Who should (and will) win some postseason hardware

Updated: December 6, 2006, 1:17 PM ET
By Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com

College football's regular season is behind us and the big one -- the BCS title game between No. 1 Ohio State and No. 2 Florida -- won't be played in Glendale, Ariz., for another 32 days. Nonetheless, it's time to hand out the hardware for this season's top individual performers.

Here's a preview of Thursday's "Home Depot College Football Awards" show (7 p.m. ET, ESPN) in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Maxwell Award (best all-around player)
Finalists: Brady Quinn, Notre Dame
Ray Rice, Rutgers
Troy Smith, Ohio State
My choice: Troy Smith. In four seasons, the Ohio State quarterback transformed himself into one of the sport's most accurate passers and still has the ability to hurt opponents with his scrambling ability. He played very well in the Buckeyes' two biggest games, a 24-7 win at then-No. 2 Texas on Sept. 9 and 42-39 win over then-No. 2 Michigan on Nov. 18, and led them to the Jan. 8 BCS title game against Florida in Glendale, Ariz.
Who will win: Troy Smith
Biletnikoff Award (best wide receiver)
Finalists: Jarrett Dillard, Rice
Calvin Johnson, Georgia Tech
Jeff Samardzija, Notre Dame
My choice: Calvin Johnson. The Yellow Jackets junior is the toughest one-on-one matchup of any player in college football. He has great height, strength and outjumps any defensive back for the football. He caught 67 passes for 1,016 yards and 13 touchdowns and would have had better statistics if Tech had more consistent play from senior quarterback Reggie Ball. Still, Johnson will be among the top five picks in next spring's NFL draft if he forgoes his final season of college eligibility.
Who will win: Jeff Samardzija
Chuck Bednarik Trophy (best defensive player)
Finalists: Dan Connor, Penn State
Paul Posluszny, Penn State
LaMarr Woodley, Michigan
My choice: LaMarr Woodley. The Wolverines defensive end was the most disruptive defensive player in the country this season, with 15½ tackles for loss and 11 sacks. He had four forced fumbles, a school record, and was named Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year and Defensive Lineman of the Year.
Who will win: Paul Posluszny
Jim Thorpe Award (best defensive back)
Finalists: Leon Hall, Michigan
Reggie Nelson, Florida
Aaron Ross, Texas
My choice: Reggie Nelson. The junior had more big plays than any other defensive back in the country, with 42 tackles, two fumble recoveries and four interceptions. The hard-hitting safety returned an interception 70 yards for a touchdown and blocked a punt.
Who will win: Leon Hall
Outland Trophy (best interior lineman)
Finalists: Justin Blalock, Texas
Dan Mozes, West Virginia
Joe Thomas, Wisconsin
My choice: Joe Thomas. The senior offensive tackle made a remarkable recovery after tearing ligaments in his knee in last year's bowl game against Auburn. Thomas has great size (6-foot-8, 313 pounds) and should be among the top 10 selections in next spring's NFL draft. His blocking was a key reason for freshman tailback P.J. Hill's success and the Badgers' surprising 11-1 record.
Who will win: Joe Thomas
Butkus Award (best linebacker)
Finalists: James Laurinaitis, Ohio State
Paul Posluszny, Penn State
Patrick Willis, Mississippi
My choice: Patrick Willis. The Rebels senior played inspired football after losing a younger brother to a drowning death last summer. He had 137 tackles, three sacks and three forced fumbles and was the best player on a mediocre team.
Who will win: James Laurinaitis
Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award
Finalists: Colt Brennan, Hawaii
Brady Quinn, Notre Dame
Troy Smith, Ohio State
