Bleacher Report College Football Awards for 2015 Season

Bleacher Report College Football StaffFeatured ColumnistDecember 7, 2015

Bleacher Report College Football Awards for 2015 Season

0 of 15

    Michigan State DB Jalen Watts-Jackson (center)
    Michigan State DB Jalen Watts-Jackson (center)Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

    Before the Heisman Trophy is awarded in New York City this weekend, we at Bleacher Report want to honor the best of the best in what has been an insane season of college football. It's been the year of the running back renaissance, the dual-threat quarterback takeover, the Group of Five darlings and—most importantly—the year of the mind-blowing final play.

    Twenty-one of our staff members voted on the 2015 B/R College Football Awards: writers Ben Axelrod, Greg Couch, Ed Feng, Justin Ferguson, Bryan Fischer, David Kenyon, Ben Kercheval, Adam Kramer, Brian Leigh, Mike Monaco, Brian Pedersen, David Regimbal, Barrett Sallee, Brad Shepard, Greg Wallace and Christopher Walsh; video experts Michael Felder and Sean McManus; and editors Eric Bowman, Hunter Mandel and Eric Yates.

    This year, the ballots were open-ended for each of the 15 categories, with the top vote-getters in each taking home the award. Click through the following slides for this year's winners, runners-up and analysis of the selections by our team.

    Tell us how you would've voted for this year's awards in the comments section below.

Coach of the Year

1 of 15

    Iowa HC Kirk Ferentz
    Iowa HC Kirk FerentzMichael Hickey/Getty Images

    Winner: Iowa HC Kirk Ferentz (six votes)

    The driving force behind the most unlikely playoff push in this wild college football season, Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz led his Hawkeyes to a 12-0 regular-season campaign and a Big Ten West title.

    Expectations weren't exactly sky-high in Iowa City for Ferentz and the Hawkeyes heading into the 2015 season, but the head coach tweaked different areas of how he ran his team in several different ways—and the results were incredible.

    "Last year, Kirk Ferentz's Iowa tenure looked stale after a soft, home-loaded schedule produced a 7-6 record," Bleacher Report's Greg Wallace wrote. "But Ferentz made small changes to his program that paid off in a big way with an undefeated regular season. Suddenly, 'New Kirk' looks like a genius to Iowa fans again."

    After falling just short of a Big Ten title in a classic thriller with Michigan State, Ferentz and Iowa are headed to "the granddaddy of them all"—the Rose Bowl—for the first time in 25 years.

    Runner-up: Clemson HC Dabo Swinney (four votes)

    Dabo Swinney had already turned Clemson into a consistent, double-digit game-winner. But this season, Swinney pushed the Tigers even further in a season that featured an undefeated record, an ACC Championship, a rant about "Clemsoning" and a pizza party in Death Valley.

    "Dabo and Clemson were a coach and team that couldn't get over the hump," Bleacher Report's Brian Leigh wrote. "All of that changed this season, when Clemson cleared the hump and finished as the only undefeated team in college football. And they did it after losing offensive coordinator Chad Morris to SMU."

    Also Receiving Votes

    Florida HC Jim McElwain

    Houston HC Tom Herman

    Notre Dame HC Brian Kelly

    Michigan HC Jim Harbaugh

    North Carolina HC Larry Fedora

    Oklahoma HC Bob Stoops

    TCU HC Gary Patterson

Assistant of the Year

2 of 15

    North Carolina DC Gene Chizik
    North Carolina DC Gene ChizikGrant Halverson/Getty Images

    Winner: North Carolina DC Gene Chizik (seven votes)

    Three years after his firing from Auburn, Gene Chizik returned to coaching this year and was tasked with rebuilding North Carolina's abysmal defense as a first-year coordinator.

    Chizik did that, and then some, playing a huge role in the Tar Heels' run to an 11-1 regular-season record and a berth in the ACC Championship Game. UNC held nine different opponents to fewer than 30 points and allowed a regular-season-high 34 points once. In 2014, UNC allowed 39 points per game.

