B/R's Midseason College Football Awards

David LutherFeatured ColumnistOctober 16, 2012

B/R's Midseason College Football Awards

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    We've reached the midway point of the 2012 college football season. With the first round of BCS rankings now released, how about taking a look at an early round of college football awards?

    There's still plenty of time for players across the nation to make their case for the Heisman Trophy, Doak Walker Award or Rimington Trophy, but with so much football already in the rear-view mirror, we wanted to hand out some midseason awards for the stellar performances we've already seen.

    Here are Bleacher Report's 2012 Midseason College Football Awards.

FCS, Division II, and Division III

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    Before we get to the major hardware, we wanted to give a shout-out to the players in the other three divisions of college football.

    While the vast majority of these players move on to careers outside of athletics, the players good enough to earn awards often find their names called during the NFL draft the following spring.

    So why not give these guys a mention in our midseason awards?

     

    Football Championship Subdivision

    The FCS is unique in the fact that it has no single MVP award. The top offensive player in the FCS is awarded the Walter Payton Award, while the top defensive player receives the Buck Buchanan Award.

    One game an award winner does not make, but it's hard to ignore Taylor Heinicke's performance for soon-to-be-FBS Old Dominion earlier this season against New Hampshire.

    Heinicke threw for a Division I-record 730 yards and five touchdowns in a 64-61 win.

    Heinicke is just a sophomore, and with Old Dominion's impending move up the college football ladder, he'll have the opportunity to win some FBS hardware before his career is over.

    On defense, we're giving our halfway nod to Georgetown's Robert McCabe.

    A 6'2", 234-pound linebacker, McCabe finished the month of September leading the FCS with 13.6 tackles per game. He also recorded double-digit tackles in every game for the Hoyas this season, and he was the Patriot League's Preseason Defensive Player of the Year—apparently for good reason.

    McCabe is also on pace to obliterate Georgetown's single-season tackles record.

     

    Division II

    The nation's top Division II player receives the Harlon Hill Trophy.

    After seven games, Bloomsburg University's Franklyn Quiteh has amassed an almost unbelievable 1,243 rushing yards—or 177.4 yards per game.

    Incidentally, the Bloomsburg Huskies are second in Division II in terms of total offense, averaging 526.7 yards per game.

     

    Division III

    Division III has two “player of the year” awards, the Melberger Award and the Gagliardi Trophy. Both offensive and defensive players are eligible for either award.

    Heinicke's aforementioned pass performance is only a Division I record instead of an NCAA record because of the Week 1 exploits of Sam Durley of Eureka College.

    In the season opener against Knox College, Durley broke what was then the all-division record held by Houston's David Klingler with 736 passing yards—six more yards than Heinicke threw a few weeks later.

Best Punter

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    Each season, the punter judged to be the best at his position receives the Ray Guy Award.

    Last season, Louisiana Tech's Ryan Allen took home the award, and there's no reason to think he can't repeat in 2012.

    Allen, now in his senior season, has an average distance of 47.8 yards per punt. And that's with more than just a small handful of punts.

    Allen has already booted 25 punts in 2012, and he currently ranks second in the FBS in terms of average punt distance.

Best Kicker

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    The Lou Groza Award goes to the nation's top placekicker, and so far this season, there are plenty of players deserving of midseason recognition.

    There are still nine kickers that haven't missed a field goal this season, and three of them have made 11.

    But simply kicking field goals isn't enough. After all, most kickers could make all of their field goals from inside of 30 yards, so extra points shouldn't be a problem, right?

    Curiously, of those three kickers that are a perfect 11-for-11 on field goals, only one—Northwestern's Jeff Budzien—has yet to miss an extra point.

    Budzien is 26-for-26 on the one-pointers this season, helping his Wildcats to a 6-1 start.

Best Defensive Back

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    The top coverage man in college football is rewarded with the Jim Thorpe Award at season's end.

    Everyone knows that it takes great defense to win championships, and Oregon State has one of the nation's top defenders so far this season in senior Jordan Poyer.

    Poyer already has five interceptions—second in the FBS—with 101 return yards and a touchdown.

    He has also broken up four passes and forced a fumble from his cornerback position.

    Add in 15 tackles (10 solo), three tackles for loss and a sack, and you have all the makings of a Thorpe Award winner.

Best Linebacker

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    The Dick Butkus Award is the prize for the top linebacker in the FBS, and Iowa's Anthony Hitchens is being rewarded for his first-half performance this season.

    Hitchens is currently second in the nation in total tackles with 78. The junior also has four tackles for loss and a sack, and he is a big reason why Iowa is out to an unlikely 2-0 start in Big Ten play this season.

    His surprising play coupled with his team's surprising success is why we selected him over other likely contenders like Notre Dame's Manti Te'o.

Best Defensive Player

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    The top defensive player of the year is rewarded with either the Bronko Nagurski Award or the Chuck Bednarik Award—and sometimes both.

