Friday, December 12, 2008

The Cynic's Guide to College Football: Hardware

"On the first day of Heisman, my true love gave to me a Bronco Na-gur-ski."

The chill in the air. The festive lights decorating everything. The (hopefully) background checked guys with small children lined up to sit on their lap. Ah, it's the most wonderful time of the year--awards season!

Several of the big awards have already been given out, including the Wuerffel Trophy which, much to my surprise, is not an award for "Player Most Likely to Not Succeed in the NFL But Still Be the Subject of a Peter King Mancrush."

I swear I didn't photoshop this. This is the actual trophy that will sit next to the Heisman in Tim Tebow's trophy case.

So on this festive Heisman Eve, I give you the Cynic's Awards for 2008.

Most Outstanding Player
Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma

Bradford's kinda creepy--he almost makes it look too easy. He's as smooth and cool as any QB you will ever find. I've ever seen anyone--at any level--who throws a prettier deep ball. It's almost like he's not human, like he was sent back through time to destroy NCAA passing records or something.

Your 2029 Heisman Trophy Winner

Honorable mention: Tim Tebow (QB, Florida); Rey Maualuga (LB, USC)

Most Valuable Player
Colt McCoy, QB, Texas

It's hard to overlook what McCoy meant to Texas. Not only did he put up excellent passing numbers (3445 yards, 32 TDs, 7 INTs), but he was also the Longhorns leading rusher (576 yards and 10 TDs). Other QBs may have put up stronger numbers, but no player in college football meant more to his team this year than McCoy. Without Colt McCoy at the helm, Texas is a five loss team headed down the road to the Alamo Bowl instead of the BCS.

McCoy might not win the Heisman. But being Colt McCoy still doesn't suck.

(Photo courtesy of--and more shots of Colt's girl available at--Double Extra Point)

Honorable Mention: Shonn Greene (RB, Iowa); Daryll Clark (QB, Penn State)

Freshman of the Year
Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Oregon State

Let's face it: without Rodgers, Oregon State wouldn't have even made a blip on the radar screen this year and the Pac-10 would have been even more boring than usual, as USC ran away with the division by three games. Rodgers not only made watching the Pac-10 bearable, he almost singlehandedly (186 yards and 2 TDs) kept the Trojans out of the BCS title game.

(Random side note: am I the only one who finds it interesting the Rodgers parents named one boy James and one boy Jacquizz? One gets a normal-sounding red-blooded name. The other gets a name that sounds like a new energy drink or a bad euphemism for some kind of bodily fluid.)

Look out Red Bull, here comes Jacquizz!

Honorable Mention: Robert Griffin (QB, Baylor); Julio Jones (WR, Alabama); Terrelle Pryor (QB, Ohio State)

Coach of the Year
Tie: Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech and Turner Gill, Buffalo

I know a tie is a cop out, but I really couldn't come up with an objective way to decide between these two.

I'll admit it--I had my doubts about whether triple option football a la service academy could work at the BCS level. And I really, really doubted it could work for Johnson in year one when he was using players who'd been recruited to run a very different offense. So I give Johnson all the credit in the world for taking Georgia Tech to a 9-3 mark this season. How successful was Johnson's option attack? The Yellow Jackets beat archrival Georgia 45-42 after putting up 409 rushing yards, but completing just one pass!

As for Gill, all he did was lead Buffalo to their best season since going I-A and their first MAC championship. Honestly, how many of you thought you'd live long enough to see the words "Buffalo" and "championship" in the same sentence without the words "Bills will never win a" coming in between? If you can win at Buffalo, you can win anywhere and, if not this year, then very soon Gill will have his pick of much, much higher profile jobs.

Buffalo and championship? Believe it.

Honorable Mention: Nick Saban, Alabama

Rookie of the Year
Bo Pelini, Nebraska

There were 18 coaches in I-A this year who were new at their school. Of those, nine were first-time head coaches and Pelini by far led the biggest turnaround. Pelini took a team that was 5-7 a year ago, was completely downtrodden and had arguably the worst defense in Cornhusker history and made them a contender. Aside from blowout losses to Missouri and Oklahoma, Nebraska was competitive in every game, winning eight and falling in the last minute against #19 Virginia Tech and in OT at #7 Texas Tech.

Short version: if prior to the season, I'd said that the Cornhuskers would go 8-4, would be co-champs in the Big 12 North, would play hard every week and would be in a New Year's Day bowl game, Husker fans would have lined up to sign in blood. Pelini still has some work to do to get the Cornhuskers back to the national title contender level, but 2008 saw some very big steps in the right direction.

You're #$%^&$% right I'm Rookie of the %^&*%^& Year!

Honorable Mention: Jerry Kill (N. Illinois); Steve Fairchild (Colorado State)

Best Story
Matt Williams, K, Texas Tech

You know the story--you've seen it at least a half-dozen Disney sports movies over the years. Kid is picked in contest to kick field goal at halftime. He makes it and then gets a note that the football coach wants to see him. Coach asks him to walk on to the team. Kid ends up being the starting placekicker. Sure, the story's not original. But it's still fun. (And he actually did pretty well--a perfect 29-of-29 on PATs and 2-of-3 on FGs in five games played.) Now all the story needs is a last minute kick to win the big game. And maybe a football-playing monkey.

Steve Guttenberg should be available. Wonder if he'd be interested in playing Mike Leach.

Honorable Mention: Joe Paterno (almost) going undefeated; Oregon State (almost) running for the roses.

Biggest Disappointment (Player)
Chase Daniel, QB, Missouri

Let me say this up front--Daniel had a good year, putting up numbers of which most players can only dream. 4,100 yards and 37 TDs are certainly nothing to sneeze at. Even 15 INTs isn't that bad. What hurts is the time in which they came. When your goal is a Heisman Trophy and you fall flat in your biggest games of the year, that has to qualify as a disappointment. Eight of Daniel's 15 picks came in key losses on national television (Oklahoma State, Texas and Oklahoma) or to MU's arch-rival (Kansas). Through the first five weeks of the season, Daniel was putting up Sam Bradford-type numbers (15 TDs, 1 INT). But after that, he showed he was mortal--he didn't have an INT-free game the rest of the season and had just 22 TDs to go along with 10 INTs. Worse, the Tigers went just 4-4 in that stretch.

San Antonio is really nice in December, and the folks there know how to throw a party. But Daniel's sights were set much higher than the Alamo Bowl.

Dishonorable Mention: Arian Foster (RB, Tennessee), Cullen Harper (QB, Clemson)

Biggest Disappointment (Team)

While teams like Georgia and Missouri may have had loftier goals (Heisman trophies and BCS championships) and Arizona State was expected to compete in the Pac-10, I give the nod to Clemson for failing to take advantage of a much easier path. Missouri, Georgia and Arizona State had to face the likes of USC, Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama and Florida. While the ACC has several good teams, are there any that really scare you? The ACC was ripe for the picking this year, and Clemson was predicted to finally have that breakthrough season they'd been waiting for under Tommy Bowden. But as we all know, Clemson failed to deliver and Bowden was shown the door halfway through the season.

The exit door is that way? Ah, got it.

Dishonorable Mention: Georgia, Arizona State

Worst Coach of the Year
Tyrone Willingham, Washington

There are lots of potential contenders for this coveted award. But it's impossible to argue with 0-12.

And the award for world's shortest book goes to . . .

Dishonorable Mention: Todd Dodge, North Texas; Steve Kragthorpe, Louisville

In the interest of fair play, next week I'll dust off my preseason predictions and see how well (or not) I fared in forecasting the 2008 season. Have a good weekend everyone!

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