Checking Ourselves: College Football's 2009 Regular Season Awards

Tim Bielik@bielik_timSenior Analyst IDecember 14, 2009

PALO ALTO, CA - NOVEMBER 28:  Toby Gerhart #7 of the Stanford Cardinal is tackled by Manti Te'o #5 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Stanford Stadium on November 28, 2009 in Palo Alto, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Saturday's Heisman presentation brings us to the official end of the college football regular season.

And now that it's over, we can look back and evaluate all those preseason predictions that we made. I personally made my own here last August and had my share of hits and misses.

With all that said, here are my 2009 awards for college football:

Most Valuable Player: Toby Gerhart, RB, Stanford

Stanford went from no postseason in the past two seasons with Jim Harbaugh to an 8-4 year and a New Year's Eve bowl date.

The big senior Toby Gerhart is the reason why, racking up 26 TDs while running for 1736 yards and 5.6 yards per carry.

Mark Ingram won the Heisman, and very well earned it too, but no player meant more to his team and their successes than Gerhart with the Cardinal.

Gerhart ended the season with six straight 100-plus yard games and 16 touchdowns, going 4-2 in a critical stretch including wins against USC, Oregon, and Notre Dame.

All this proved Gerhart worthy of the closest runner-up in Heisman history, and MVP-worthy in these eyes.

Breakout Star: LaMichael James, RB, Oregon

The loss of LeGarrette Blount to a season-long suspension opened the doors for the redshirt freshman from Texas to pace the high-flying Ducks to the 2010 Rose Bowl.

James is only 5'9", but his lower-body strength and great speed led him to 1476 yards and 14 touchdowns, with a blistering 6.9 yards per carry average.

It's no coincidence that when the Ducks hit their stride in late September, James was lighting up the field, running for over 100 yards in all but one game, and being the main cog in UO's spread zone read attack.

The young man has been the toast of Eugene, and one of the main reasons why Oregon is heading to Pasadena after the loss at the start of 2009, where everyone thought that they were done...

Coach of the Year: Chip Kelly, Oregon

...which leads me to the reason why Oregon was able to make their dramatic turnaround.

First-year coach Chip Kelly, who brought the high-octane offense to Oregon, turned the lowest low a talented team like Oregon could possibly have into the motivation they needed to play amazing football all season long.

The offense has been as good as ever, and UO's pass defense is very underrated despite a young secondary.

Kelly led the Ducks to a 10-2 record, including 4-1 against top 25 teams, and the program's signature win in a 47-20 blowout over then-ranked USC at home.

The win on national television sent the message that Kelly's Ducks are as plucky as ever, and because of their new leader, are BCS bound for the first time since 2001.

Biggest Surprise Team: Cincinnati Bearcats

The Bearcats were a sweet surprise in winning the Big East last year, and proved in 2009 they were no fluke, running the table with two different QBs and maybe one second away from playing for the national title.

Tony Pike was as consistent as ever, and UC might have found their next starter in young Zach Collaros, who showed his dual-threat ability in front of a national audience.

UC's perfect season even invoked some debate that the 'Cats were better than in-state rival Ohio State.

But with Brian Kelly out of commission for the biggest bowl game in school history, it will be up to star receiver Mardy Gilyard, Pike, and the Bearcats to finish their dream season and prove that they can win without their chief.

Biggest Disappointment Team: Oklahoma Sooners

While USC had a rough season, no doubt losing so many players to the draft and untold amounts of key injuries took their toll on the Trojans.

The same could be said for Oklahoma, although the Big XII as a whole was not very good this season.

Last year, the Sooners set all kinds of offensive records with Sam Bradford and a slew of talented receivers in town.

Losing all their receivers, plus TE Jermaine Gresham and Bradford's shoulder problems were just too much to overcome.

Landry Jones could be a good one at QB, but a bad loss to Texas Tech by 28 was the microcosm of their season: they just could never put it together despite a good OU defense.

(True) Freshman of the Year: Dion Lewis, RB, Pitt

While Alabama's Trent Richardson was no doubt the most electrifying true freshman of 2009, the best of the year hailed from the Steel City in small Dion Lewis.

Lewis, in his first year at Pitt, rushed for 1640 yards, a 5.5 yards per carry average, and 16 touchdowns.

He helped to lead the Panthers to a shot at the Big East title in the final weeks.

They lost their final two games to West Virginia and Cincinnati by a combined four points. But young Lewis, at 5'7", might just be the best young back from Pitt since Tony Dorsett.

He has at least two years to build on what he has done, but no doubt Lewis is off to a great start to his college career.


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