    A player from LSU has won the last two Bednarik Awards (Patrick Peterson in 2010, Tyrann Mathieu in 2011), while Boston College's Luke Kuechly took home last season's Nagurski Award.

    The last player to win both awards in the same season was Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh in 2009.

    This season, we could see another defensive juggernaut from the SEC take home at least one of these awards with Texas A&M's Damontre Moore.

    We've given him the midseason nod because of his one-man wrecking crew mentality, as well as his balanced defensive attack.

    Moore already has 52 tackles on the season, and leads the nation with 15 tackles for loss.

    He has also wrapped up opposing quarterbacks 8.5 times this season, just a half-sack behind FBS leader Chris Jones of Bowling Green State.

    If he can continue this very impressive pace through the second half of the season—easily the more difficult half for the Aggies—then there is no reason he shouldn't be a finalist for either or both awards.

Best Receiver

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    The Fred Biletnikoff Award goes to the top receiver at season's end. We might only be halfway to the finish line of 2012, but there are already a lot of great receiving performances to sort through to figure out who is going to receive our midseason receiving award.

    We were all set to settle for someone like DeAndre Hopkins or Stedman Bailey, but we simply can't get past the gaudy numbers put up by Baylor's Terrance Williams.

    This senior wideout is averaging 166.0 receiving yards per game.

    He's on pace for over 2,100 receiving yards (including a potential bowl game) and 21 touchdowns.

    For the sake of comparison, Brandin Cooks of Oregon State is second in the FBS in terms of receiving yards per game with 131.8—more than 30 yards per game fewer.

Best Lineman

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    There are a couple of awards handed out to linemen each season: Vince Lombardi Award and Outland Trophy (which goes to the best interior lineman).

    It's not completely unprecedented for a player to win both awards, or even a clean sweep of the lineman awards and Defensive Player of the Year awards (Nagurski and Bednarik awards).

    And the first half for Texas A&M's Damontre Moore has been just that good.

    We're not going to say what his chances are for a Suh-like sweep this season, but if he can continue to do what he's done in the first half, A&M will definitely raise a lot of eyebrows during its first season in the SEC come November.

Best Running Back

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    For our midseason counterpart to the Doak Walker Award, we've selected Nevada's Stefphon Jefferson.

    Through seven games, Jefferson has 1,140 yards—the only current 1,000-yard rusher so far—and an FBS-best 14 rushing touchdowns.

    His average of 162.9 yards per game also outpace every other player in the nation, and he's perhaps the biggest reason why the Wolf Pack are out to a 6-1 record already.

    It's also worth noting that Jefferson has added 139 receiving yards and a touchdown catch to go with his spectacular first half of the season on the ground.

Best Quarterback

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    The Davey O'Brien Award is handed to the nation's top passer at season's end. And when it comes to first-half performances, the award winner here might very well take home the O'Brien Award at season's end.

    Yes, Geno Smith may have been stymied a bit against Texas Tech, but he's still averaging over 378 passing yards per game.

    He's also thrown for 25 touchdowns (which leads the FBS) without an interception this season.

    Smith leads the nation with a passer rating of 180.8, and while Heisman Trophy runs might require something akin to a national championship for the team, there's little doubt Smith is the leading contender for the O'Brien Award this season.

Coach of the First Half

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    This one is a no-brainer.

    If you look at the current crop of Top 10 teams in initial BCS rankings, you'll notice that nearly every team started the season in the Top 10, and all but one started the year ranked somewhere in the Top 25.

    So which team has truly come out of nowheresville to crash the preseason ranking party? Oregon State.

    Sure, the Beavers haven't faced the meat of their schedule yet, but the fact that Oregon State is 5-0 is a testament to the job done by head coach Mike Riley—especially considering the fact that Oregon State finished 3-9 in 2011.

Most Valuable Player

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    There are several "Player of the Year" or "Most Valuable Player" awards handed out at the end of the season, led by the Heisman Trophy. There's also the Maxwell Award and the Walter Camp Award, typically given out to those great players whose teams fall a little short of expectations through no fault of the award winner.

    We've already seen a lot of great performances, and many of those players have been mentioned here on our midseason awards list. And while there are plenty of great undefeated teams still vying for a BCS National Championship, we've opted to go with a player from a one-loss team already possibly out of the title hunt: West Virginia's Geno Smith.

    Smith's numbers are deserving of recognition at the season's midway point, and while many will point to the Mountaineers' loss at Texas Tech as a reason to not select Smith, the simple fact is that the teams still vying for a trip to Miami on January 7 seem to be comprised of a collection of great talent, rather than a talented roster with a single player who rises above the rest.

    After all, national championships aren't always required for Player of the Year awards; just ask Robert Griffin III.

    That's why we're sticking with West Virginia's Geno Smith as our Most Valuable Player for the 2012 midseason college football awards list.