Commentary

Picking the award winners

Originally Published: December 9, 2010
By Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com

Conference championships have been won. Bowl matchups are set.

It's time to hand out individual awards at The Home Depot College Football Awards show at Disney's BoardWalk in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., on Thursday night.

Here's a list of the finalists for each award and which players should win -- plus who will win:

[+] EnlargeNick Fairley
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesAuburn's Nick Fairley terrorized opposing offenses all season.

Chuck Bednarik Award (best defensive player)

Finalists: Da'Quan Bowers, Clemson; Nick Fairley, Auburn; Patrick Peterson, LSU

Who should win: Fairley

Fairley, a junior defensive tackle, had as much effect on No. 1 Auburn's undefeated season as quarterback Cameron Newton. He was nearly impossible to block during the Tigers' 13-0 campaign, finishing with 55 tackles, 21 tackles for loss, 10½ sacks, 2 fumble recoveries, 1 forced fumble and 21 quarterback hurries.

Who will win: Bowers

Bowers, a junior defensive end, led the country with 15½ sacks and was second with 25 tackles for loss. He won the Bronko Nagurski Trophy as the country's best defensive player and was named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year. Bowers had a sack in nine straight games, the longest such streak in school history.

Biletnikoff Award (best receiver)

Finalists: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State; Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma; Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina

Who should win: Blackmon

Blackmon, a sophomore, led the country in receiving yards with 1,665 and touchdown catches with 18. He was named the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, the first Cowboy to win the award since Barry Sanders in 1988. Blackmon tied NCAA records for most consecutive games with at least 100 receiving yards and a touchdown catch with 11 in a row. He has come within 8 receiving yards of breaking former Pitt star Larry Fitzgerald's NCAA single-game record for a sophomore.

Who will win: Blackmon

Lou Groza Award (best kicker)

Finalists: Dan Bailey, Oklahoma State; Danny Hrapmann, Southern Mississippi; David Ruffer, Notre Dame

Who should win: Bailey

Bailey led the Big 12 with 11.4 points and two field goals made per game. The former walk-on will leave Oklahoma State as the school's all-time scorer and made 24 of 28 field goal attempts this season. Bailey also displayed a very strong leg, making eight field goals of 40 yards or longer this season. He kicked a 40-yarder as time expired in the Pokes' 38-35 victory over Texas A&M.

Who will win: Bailey

[+] EnlargeChas Henry
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesFlorida's Chas Henry was one of the nation's top punters this season.

Ray Guy Award (best punter)

Finalists: Drew Butler, Georgia; Ryan Donahue, Iowa; Chas Henry, Florida

Who should win: Henry

Henry, a senior from Dallas, Ga., led the country in punting, averaging 46.4 yards on 44 punts, the best average in school history. Opponents had only 100 return yards on 11 punts, and the Gators led the country in net punting with a 41.8-yard average. Henry had two of the longest punts in school history, with a 75-yarder against Alabama and a 67-yarder against Mississippi State. Because of injuries, Henry also was forced into field goal duties this season, going 4-for-8 on field goals and 24-for-25 on extra points. He kicked a 37-yard field goal in overtime to beat rival Georgia 34-31.

Who will win: Henry

Maxwell Award (best all-around player)

Finalists: Andrew Luck, Stanford; Kellen Moore, Boise State; Cam Newton, Auburn

Who should win: Newton

Newton not only was the best player in the country this season but also might be one of the best to take the field in any season. The junior from Atlanta led the country with 49 touchdowns this season, with 28 passing, 20 rushing and one receiving. Newton is one of just three players in Football Bowl Subdivision history to rush and pass for 20 touchdowns in the same season, and he's the first player in SEC history to run for 1,000 yards and pass for 2,000 in a season. He led the country in pass efficiency (188.16 rating) and led the SEC in rushing (108.4 yards per game) and total offense (307.5). Most importantly, Newton led the Tigers to a 13-0 record, an SEC championship and a trip to the Jan. 10 BCS National Championship Game in Glendale, Ariz.

Who will win: Newton

Davey O'Brien Award (best quarterback)

Finalists: Andrew Luck, Stanford; Kellen Moore, Boise State; Cam Newton, Auburn

Who should win: Newton

Newton proved throughout the 2010 season that he's more than just a running quarterback. He led the country in pass efficiency with a 188.16 rating, completing 165 of 246 passes for 2,589 yards with 28 touchdowns and six interceptions. He completed 67.1 percent of his passes and completed 50 percent or better in his last 10 games. Newton threw only one interception in his last seven games.

Who will win: Newton

Outland Trophy (best interior lineman)

Finalists: Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin; Rodney Hudson, Florida State; Nate Solder, Colorado

Who should win: Hudson

Hudson, a senior from Mobile, Ala., was a two-time winner of the ACC's Jacobs Blocking Trophy and should become one of only seven players to be named a four-time All-ACC selection. Hudson, who has 47 career starts at guard, graded out at 87 percent blocking this season with 44 knockdown blocks heading into the ACC title game. Hudson was penalized only once in 772 snaps this season.

Who will win: Carimi

Carimi, a senior from Cottage Grove, Wis., was named the Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year after helping the Badgers rank in the top 20 nationally in scoring (43.3 points per game), rushing (247.3 yards) and total offense (450.2 yards). The Badgers allowed only one sack per game and became only the second team since 1936 to average more than 45 points in Big Ten play.

[+] EnlargePrince Amukamara
Eric Francis/Getty ImagesWhen Nebraska's Prince Amukamara was tested, he usually passed with flying colors.

Jim Thorpe Award (best defensive back)

Finalists: Prince Amukamara, Nebraska; Tejay Johnson, TCU; Patrick Peterson, LSU

Who should win: Amukamara

It's hard to quantify Amukamara's impact because opponents rarely threw to his side of the field this season. Heading into the Big 12 title game, opponents threw at Amukamara only 43 times, completing 13 passes to receivers he was covering. The senior from Glendale, Ariz., was named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and had 58 tackles and 13 pass breakups.

Who will win: Peterson

Peterson came into the 2010 season with a reputation as the sport's best cover cornerback, and his play solidified it. He had 36 tackles, four interceptions and six passes defended. Peterson also was a standout on special teams, blocking a kick and scoring twice on punt returns.

Doak Walker Award (best running back)

Finalists: John Clay, Wisconsin; Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma State; LaMichael James, Oregon

Who should win: James

James helped lead the No. 2 Ducks to a 13-0 record and a trip to the Jan. 10 BCS National Championship Game by leading the country in rushing with 152.9 yards per game and 21 rushing touchdowns. The sophomore from Texarkana, Texas, was the fastest player in Oregon history to reach 1,000 career rushing yards (seven games), 2,000 yards (16 games) and 3,000 yards (23 games). He ranks second on Oregon's career rushing list with 3,228 yards, only 68 yards shy of Derek Loville's school record.

Who will win: James

Mark Schlabach covers college sports for ESPN.com. He co-authored Bobby Bowden's memoir, "Called To Coach," which was published by Simon & Schuster. The book is available in stores and can be ordered here. You can contact him at schlabachma@yahoo.com.

Mark Schlabach | email

College Football and Basketball