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15 semifinalists unveiled for prestigious Walter Camp Player of the Year Award

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One of the most prestigious awards in college football has whittled down the list of players who will be able to claim the famed hardware this season.

Wednesday, the Walter Camp Foundation announced its 15 “Players to Watch,” essentially semifinalists, for its prestigious Player of the Year Award. The Camp Award is voted on by the 130 FBS head coaches/sports information directors and is the fourth-oldest award in the sport.

“It’s been another exciting college football season with many teams and players still in the hunt for national recognition,” Foundation president Michael Madera said in a statement. “We’ve identified some outstanding players and we know the final weeks of the regular season should be even more thrilling.”

Players on both sides of the ball are eligible, but just four defensive players made the cut — North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb, Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, Miami defensive back Jaquan Johnson and Washington defensive end Hercules Mala’afa. Six of the 15 semifinalists are quarterbacks, the other five are running backs.

Only two players from a Group of Five program, Central Florida quarterback McKenzie Milton and San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny, are included.

Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, last year’s Camp winner, is a semifinalist once again.

Below is the complete “Players to Watch” list:

Josh Adams, RB, Junior, Notre Dame
Saquon Barkley, RB, Junior, Penn State
Bradley Chubb, DE, Senior, North Carolina State
Sam Darnold, QB, Sophomore, USC
Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Junior, Alabama
Baker Mayfield, QB, Senior, Oklahoma
Lamar Jackson, QB, Junior, Louisville
Jaquan Johnson, DB, Junior, Miami
Bryce Love, RB, Junior, Stanford
Hercules Mala’afa, DE, Junior, Washington State
McKenzie Milton, QB, Sophomore, UCF
Rashaad Penny, RB, Senior, San Diego State
Mason Rudolph, QB, Senior, Oklahoma State
Khalil Tate, QB, Sophomore, Arizona
Jonathan Taylor, RB, Freshman, Wisconsin

Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick, Iowa’s Josey Jewell among Nagurski Trophy finalists

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Another day, another award has released its group of finalists.

The latest to do this particular deed is the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, which on Wednesday announced its five finalists for its 2017 award.  Those five finalists include North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb, Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, Iowa middle linebacker Josey Jewell, Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver and Georgia outside linebacker Roquan Smith.

The Nagurski Trophy, given out annually since 1993, is awarded to the nation’s best defensive player regardless of position.  The 2016 winner was Alabama defensive end Jonathan Allen.

Below is a rundown of each of the five finalists, courtesy of the Football Writers Association of American:

Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State (6-4, 275, Sr., Marietta, Ga.): Chubb leads the FBS in tackles for loss this season for the Wolfpack (7-3). Of his 23.5 tackles for loss (for minus-98 yards), 10 have been sacks for 66 yards in losses. He has 62 total tackles, nine quarterback hurries, three forced fumbles, two passes broken up and a blocked kick. Chubb joins linebacker Levar Fisher (2000) as the only Wolfpack players to earn a Nagurski finalist nod.

Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Alabama (6-1, 202, Jr., Old Bridge, N.J.): The leader of the defensive backfield for the unbeaten Crimson Tide (10-0), Fitzpatrick has made 44 total tackles, collected 5.5 tackles for 25 yards in losses, including 1.5 sacks for 15 yards in losses. In addition, he has intercepted a pass, broken up six passes, hurried the quarterback three times, forced a fumble and blocked a kick. Alabama ranks eighth in the country in fewest passing yards allowed per game (167 ypg). Fitzpatrick is the 11th Alabama player to be a Nagurski finalist, including last year’s recipient Jonathan Allen. The Crimson Tide has had a finalist now in each of the last seven seasons.

Josey Jewell, MLB, Iowa (6-2, 236, Sr., Decorah, Iowa): Jewell is fourth in the country in total tackles (104) for the Hawkeyes (6-4). He has registered 9.5 tackles for 39 yards in losses (including 2.5 sacks for 24 yards in losses). He has chipped in an interception (and returned it 33 yards) and added five passes broken up, three quarterback hurries, one fumble recovery and one forced fumble. Jewell is the second Iowa player to be named a Nagurski finalist, joining linebacker Pat Angerer in 2009.

Ed Oliver, DT, Houston (6-3, 290, So., Houston, Texas): A second-team FWAA All-American in 2016, Oliver followed up his freshman season with another fine year. He has 53 total tackles for the Cougars (6-3). Of those, he has 10 tackles for 39 yards in losses (with 2.5 sacks for 13 yards in losses), three passes broken up, seven quarterback hurries, one fumble recovery, two forced fumbles and one blocked kick. Oliver is the first Houston player to earn a Nagurski finalist accolade.

Roquan Smith, OLB, Georgia (6-1, 225, Jr., Montezuma, Ga.): The leading tackler for the Bulldogs (9-1), Smith has made 82 total tackles this season. He has 4.5 tackles for loss, including 2.5 sacks for 14 yards in losses. He also has broken up two passes, hurried the quarterback 10 times and forced a fumble. Georgia ranks fifth in the FBS in total defense, giving up just 277.5 yards per game. Smith is the fifth Georgia player to be named a Nagurski finalist, joining 1998 recipient Champ Bailey and two-time finalist David Pollack (2002, ‘04).

Baker Mayfield headlines Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award finalists

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Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield may be solidly on his way to winning the Heisman Trophy, but he may also have a decent chance of taking home some other hardware this award season as well. Mayfield was named one of the five finalists for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award today.