    "In a single season, Gene Chizik changed North Carolina football," Bleacher Report national college football lead writer Adam Kramer wrote. "Taking over a unit that was historically bad in 2014, Chizik took over the nation's No. 120-ranked defense in 2014 and instantly transformed the unit.

    "The strides, considering where they were, are remarkable."

    Runner-up: Alabama DC Kirby Smart (four votes)

    Elite defense has been a constant in the last several years at Alabama, but the Crimson Tide improved in Kirby Smart's final season as defensive coordinator for Nick Saban. Alabama currently ranks No. 1 nationally in yards allowed per game and No. 3 in points per game heading into bowl season.

    Smart's work as defensive coordinator earned him the first head coaching job of his career, and it's a huge one: He'll take over at alma mater Georgia following Alabama's postseason run. 

    Also Receiving Votes

    Clemson DC Brent Venables

    Oklahoma OC Lincoln Riley

    Oklahoma DC Mike Stoops

    Georgia DC Jeremy Pruitt

    Iowa OC Greg Davis

    Iowa DC Phil Parker

    Michigan DC D.J. Durkin

    Washington DC Pete Kwiatkowski

Offensive Player of the Year: Alabama RB Derrick Henry

3 of 15

    Alabama RB Derrick Henry
    Alabama RB Derrick HenryTroy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

    Winner: Alabama RB Derrick Henry (nine votes)

    There was a time this year when a certain SEC West running back seemed to be running away with the Heisman Trophy race. But Alabama running back Derrick Henry took those reins with both hands in the second half of the season, and he'll also take B/R's award for top offensive player.

    Henry leads the country with 23 rushing touchdowns this season—and the next closest players only have 19. In addition to his ridiculous scoring streak, Henry has an SEC-record 1,986 rushing yards and has been a nearly unstoppable force for a national title contender.

    "While Deshaun Watson has been awesome, Derrick Henry has picked up his team, put it on his back and carried it to the playoffs," Bleacher Report lead SEC writer Barrett Sallee wrote. "He has been playing behind an offensive line that has struggled at times, with a quarterback who was a complete uncertainty even into the season and a wide receiving corps that was very raw.

    "Despite that, Henry has allowed Alabama to stay in its conservative comfort zone in virtually every game, which is the biggest reason it is playing in a national semifinal."

    Runner-up: Clemson QB Deshaun Watson (five votes)

    The offensive leader of undefeated Clemson has been responsible for 41 all-purpose touchdowns so far this season and boasts top-11 national marks in both pass efficiency and completion percentage. He saved some of his best football for a crucial late-season stretch, too, rushing for more than 100 yards in four of his final five regular-season games.

    "Deshaun Watson showed flashes of what he was capable of last season, but injuries robbed us of seeing his full potential," Bleacher Report's Brian Pedersen wrote. "That's not been the case this year, as the sophomore has seemingly gotten better each and every week, and once he started running the ball more, he became basically unstoppable."

    Others Receiving Votes

    Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield

    Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey

    TCU QB Trevone Boykin

Defensive Player of the Year: Ohio State DE Joey Bosa

4 of 15

    Ohio State DE Joey Bosa
    Ohio State DE Joey BosaJay LaPrete/Associated Press

    Winner: Ohio State DE Joey Bosa (six votes)

    Joey Bosa had high expectations coming into the 2015 season after finishing in the top five nationally in both sacks and tackles for loss with national champion Ohio State. He didn't have the same amount of success in statistics this year, but that didn't mean he lost his ability to completely change games.

    "Many will look at Bosa's sack numbers and instantly think he had a down year (or was overrated to begin with)," Bleacher Report lead college football writer Ben Kercheval wrote. "However, he was still among the Big Ten's best edge-rushers in tackles for loss (16) and quarterback hurries (14)."

    Slowing down Bosa was the No. 1 priority for every offensive line he faced this season, and the Ohio State star still found a way to get to the quarterback time and time again.  

    "All the while he was routinely double-teamed (and, in some cases, held)," Kercheval continued. "To command that kind of attention, with production to boot, is every bit as valuable as having video game-like sack numbers. Put simply, Bosa is a mismatch." 

