Mark Dantonio

10 finalists revealed for Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year


The list of awards releasing its finalists for year-end honors continues to grow, with the folks at Liberty Mutual jumping into the hardware fray.

The insurance company announced today the 25 finalists for its 2013 Coach of the Year awards spread across four divisions of college football, including 10 from the FBS level.  All 10 of the coaches for the FBS version of the award come from automatic-qualifying conferences, although, curiously, one of the two coaches in the BCS title game is not among the group of finalists:

Art Briles, Baylor
David Cutcliffe, Duke
Mark Dantonio, Michigan State
Todd Graham, Arizona State
Gus Malzahn, Auburn
Urban Meyer, Ohio State
Jim Mora, UCLA
Bill O’Brien, Penn State
Nick Saban, Alabama
Dabo Swinney, Clemson

No, that’s not a misprint; Jimbo Fisher of top-ranked Florida State is not a finalist for this particular award.

Craig Bohl, who left North Dakota State this past weekend to take over at Wyoming, is one of five finalists for the FCS award.

In its release, Liberty Mutual wrote that “[t]o help determine the winners, fans can vote from now until December 22 at and for the finalists they feel represent the highest values in college sports, whether it is achieving the players’ potential on the field, promoting academic excellence in the classroom, or making an impact in their communities through charitable work and volunteerism.”  That fan vote counts for 20 percent of the votes.

The winner in each of the four NCAA divisions will receive $50,000 to support his favorite charities and a $20,000 donation from Liberty Mutual to his school’s alumni association for scholarship

The 2012 Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year was Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly.

Oklahoma and Iowa move into top four in latest College Football Playoff rankings

Associated Press
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The fourth set of College Football Playoff rankings were released Tuesday night, and Clemson is No. 1 for the fourth consecutive week. Alabama remained second, and Oklahoma leapt from seventh to third after winning their second consecutive game against a top-20 team. Iowa moved up a spot from fifth to fourth, and Michigan State jumped from No. 9 to No. 5 after its massive road win over Ohio State.

Ohio State fell from third to eighth due to that loss. Baylor passed the Buckeyes for No. 7 following their decisive win at then-No. 6 Oklahoma State, and Notre Dame dropped from fourth to sixth after a close win a Boston College.

Washington State, Mississippi State, UCLA, Toledo and Temple jumped into the rankings, while Houston, Memphis, USC and Wisconsin fell out.

The full rankings:

1. Clemson
2. Alabama
3. Oklahoma
4. Iowa
5. Michigan State
6. Notre Dame
7. Baylor
8. Ohio State
9. Stanford
10. Michigan
11. Oklahoma State
12. Florida
13. Florida State
14. North Carolina
15. Navy
16. Northwestern
17. Oregon
18. Ole Miss
19. TCU
20. Washington State
21.  Mississippi State
22. UCLA
23. Utah
24. Toledo
25. Temple

Finalists for O’Brien, Outland, Bednarik, other awards announced

Christian McCaffrey
Associated Press

A slew of finalists for college football’s major individual awards were announced Tuesday evening, highlighted by multi-award finalists Derrick HenryChristian McCaffrey and Deshaun Watson. Eleven of the 12 awards listed below (excluding the Burlsworth Trophy) are members of the National College Football Awards Assocation and will have their winners announced during ESPN’s Home Depot 25th Anniversary College Football Awards Show, to be broadcast from the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta on Thursday, Dec. 10 (7 p.m. ET).

The winner of the Rimington Award as the nation’s top center will also be revealed on ESPN’s show, but finalists aren’t announced until Monday, Dec. 7.

The finalists are:

Maxwell Award (best overall player)
Derrick Henry, Alabama
Christian McCaffrey, Stanford
Deshaun Watson, Clemson

Davey O’Brien Award (best quarterback)
Trevone Boykin, TCU
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Deshaun Watson, Clemson

Doak Walker Award (best running back)
Leonard Fournette, LSU
Derrick Henry, Alabama
Christian McCaffrey, Stanford

Biletnikoff Award (best wide receiver)
Corey Coleman, Baylor
Josh Doctson, TCU
Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss

John Mackey Award (best tight end)
Hunter Henry, Arkansas
Austin Hooper, Stanford
Jordan Leggett, Clemson

Outland Trophy (best interior lineman)
Spencer Drango, Baylor
Joshua Garnett, Stanford
A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama

Chuck Bednarik Award (best defensive player)
Tyler Matakevich, Temple
Carl Nassib, Penn State
Reggie Ragland, Alabama

Jim Thorpe Award (best defensive back)
Jeremy Cash, Duke
Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida
Desmond King, Iowa

Lou Groza Award (best kicker)
Daniel Carlson, Auburn
Jake Elliott, Memphis
Ka’imi Fairbairn, UCLA

Ray Guy Award (best punter)
Michael Carrizosa, San Jose State
Tom Hackett, Utah
Hayden Hunt, Colorado State

Burlsworth Trophy (best walk-on)*
Luke Falk, Washington State
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Carl Nassib, Penn State

Wuerffel Trophy (best community servant)
Ty Darlington, Oklahoma
Landon Foster, Kentucky
Nate Sudfeld, Indiana

* – winner not announced at ESPN awards show

Gamecocks WR Pharoh Cooper turning pro, says father

Pharoh Cooper
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South Carolina wide receiver Pharoh Cooper will play his final collegiate game this Saturday against Clemson. The junior wide receiver will not return for his senior season in Columbia and will instead enter the 2016 NFL Draft, according to his father.

“He definitely appreciates the opportunity to play for South Carolina, and we as parents appreciate the opportunity they gave him,” Cooper’s father, Glen Cooper, said in a story for The Slate. “He wants to ride the wave at its high point.”

According to The Slate report, Cooper’s decision to turn pro was more about what kind of potential he is believed to have entering the NFL next season and not the coaching change underway with the Gamecocks. Steve Spurrier resigned as head coach during the season and South Carolina will have a new coach in 2016, which is still to be determined. And he does have the pro potential. Josh Norris of RotoWorld ranks Cooper as the eighth-best wide receiver in the NFL Draft Class of 2016. Cooper also wanted to avoid risking an injury in 2016 before taking the next step toward the NFL, which can tend to be a wise choice for so many players given the uncertainty revolving around the sport.

Cooper leads South Carolina with 887 yards and seven touchdowns this season. With South Carolina out of postseason contention, Cooper will likely fall shy of his 2014 total of 1,136 yards (if he matches that, good night to Clemson’s title hopes), but he could have a chance to tie his team-leading nine touchdown mark from a season ago.

Gary Patterson wants a six or eight-team playoff

Gary Patterson

Last year TCU’s Gary Patterson took the high road when his 11-1 Horned Frogs, declared co-champions of the Big 12 with Baylor, were passed over by Ohio State for the fourth and final spot in the College Football Playoff. While he may not have been happy about the end result of the first playoff selection process, TCU took care of sending a message by hammering Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl. Fast forward to today. Patterson and TCU are nowhere close to being in the playoff discussion now with two losses, but the head coach in Fort Worth knows his conference is at risk of being left out of the playoff fun for a second straight season, and he is backing a call for expansion of the playoff field.

“I’m not going to be a person who’s going to be an advocate of the four after this season,” Patterson said (you can see video of Patterson’s full comments via The Star-Telegram). “I think you need to take the winner of all five [power conferences] and then you have an at-large or three more and have either a six or an eight [team playoff]. I think we need to take people’s opinions out of it and what you do during a season is what gives you the opportunity to play into it. Then I think it’s a lot easier. ThenI think a lot of people would be a lot happier.”

The playoff rankings will be updated later tonight, and one spot will open up after Ohio State was knocked down by Michigan State this past weekend. That spot may not go to the Big 12 as the season draws to a close however, as Iowa is undefeated and Michigan State has a pretty strong one-loss argument to make as well, leaving Oklahoma and Baylor wondering where exactly each will fall in the updated rankings (Oklahoma has a shot of sneaking into the top four, it should be recognized). We already knew one power conference was going to be left out with five power conferences and just four spots to fill. Notre Dame remaining in the playoff picture makes things a bit more nervous for conferences on the fringe like the Big 12 (and the Big Ten), and could also spark expansion of the playoff field sooner than the College Football Playoff would have you believe.

The bottom line is this. There is no perfect way of crowning a college football champion, and there likely never will be. However, if the Big 12 is left out once again while another one or two one-loss teams get a spot, then the Big 12 should start gathering support and finding allies to fight for playoff expansion as soon as possible.