Commentary

Maualuga, Crabtree, Bradford among projected award winners

Originally Published: December 11, 2008
By Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com

The 2008 college football regular season is over.

Conference championships have been decided. Bowl pairings have been announced.

The only thing left to do before the bowl games are played is hand out the hardware to the country's best players.

The winner of the Heisman Trophy -- the sport's most coveted individual award -- will be announced Saturday night in New York.

The rest of college football's top awards will be presented Thursday night (ESPN, 7:30 p.m. ET) at The Home Depot ESPNU College Football Awards at Disney's BoardWalk at the Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Fla.

Here are the finalists (and projected winners) for the nine individual awards that will be presented Thursday:

Chuck Bednarik Award (best defensive player)
James Laurinaitis, Ohio State
The blue-collar linebacker led the Buckeyes and was second in the Big Ten with 121 tackles.

[+] EnlargeRey Maualuga
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesRey Maualuga is the Pac-10's defensive player of the year. Is the Chuck Bednarik Award next?

The senior also had four sacks and 5½ tackles for loss and was named the Big Ten defensive player of the year for the second season in a row.

Rey Maualuga, USC
The menacing linebacker is arguably the best player on the country's best defense. He was named All-Pac-10 for the third season in a row and was named the conference's defensive player of the year.

Aaron Maybin, Penn State
The sophomore defensive end was the Nittany Lions' biggest playmaker on defense, leading the Big Ten with 12 sacks and finishing third with 18 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles.

Who should win: Rey Maualuga, USC

Biletnikoff Award (best receiver)
Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State
The Cowboys sophomore caught 74 passes for 1,313 yards with 18 touchdowns. He led the Big 12 with 109.4 receiving yards per game and averaged a conference-best 17.9 yards on punt returns.

Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech
The reigning Biletnikoff Award winner caught 93 passes for 1,135 yards with 18 touchdowns. He also turned in the season's signature play: a 28-yard touchdown catch with one second to play in the Red Raiders' 39-33 upset of then-No. 1 Texas on Nov. 1.

Jeremy Maclin, Missouri
One of the most explosive players in the country, Maclin caught 95 passes for 1,221 yards with 12 touchdowns. The sophomore averaged 24.1 yards on kickoff returns with one touchdown.

Who should win: Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech

Lou Groza Award (best kicker)
Josh Arauco, Arkansas State
The junior went 4-for-4 on field goals in an opening 18-14 upset at Texas A&M and made 15 field goals in a row to start the season before finally missing. He finished the season 17-for-20 on field goal tries.

Graham Gano, Florida State
The senior led the country in field goal accuracy (24-for-26) and made 18 attempts in a row, including five from 50 yards or longer, before missing a 52-yard try against Boston College. He did all this after tearing meniscus cartilage in his knee in August.

Louie Sakoda, Utah
The senior was an All-America punter in 2007 and an All-America kicker this season, helping the Utes finish 12-0. He made 21 of 23 field goal tries, missing only from 48 and 54 yards.

Who should win: Graham Gano, Florida State

Ray Guy Award (best punter)
Matt Fodge, Oklahoma State
The senior averaged 44.1 yards on 31 punts, including 17 that were downed inside the opponent's 20-yard line. He had a long punt of 71 yards.
Pat McAfee, West Virginia
The senior, who also handled place-kicking, averaged 44.7 yards on 56 punts, the eighth-best average in the Football Bowl Subdivision. He had 23 punts downed inside the opponent's 20-yard line and had 19 punts of 50 yards or longer.

Louie Sakoda, Utah
The two-time Ray Guy Award finalist averaged 41.7 yards on 50 punts, including a long of 81 yards. He also was great at getting good hang time and angling punts. Only nine of his 50 punts were returned, and Utah was third in the FBS in punt-return defense, allowing only 3.11 yards per return.

Who should win: Louie Sakoda, Utah

Maxwell Award (best all-around player)
Graham Harrell, Texas Tech

[+] EnlargeGraham Harrell
Karl Anderson/Icon SMITexas Tech's Graham Harrell faces some tough competition for the Maxwell Award.

The Red Raiders senior threw for 4,747 yards with 41 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He also displayed unquestionable toughness by playing the second half of the regular-season finale against Baylor with broken fingers on his non-throwing hand.