    Runner-up: Penn State DE Carl Nassib (four votes)

    Video game-like numbers could still be found in the Big Ten this season, though, as Penn State senior Carl Nassib went on a ridiculous tear for the Nittany Lions. Nassib led the nation in sacks with 15.5 and was part of a five-way tie for second place in tackles for loss. He also forced the most fumbles of any player in college football this season.

    "A former walk-on, Nassib has been a monster on the field this season, dominating the line of scrimmage with near ease," Bleacher Report college football editor Eric Bowman wrote.

    Others Receiving Votes

    Alabama LB Reggie Ragland

    Clemson DE Shaq Lawson

    Iowa CB Desmond King

    Missouri LB Kentrell Brothers

    Notre Dame LB Jaylon Smith

    Oklahoma State DE Emmanuel Ogbah

Freshman of the Year

5 of 15

    UCLA QB Josh Rosen
    UCLA QB Josh RosenRuss Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

    Winner: UCLA QB Josh Rosen (six votes)

    Replacing a consistent star such as former UCLA starting quarterback Brett Hundley is hard. Doing it fresh out of high school is even harder.

    But that's exactly what quarterback Josh Rosen did this season for the Bruins. The former 5-star recruit, according to 247Sports' composite rankings, made an incredible transition to life in college, showcasing the awareness and the arm in the pocket of a much more experienced passer.

    "The ceiling on him is as high as we've had on a freshman in a long time," Kramer wrote. "I really like his leadership; he's not afraid to call plays. He has a wonderful grasp of what they want to do."

    Rosen went six straight games without throwing an interception during the regular season and averaged 279.2 passing yards per contest. He commanded national attention from the first start of his career and will continue to be a star in the coming years in Los Angeles.

    Runner-up: Florida State S Derwin James (four votes)

    Like Rosen, Derwin James took full advantage of early enrollment at his new school, and the extra spring ball helped him command a starting role in a talented Florida State secondary. The true freshman was a relentless playmaker all over the field, finishing the regular season second on his team in tackles, tackles for loss, sacks and forced fumbles.

    "It's no surprise that James had some sort of impact in his first season with the Seminoles, but I didn't even expect this much right off the bat," Bleacher Report's Justin Ferguson wrote. "His size, speed and instincts were incredible to see for someone right out of high school, and he played like he had been starting in FSU's secondary for years." 

    Also Receiving Votes

    Texas A&M WR Christian Kirk

    Alabama WR Calvin Ridley

    Baylor QB Jarrett Stidham

    Clemson OT Mitch Hyatt

    Iowa State RB Mike Warren

    MTSU QB Brent Stockstill

    Penn State RB Saquon Barkley

Senior of the Year

6 of 15

    TCU QB Trevone Boykin
    TCU QB Trevone BoykinTony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Winner: TCU QB Trevone Boykin (six votes)

    Things didn't come so easy for TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin in his senior campaign. After his incredible breakout season in 2014, Boykin had to take on an even bigger weight of responsibility for the Horned Frogs as injuries ravaged his teammates on defense.

    But TCU was able to stay in the national championship hunt for as long as it did thanks in large part to Boykin, who overcame a rough game against Oklahoma State and an injury of his own to post top-10 marks nationally in passing touchdowns, yards per game, quarterback rating and yards per attempt.

    "Someone said you might as well wait and pick the Heisman based on whoever wins the national championship," TCU head coach Gary Patterson said, per Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News. "It doesn't seem like the best player anymore. To me, I don't think he should be forgotten. He's done some unbelievable things for this university, this team and college football."

    After leading TCU to a rain-soaked overtime win over Baylor, he'll get a chance to finish his outstanding college football career in his home state with an Alamo Bowl showdown against high-scoring Oregon. 

    Runner-up: Navy QB Keenan Reynolds (four votes)

    Keenan Reynolds has two more games left in his time as the starting quarterback for the Navy Midshipmen. And no matter what happens in those final contests, he'll go down in history as an all-time record-breaker.

