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ACC leads Bednarik Award watch list with 18 out of 85 players

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If you needed one more sign that summer is transitioning to college football season on top of the start of SEC media days, the Maxwell Football Club is here for you. Today, the Maxwell Football Club unveiled the watch lists for their two highest individual player awards; the Maxwell Award and the Chuck Bednarik Award. The Bednarik Award is presented to the nation’s top defensive player in the country and has been awarded annually since the 1995 season when current Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald won the inaugural award.

This year’s preseason watch list is certainly not lacking for players to keep an eye on. A total of 85 players landed on the watch list, with the ACC leading the way with 18 players. The Big Ten followed in the order with 15, and the SEC had 14 players named to the watch list. The Pac-12 had 13 and the Big 12 had 10. The American Athletic Conference led the Group of Five with six players named to the watch list.

Alabama’s Jonathan Allen won the 2016 Bednarik Award, becoming the first player in school history to win the defensive award. Penn State has the most Bednarik Awards in the history of the award, with three players (LaVar Arrington, Paul Posluszny, Dan Connor) winning four awards.

This year’s watch list for the Bednarik Award is below.

CB Jaire Alexander, Louisville
S Marcus Allen, Penn State
DE Dorance Armstrong Jr., Kansas
S Dravon Askew-Henry, West Virginia
LB Jerome Baker, Ohio State
S Quin Blanding, Virginia
DE Nick Bosa, Ohio State
LB Jason Cabinda, Penn State
LB Jermaine Carter, Maryland
S Sean Chandler, Temple
DE Bradley Chubb, N.C. State
LB Jack Cichy, Wisconsin
LB Koron Crump, Arizona State
CB Duke Dawson, Florida
LB Troy Dye, Oregon
LB Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech
DE Duke Ejiofor, Wake Forest
DE Jaylon Ferguson, Louisiana Tech
DE Kylie Fitts, Utah
DB Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
DE Marcell Frazier, Missouri
DE Rashan Gary, Michigan
LB Shaquem Griffin, UCF
LB Porter Gustin, USC
CB Heath Harding CB Miami (Ohio)
DE Marquis Haynes, Ole Miss
LB Travin Howard, TCU
LB Ben Humphreys, Duke
DT Maurice Hurst, Michigan
S Godwin Igwebuike, Northwestern
S Derwin James, Florida State
DE Cece Jefferson, Florida
LB Malik Jefferson, Texas
LB Josey Jewell, Iowa
LB Jordan Jones, Kentucky
DE Arden Key, LSU
LB Micah Kiser, Virginia
DE Harold Landry, Boston College
DE Justin Lawler, SMU
DT Dexter Lawrence, Clemson
DE Tyquan Lewis, Ohio State
DT Lowell Lotulelei, Utah
CB Iman Marshall, USC
DE Hercules Mata’afa, Washington State
S Tray Matthews, Auburn
CB Tarvarus McFadden, Florida State
NT David Moa, Boise State
LB Skai Moore, South Carolina
LB Nyles Morgan, Notre Dame
CB Deatrick Nichols, USF
DT Derrick Nnadi, Florida State
DT Kendrick Norton, Miami
LB Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Oklahoma
DT Ed Oliver, Houston
NG Da’Ron Payne, Alabama
DT Harrison Phillips, Stanford
LB Shaq Quarterman, Miami
CB D.J. Reed, Kansas State
DE Malik Reed, Nevada
S Justin Reid, Stanford
DT Steve Richardson, Minnesota
DE Ja’Von Rolland-Jones, Arkansas State
LB Tegray Scales, Indiana
DT Conor Sheehy, Wisconsin
DE KJ Smith, Baylor
LB Roquan Smith, Georgia
LB Cameron Smith, USC
CB M.J. Stewart, North Carolina
LB Ty Summers, TCU
LB Jahlani Tavai, Hawaii
LB Matthew Thomas, Florida State
LB Micah Thomas, Navy
CB Jordan Thomas, Oklahoma
DT Trenton Thompson, Georgia
CB Kevin Toliver, LSU
DT Vita Vea, Washington
LB Azeem Victor, Washington
CB Denzel Ward, Ohio State
LB Fred Warner, BYU
S Armani Watts, Texas A&M
S Kyzir White, West Virginia
S Jordan Whitehead, Pitt
DE Christian Wilkins, Clemson
S Andrew Wingard, Wyoming
LB Kenny Young, UCLA