The Golden Arm Award is given to the nation’s top quarterback in his senior or fourth year of college football (freshmen and sophomores are not eligible), and this year’s crop of finalists is an impressive one. In addition to Mayfield, Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph, Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett, Penn State’s Trace McSorley, and NC State’s Ryan Finley were named finalists for the award.

Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson won the award a year ago. It could be a coincidence, but the award has gone to a quarterback playing in the College Football Playoff each of the past three seasons. Oregon’s Marcus Mariota won the award in 2014 and Michigan State’s Connor Cook won the award in 2015. Mayfield appears to be in a position to keep that trend going if he is the favorite to win this year’s Golden Arm Award.

The last Oklahoma player to win the award, and the only one thus far, was Jason White in 2004. No player from Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Penn State or NC State has won the award, which was first presented in 1987 to Don McPherson of Syracuse.

Miami and Oklahoma move into top four of AP Top 25

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Georgia and Notre Dame each managed to stay in the top 10 of the AP Top 25 this week after getting blown out on the road, which has allowed both Miami and Oklahoma to move into the top four this week. Miami even picked up some first-place votes from the AP voters following their dominating performance against the Fighting Irish.

No. 1 Alabama remains on top of the poll with a sizable share of the first-place votes from the voters. Miami’s ranking at No. 2 is the highest Miami has been ranked in the AP poll since the 2003 season when they reached the same spot in the poll.

No. 3 Oklahoma moved past No. 4 Clemson and took advantage of No. 7 Georgia and No. 9 Notre Dame falling in the polls. The AP voters kept No. 5 Wisconsin ahead of No. 6 Auburn, and the Tigers did move ahead of the Georgia team they just demolished. No. 8 Ohio State and No. 10 Oklahoma State each jumped into the top 10 this week. No. 11 TCU fell three spots to fall out of the top 10, while No. 12 USC and No. 13 Penn State each moved up three spots to just on the outside of the top 10. The Trojans and Nittany Lions each moved ahead of No. 14 UCF, who remained in the same spot in the poll this week. No. 16 Washington also tumbled out of the top 10, falling five spots, yet they remain in front of the team that beat them Friday night, No. 20 Stanford.

No. 17 Mississippi State actually moved up one spot in the poll this week despite losing at home to Alabama. Meanwhile, No. 24 West Virgina won on the road and dropped one spot in the poll.

Here is this week’s AP Top 25:

  1. Alabama (57 first-place votes)
  2. Miami (4)
  3. Oklahoma
  4. Clemson
  5. Wisconsin
  6. Auburn
  7. Georgia
  8. Ohio State
  9. Notre Dame
  10. Oklahoma State
  11. TCU
  12. USC
  13. Penn State
  14. UCF
  15. Washington State
  16. Washington
  17. Mississippi State
  18. Memphis
  19. Michigan
  20. Stanford
  21. LSU
  22. Michigan State
  23. USF
  24. West Virginia
  25. NC State

Miami surges to No. 2 in coaches poll; Alabama sweeps first-place votes

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You knew there would be some drastic changes in this week’s Amway Coaches Poll after the way Week 11 went down, and there certainly was. Following a dismantling of Notre Dame, No. 2 Miami rocketed up four spots to trail only No. 1 Alabama. The Crimson Tide remain the only team to receive any first-place votes from the coaches this week.

No. 6 Auburn also made a worthy move up four spots in this week’s ranking and the coaches even do the correct thing in putting the two-loss Tigers just ahead of No. 7 Georgia. Had it been a closer result, Georgia may have managed to stay just ahead of Auburn given the ridiculous nature of the coaches poll at times, but this felt like the right call to anyone who watched Auburn’s performance against the Bulldogs.

No. 3 Clemson and No. 4 Wisconsin swapped spots in the coaches poll this week, despite the Badgers remaining undefeated and Clemson struggling to put Florida State until late in the game on Saturday. No. 5 Oklahoma moved up two spots, and No. 8 Ohio State bumped up three spots to re-enter the top 10 this week. No. 9 Notre Dame fell four spots to remain in the top 10, while No. 10 USC moved up four spots to crack the top 10.

No. 12 UCF remains the highest-ranked Group of Five team in the coaches poll, as expected. But they were passed in the poll this week by USC and No. 11 Penn State. Other notable drops in the polls this week were experienced by No. 14 TCU (down five) and No. 15 Washington (down seven). No. 24 Michigan State took the hardest fall, dropping eight spots. No. 23 Stanford returned to the poll this week while Virginia Tech and Iowa State each fell out of the poll this week. No. 25 West Virginia filled the other remaining spot at the bottom of the poll as a result.

Here is this week’s full coaches poll, with first-place votes noted.

  1. Alabama (63 first-place votes)
  2. Miami
  3. Clemson
  4. Wisconsin
  5. Oklahoma
  6. Auburn
  7. Georgia
  8. Ohio State
  9. Notre Dame
  10. USC
  11. Penn State
  12. UCF
  13. Oklahoma State
  14. TCU
  15. Washington
  16. Washington State
  17. Memphis
  18. Michigan
  19. Mississippi State
  20. USF
  21. LSU
  22. NC State
  23. Stanford
  24. Michigan State
  25. West Virginia

Others receiving votes: Virginia Tech, Northwestern, Arizona, Boise State, South Carolina, Iowa, Kentucky, Army, San Diego State, Iowa State, Troy, Ohio