    The senior quarterback, who took over as Navy's starting quarterback during his true freshman campaign, broke former Wisconsin running back Montee Ball's record for most rushing touchdowns in a career earlier this season. He has 83 scores on the ground and counting, as he has mastered the art of running the triple-option during his time in Annapolis.

    Also Receiving Votes

    Michigan State QB Connor Cook

    Penn State DE Carl Nassib

    Alabama LB Reggie Ragland

    Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott

    Missouri LB Kentrell Brothers

    Oregon DE DeForest Buckner

Transfer of the Year

7 of 15

    Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield
    Oklahoma QB Baker MayfieldSue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    Winner: Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield (nine votes)

    Last year, Baker Mayfield spent his first season in Oklahoma on the scout team, watching the Sooners finish with a disappointing 8-5 record.

    This year, the former Texas Tech quarterback exploded onto the national scene, racking up big plays and even bigger wins to lead Oklahoma to an outright Big 12 title and a College Football Playoff berth. The gunslinger is responsible for 42 overall touchdowns and just five interceptions this season, ranking second nationally in pass efficiency.

    "There’s something special about him. He has that tenacity, toughness, competitiveness and talent. A bunch of coaches missed the talent," Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops told Bleacher Report's Bryan Fischer last month. "He just finds a way, and that gets back to his competitiveness. Call him a gym rat, a baller, or whatever—he’s out there making plays."

    Mayfield's outstanding play in first-year offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley's system has made Oklahoma a popular pick to win the national championship. And to think he started his college career as a walk-on.

    Runner-up: Oregon QB Vernon Adams Jr. (five votes)

    The only quarterback in college football with a better pass efficiency rating than Mayfield this season is Vernon Adams Jr., another transfer who had an amazing season with his new program.

    The former FCS star went down to the wire in his transfer from Eastern Washington to Oregon, and he arrived in Eugene with little time for preparation. That didn't matter. When fully healthy this season, Adams was the perfect catalyst in Oregon's uptempo offense, helping the Ducks overcome a slow start to finish 9-3 on the season.

    Also Receiving Votes

    Indiana RB Jordan Howard

    Alabama QB Jake Coker

    Michigan QB Jake Rudock

Most Exciting Player to Watch

8 of 15

    Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey
    Stanford RB Christian McCaffreyKelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

    Winner: Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey (six votes)

    Whenever Stanford had the ball on offense or was about to get the ball back on offense, it became must-see TV. That may be hard to believe for those who watched the Cardinal's attack last season, but this year was completely different thanks to the play of running back Christian McCaffrey.

    The sophomore was the definition of "do-it-all," piling up tremendous numbers rushing, receiving, returning and—yes—even passing the ball for the Pac-12 champions. In Stanford's conference title game victory over USC, McCaffrey broke Barry Sanders' all-time record for most all-purpose yards in a single season—in style.

    "While the former Oklahoma State tailback accomplished the feat in two fewer games, McCaffrey did it in fewer touches," Bleacher Report's Bryan Fischer wrote. "All told, the Stanford star finished 2015 with 3,496 all-purpose yards—a number that does not include a forthcoming trip to the Rose Bowl but is still 1,000 yards more than any other player in FBS."

    McCaffrey had the ability to turn any play for Stanford into a big one, whether he was on offense or special teams. The Cardinal tried to find as many ways to get the ball in his hands as they could, and it was easy to see why.

    Runner-up: LSU RB Leonard Fournette (five votes)

    For most of the 2015 season, LSU running back Leonard Fournette had the college football world in the palm of his hand. He ran for more than 200 yards and multiple touchdowns in three of his first four games of the season, leaving a trail of highlight-reel devastation behind him.

    Although his last four games didn't meet the dizzying heights of his first seven, this star running back was someone you couldn't take your eyes off of this fall. If he took the handoff, something incredible was bound to happen next. 

