College Football Year End Awards: Jayhawks, Tebow, Wildcats Earn Top Honors
Though the Heisman race always seems to spark debate, I've created four additional awards that I think are of equal importance:
1) Team of the Year—for the school who has the most to be proud of this season.
2) Disappointment of the Year—for the biggest letdown of a program.
3) Most NFL-Ready Award—one that people often confuse for the Heisman, but really is a different animal entirely.
4) Finally, I've picked the obvious Game of the Year.
And here are the winners...
Team of the Year: Kansas
They are not the best team in college football, and they were somewhat lucky to keep a top five spot after yawning through the first three quarters of the biggest game in their school's history. But in the fourth quarter of the battle, the Jayhawks showed the nation exactly what brought them that far.
Sure, they haven't played against many big-name teams—but their dominance has been a thing of beauty. The annual Nebraska game symbolized it all: was the competition tough? Not really. But they scored 76 points and demonstrated key principles that have come to define this team.
They take every opponent seriously. Their offense treats every single drive as an opportunity to prove the critics wrong.
Kansas knew that they could never be a BCS contender based on wins alone, so they dropped 40, 50, 60, or even 70 points each Saturday. It's a shame that they let the pressure finally get to them when the whole nation watched this weekend—a couple easy field goals might have vaulted them into the number one spot.
But honestly, it doesn't matter.
Kansas finishes this season with something that they never had before: a quality football program. Mark Mangino is now a household name amongst football fans, and he can expect the caliber of future classes to rise significantly from here on out.
Is Kansas here to stay? It's unclear. But going forward, the Jayhawks will be circled on many opponents' schedules.
Disappointment of the Year: Cal
There's no other way to describe this one: it's a sad, sad story.
It's the story of a team that had a chance. Early victories over Tennessee and Oregon got everyone believing. And with the apparent decline of USC, many people assumed that Cal could waltz into the BCS Championship, or at the very least, compete for the Pac 10 title.
But it was not to be.
Yes there were injuries—but Cal also demonstrated a lot of the things that make coaches cringe. The clock management in their first loss to lowly Oregon State wasn't just stupid, it was downright suicidal. And the way in which they threw in the towel after one disappointing loss has turned a seemingly-miraculous season into a complete nightmare.
It is for this reason that they are the least admirable football team of the 2007 season.Most NFL-Ready Athlete: Darren McFadden
This is the award that he actually deserves.
Two things have happened recently that should convince us that he is ready to be the #1 pick in the draft.
The first, obviously, was his smash-mouth performance against LSU. His 200+ yards and four touchdowns (one of them passing) showed that he is the most uniquely skilled college runningback since Reggie Bush, and that he knows how to step it up for a big game.
The other big breakthrough is the strong performance of Adrian Peterson in Minnesota. At a time when most big-name quarterback draft picks are taking years to develop, Adrian became a game changer out of the gate.
Not only that, but the parallels between the two men are striking: both were the "one man show" on their otherwise lackluster teams, making names for themselves early in their collegiate tenure. Had coaches known what a stud Adrian would become, he might have been the number one pick—the same mistake will not be made with Darren.
Heisman Trophy: Tim Tebow
Let's start this off with something that should be obvious: a player's age does not disqualify them for the Heisman Trophy.
Every single person who supports McFadden or Daniels for Heisman needs to look themselves in the mirror and ask this question: if Tim Tebow were a senior, would there be any doubt that he deserves this trophy?
The real clincher for Tebow is the very fact that he has exceeded all of his lofty expectations. He took over a national champion squad and has lead them to another very strong season. He has done so against quarterbacks far older and more experienced than him. He has played through injury, and dominated both on the ground and through the air.He got the nickname "Superman" as a teenager, and unlike a certain young quarterback at Notre Dame, he has delivered. If there's to be a sophomore who deserves the Heisman Trophy, then it should be the type of leader who plays the game beyond his years. Tim Tebow is that man.
Game of the Year: Kentucky vs. LSU
This is the game that changed it all.
Never mind the excitement, pandemonium, and smoke-covered field. That was all good and well. The fact that we got to see a future NFL star take down the #1 team in the country was of some interest.
But the really significant thing about this game is that it changed everything—literally.
Had LSU won, they would be in the national championship game. They would draw a national audience, probably win, and 2007 would be another season in the books.
But that simply can't happen now.
This year's championship will most likely feature Missouri and West Virginia, a game that nobody would have anticipated in September. It will change the way people view the BCS. Perhaps if there were a playoff, USC and Ohio State would make their way to the big game.
But that won't happen—and all of the debate will stem from the Kentucky-LSU game.
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