Urban Meyer may have successfully talked his way out of a night trap at Iowa

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Sitting from his office in Columbus, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer has been able to see just how dangerous a night game at Iowa can be. Last season, Iowa upset Michigan with the first loss suffered by the Wolverines setting off a wild finale to the Big Ten season. Earlier this season, a night game at Iowa nearly caught Penn State before the Nittany Lions managed to get out of Kinnick Stadium with a last-second victory. Knowing the history of Kinnick Stadium at night, Meyer may have managed to successfully lobby himself from having to play a night game at Iowa.

Big Ten kickoff times for Week 10 have started to come together on Monday, with Minnesota announcing it will host Michigan in primetime on FOX. The decision to have the Gophers and Wolverines in primetime was a tad puzzling considering two of the other game son the Big Ten schedule that day. Penn State is playing at Michigan State and Ohio State is playing — you guessed it — at Iowa.

The Buckeyes will be playing at either noon or 3:30 p.m. eastern on November 4, with the Nittany Lions and Spartans likely to be slotted in the other timeslot. The speculation is the 3:30 p.m. ET slot will be reserved for the winner of this week’s Ohio State-Penn State matchup, as the game will likely begin to take more weight in the College Football Playoff picture on top of the Big Ten championship hunt.

Meyer addressed concerns about playing so many road games at night this season, and perhaps the conference is responding to his concerns. Ohio State has already played four primetime games, including three on the road (Indiana, Rutgers, Nebraska). If not for the World Series coverage this weekend, odds are good the home game against Penn State would have been a lock for primetime as well. Ohio State also played a primetime game earlier this year against Oklahoma. But Meyer’s chief concern was playing so many night games on the road, as it becomes quite tiresome for players.

Was Meyer looking forward all along to prevent Ohio State from having to play a night game at Iowa? Regardless of the motive, the Buckeyes will not have to test the fates under the lights at Kinnick Stadium in two weeks.

Michigan’s Lavert Hill apologizes for one-finger salute to Penn State crowd

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Over the weekend, Tennessee’s Rashaan Gaulden flipped a double-bird to fans at Alabama after the Vols scored a touchdown. It has quickly become one of the top images from the weekend, and Gauldin has apologized for his obscene gesture to the Alabama faithful. On Monday, another player on the road who decided to flip off the home fans has now apologized for his actions.

Michigan’s Lavert Hill was seen offering a one-finger salute to fans at Penn State after Michigan had suffered a 42-13 loss at Beaver Stadium. The image of Hill gesturing to the fans made the rounds, and now Hill has offered his own apology in a brief statement.

“I sincerely regret my inappropriate gesture at the end of Saturday’s football game. I let my emotions get the best of me and learned a valuable lesson,” Hill said in his statement. “I am truly sorry for this offensive gesture and vow that it will not happen again.”

Hill had committed to Penn State during the recruiting process before flipping to stay in state with the Wolverines. It was a rough night for former Penn State commits playing in a Michigan uniform on Saturday. Kicker Quinn Nordin, who committed to Penn State with an airplane music video but flipped to Michigan after Jim Harbaugh slept over has been rock solid with his kicking this season, but he missed his first kick Saturday night for an extra point.

Alabama and Penn State land two Jim Thorpe Award semifinalists

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Th semifinalists for the Jim Thorpe Award were unveiled on Monday, and it goes to show how good the defensive secondaries are for Alabama and Penn State. The Crimson Tide and Nittany Lions were the only schools with two semifinalists out of the 13 total players to be announced as semifinalists for the award for the nation’s top defensive back.