    Others Receiving Votes

    Florida State RB Dalvin Cook

    Clemson QB Deshaun Watson

    Baylor WR Corey Coleman

    Maryland DB/KR/PR Will Likely

    Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield

    Texas Tech WR Jakeem Grant

Group of Five Player of the Year

9 of 15

    Houston QB Greg Ward Jr.
    Houston QB Greg Ward Jr.Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

    Winner: Houston QB Greg Ward Jr. (nine votes)

    The centerpiece of first-year head coach Tom Herman's offensive scheme at Houston, Greg Ward Jr. was a dual-threat machine for the Cougars in their run to the AAC title and a berth in the Peach Bowl.

    Ward was responsible for 35 touchdowns—15 passing, 19 rushing—and averaged a stunning 7.53 yards per offensive play this season for Houston. A late-season injury seemed to be the only thing that could slow down this Cougar, who finished No. 10 nationally in the regular season for completion percentage.

    "Greg Ward looked pretty good last season after he was moved from wide receiver to quarterback, but once Tom Herman got a hold of him, he became a superstar," Bleacher Report's Brian Pedersen wrote. "He's better than most dual-threat passers because he has the mentality of a player that knows what to do in space but also understands the importance of getting others involved with his arm. 

    "Had he been fully healthy against Connecticut, the Cougars would have gone unbeaten."

    Runner-up: Navy QB Keenan Reynolds (six votes)

    The record-breaking touchdown numbers speak for themselves in the case for Keenan Reynolds. The option-running quarterback rushed for more than 100 yards six times in his first 11 games of the season and scored multiple times in five different contests.

    He's also on pace for one of his best seasons as a passer, tossing six touchdowns and just one interception with an average of 11.5 yards per attempt. Reynolds kept Navy in the hunt for a conference title and a New Year's Six bowl berth all the way until the final weekend of November.

    Others Receiving Votes

    Memphis QB Paxton Lynch

    Bowling Green QB Matt Johnson

    Bowling Green WR Roger Lewis

    Temple LB Tyler Matakevich

Best Single-Game Performance

10 of 15

    TCU WR Josh Doctson (left)
    TCU WR Josh Doctson (left)LM Otero/Associated Press

    Winner: TCU WR Josh Doctson vs. Texas Tech (five votes)

    TCU wide receiver Josh Doctson went on a tremendous tear in the middle of the 2015 season, recording at least 125 yards and multiple touchdowns in six straight games. 

    The second game of that incredible run was by far his best and this year's leading vote-getter for single-game performance of the year—18 catches for 267 yards and three touchdowns in a 55-52 thriller vs. Texas Tech.

    Those 18 receptions tied an all-time Big 12 record, and several of them were downright ridiculous in difficulty. His first-half stats alone would've made for one of the best receiving games of the entire season.

    It seemed like the only thing Doctson couldn't catch all day was a too-high pass from Trevone Boykin on a game-winning fourth-down play. Running back Aaron Green had Doctson's back, though, making a sliding grab to give the Horned Frogs a dramatic victory over an in-state rival.

    Runner-up: LSU RB Leonard Fournette vs. Auburn (four votes)

    Finishing just behind Doctson's huge receiving day was the game that cemented Leonard Fournette as the early-season frontrunner. LSU only gave him the ball 19 times—which tied a season-low—but he put up some freakish numbers, rushing for 228 yards and three touchdowns.

    The way in which he churned out an even 12 yards per carry was even more impressive, as he obliterated the Auburn defense with an array of stiff-arms, jukes and this unreal shoulder toss of a Tigers defensive back. He was a man among boys that day in Death Valley.

    Also Receiving Votes

    Alabama RB Derrick Henry vs. LSU

    Alabama RB Derrick Henry vs. Auburn

    Baylor WR Corey Coleman vs. Kansas State

    Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey vs. Cal

    Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey vs. UCLA

    Washington State QB Luke Falk vs. Oregon

Game of the Year

11 of 15

    Winner: Michigan State 27, Michigan 23 (nine votes)

    In a season filled with wild finishes, it should come as no surprise that one of the most unbelievable endings in college football history takes the cake as Game of the Year.

