Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Conference superlative tracker
By Edward Aschoff
We're in Week 6 of the college football season, so it's superlative time.
Today, we'll start our weekly look at the offensive player of the year, the defensive player of the year and the coach of the year races in the SEC.
We'll bring you three candidates for the three categories. (Yes, three is truly a magic number.) Things can obviously change each week and I'm sure there will no doubt be a slew of disagreements between the blog and its faithful readers.
That's the nature of the beast when you're trying to pick these things, but that won't keep us from having fun while we do it.
Here's a look at the nominees at this point in the season:
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
1. Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama: Through five games, Richardson is currently second in the SEC in rushing (124.4 yards per game) and leads the league with 10 rushing touchdowns. But on the biggest of stages, Richardson has been his best, accounting for 549 yards of total offense and five touchdowns against Penn State, Arkansas and Florida.
2. Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina: Lattimore was at one point right near the top of most people's Heisman Trophy ballots. He has basically been South Carolina's offense, carrying the ball right at 25 times a game, and he leads the SEC in rushing with 135.4 yards per game. He's behind Richardson with nine rushing touchdowns and has 139 yards and another score receiving.
3. Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee: Bray has arguably been the most consistent passer in the SEC this season, leading the league in passing yards per game (332), touchdowns (14) and completion percentage (68.5). He lost his top deep threat in Justin Hunter in Week 3, but the passing game didn't miss a beat as he passed for 342 yards and four touchdowns.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
1. Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU: Is there a more exciting defensive player to watch in the entire country? Mathieu has a superb nose for the ball, leading LSU in tackles (35), has four tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, an interception, has defended five passes, has four forced fumbles and has recovered three fumbles. Oh, and he's scored two defensive touchdowns.
2. Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina: Ingram might be a defensive lineman, but you can find him all over the field. He not only leads the league with 5.5 sacks but has two interceptions, has defended three passes and has three touchdowns, including a 68-yard run on a punt fake. He actually has more scores than any of South Carolina's receivers.
3. Courtney Upshaw, LB, Alabama: Upshaw only has 16 tackles on the season, but he has been an absolute terror for offenses this year. He has 7.5 tackles for loss (minus-32 yards), including 1.5 sacks and five quarterback hurries. Against Florida, he recorded three tackles for loss, a sack and a 45-yard touchdown on an interception.
COACH OF THE YEAR
1. Les Miles, LSU: Miles entered the season with a loaded team, but he also entered having to block out off-the-field distractions, as his starting quarterback and most athletic offensive weapon were suspended for the first part of the season. Still, Miles formed the perfect game plan for current starter Jarrett Lee, has the nation's most athletic defense and the No. 1 team in the country.
2. Gene Chizik, Auburn: We all thought Auburn was too young and inexperienced to make much noise this year, but Chizik's team has a blue-collar, play-until-the-end mentality that has it sitting at 4-1 and 15th in the country. The youth is going through growing pains, but it also doesn't quit, which might be the most impressive aspect of this team. This team is buying into everything Chizik is saying.
3. James Franklin, Vanderbilt: Winning at Vanderbilt isn't easy at all. Generating excitement around the program might be even harder, but Franklin has done both in his first year. The Commodores blew out Ole Miss and were an offense away from keeping it even closer against South Carolina on the road. He became the first coach at Vanderbilt since Red Sanders in 1946 to start the season out 3-0 in his first year with the Commodores. Franklin has fielded one of the more impressive defenses in the league that has forced 16 turnovers, including 14 interceptions.