College Football 2011: Predicting the Major Award Winners

William PenfieldCorrespondent IIDecember 7, 2011

College Football 2011: Predicting the Major Award Winners

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    With the conclusion of the regular season this past Saturday, there is only one thing left to hold you over until the bowl games begin—awards.

    College football has two major awards ceremonies, the ESPN College Football Awards Show and The Heisman Trophy Presentation. 

    The ESPN College Football Awards Show will air Dec. 8 at 9:00 p.m. on ESPN, and the Heisman Trophy Presentation will air on ESPN Dec. 10.

    Fourteen different trophies will be given out on those two nights. Here are my predictions for all 14 of them. 

Ray Guy Award: Steven Clark, Auburn

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    Probably one of the least exciting awards given out, the Ray Guy Award is given to the nation's best punter, and this year that man is Steven Clark of Auburn.

    Clark is averaging 40.4 yards per punt with 30 inside the 20-yard line. Only eight of his punts have been returned all season for just 41 yards.

    Other finalists: Ryan Allen, Louisiana Tech; Jackson Rice, Oregon

Lou Groza Award: Caleb Sturgis, Florida

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    The Lou Groza Award is probably the only positive thing to come out of Gainsville this season, as the Gators had a disappointing season with a record of 6-6.

    Caleb Sturgis had a solid season for the Gators, going 21-for-25 on field goals and 28-for-28 on extra points. He also hit three 50-plus-yard field goals.

    Randy Bullock of Texas A&M had a slightly better season, kicking more field goals than Sturgis, but he missed two extra points, which swayed my vote in Sturgis' favor.

    Other finalists: Randy Bullock, Texas A&M; Dustin Hopkins, Florida State

John Mackey Award: Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame

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    Tyler Eifert has been one of the best receivers on the 2011 Notre Dame Irish. He racked up about 200 more yards than the other two finalists. 

    He caught 57 balls for 713 yards and five touchdowns. With Michael Floyd stretching the field on the outside, Eifert was able to be a safety blanket for whatever QB the Irish had in at the time. 

    Other finalists: Dwayne Allen, Clemson; Orson Charles, Georgia. 

Lombardi Trophy: Luke Kuechly, Boston College

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    Not a lot went right for Boston College in 2011, but Luke Kuechly was an absolute beast for the Eagles.

    He racked up 191 total tackles with three interceptions and a touchdown that helped the Eagles beat the Miami Hurricanes. He had double-digit tackles in all but one game in 2011. 

    The competition for the award is tough, but Kuechly's impressive tackle total makes him stand out. 

    Other finalists: Dont'a Hightower, Alabama; Jonathan Martin, Stanford; Courtney Upshaw, Alabama

Jim Thorpe Award: Morris Claiborne, LSU

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    Morris Claiborne has been a shutdown corner all season long for the LSU Tigers. Along with Tyrann Mathieu, the two make up the best secondary in college football.

    Claiborne picked off six passes, including an 89-yard interception for a touchdown. He will likely be the first defensive back taken off the board in the NFL draft and will likely walk away with the Jim Thorpe Award on Thursday night.

    Other finalists: Mark Barron, Alabama; David Amerson, NC State

Biletnikoff Award: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State

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    Justin Blackmon won this award last year, and he will win it again this year. 

    Blackmon has been an absolute beast this season on one of the nation's top offenses. In 12 games, he caught 113 passes for 1,336 yards and 15 touchdowns, not as good as his season last year (1,782 yards, 20 TDs) but still very impressive.

    Other finalists: Robert Woods, USC; Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma 

Chuck Bednarik Award: Tyrann "Honey Badger" Mathieu, LSU

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    Honey Badger does what he wants and on Thursday night, he will be taking home some hardware.

    Probably the most dynamic defensive player in the nation, Tyrann Mathieu should win the Chuck Bednarik Award.

    He totaled 71 tackles, 1.5 sacks, five forced fumbles and two interceptions, and he plays on the No. 1 team in the country.

    Add in what this guy can do on punt returns and he is a real game changer.

    Other finalists: Dont'a Hightower, Alabama; Devon Still, Penn State

Bronco Nagurski Trophy: Morris Claiborne, LSU

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    With the pizazz of the Honey Badger, Mo Claiborne has been overlooked for much of the season when he is the better cornerback. 

    Claiborne totaled 46 tackles on the year for LSU to go along with six interceptions. On those six interceptions, he totaled 173 return yards, including an 89-yard pick-six. 

    There is some tough competition for this award, but Claiborne is the best defensive player, on the nation's best team, that has one of the best defenses, and that separates him from the pack. 

    Other finalists: Mark Barron, Alabama; Luke Kuechly, Boston College; Whitney Mercilus, Illinois; Devon Still, Penn State

Outland Trophy: Devon Still, Penn State

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    Amidst all that was going on at Penn State, there was actually some good football being played. 

    Devon Still, probably the best of all the Nittany Lions, will likely walk away with the Outland Trophy.

    He totaled 49 tackles, 14 of which were for a loss, and had four-and-a-half sacks for the Nittany Lions in 2011. 

    Still was a force in between the tackles on defense and will likely be a high pick in the NFL draft in April. 

    Other finalists: David DeCastro, Stanford; Barrett Jones, Alabama

Doak Walker Award: Montee Ball, Wisconsin

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    The argument could be made that Trent Richardson had to play against tougher competition, but what Montee Ball has done this season is truly special, no matter what type of competition he went up against.

    Ball had 38 total touchdowns. Yes, 38. Thirty-two on the ground and six receiving. He totaled 1,759 rushing yards on 275 attempts and 255 receiving yards on 20 catches. 

    Richardson is probably the better player, but Ball had the most impressive season by a running back in 2011. 

    Other finalists: Trent Richardson, Alabama; LaMichael James, Oregon

Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award: Robert Griffin III, Baylor

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    Andrew Luck is the best pro prospect out of the three finalists, but RG3 definitely had the most impressive season.

    Sure, Case Keenum put up monster numbers, but against what type of competition? 

    Griffin III fell just two yards short of passing for 4,000 yards. He also had 36 touchdowns and just six interceptions. Perhaps his most impressive stat is his 72.4 percent completion percentage. He also rushed for 644 yards and nine touchdowns. 

    Other finalists: Andrew Luck, Stanford; Case Keenum, Houston

Maxwell Award: Andrew Luck, Stanford

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    The Maxwell Award, the big daddy of them all, is given to the best college football player in the nation. 

    This year that man will be Andrew Luck of Stanford. Luck was pegged as the best player in college football this season before a game was even played. For much of the season, he was the Heisman favorite, but he may have to settle for the Maxwell Award with the emergence of Robert Griffin III.

    Luck passed for 3,170 yards with 35 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He also added 143 on the ground with two touchdowns. 

    Other finalists: Kellen Moore, Boise State; Trent Richardson, Alabama

Heisman Trophy: Robert Griffin III, Baylor

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    For much of the 2011 college football season, the Heisman Trophy winner was supposed to be Andrew Luck, but after Stanford's loss to Oregon, the race reopened.

    Enter Robert Griffin III.

    In the three games after the Stanford loss, RG3 led his team to three victories, including wins over Oklahoma and Texas, with 905 yards through the air, 166 yards on the ground and 11 total touchdowns.

    His play over the final stretch of play in the 2011 season likely clinched the Heisman Trophy for the junior quarterback of Baylor University.

    Other finalists: Trent Richardson, Alabama; Andrew Luck, Stanford; Montee Ball, Wisconsin; Tyrann Mathieu, LSU.