    With 10 seconds remaining in what had already been an excellent back-and-forth game, Michigan held a two-point lead near midfield against in-state rival Michigan State. The Wolverines needed to snap the ball one more time, and they elected to punt the ball away to kill off the clock.

    That didn't exactly happen. A fumbled snap led to the ball bouncing free in the middle of several Spartans, and Jalen Watts-Jackson picked it up. He returned the remaining 38 yards to the end zone as time expired to give the Spartans a jaw-dropping 27-23 victory inside the Big House.

    Without this stunning final play, Michigan State most likely would have missed out on a Big Ten title and a berth in this year's College Football Playoff. The biggest game of that weekend resulted in one of the most memorable finishes in college football history—one that will be talked about for a long, long time.

    Runner-up: Stanford 38, Notre Dame 36 (six votes)

    On rivalry weekend, Stanford and Notre Dame both needed victories to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. The two sides traded haymakers for most of the game, and the visiting Irish seemed to have the final blow when DeShone Kizer scored with 30 seconds remaining.

    But, trailing by one, Stanford moved down the field in a short amount of time, setting up a walk-off 45-yard field goal by Conrad Ukropina. From national championship implications to the rivalry aspect to the epic fourth quarter, this one had it all.  

    Others Receiving Votes

    Clemson 24, Notre Dame 22

    Michigan State 17, Ohio State 14

    Oklahoma State 70, Texas Tech 53

    Texas Tech 48, Texas 45

Biggest Upset

12 of 15

    Texas HC Charlie Strong
    Texas HC Charlie StrongLM Otero/Associated Press

    Winner: Texas 24, Oklahoma 17 (seven votes)

    While it didn't sink Oklahoma's national championship hopes, this year's clash between the Longhorns and the Sooners gave fans the ultimate surprise in a series already known for surprising outcomes.

    Texas' struggling offense punched Oklahoma in the mouth from the opening snap, rushing for 313 yards against a Sooners team that was supposed to have an advantage in the trenches. Oklahoma couldn't get anything going on the ground and was held to less than 300 yards for the first and only time all year.

    "Texas played its best game of the season and Oklahoma played its worst," Bowman wrote. "A rivalry game is never a good time to overlook an opponent."

    Texas had its fair share of struggles and frustrations this season, but the Longhorns will be able to point back to a huge win over their biggest rivals and the image of embattled head coach Charlie Strong wearing the Golden Hat at the Cotton Bowl.

    Runner-up: South Carolina 17, North Carolina 13 (five votes)

    At the time, South Carolina's narrow opening-night win over North Carolina in Charlotte wasn't a complete stunner. Then the two teams played the rest of the season, causing the college football world to look back on that first Thursday night in confusion.

    "Every year, there's a game that, in retrospect, looks like a total head-scratcher," Wallace wrote. "The Tar Heels weren't held under 26 points the rest of the season and finished the regular season 11-1. The Gamecocks went 3-9 and Steve Spurrier bailed midseason."

    Also Receiving Votes

    Georgia Tech 22, Florida State 16

    Portland State 24, Washington State 17

    Toledo 16, Arkansas 12

Best Moment of the Year

13 of 15

    LSU RB Leonard Fournette (center)
    LSU RB Leonard Fournette (center)Jonathan Bachman/Associated Press

    Winner: LSU RB Leonard Fournette auctions jersey for South Carolina flood victims (five votes)

    When heavy flooding in South Carolina forced the Gamecocks to play their home game against LSU inside Baton Rouge's Tiger Stadium, LSU running back Leonard Fournette gave college football one of its most heartfelt moments of 2015.

    Fournette auctioned off his jersey from the LSU-South Carolina game, along with two autographed helmets, to raise money for victims of the flooding back in the Palmetto State.

    "Having been through a similar situation with my family during Hurricane Katrina when I was 10 years old, this is something that I wanted to do to help those in need," Fournette said in a statement earlier this year, per Josh Kendall of the State. "The generosity of people helped my family make it through Hurricane Katrina. I'm hopeful that the money raised with this auction can make a difference for those flood victims in South Carolina."

    In the end, Fournette helped raise more awareness and money for the relief in South Carolina, as the winner of the auction put up an incredible $101,000 for the jersey and the helmets.