Colt McCoy, Texas
McCoy did pretty much everything for the Longhorns, setting an FBS record with a 77.6 completion percentage. He also led the Longhorns with 576 rushing yards and threw for 3,445 yards with 32 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Tim Tebow, Florida
The reigning Maxwell Award winner carried the Gators on his back to the Jan. 8 FedEx BCS National Championship Game. The junior threw for 2,515 yards with 28 touchdowns and only two interceptions and ran for 12 touchdowns.

Who should win: Tim Tebow, Florida

Davey O'Brien Award (best quarterback)
Sam Bradford, Oklahoma
The sophomore directed the highest-scoring offense in FBS history as the No. 1 Sooners scored 702 points in 13 games. He threw for 4,464 yards and an FBS-high 48 touchdowns and completed 68.3 percent of his passes. He also led the country in pass efficiency (186.3).

Graham Harrell, Texas Tech
Harrell led FBS quarterbacks with 4,747 yards passing and threw 41 touchdown passes. He also led the Red Raiders to a school-record 11 victories, their first upset of a No. 1-ranked opponent and a tie for first in the Big 12 South with Texas and Oklahoma.

Colt McCoy, Texas
McCoy led the Longhorns to an 11-1 record and a first-place tie in the Big 12 South. He ranks third in the country in pass efficiency (179.2) and sixth in total offense (335.1 yards per game).

Who should win: Sam Bradford, Oklahoma

Outland Trophy (best interior lineman)
Michael Oher, Ole Miss
The mammoth tackle was a unanimous All-SEC choice and won the Jacobs Award as the conference's best blocker. He anchored a line that led an offense that ranked in the top four in the SEC in scoring, total offense, rushing and passing.

Duke Robinson, Oklahoma
The 335-pound senior graded at 80 percent or better in blocking in seven of the No. 1 Sooners' first 12 games. He had a season-high 14 knockdown blocks in a 61-41 victory over Oklahoma State.

Andre Smith, Alabama
Smith anchored a line that led the Crimson Tide to a 12-1 record and a second-place finish in the SEC. The left tackle surrendered only one sack in 13 games.

Who should win: Duke Robinson, Oklahoma

Jim Thorpe Award (best defensive back)
Eric Berry, Tennessee
The sophomore tied for the FBS lead with seven interceptions and set Tennessee and SEC records with 265 interception return yards.

[+] EnlargeEric Berry
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesTennessee's Eric Berry finished the season tied for the FBS lead with seven interceptions.

The strong safety returned two interceptions for touchdowns and was third on the team with 72 tackles. He also was named the SEC defensive player of the year.

Malcolm Jenkins, Ohio State
The senior cornerback anchored an Ohio State secondary that ranked sixth in the FBS in pass defense, allowing only 164.3 passing yards per game. Jenkins led the Buckeyes with nine pass breakups and had three interceptions and three forced fumbles.

Taylor Mays, USC
One of the most intimidating players in college football, Mays played free safety on a USC defense that led the FBS in total defense (206 yards per game), pass-efficiency defense (81.5) and scoring defense (7.8 points per game). He had 49 tackles, two tackles for loss and eight pass breakups.

Who should win: Eric Berry, Tennessee

Doak Walker Award (best running back)
Shonn Greene, Iowa
The junior ranked second nationally with 144 rushing yards per game. He ran for 1,729 yards and 17 touchdowns on 278 attempts and rushed for 100 yards in each of the Hawkeyes' 12 games, including a season-high 217 yards and four touchdowns in a 38-16 win over Wisconsin on Oct. 18.

Knowshon Moreno, Georgia
Moreno led the SEC with 1,338 yards and 16 rushing touchdowns and caught 27 passes for 329 yards and one score. The sophomore became the first Georgia player since Herschel Walker to run for 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons. Moreno had a season-high 172 yards in a 24-14 victory over Vanderbilt on Oct. 18.

Javon Ringer, Michigan State
Ringer led FBS running backs with 21 rushing touchdowns and 370 rushing attempts. He ran for 1,590 yards, second-best in the Big Ten and school history. He accounted for 96 percent of the Spartans' rushing yards and 78 percent of their rushing attempts.

Who should win: Shonn Greene, Iowa

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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