NCF Nation: Awards-113011

Big East awards tracker

November, 30, 2011
With one week left in the regular season, my choices for Big East players and coach of the year have become clear. Here is my pitch for the award winners. The Big East will make its announcement next week.

Offensive Player of the Year: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia. Smith has shattered single-season school records for completions (291), attempts (448) and yards (3,741). He needs 283 yards to tie the Big East single-season passing record of 4,024 yards, set by Louisville’s Brian Brohm in 2007. The offense may not be a work of perfection right now, but there is no denying he has been solid running the new offense under Dana Holgorsen. Not only does he lead the Big East in passing, he ranks No. 8 in the nation in that category. He has thrown at least one completion that has gone over 40 yards in nine of 11 games this season, and has been hands down the best offensive player in the league. Runner-up: Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers.

Defensive Player of the Year: Khaseem Greene, LB, Rutgers. Greene turned in the most solid performance of all defenders this season, making a huge impact in just about every game he played. When he started the year, Greene was a big unknown because he switched to linebacker from safety. But his exceptional speed allowed him to succeed in the middle of the revamped Rutgers defense. Greene leads the Big East with 127 tackles, to rank No. 9 in the nation. He had double-digit tackles in seven games this season, including a career-high 17 in a win over USF. Greene closed the season with double-digit tackles in three of his final four games. He also contributed two forced fumbles and three sacks as well. Runner-up: JK Schaffer, LB, Cincinnati.

Freshman of the Year: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville. One of the big questions surrounding Bridgewater was whether he would be able to live up to the hype he had coming in as a four-star recruit out of Miami. After watching him lead the Cardinals to a come-from-behind win over Kentucky, most everyone could see he would develop into something special. Bridgewater took over the starting role after that game and has been solid all season. He broke the school record for passing yards by a freshman with 1,855 yards, and finished the year with 12 touchdowns to nine interceptions. Runner-up: Lyle McCombs, RB, UConn.

Coach of the Year: Charlie Strong, Louisville, OR Butch Jones, Cincinnati. This is a close one for me between Strong and Jones. Both have engineered remarkable turnaround seasons for their teams. Cincinnati went 4-8 last season and is one the verge of winning a share of the Big East title. Louisville started the season 2-4 and finished up on a 5-1 run that got the Cardinals at least a share of the Big East title. I have to wait for my final vote on this one until the games play out Saturday. Both are deserving of the award.

SEC superlative tracker: Week 14

November, 30, 2011
This is our final look at the SEC awards list with the league announcing its All-SEC teams and award winners next week:

Offensive Player of the Year

1. Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama: No player has meant more to his team than Richardson this year. He has not only carried opposing defenders on his back but he's carried Alabama's offense as well. Against SEC defenses, Richardson averaged 137 rushing yards per game, had 10 touchdowns on the ground and added two more receiving touchdowns. His career-best 203-yard rushing performance against Auburn last week might have put him at the top of the Heisman race as well.

2. Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia: Murray continued his hot streak against Georgia Tech by throwing for four more touchdowns to put him over the 30-touchdown mark at 32 on the year, a new school record. In his last six games, Murray has passed for 19 touchdowns to four interceptions. He leads the SEC in passing efficiency (155.4) and with his 2,698 passing yards, Murray is on pace to hit the 3,000-yard mark for the second straight year.

3. Jarius Wright, WR, Arkansas: It's hard to find a more consistent and reliable wide receiver in the league. He leads all SEC wide outs with 11 touchdowns and 94 yards per game. Against SEC competition, Wright led the league with 4.9 catches per game and tied for first with 577 receiving yards. On the year, Wright was second in the league with 1,029 receiving yards and failed to record a touchdown in just three games this year.

4. Michael Dyer, RB, Auburn: There was certainly no sophomore slump for Dyer. He ended the regular season second in the SEC in rushing (1,242) and was the only running back other than Richardson to average more than 100 yards rushing in SEC games. Dyer was given more responsibility in Auburn's backfield this year and definitely delivered.

Defensive Player of the Year

1. Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia: It certainly didn't take Jones long to get used to SEC play. He has a league-leading 19.5 tackles for loss, including 13.5 sacks. Sixteen of those tackles were solo ones and 12.5 of his sacks came in SEC play. Jones doesn't just cause headaches with his size and strength but he covers so much ground with his speed. Jones has been more dominant than coach Mark Richt could have imagined in his first year back on the football field.

2. Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama: If you're looking for next big-play defender, look no further than Upshaw. He's right behind Jones in tackles for loss, with 17. Like Jones, he has a tendency to wreak havoc on his own, as 16 of those tackles for loss have been solo. Upshaw also has 7.5 sacks and returned an interception 45 yards for a touchdown.

3. Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU: The Honey Badger made it back on this list after having arguably his best game of the season against Arkansas. Playing free safety for the first time, Mathieu recorded eight tackles, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and a 92-yard punt return for a touchdown against the Hogs. Mathieu leads LSU with 66 tackles, has forced six fumbles this year and is a player that offense most account for no matter where he lines up on the field.

4. Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU: While Mathieu has the ability to make a play from every part of the field, Claiborne makes it tough on offenses by taking the entire side of the field that he's covering away. He finished the season tied for third in the conference with five interceptions, and his latest one ended any hopes of Arkansas coming back against the top-ranked Tigers.

Coach of the Year

1. Les Miles, LSU: To be a fly on the wall for a pregame or halftime speech from Miles must be pretty interesting. LSU's coach has dealt with off-field silliness and even lost arguably his best safety being for last week's game against the SEC's top passing team. Still, the Tigers dominated Arkansas after falling behind 14-0, going on a 41-3 run. Miles deserves a ton of credit for keeping this team together this year and keeping the Tigers on top as they play for a national championship berth.

2. Mark Richt, Georgia: All those cries for Richt's job sure have gone silent in recent weeks. With the Bulldogs wrapping up the East a couple of weeks ago and thrashing rival Georgia Tech, Richt sails right into the SEC championship as one of Athens' favorite people. He never let the off-field chatter get to him or his team and now he's playing for a BCS bowl. That 0-2 start is a distant memory for Georgia.

3. James Franklin, Vanderbilt: The Commodores are bowl eligible for the first time since 2008 and Franklin's new attitude and bravado are a main reason for that. If you aren't a Vandy fan, Franklin might rub you the wrong way, but he brought the kind of mindset that this program desperately needed. The Commodores are no longer looked at as that doormat team in the SEC. Vandy's 41-7 thrashing of Wake Forest was the perfect rebound after a devastating loss to Tennessee.

4. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina: If you were told that South Carolina would lose its starting quarterback and arguably one of the best running backs in the country but would still win 10 games, you'd probably laugh. Well, that's exactly what the Gamecocks did. Thanks to a superb coaching job by Spurrier and a pretty stout defense, the Gamecocks ended the year at 10-2. South Carolina won't be back in Atlanta this weekend, but Spurrier should be praised for his coaching efforts when things could have gone south.

Big 12 Awards Update: Week 14

November, 30, 2011
We were off last week in the awards update, but we're back with one week of games left.

Offensive Player of the Year

1. Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor: Griffin overtook Weeden after his huge game against Oklahoma two weeks ago, and held on despite the concussion last week. He'll need a big game this week to keep the award though, and even then the voting might be close.

2. Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State: Weeden could usurp Griffin regardless of what RG3 does if Weeden has a big game and beats the Sooners. Should be some drama on Saturday, but Griffin leads Weeden in total offense per game.

3. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State: Klein was off last week, but his passing numbers are OK and he's fifth in the Big 12 with 1,013 rushing yards and 25 rushing touchdowns. He's also thrown for 11 scores and five interceptions.

Honorable mention: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor; Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State.

Defensive Player of the Year

1. Frank Alexander, DE, Oklahoma: Alexander might be alone at the top for this one. He leads the Big 12 with 18 tackles for loss and tied for the Big 12 lead with 8.5 sacks.

2. Sean Porter, LB, Texas A&M: Porter came back to life with 2.5 tackles for loss against Texas and 1.5 in the win over Kansas. He now has 16 to rank second in the Big 12.

3. Emmanuel Acho, LB, Texas: Acho makes his first appearance on the list after notching four consecutive games with at least 12 tackles, including a season-high 14 against Texas A&M. He's now second in the Big 12 with 105 tackles.

Honorable mention: Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State; Jake Knott, LB, Iowa State; Ronnell Lewis, DE, Oklahoma; Damontre Moore, LB, Texas A&M, Steven Johnson, LB, Kansas.

Coach of the Year

1. Bill Snyder, Kansas State: Snyder's Wildcats are still rolling and look likely to win an unbelievable 10 games after being picked to finish eighth in the Big 12. Standing between them: Iowa State, a six-win team picked to finish ninth place in the Big 12. Beware.

2. Paul Rhoads, Iowa State: Rhoads keeps impressing. First the win over Iowa. Then beating Texas Tech by 34 a week after the Red Raiders beat Oklahoma. Two weeks ago, it was the upset over Oklahoma State. Welcome to the postseason for the second time in three years.

3. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State: Gundy probably won't be able to grab any national coach of the year awards after losing to Iowa State, but he might get a few votes if the Cowboys win the Big 12 title outright, and do it impressively.

Honorable mention: Art Briles, Baylor.