    Runner-up: Virginia Tech HC Frank Beamer's celebration after win over Virginia (three votes)

    In today's highly competitive college football landscape, few coaches get to go out on top. But legendary Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer was able to do that, with his Hokies knocking off in-state rival Virginia to qualify for bowl eligibility.

    Beamer, who showed off some great dance moves in the locker room after the game, will now get to end his career at the Independence Bowl later this month—the same place where he started the program's current 23-year streak of bowl games.

    Others Receiving Votes

    Les Miles and LSU's celebration after defeating Texas A&M

    "What a time to be alive" call on final play of Florida State vs. Georgia Tech

    Michigan honors Lloyd Carr's grandson

    Michigan State K Michael Geiger's celebration vs. Ohio State

    Missouri players' protest

    Ole Miss upsets Alabama for second straight season

    Southern WR Devon Gales' return to Georgia's Sanford Stadium after spine injury

Catch of the Year

14 of 15

    Winner: Stanford WR Francis Owusu vs. UCLA (19 votes)

    As you can tell, this year's voting led to a wide range of candidates for almost every category. Catch of the Year, though, was almost an unanimous vote to Stanford's Francis Owusu.

    "There is no doubt," Kramer said. "This is the catch of the year, hands down."

    Owusu caught a long touchdown bomb from quarterback Kevin Hogan against UCLA in unbelievable fashion. The Stanford receiver reached around a Bruin defender who was tightly covering him and pinned the ball to his back, landing in the end zone for the touchdown.

    He somehow got in position to stick his arms out at the right time, corral the ball without an inch of room from the flagged UCLA defender and control the ball all the way down to the ground. The improbability of the grab was out of the world, and he still made it happen.

    Runners-up: Michigan State WR Aaron Burbridge vs. Air Force and Mississippi State WR Fred Ross vs. Arkansas (one vote each)

    Of course, Owusu wasn't the only one to make a jaw-dropping catch this season, as Aaron Burbridge and Fred Ross made big enough impressions to sway a voter each on the B/R CFB team.

    Burbridge went airborne just outside the goal line against Air Force and somehow found a way to wrap his foot around the pylon for a ridiculous diving touchdown. Ross made a remarkable one-handed, over-the-head catch in open field and then ran the ball the rest of the way for a 55-yard touchdown.

Craziest Play of the Year

15 of 15

    Winner: Miami's controversial kick return TD vs. Duke (nine votes)

    It wasn't even a legal play, but if you want to define "crazy" in college football this season, the game-winning eight-lateral touchdown return from Miami against Duke is the perfect example.

    Down 27-24 to the Blue Devils, the Hurricanes kept throwing the ball up for grabs on a kick return as the clock hit zeroes. Somehow, Miami never went down, and Corn Elder raced into the end zone for the victory—one surprisingly confirmed after not one, but two replay reviews.

    "Complain about the refs if you want," Leigh wrote. "They flagged Miami for 23 penalties that night, so I'm disinclined to sympathize. The Hurricanes pulled a miracle on par with the greatest in college football history. You'll see this play running alongside THE BAND IS ON THE FIELD for the rest of time."

    Of course, the ACC later ruled that the officials blew several calls on the bizarre play and suspended the crew for two games. But the Miami win—and the legendary play—still stands.

    Runner-up: Michigan State's fumbled punt return for TD vs. Michigan (eight votes)

    There were no rule violations in the ending to the Michigan State-Michigan game, though, and Jalen Watts-Jackson's touchdown in our Game of the Year winner almost took home two awards this year.

    "We've seen games end on a lot of special-teams mayhem in the last few years, but a fumbled punt when the other team was seconds away from winning?" Ferguson wrote. "The Big Ten title race changed in an instant with this play, and it was beyond anything I've ever seen in a football game. I still shake my head when watching replays."

    Also Receiving Votes

    Arkansas' fourth-down lateral and conversion in OT vs. Ole Miss

    Georgia Tech's blocked field goal return for TD vs. Florida State