Alabama is represented by Minkah Fitzpatrick and Levi Wallace. Alabama has one Jim Thorpe Award winner in the history of the award (first awarded in 1986), with Antonio Langham winning the award in 1993. Penn State is looking for the first Jim Thorpe Award winner in school history. Marcus Allen and Grant Haley have been named semifinalists for the award this year, giving Penn State a chance to have a player win the award.

Other notable players named as a semifinalist include Florida State’s Derwin James and Duke’s Jeremy McDuffie and Ohio State’s Denzel Ward. The Big Ten, SEC, and ACC all have three semifinalists. The winner of the award will be announced during the annual Home Depot College Football Awards Show on December 7 on ESPN.

2017 Jim Thorpe Award Semifinalists

Marcus Allen, Penn State
Quin Blanding, Virginia
Jalen Davis, Utah State
DeShon Elliott, Texas
Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
Grant Haley, Penn State
Derwin James, Florida State
Jeremy McDuffie, Duke
Parry Nickerson, Tulane
Justin Reid, Stanford
Dominick Sanders, Georgia
Levi Wallace, Alabama
Denzel Ward, Ohio State

College football’s Week 9 mid-afternoon schedule is loaded

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The Week 9 schedule in college football is lacking for too much buzz in the primetime slot this week, so you will want to stay plugged in in the middle of the afternoon. Before Virginia Tech, Clemson, Oklahoma, and Washington State all get into action in the primetime slots across the networks, the biggest games of the day will have already been played.

This week’s 3:30 pm ET time slot is stacked and highlighted by three games between ranked opponents, all with various conference championship and/or playoff implications on the line. And because the World Series is scheduled to have a game Saturday night, FOX has reserved a colossal Big Ten matchup for the 3:30 pm time slot this week. As good as the game may be, it will have some stiff competition from each of the the other networks.

No. 6 Ohio State vs. No. 2 Penn State (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX)

The game of the week will take place in the Big Ten. After a dismantling of Michigan’s defense, Penn State heads to Columbus to take on a rested Ohio State squad looking for revenge for their lone regular-season loss from a season ago. Saquon Barkley will be in the spotlight once again, but don’t overlook J.T. Barrett’s recent string of success. The winner of this one is likely heading to the Big Ten championship game to face Wisconsin. But the way this season is going, both teams could still very much be on the College Football Playoff radar if the Buckeyes win a close one.

No. 9 Notre Dame vs. No. 14 NC State (3:30 p.m ET, NBC)

You can probably consider this one an elimination game just before the College Football Playoff selection committee gets to work. Each team enters with one loss, which makes a second loss nearly devastating for playoff hopes. Josh Adams running the ball is tough to slow down, but NC State has already locked down wins against Florida State and Louisville, so they are feeling confident off a bye week. A loss for the Wolfpack dings the ACC a bit, but of course, NC State remains undefeated in conference play with Clemson at home coming up soon. A two-loss NC State could end up hurting the ACC’s playoff chances.

No. 3 Georgia vs. Florida (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)

The Bulldogs have been ruling, but throw the records out when these two teams face each other in Jacksonville, right? The bottom line is the Gators lack any offensive punch so it will be up to Florida’s defense to find a way to keep the game within reach just in case Georgia makes a costly mistake. A Georgia win puts the Bulldogs one giant step closer to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game.

No. 25 Iowa State vs. No. 4 TCU (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2)

The Cyclones have cracked the top 25 rankings and are hoping to score another upset to stay there. This week, Matt Campbell and his rising program host TCU with a chance to remain in the hunt for an appearance in the Big 12 championship game. It is probably unlikely Iowa State reaches the conference championship game, but we can no longer assume a loss for Iowa State any given week.

Other midafternoon games worth noting

No. 12 Washington vs. UCLA: Huskies still on the playoff radar but need to be impressive moving forward.

No. 17 USF vs. Houston: Bulls look to score nice win to stay near the top of Group of Five pecking order.