USC, Texas should dominate postseason awards
Time to dust off the tuxedo -- it's awards season in college football. Vince Young and A.J. Hawk should collect some hardware, but Reggie Bush will be the big winner, writes Pat Forde.
One man's votes for some of the major college football awards:
I sent in my ballot as follows:
So sue me for a lack of originality. Texas fans want to know why Bush's four "off" games -- fewer than 100 yards rushing -- aren't being held against him as much as Young's "off" game against Texas A&M. But here are the facts: Bush's lowest yards-per-carry game of the season is 4.8, which means that the only times he didn't put a century in the books are when he didn't get the ball enough as a running back.
Furthermore, his 8.9 yards per carry for the season is positively silly. Consider: Barry Sanders, whose 2,628 rushing yards in 1988 remain the highest single-season total in I-A history, averaged 7.64 yards per carry (an NCAA record for a minimum of 282 carries) on his way to winning the Heisman. Mike Rozier averaged 7.81 (an NCAA record for a minimum of 214 carries) on his way to winning the Heisman.
If Bush runs the ball 27 times against Texas in the Rose Bowl, he'll have the requisite 214 carries on the year to challenge Rozier. If he averages just two yards per carry in that game, he'd have 1,712 rushing yards on the season -- and he'd average a record 8.0 per rush.
Simply put: Reggie Bush might be the most explosive big-play running back threat we've ever seen.
Coach Of The Year
1. Pete Carroll, USC
2. Charlie Weis, Notre Dame
3. Joe Paterno, Penn State
I could easily add Mack Brown of Texas and Rich Rodriguez of West Virginia. I could include Steve Spurrier of South Carolina, George O'Leary of Central Florida or Mike Bellotti of Oregon. And so forth.
But it's time to honor the guy who won't lose, and somehow makes perfection look easy. The guy who never seems to wear "The Streak" like a sack of concrete across his shoulders. The guy who keeps his stars happy, keeps them unselfish -- and keeps them coming back to school. The guy whose team is never undone by injuries, never done in by bad calls, never falls flat on the road in a tough environment. The guy who recruits so well that his rivals must weep.
Pete Carroll is that guy. Give him the award. And if he's still unbeaten at this time next year, bronze him on the spot and name this award after him.
Now on to the hardware to be presented Thursday night at the Home Depot 2005 College Football Awards Show (ESPN, 7 ET):
Ray Guy Award
Presented to the nation's best punter.
Finalists: Danny Baugher, Arizona; Ryan Plackemeier, Wake Forest; John Torp, Colorado.
The choice: Plackemeier.
He leads the nation in punting average at 47.24 yards per kick, and his hang time has helped Wake lead the nation in net punting at 41.38. Had an 81-yard bomb against North Carolina State that helped win the game for the Demon Deacons.
(Gratuitous editorial aside: the fact that the award's namesake, Guy, is not in the NFL Hall of Fame is a miscarriage of justice so profound that it is more in need of a congressional inquiry than the BCS or steroids in baseball.)
Lou Groza Award
Presented to the nation's best place-kicker.
Finalists: Mason Crosby, Colorado; Jad Dean, Clemson; Alexis Serna, Oregon State.
The choice: Crosby, in a landslide.
Best collegiate kicker I've ever seen. He's not only accurate (20-of-26 on the year), but Crosby's also the John Daly of kicking -- an absolute bomber.
He's made five of seven from 50 yards or farther this year, and made five more 50-yarders last year. His best on the season is the best in the nation at 58 yards. His career best was from 60 in 2004 against Iowa State, making him one of just 10 kickers in NCAA history to connect from 60 or farther. He hit a 55-yard siege-gun blast against Colorado State in 2004 that absolutely, positively could have been good from 65.
Crosby said last week that he's made one from 75 yards out in practice and feels confident from anywhere inside 70 in a game. It would great to see him try one from there next year -- unless he turns pro as a junior.
Jim Thorpe Award
Presented to the nation's best defensive back.
Finalists: Tye Hill, Clemson; Michael Huff, Texas; Jimmy Williams, Virginia Tech.
The choice: Huff.
He's a do-it-all defensive back who can hit, cover and play special teams. He has 75 tackles, including nine for loss, forced three fumbles, returned a fumble for a touchdown, intercepted two passes and broke up 10 others. He also blocked a field goal.
Huff holds the Texas school records for most interceptions returned for a touchdown (four) and most TDs by a defensive player (five). And it doesn't hurt that his team is undefeated.
Presented to the nation's best wide receiver.
The choice: Samardzija.
This wasn't easy. Hass has been amazingly consistent, despite teams' focusing on him. Jarrett is an effortless playmaker on an undefeated team. But Samardzija's blossoming as a playmaking receiver has been instrumental to his team's breakout season.
Hass averages more yards per catch and per game, but Samardzija gets the ball in the end zone far better (15 touchdowns to Hass' six). Jarrett is Samardzija's equal in TD catches, but averages less per game or per catch. Plus, it's an adventure every sentence to see whether you can continually spell "Samardzija" correctly.
Doak Walker Award
Presented to the nation's best running back.
The choice: Bush, of course.
The other two are underappreciated talents who have had great years, but they're in the presence of genius.
Davey O'Brien Award
Presented to the nation's best quarterback.
Finalists: Leinart; Brady Quinn, Notre Dame; Young.
The choice: Young.
Another tough choice. Young's legs set him apart from the exceptional pocket passers at USC and ND. His leadership has been immeasurable to the Longhorns, and he's the clearest team MVP in the nation. It's hard to envision Texas' being much better than 8-3 without him.
Presented to the nation's best interior lineman.
Finalists: Greg Eslinger, Minnesota; Marcus McNeill, Auburn; Haloti Ngata, Oregon.
The choice: Eslinger.
Let's hear it for an agile, zone-blocking tough guy who actually proves you don't have to be the size of a mastodon to star on the offensive line. Eslinger is an anorexic 285 pounds, which didn't keep him from anchoring a line that helped the Gophers average 280 rushing yards (third in the nation) and allowed just three sacks.
For the third straight year, Minnesota had two backs run for 1,000 yards each. Not only that, third-stringer Amir Pinnix blew up for 200-plus against Michigan. Just like the Denver Broncos and their zone-blocking line, you cannot give all the credit to the backs. Keep the big uglies in mind, too.
Chuck Bednarik Trophy
Presented to the nation's best defensive player.
Finalists: A.J. Hawk, Ohio State; D'Qwell Jackson, Maryland; Paul Posluszny, Penn State.
The choice: Hawk.
Three fast and furious linebackers to choose from. To reduce it to linebacker terms: if you chose the guy who'd win a head-butting contest, you'd go with Hawk. He simply enjoys -- and excels at -- eliminating the forward progress of offensive players.
Presented to the nation's best all-around player.
Finalists: Bush; Leinart; Young.
The choice: Why stop giving the hardware to No. 5 now? My only request is that Bush go behind his back with one of the trophies like he did with the ball on that absurd run against Fresno State.
Pat Forde is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.