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2022 College Football Midseason Awards

Hendon Hooker, Tennessee

It feels like the 2022 college football season only just began, but the unfortunate reality is that we've reached the halfway point of the regular season. There's still plenty of big moments set to take place, but with the first half of the season in the books, why not honor the players and teams that have made this year so exciting up to this point? 

Projected National Champion: Ohio State Buckeyes

My preseason National Title pick, the Ohio State Buckeyes have done little to make me change my selection. The offense has been unsurprisingly elite with C.J. Stroud at the controls, even as they've dealt with injuries to Jaxon Smith-Njigba, TreVeyon Henderson, and Miyan Williams. However, it's the defensive improvement that has to have Buckeye fans excited. Coordinator Jim Knowles has rebuilt this side of the ball, and they're more physical than past Ryan Day teams. The schedule does get more treacherous down the stretch, but Ohio State remains a good bet to make the College Football Playoff and proceed to take the whole thing.

Others In Consideration: Georgia Bulldogs, Clemson Tigers, Tennessee Volunteers, Alabama Crimson Tide, Michigan Wolverines

Projected College Football Playoff: Ohio State Buckeyes, Georgia Bulldogs, Alabama Crimson Tide, Clemson Tigers

Ohio State may face pressure inside the division from Michigan, but they remain the favorite in the Big Ten, which will lock them into the four-team field. Clemson hasn't been as dominant as past Tiger teams, but they own a strong resume and seem to be getting better each week. Assuming they can overcome Syracuse this upcoming weekend, the ACC is theirs to lose. Then, there's the conundrum in the SEC; Georgia still has to figure things out offensively, but they remain a National Title frontrunner. Tennessee earned their biggest win in recent program history, but the schedule is tough the rest of the way and it's hard to imagine them getting by Georgia and Alabama in the same season. As for the Crimson Tide, I have little doubt that Nick Saban will have this team back with a vengeance. They remain the favorite in the SEC West and it wouldn't shock me at all if they win out. This could be another year where things play out and Alabama takes the league, but UGA still finds a way to get in with one loss. 

Others In Consideration: Michigan Wolverines, Tennessee Volunteers, TCU Horned Frogs, Ole Miss Rebels, UCLA Bruins, Oregon Ducks, Syracuse Orange

Projected Heisman: Hendon Hooker, QB, Tennessee

Hendon Hooker was already firmly in the Heisman conversation before leading Tennessee to a massive victory over Alabama. Now? He is the presumptive Heisman favorite, as we've seen several past winners use a victory over the Crimson Tide to spring their Heisman campaign. The former Virginia Tech transfer has a 1,817 yards and 15 touchdowns through the air, while adding 287 and three with his legs. In addition, he's the leader of a downtrodden program seemingly returning to national relevance, making for a fantastic story. Assuming Hooker and Tennessee can keep it going, I don't envision anybody else taking home the Heisman, even if C.J. Stroud and others put up monster numbers.

Others In Consideration: C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State; Bryce Young, QB, Alabama; Caleb Williams, QB, USC; Blake Corum, RB, Michigan; Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Alabama

Projected Doak Walker (best RB): Blake Corum, Michigan

It's not often you can lose a player who rushed for over 1,300 yards and 20 touchdowns and improve at the running back position, but that is the case in Ann Arbor. As great as Hassan Haskins was in 2021, the Wolverines haven't looked back after handing feature back duties to Blake Corum. Over the first seven games of the year, the junior has run for 901 yards and 13 scores, while averaging over six yards per carry. The thing is, Corum hasn't just beat up on weak opponents; after going for 243 yards against Maryland, he's followed it up with three consecutive weeks of at least 100 yards. That includes a 166-yard, two touchdown performance this past weekend against a Penn State rush defense that was among the best in the nation. If he keeps it up, Corum should be able to cement himself as the eventual Doak Walker Award winner, especially considering how many important games remain on Michigan's schedule.

Others In Consideration: Chase Brown, Illinois; Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama; Israel Abanikanda, Pittsburgh; Bijan Robinson, Texas

Projected Biletnikoff (best WR): Charlie Jones, Purdue

It's been a frustrating season for Iowa Hawkeye fans, as a lethargic offense has left them sitting at 3-3 and 1-2 in the Big Ten. To make matters worse, they've had to watch one of their former receivers, Charlie Jones, move on to Purdue and put together an All-American season. Jones currently sits second in the country with 62 receptions and seventh in yardage at 735. He's been the focal point of a Purdue offense that is Top 20 in passing yardage nationally and has the Boilermakers riding high at 5-2. The key for the veteran will be keeping it up over the second half; he suffered an injury in the Nebraska win, but is not expected to miss any additional time. That's good news for both Purdue and Jones, as the Boilermakers will need his playmaking prowess as they face down a difficult stretch of defenses in the coming weeks.

