The Midseason Awards
Player of the
Adrian Peterson, RB Oklahoma. Troy Smith has been terrific, and Garrett
Wolfe has been out of this world, but Peterson has been the best college
football player in America. Smith gets to operate behind a fantastic
line and has a world of talent around him. Wolfe gets to run wild
against the MAC. Peterson has had an average offensive line to run
behind, and not enough of a passing game to take the heat off, yet he
ran for over 100 yards in each of the first five games including a
brilliant 211-yard effort in the loss to Oregon.Coming off a 1-10 season and with
one winning season since 1987, Kent State was supposed to once again be
the doormat of the MAC. No one thought anything after opening the season
with losses to Minnesota and Army, but JUCO transfer QB Julian Edelman
started playing well enough to revive the team on the way to a four-game
winning streak and a 3-0 MAC start going into the home game against
Toledo. The defense has been a terror at getting to the quarterback,
while the rushing attack went from an epically bad season finishing dead
last in the nation to averaging 175 yards per game.
Coach of the Midseason: Jim Grobe, Wake Forest. Grobe has made
his team a player in the ACC race even after losing his starting
quarterback, Ben Mauk, and top running back, Micah Andrews. Clemson has
been unbelievable, and Wake Forest came within some bad luck in the
fourth quarter of pulling off the upset.
Biggest Surprise: Kent State.
Disappointment: The big games. For all the hype and all the
excitement, the big games have been big, dull duds. You name the big
game everyone was waiting for, and you probably took a nap watching it.
Best Story: Garrett Wolfe, RB Northern Illinois. Your sister is
bigger than the Huskie star, but Wolfe is as tough as they come and a
load around the goal line. Barry Sanders' NCAA rushing record is there
for the taking if Wolfe can hold up, and 3,000 yards is possible if NIU
goes to the MAC title game and a bowl. He's made the NIU games must-see
TV every week.
The national championship match up will be …Ohio State/Michigan
winner vs. USC. It'll take a major miracle for anyone to trip up the
Buckeyes or Wolverines until they meet in the regular-season ending
classic. USC might not be playing at a championship level, but the
schedule works out well with Oregon, Cal, and Notre Dame, the only three
teams with a realistic shot at knocking off the nation's number two
team, all going to L.A.
The Midseason Awards
Player of the Midseason:
Troy Smith, Ohio State – Smith’s been the best player on the best team
in America, throwing 15 touchdowns passes to just two picks, while
guiding the Buckeyes to huge road wins at Texas and Iowa.
Disappointment: The ACC – It’s the first week of October, and the
ACC is already out of the national title hunt. Old reliables Florida
State and Miami have played their way out of the polls, while the rest
of the league was noticeably spotty in early season out of conference
2. Garrett Wolfe, Northern Illinois
3. Calvin Johnson, Georgia Tech
Coach of the Midseason: Urban Meyer, Florida – Meyer’s managed
the ticking time bomb that is his quarterback situation brilliantly,
getting maximum production from senior Chris Leak and Tim Tebow. Having
beaten Tennessee, Alabama and LSU over the past month, the 5-0 Gators
are on the doorstep of the top spot in the country.
2. Greg Schiano, Rutgers
3. Tyrone Willingham, Washington
Biggest Surprise: Rutgers – With a no-name defense, an undersized
running back and not even a hint of a passing attack, the perennial
doormat Scarlet Knights have snuck into the Top 25 with a 5-0 start to
2. Arizona football (the Wildcats and Sun Devils)
3. Fresno State
Best Story: Michigan. Coming off a five-loss season, the
Wolverines have turned things around after getting out of September
without any hiccups. Michigan is on a collision course with No. 1 Ohio
State for what could be the first meeting in 33 years between the rivals
when they’re both unbeaten and untied.
2. The resurgence of Tennessee
3. The improved play of the Big East
The national championship match up will be …Ohio State vs. Texas
– The Longhorns only loss came against top-ranked Ohio State way back in
Week 2. Trips to Lincoln and Lubbock won’t be picnics, however, now
that the Buckeyes and the Sooners are in the rear view mirror, Texas has
a good chance to win out. A one-loss Texas team might only be trumped
by USC or Florida, which have rugged second-half schedules, and the
winner of the Nov. 2 game between West Virginia and Louisville, a very
interesting scenario worth monitoring.
The Midseason Awards
Player of the Midseason is ... Ohio State QB
Troy Smith. He just continues to put up one brilliant performance after
another. Behind his leadership, the Buckeye offense dismantled Texas’s
fine defense and obliterated Iowa – both on the road. I do have to give
honorable mention to Garrett Wolfe from Northern Illinois, who has been
unbelievable this season.
