College Football Preseason Awards
by Trevor Whenham - 7/29/2011
It’s the time of year when journalists and experts compile their lists of the best teams, players, and coaches in the major conferences of college football. It’s a great way for avid college football fans to pass some time and get into some arguments while anxiously awaiting the start of the season. It seems like a good way to pass the time, so here’s my shot at it:
I’m not a big fan of the ACC at the best of times, and it certainly doesn’t look like these are the best of times for the conference. In fact, it could be pretty ugly. There are two teams that could be solid and a whole lot that could be really bad.
Championship game: I’m nervous about E.J. Manuel, but I still think Florida State has what it takes to win the Atlantic. I also think that they can beat Coastal champions Virginia Tech in the championship game. The Virginia Tech Hokies football schedule has them primed to shine in the regular season, but their deficiencies will catch up with them in the end.
Top player: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College. It’s not a great year for talent in the conference, but Kuechly is the real deal. He was a unanimous first team all-American last year, and he led the nation in tackles. He’s a junior who should hear his name called early on draft day in 2012.
It’s shaping up to be a pretty pathetic year for the most pathetic of major conferences. TCU can’t arrive soon enough to add some legitimate competition to this conference.
Champion: It’s West Virginia’s conference to lose. Given that they are breaking in a new coach under ugly circumstances, it’s obviously not a great year for this group. You could make arguments for Pitt or South Florida, but I think they fall behind the Mountaineers.
Top player: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia. Cincinnati QB Zach Collaros was also a factor, but Smith has the best chance to emerge as a star on a national scale. His team will win, the offense suits him, and he has the game to get on the highlight reel.
It’s the first year of a 10-team Big 12, so the season is going to have a very different feel to it than it has in recent years. Colorado certainly won’t be missed, but Nebraska has a good season ahead of them.
Champion: Bob Stoops is as good as a coach can be, and he is well positioned to add to his impressive record this year. He has a serious national contender on his hands, and he totally outclasses the rest of his conference. He has the best QB and wideout in the conference, and a defense that should be very good. Only winning a Big 12 title would be a disappointment for this squad -- they are aiming for the big prize.
Top Player: Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma. Oklahoma is a QB factory, and Jones has shown that he has all the tools needed to be the next to impress. He is a very serious Heisman Trophy contender and he has all the tools around him to earn himself a trip to New York in early December.
It will be a very strange year in the Big Ten. Ohio State has taken a body blow, so things are more wide-open than normal as the teams fight for a berth in the first-ever conference championship game.
Championship game: I absolutely refuse to use the incredibly stupid names for the two divisions. Michigan and Michigan State both have a chance to be surprisingly solid, but Nebraska should be able to welcome themselves to the conference by winning their division. Wisconsin should have a relatively easy time winning their conference. That should lead to a great first championship contest, and I would give Nebraska the edge because they have more experience on offense - especially at QB.
Top player: Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan. This might be seen as a homer pick because I am a huge Michigan guy, but I stand by it. There isn’t a more electric, dynamic player in the conference -- and perhaps the country -- than this spark plug. He has to deal with a new coaching staff, but he’s a smart guy who took a huge step forward heading into last year. If he makes another improvement this year he could be special.
Just writing the name Pac-12 seems weird, so it is going to be very strange watching the new league. The season will have a very strange tone since USC essentially doesn’t exist in terms of the standings.
Championship game: I think that Arizona or Utah have the best chance of winning the South division. I also don’t think it matters. The North is by far the dominant group this year. It comes down to Oregon and Stanford. The winner of their game should win the conference’s inaugural title game with ease, and stands a solid chance of playing for the national title. Stanford has to overcome a coaching change, but I’ll still take them -- in large part because I think Chip Kelly could be distracted this year.
Top player: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford. This is the biggest no-brainer of all. He’s the best player in the country, the early leader for the Heisman, and he has been seen as the top pick in the draft next year for a year already.
It’s a year of transition in the SEC. All of their big-name quarterbacks have left, and several new coaches and coordinators are trying to establish themselves. We have grown used to seeing national dominance out of the SEC -- whether we like it or not -- but this year they could struggle to be quite as deep as usual. With two elite teams, though, they will still be a major factor with a serious shot at national glory yet again.
Championship game: South Carolina should be able to win the East if they can get their QB situation figured out, but I don’t think Steve Spurrier will be winning another SEC title. The West division is again ridiculously tough. Auburn has some restocking to do, but they could be a factor. Alabama and LSU both have a chance to be very good teams that are national title contenders, and one of them will win this division and the conference. I lean towards Alabama merely because I’d take Nick Saban over Les Miles in a street fight any day.
Top player: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama. The Tide has been producing great running backs, and Richardson is the next in line. He is going to get the chance to be the driving force on offense for a national contender, and he is going to pile up the yards. He is a more than adequate receiver as well, and that added dimension will be valuable for his team.
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