Others In Consideration: Xavier Hutchinson, Iowa State; Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee; Trey Palmer, Nebraska; Emeka Egbuka, Ohio State; Rashee Rice, SMU

Projected John Mackey (best TE): Dalton Kincaid, Utah

Utah was dealt a huge blow when 2021 All-Pac-12 tight end Brant Kuithe was lost for the season against Arizona State. Fortunately, the other star tight end on the roster, Dalton Kincaid, has turned things up another notch in Kuithe's absence. The senior leads all tight ends in just about every receiving category, including receptions, yards, and touchdowns. He was the primary reason the Utes were able to outlast USC in a huge conference victory, as he sliced apart the Trojans to the tune of 16 catches for 234 yards. Kincaid is now the clear John Mackey favorite at this point in the season and as the top pass-catching threat on the Ute roster, he should get more than enough usage to secure the award.

Others In Consideration: Michael Mayer, Notre Dame; Caden Prieskorn, Memphis; Brayden Willis, Oklahoma

Projected Rimington (best C): Olu Oluwatimi, Michigan

Michigan's success this season can be traced to many things, but a bunch of credit should be given to an offensive line that has been crushing everything in its path so far this fall. The anchor of that dominant unit is center Olusugun Oluwatimi, a grad transfer from Virginia. Oluwatimi was a Rimington finalist last season, the first in Virginia's lengthy history, and he's been even better with the Wolverines. He recently shared Offensive Player of the Week honors following Michigan's victory over Penn State, where they ran for 418 yards and allowed just one sack.

Others In Consideration: John Michael Schmitz, Minnesota; Alex Forsyth, Oregon; Ricky Stromberg, Arkansas

Projected Butkus (best LB): Drew Sanders, Arkansas

A former high-profile recruit who originally signed with Alabama out of high school, there's never been any doubt that Drew Sanders was a special talent. Even so, his play at Arkansas this fall has been a surprise, as he's been one of the nation's most dominant defenders. He's stuffed the stat sheets full, with 63 total tackles, 6.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, and three pass deflections. Included in those numbers are four separate performances where Sanders notched double-digit tackles, including 16 in the loss to Mississippi State. Even as Arkansas has faded after their hot start, thanks in large part to the injury to K..J. Jefferson, Sanders has been amazingly consistent and deserves national recognition.

Others In Consideration: Jacoby Windmon, Michigan State; Kyle Soelle, Arizona State; Jackson Mitchell, UConn

Projected Jim Thorpe (best DB): Clark Phillips III, Utah

Utah is known for breeding elite defenses, but it's been a long time since they've had a playmaker quite like Clark Phillips III. The third-year sophomore established himself as a bonafide star in 2021 and has only built on that this season. He's tied for the national lead in interceptions with five, owed primarily to his three-interception performance against Oregon State, in which he also brought one to the house for a score. He also recorded a pick-six in the UCLA loss, and his 137 return yards rank him second nationally among all defenders. His ability to flip the field has been a major win for the Utes, whose offense has been inconsistent throughout the season's first half. If he can keep it up in the second half of 2022, Phillips seems like a good bet to be the first Utah defensive back drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft since 1971.

Others In Consideration: Joey Porter Jr., Penn State; Emmanuel Forbes, Mississippi State; Jack Howell, Colorado State

Projected Groza (best K): Christopher Dunn, NC State

Long-time NC State kicker Christopher Dunn is already the program's all-time leading scorer, but it feels like he's in for even more accolades this fall. He's been a deadeye over the first seven weeks of the season, going 14-14 on field goals and 20-20 on extra points. In addition, his long of 53 is among the tops nationally, and few players have attempted and made more from beyond 40 yards. Expect NC State to lean on his services even more of the coming weeks as they move forward without star quarterback Devin Leary, who is done for the year.

Others In Consideration: B.T. Potter, Clemson; Chris Howard, Memphis; Jack Podlesny, Georgia

Projected Ray Guy (best P): Bryce Baringer, Michigan State

There's a lot of quality punters in the country, but only one is averaging over 50 yards per punt and that's Michigan State's Bryce Baringer. Despite being used early and often as the Spartan offense struggles, Baringer's 51.4 average has not dipped. In addition, his long of 70 yards is among the top nationally, finishing tied for seventh. He seems like a good bet in the thrilling, crucially important Ray Guy Award race.

Others In Consideration: Ben Kiernan, North Carolina; Tory Taylor, Iowa; Joe Doyle, Memphis

Coach of the Year: Josh Heupel, Tennessee

Plenty of coaches have exceeded expectations in 2022, but I believe Josh Heupel to be the lock for Coach of the Year at this point. He was viewed as a bit of an underwhelming by most of the national media when he arrived in Knoxville, but has injected an energy into the program that was missing for years. Not only has Tennessee been extremely fun to watch, they've built the nation's most impressive resume, with victories over Pittsburgh, Florida, LSU, and of course, Alabama. The Alabama win alone should cement Heupel as a legend forever at Tennessee, but now comes the hard part: keeping the momentum going. The Vols still have plenty of big games on their schedule and the Georgia game should decide the SEC East. 

Others In Consideration: Lance Leipold, Kansas; Chip Kelly, UCLA; Willie Fritz, Tulane; Dino Babers, Syracuse; Bret Bielema, Illinois

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