Coach of the Midseason – (tie)
Lloyd Carr, Michigan and Urban Meyer, Florida – Carr was my choice a few
weeks ago, but the Gators have played exceptionally well throughout this
season and deserve acclaim. Honorable mention goes to Missouri’s Gary
Pinkel whose team has been…
Biggest surprise – Missouri –
Pinkel’s Tigers have gotten consistent effort from every offensive
weapon has been effective and the defense has played exceptionally well
all season long.
Biggest Disappointment –
Florida State and Miami – It’s not the same. It just isn’t. The days
of these two dominating the ACC or even the national landscape are
done. This week will be the first week both of them are out of the top
25 in, like, forever.
Best Story – Instant replay –
no, just kidding. The best story of this season has been the NCAA
allowing a trust fund to be set up for Clemson’s Ray Ray McElrathbey.
On-the-field stories just don’t seem to have developed this season, yet,
but the way the Clemson community rallied around this young man and his
11 year old brother has been a story from which we can learn about
family and giving.
The national title matchup will be
... Ohio State and USC and in an unprecedented move, the game will move
to Pasadena for an old fashioned Big Ten/Pac-10 “Rose Bowl” National
championship. Sorry, I’m just a traditionalist.
The Midseason Awards
A: Player of the Midseason - Garrett Wolfe. 353
reasons and then some to say so.
Coach of the Midseason - Urban Meyer. Plainly put, he's ahead
of schedule in Gainesville. (Yes, Jim Tressel deserves a lot of credit
for what's going on at Ohio State, but Troy Smith was expected to be a
Biggest Surprise - Arkansas. I actually had the Razorbacks
finishing second in the SEC West (ahead of LSU) in my preseason picks,
but after the lopsided loss to USC, it seemed that 2006 would be a
complete disaster in Fayetteville. Moreover, Vanderbilt had a
game-winning pick-six clang off a linebacker's hands in week three of
the Arkansas season. That play was followed by a game-winning Commodore
field goal attempt that was blown short (by a gust of wind, so the story
goes). Houston Nutt's team then stared down a couple of potential
game-winning field goals against Alabama, but lived to tell about it.
All those events turned what had been a looming train wreck into a solid
season. But now, after thumping Auburn by 17 on the road, the Hogs--if
they can merely win two out of three against South Carolina, Tennessee
and LSU--will march to Atlanta to play the SEC East champ, likely
Florida or (perhaps) Tennessee. That would be a huge surprise indeed.
(Honorable mention: Washington, Missouri, BYU.)
Biggest Disappointment - Arizona State. Yeah, Colorado's
winless, but that's a transition year for Dan Hawkins without a pure
passer at quarterback.
Sure, Michigan State has collapsed, but no one was going to anoint
Sparty as a legit title contender in the Big Ten. It's Dirk Koetter's
Sun Devils who were legitimately loaded (just witness the way they
pushed USC last season) and able to contend for a conference crown, but
who flat wilted when they first got punched in the mouth at California.
The Devils then oh-so-predictably quit when Oregon jumped them in the
Desert the week after.
Gutless team, horrible coaching, nonexistent leadership... all at a
rudderless program overseen (horribly) by clueless Athletic Director
Lisa Love. Abysmal.
Best Story - Hmmm... why pick just one? Many stories deserve
mention in a sport played by kids, but without overcrowding this list,
here are two worthy selections:
1) Rice thumping Army after the death of Owl defensive back Dale
Poignant story in which a team shed the tears but then played with
2) On a more season-long basis, it's gotta be Ty Willingham's triumph
in Seattle with Washington. What total vindication for someone who had
to endure such shabby treatment from Notre Dame, and had his reputation
besmirched by a lot of bitter people. The Huskies are a solid,
well-coached football team that has made real progress with a lot of the
same players who had been scuffling in previous seasons. That's a
testament to the kind of coach Willingham is, and thank goodness America
is seeing this in the post-Notre Dame years.
The national title matchup will be: Ohio State versus
Louisville. Admittedly, this is a fragile pick, but let me tell you why
I'm making it:
Pat White of West Virginia is the best running quarterback in
America, but Rich Rodriguez (maybe he's saving something in the
playbook--who knows?) is simply not giving him many passes to throw.
When West Virginia goes to Louisville, White will need to be a
profoundly better passer, and I'm not sure White will have enough polish
to pull out a win. West Virginia struggles in the first half of road
games, even against mediocre competition--see East Carolina and
Mississippi State. WVU will need a big, bad, bold first half at Papa
John's Stadium, and the more I watch, the less certain I become about
the Mountaineers, my preseason pick to face the same Buckeyes in
The winner of the WVU-UL game will be in Glendale because every other
BCS conference unbeaten (except the Buckeyes, of course) will lose, in
my opinion. Too many teams are currently playing too close to the vest
to remain unbeaten for the entire season. USC is the one team that has
the toughness to continuously withstand close shaves, but the Trojans
are still human and mortal beings who could one day fall off the edge.
In the end, the Big East champ--especially if it's Louisville--will
survive the season unbeaten and square off with Ohio State on January 8.