Commentary

Who should (and will) win some postseason hardware

Originally Published: December 6, 2007
By Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- College football's regular season is behind us and the big one -- the Allstate BCS National Championship Game between No. 1 Ohio State and No. 2 LSU -- won't be played in New Orleans until Jan. 7.

But some hardware will be handed out before the crystal football is lifted in the Big Easy, starting with some awards for the season's top individual performers. Here's a preview of Thursday's "Home Depot ESPNU College Football Awards" (ESPN, 7:30 p.m. ET).

Maxwell Award (best all-around player)
Finalists: Dennis Dixon, Oregon
Darren McFadden, Arkansas
Tim Tebow, Florida
My choice: Tebow. No player in the country did more than the Florida quarterback, who accounted for 51 touchdowns in his first season as a starter for the defending national champion Gators. His 22 touchdown runs are more than Reggie Bush, Bo Jackson and Herschel Walker had during their Heisman Trophy-winning seasons. Tebow played with a bruised shoulder and a broken hand and took more hits than any other quarterback in college football.
Who will win: Tebow
Biletnikoff Award (best wide receiver)
Finalists: Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech
Mario Manningham, Michigan
Jordy Nelson, Kansas State
My choice: Crabtree. Don't tell the Texas Tech freshman he's a product of coach Mike Leach's pass-happy offense, because the Dallas native will quickly correct you. Crabtree broke nearly every NCAA freshman receiving record with 125 catches for 1,861 yards and 21 touchdowns. He had 10 or more receptions in eight games and had 100 receiving yards or more in 10 contests. In consecutive games, Crabtree had 11 catches for 244 yards and three touchdowns in a 59-24 win at Rice, then caught 14 passes for 237 yards and three scores in a 49-45 loss at Oklahoma State.
Who will win: Crabtree.
Chuck Bednarik Trophy (best defensive player)
Finalists: Dan Connor, Penn State
Glenn Dorsey, LSU
James Laurinaitis, Ohio State
My choice: Laurinaitis. Dorsey was the most dominant defensive player at the beginning of the season, but a knee injury left him limping badly down the stretch run. It was a coin toss between the Big Ten linebackers, but Laurinaitis led a Buckeyes defense that led the conference in total, passing, rushing and scoring defense. With Laurinaitis anchoring that defense, Ohio State won its third consecutive Big Ten title and will play in the BCS title game for the second season in a row. Laurinaitis had 103 tackles, 8½ tackles for loss, five sacks and two interceptions.
Who will win: Dorsey
Jim Thorpe Award (best defensive back)
Finalists: Antoine Cason, Arizona
Jamie Silva, Boston College
Craig Steltz, LSU
My choice: Steltz. The senior safety was a one-man wrecking crew for the No. 2 Tigers, with a team-high 97 tackles, six interceptions, seven pass breakups, one sack, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. Steltz tied for the SEC lead in interceptions during his first season as a full-time starter.
Who will win: Steltz.
Outland Trophy (best interior lineman)
Finalists: Anthony Collins, Kansas
Glenn Dorsey, LSU
Jake Long, Michigan
My choice: Long. The offensive tackle returned for his senior season with hopes of beating Ohio State and winning a bowl game. The Wolverines lost to the Buckeyes again, but Long can end his college career on a happy note if Michigan upsets Florida in the Capital One Bowl on New Year's Day. The Wolverines' season unraveled because of injuries to quarterback Chad Henne and tailback Mike Hart, but Long was the team's anchor on the end of the line.
Who will win: Long.
Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award
Finalists: Chase Daniel, Missouri
Dennis Dixon, Oregon
Tim Tebow, Florida
My choice: Tebow. The sophomore went from part-time pinch runner to full-time passer in his first full season as a starting quarterback. Tebow completed 68.5 percent of his passes for 3,132 yards with 29 touchdowns and only six interceptions. Only Oklahoma's Sam Bradford had a higher passing efficiency rating among Division I-A quarterbacks. Tebow was at his best in some of Florida's biggest games. He completed 14 of 19 passes for 299 yards with two touchdowns in a 59-20 rout of Tennessee, then completed 22 of 32 passes for 304 yards with two touchdowns in a 51-31 win at South Carolina.
Who will win: Tebow.
Lou Groza Collegiate Place-Kicker Award
Finalists: Jose Martinez, UTEP
Austin, Starr, Indiana
Thomas Weber, Arizona State
My choice: Weber. The redshirt freshman wins a narrow contest over two other deserving kickers. Weber began his college career by making 17 consecutive field goals, a school record. He finished the season 22-for-23 on field-goal tries, the highest success rate in the country. Weber made a pair of field goals longer than 50 yards and kicked a 37-yarder in the final minute to beat Washington State 23-20 on Oct. 6. He also took over the punting duties in the final seven games.
Who will win: Weber.
Ray Guy Award (top punter)
Finalists: Durant Brooks, Georgia Tech
Kevin Huber, Cincinnati
Brett Kern, Toledo
My choice: Brooks. The senior averaged 45.54 yards per punt, fourth-best in the country, and his career average of 45.44 yards is the highest in ACC history. During his career, Brooks had 46 punts of 50 yards or longer and 11 of more than 60 yards. On average, Georgia Tech opponents started drives at the 18-yard line after Brooks punted this season. Against North Carolina on Nov. 17, Brooks had punts of 77, 63 and 54 yards. His mother lives in Thomson, Ga., hometown of Ray Guy.
Who will win: Brooks.
Doak Walker Award (best running back)
Finalists: Mike Hart, Michigan
Darren McFadden, Arkansas
Ray Rice, Rutgers
My choice: McFadden. The junior ran for an SEC-high 1,725 yards, setting an Arkansas single-season record. He averaged 143.8 rushing yards and 181 all-purpose yards. He had two of the most impressive performances in SEC history, running for 321 yards in a 48-36 win over South Carolina and 206 yards and three touchdowns in a 50-48 upset of then-No. 1 LSU.
Who will win: McFadden.

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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