Breaking news, rankings, predictions and analysis all in one place.

College Football Midseason Awards 2023

Luther Burden III, Missouri

It's always amazing just how fast a college football season can flew by. After a long offseason, it feels like we blink and we're already deep into October, with the first half of the season already in the rearview mirror. There's still plenty of exciting moments on the horizon but now that we've reached the halfway point, it's time for my annual "Midseason Awards", predicting the official and unofficial winners of some of the sport's most prestigious honors.

Projected National Champion: Michigan Wolverines

My preseason National Title selection, the Michigan Wolverines remain the smart bet to come out on top when it's all said and done. While other top-tier contenders appear to still be working out the kinks on their respective rosters, the Wolverines have been absolutely decimating their competition, fresh off a 52-7 dismantling of Indiana. They should roll into the final month of the season undefeated, where a three-game stretch of Penn State, Maryland, and Ohio State will decide their ultimate fate. 

Others in Consideration: Georgia Bulldogs, Florida State Seminoles, Oklahoma Sooners, Washington Huskies, Ohio State Buckeyes, Penn State Nittany Lions

Projected College Football Playoff Field: Michigan Wolverines, Georgia Bulldogs, Florida State Seminoles, Washington Huskies

The Big Ten East race will have the greatest impact on the eventual College Football Playoff field, with a trio of teams battling it out for a spot in the four-team field. We could realistically see a scenario where the division sends two teams to the Playoff once again, such as an undefeated Big Ten Champion Michigan and a one-loss Ohio State or Penn State. Aside from those three, the smart money is on Florida State, who has already built a strong resume and has a clear path forward. If they get past Duke at home this weekend, they'll be comfortably favored in all their remaining regular season games, with an ACC Championship Game battle against North Carolina looming. The path for Georgia is also clear, albeit with a thin margin for error. The Bulldogs face a favorable schedule the rest of the way, but that also means that just one defeat could doom their hopes of a third consecutive National Title. That leaves a host of teams battling it out for the final berth, at least at this point in the season. Washington's a safe pick if they can find a way to finish the year undefeated, with a huge victory on their resume now, but Oklahoma would be tough to leave out if they also run the table. Oregon and Texas should also be in the mix, even with one loss, so this could be one of the most exciting CFB Playoff races in recent memory.

Others in Consideration: Oklahoma Sooners, Ohio State Buckeyes, Penn State Nittany Lions, Texas Longhorns, Oregon Ducks, North Carolina Tar Heels, Alabama Crimson Tide

Projected Heisman: Michael Penix Jr., QB, Washington

What a journey it's been for Michael Penix Jr. throughout his collegiate career. The 23-year old gunslinger suffered season-ending injuries while at Indiana each year from 2018-2020 before enduring a brutal 2021 in Bloomington that saw him benched. Penix opted to transfer and reconnect with his former Indiana OC Kalen DeBoer, now head man at Washington, breathing new life into his career. After a remarkable 2022, the encore has been even more impressive, with Penix tossing for 2,301 yards and 20 touchdowns over the season's first half. After out-dueling another Heisman frontrunner, Bo Nix, over the weekend, Penix is the clear favorite to take home the hardware, but he'll still have plenty of opportunities to impress before it's all said and done.

Others in Consideration: Dillon Gabriel, QB, Oklahoma; Caleb Williams, QB, USC; Drake Maye, QB, North Carolina

Projected Doak Walker (best RB): Audric Estime, Notre Dame

It's been all about the quarterbacks this college football season, but that shouldn't overshadow just how dominant Notre Dame's Audric Estime has been through two months. He's fourth nationally among FBS running backs with 787 yards and nine touchdowns, while averaging over six yards per carry. The numbers have slowed a bit as the schedule has gotten tougher, but Estime showed he was still a difference-maker by rushing for 95 yards and two scores in ND's decisive victory over USC over the weekend. The schedule sets up nicely for Estime to continue his run of dominance, with the Clemson game providing a game in the national spotlight to further convince voters.

Others in Consideration: Kimani Vidal, Troy; Ray Davis, Kentucky; Jonathon Brooks, Texas; Blake Corum, Michigan

Projected Biletnikoff (best WR): Luther Burden III, Missouri

Missouri has been a pleasant surprise over the season's first seven weeks and at the helm has been sophomore wide out Luther Burden III. We saw the flashes from Burden last season, but I'm not sure even the most optimistic of Missouri fans expected this, as he's fourth nationally with 56 receptions and second in receiving yards. It hasn't been just beating up on inferior foes either; two of Burden's biggest games on the year have come against Kansas State (7 catches, 114 yards, two TD) and LSU (11 catches, 149 yards). He's been the most dominant receiver in college football this fall and with Missouri's offense seemingly getting better each and every week, Burden should continue racking up the numbers.

Others in Consideration: Marvin Harrison Jr., Ohio State; Malik Nabers, LSU; Rome Odunze, Washington; Troy Franklin, Oregon

Projected John Mackey (best TE): Brock Bowers, Georgia

This selection comes with an asterisk, as we just learned that a recent ankle injury for Brock Bowers will sideline him for the next four to six weeks. But, giving the midseason Mackey Award to any other tight end would feel wrong, as Bowers has put together a special 2023 up to this point. He leads all tight ends in receptions and yardage, the beating heart of the Georgia offense all season long. He's been so impressive there's even been Heisman whispers, a testament to his continued dominance. Although the injury is a tough pill to swallow, there's a good chance Bowers will be available for the most important games remaining on the Georgia schedule, namely the SEC Championship Game and College Football Playoff, assuming they get there.