My choice: Brady Quinn. It would be a shame for the Fighting Irish senior to leave college empty handed. He set 35 school records, including single-season marks for completions (274) and touchdown passes (35). He completed 63.4 percent of his passes and led the Fighting Irish to a 10-2 record and spot in the Sugar Bowl against LSU. Quinn's so-so performances in losses to Michigan and USC will cost him the Heisman Trophy.
Who will win: Troy Smith
Lou Groza Collegiate Place-Kicker Award
Finalists: Arthur Carmody, Louisville
Garrett Hartley, Oklahoma
John Vaughn, Auburn
My choice: Art Carmody. The junior made 94.1 percent of his field-goal attempts and all 45 of his extra-point attempts for the Cardinals. He broke the NCAA single-season record for consecutive extra-point kicks with 77 in a row in 2004.
Who will win: Art Carmody
Ray Guy Award (top punter)
Finalists: Dan Brooks, Georgia Tech
Jeremy Kapinos, Penn State
Daniel Sepulveda, Baylor
My choice: Daniel Sepulveda. The senior led Division I-A in punting with a 46.48-yard average, the highest mark in school history. He also set an NCAA record with 94 career punts of more than 50 yards, breaking a 20-year-old-record.
Who will win: Daniel Sepulveda
Rotary Lombardi Award (outstanding lineman)
Finalists: Justin Blalock, Texas
Quinn Pitcock, Ohio State
Paul Posluszny, Penn State
LaMarr Woodley, Michigan
My choice: Paul Posluszny. The senior linebacker won the Butkus and Bednarik awards after a brilliant junior season, then came back from a serious knee injury he suffered against Florida State in the Orange Bowl. The All-Big 10 selection had 108 tackles this season, becoming the first Nittany Lions player to have three 100-tackle seasons, and had seven tackles for loss, three sacks, two forced fumbles and and four pass breakups.
Who will win: Paul Posluszny
Doak Walker Award (best running back)
Finalists: Mike Hart, Michigan
Darren McFadden, Arkansas
Steve Slaton, West Virginia
My choice: Darren McFadden. The Razorbacks sophomore led the SEC and ranked eighth nationally in rushing with 123.75 yards per game. He ran for 1,558 yards and 14 touchdowns and threw for three touchdowns. He has a rare combination of speed and power and will enter the 2007 season among the Heisman Trophy favorites.
Who will win: Steve Slaton
John Mackey Award (best tight end)
Finalists: John Carlson, Notre Dame
Zach Miller, Arizona State
Matt Spaeth, Minnesota
My choice: John Carlson. The Fighting Irish senior essentially came out of nowhere to catch 46 passes for 621 yards and four touchdowns this season. He caught 13 passes and one touchdown the previous two seasons combined. An improving blocker, Carlson emerged as a big passing threat in coach Charlie Weis' offense and is a bona fide NFL prospect with good size (6-foot-6, 250 pounds).
Who will win: John Carlson
Bronko Nagurski Trophy (outstanding defensive player)
Finalists: Gaines Adams, Clemson
Leon Hall, Michigan
James Laurinaitis, Ohio State
Reggie Nelson, Florida
Patrick Willis, Mississippi
My choice: Leon Hall. The Wolverines senior is a lock-down cornerback and set a school record for career pass breakups (43) and returned a fumble 83 yards for a touchdown. The All-Big 10 selection has great cover skills and outstanding speed.
Who will win: Reggie Nelson
Rimington Trophy (outstanding center)
Finalists: Mark Bihl, Michigan
Doug Datish, Ohio State
Ryan Kalil, Southern California
Jonathan Luigs, Arkansas
Dan Mozes, West Virginia
Darnell Stapleton, Rutgers
My choice: Dan Mozes. The senior is a big reason the Mountaineers have been so successful running the football the last three seasons. He helped pave the way for quarterback Pat White and tailback Steve Slaton, who both ran for more than 1,000 yards this year, and does a great job making protection checks at the line of scrimmage.
Who will win: Dan Mozes

Mark Schlabach covers college football and men's college basketball for ESPN.com. You can contact him at schlabachma@yahoo.com.

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