top back is leading the nation in scoring at 17.0 points per game and is No. 2 in the Big Ten in rushing at 108.8 yards per game. Ball has done everything for the top scoring offense in the nation. He has scored at least twice in every game, is averaging 23.7 yards per catch and has thrown a touchdown to fellow Heisman candidate Russell Wilson.
Runners-Up: Trent Richardson, Bernard Pierce, LaMichael James, Chris Polk
Fred Biletnikoff Award
Winner: Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma
2011 features nearly half-a-dozen legitimate candidates for nation’s top wide receiver. But it is hard to not give it to the NCAA’s all-time leading receiver. Broyles, after a 13-catch performance this weekend, has more receptions (326) than any other player to ever play the game. His 10.0 recpetions per game is No. 2 nationally as is his 135.8 yards per game and he is the top offensive player for a team that is poised for a BCS National Championship game berth.
Runners-Up: Robert Woods, Keenan Allen, Justin Blackmon, Michael Floyd
John Mackey Award
Winner: Dwayne Allen, Clemson
There are a lot of quality candidates for nation’s top tight end, but few have been as clutch at Allen. As Tajh Boyd’s go-to redzone and third-down target (on an offense with Sammy Watkins nonetheless), Allen is No. 2 nationally amongst tight ends with 27 receptions and is third with 381 yards. He also has four big touchdown catches as well for the ACC front-runner.
Runners-Up: Jacob Pederson (Wisc.), Tyler Eifert (ND)
Winner: Matt Kalil, USC
Athlon is giving the Outland to the nation’s top offensive lineman and Kalil has been hard to beat. The protector of Matt Barkley is the nation’s No. 1 tackle prospect and leader of an offensive line that has allowed four sacks all season. Stanford’s Jonathan Martin and Alabama’s Barrett Jones are equally worthy as Stanford leads the nation in sacks allowed (2.0) and Jones has been invaluable playing multiple positions along the nation’s best line.
Runners-Up: Barrett Jones, Jonathan Martin, Levy Adcock
Winner: Frank Alexander, Oklahoma
Athlon will award the Lombardi to the nation’s top defensive lineman and it has been hard to beat Alexander. He is fifth in the nation in sacks (1.08 per game) and leads the Big 12 in tackles for a loss (1.58 per game). He has been the best player on a team that is headed for a national title appearance and was at his best on the road against Florida State (3 tackles, 0.5 sack, TFL).
Runners-Up: Whitney Mercilus, Vinny Curry, Melvin Ingram, Andre Branch, Jerrel Worthy
Winner: Luke Kuechly, Boston College
He came into the year as the top linebacker in the nation and not much has changed at the halfway point. Kuechly is leading the nation in tackles (again) at 16.5 tackles per game. He also has 7.5 tackles for a loss and is the lone bright spot for the 2011 Eagles team.
Runners-Up: Courtney Upshaw, Manti Te’o
Winner: Tyrann Mathieu, LSU
If you give the award to the nation’s top defensive back and its not the Honey Badger, you are simply being cute. Two interceptions, four forced fumbles, three fumbles recovered, 15 punt returns and two fumble return touchdowns say as much. Not to say anything about manning-up against the oppositions top receiver each week.
Freshman of the Year
Winner: Sammy Watkins, Clemson
The dynamic do-everything all-purpose stud is 10th in the nation in all-purpose yards and is No. 2 in the ACC in receiving yards at 104 ypg. Watkins has 20 carries, 46 receptions, 11 kick returns and two punt returns for a total of 1,205 all-purpose yards per game. He is a natural leader and a great blocker to go with his electric open-field talents. He is a huge reason why Tajh Boyd is climbing the Heisman ballots and why Clemson is unbeaten.
Runners-Up: Dion Bailey, Isaiah Crowell, Malcolm Brown, Jadeveon Clowney, Jeremy Grove
Coach of the Year
Winner: Bill Snyder, Kansas State
No one has done more with less than the ageless wonder from Manhattan, Kansas. Following wins at Miami, over Baylor and Missouri at home and at Texas Tech, the Wildcats are still one of the nation’s 10 unbeaten teams. A trip to rival Kansas this weekend shouldn’t test KSU too much, but four straight games against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Texas will prove just how good the Cats can be in 2011.
Runners-Up: Dabo Swinney, Jim Grobe, Mike Gundy, Steve Sarkisian, Bret Bielema