Others in Consideration: Dallin Holker, Colorado State; Jack Velling, Oregon State; Mitchell Evans, Notre Dame

Projected Rimington (best C): Jackson Powers-Johnson, Oregon

Oregon has an impressive collection of skill position talent, but not enough credit has been given to their superb offensive line. Anchoring that unit is junior Jackson Powers-Johnson, a veteran blocker whose presence can be felt in both the run game and pass protection. He clears massive holes for Bucky Irving and Jordan James on the ground, while allowing just one pressure on 242 pass-blocking snaps. He was beat up in Oregon's heart-breaking loss to Washington this past weekend but assuming he can return to 100 percent, he should have a good chance at becoming the first Duck to take home the Rimington Trophy.

Others in Consideration: Matt Lee, Miami (FL); Sedrick Van Pran, Georgia; Duke Clemens, UCLA

Projected Butkus (best LB): Payton Wilson, NC State

A four-year starter for NC State, Payton Wilson's 2023 campaign has been his best yet in Raleigh. The hard-hitting linebacker ranks fourth nationally in total tackles, with 81, but can impact the game in so many different ways. He'll get after opposing quarterbacks, as evidenced by his four sacks, and has proven his worth in coverage, with three pass deflections. Wilson has been the key cog in the middle for a strong Wolfpack defense, which has taken on extra importance due to a struggling offense.

Others in Consideration: Jason Henderson, Old Dominion; Power Echols, North Carolina; Jay Higgins, Iowa

Projected Thorpe (best DB): Malaki Starks, Georgia

Georgia may not have their usual collection of elite front seven playmakers, at least in comparison to their last few teams, but that doesn't mean this defense doesn't have difference-makers. Chief among them is safety Malaki Starks, who has built on an impressive true freshman campaign and evolved into one of the best defensive backs in college football. He has 25 tackles and two interceptions on the season and according to PFF, he's the only defensive back with a Top 10 grade in both coverage and rush defense. He'll continue to play a vital role for a ball-hawking Bulldog secondary.

Others in Consideration: Denzel Burke, Ohio State; Kool-Aid McKinstry, Alabama; Kris Abrams-Daine, Missouri; Cooper DeJean, Iowa

Coach of the Year: Jeff Brohm, Louisville

I wouldn't say there's an overwhelming favorite for Coach of the Year as we stand today, so I'll pick Jeff Brohm as my selection. Brohm didn't inherit an absolute mess from Scott Satterfield, but the Cardinals weren't supposed to be ACC contenders, either. They went 8-5 overall in 2022 and 4-4 in the ACC, and were hit hard over the offseason by departures. Instead of a slow build, Brohm has injected a new energy into the program, with the Cardinals jumping out to a 6-0 start before last Saturday's upset at the hands of Pittsburgh. The Notre Dame win in particular felt like a warning shot to the rest of the ACC and as Brohm continues to build this and bring in his personnel, this program is going to be a force in the league.

Others in Consideration: Eli Drinkwitz, Missouri; Kalen DeBoer, Washington; Brent Venables, Oklahoma; Mike Elko, Duke; Mack Brown, North Carolina

Freshman of the Year: Zachariah Branch, WR, USC

Even missing two of USC's seven games this season, wide receiver Zachariah Branch has been the most electrifying freshman in college football this fall. He's brought in 15 receptions for 195 yards, but his true impact status comes in the return game, where he's a threat to take it to the house at every opportunity. He's taken both a punt and kickoff back for touchdowns and even when he doesn't score, you can typically rely on him to bust things open and create a big play. For a USC team that has serious questions as things stand today, having such a proven weapon you can flip the field every time they touch the play is a major luxury.

Others in Consideration: Caleb Downs, DB, Alabama; Kevin Concepcion, WR, NC State; Darius Taylor, RB, Minnesota; Dillon Thieneman, DB, Purdue; Anthony Hill Jr., LB, Texas

Transfer of the Year*: Ray Davis, RB, Kentucky

Originally beginning his career at Temple, Ray Davis made the rare intra-division transfer this offseason when he went from Vanderbilt to Kentucky. It's turned out to be a saving grace for Kentucky, as the former Commodore has been the focal point of their offensive attack, racing out to 781 yards and eight touchdowns on the season. His dominance was on full display during a route of Florida, where the senior ran for 280 yards and three touchdowns. It's even more impressive when you consider that the lack of a capable Wildcat passing attack has removed any semblance of balance on this offense. Everyone in the stadium knows Davis is getting the ball and yet, he still has managed seven yards per carry.

Others in Consideration: Travis Hunter, CB/WR, Colorado; Adonai Mitchell, WR, Texas; Ernest Hausmann, LB, Michigan; Sam Hartman, QB, Notre Dame; Shedeur Sanders, QB, Colorado

* = only transfers that transferred this past offseason are eligible

No comments:

Theme images by LUGO. Powered by Blogger.