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Doak Walker Award watch list highlighted by 2016 semifinalists Barkley and Pettway

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A watch list of the top running backs in the nation has been released by the PwC SMU Athletic Forum on Thursday. The Doak Walker Award watch list is full of great players, including 2016 Doak Walker Award semifinalists Saquon Barkley (Penn State) and Kamryn Pettway (Auburn).

Among those included on this year’s initial Doak Walker Award watch list (more players can be added at any time) are LSU’s Derrius Guice, Georgia’s Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, LJ Scott of Michigan State, Mike Weber of Ohio State, and Bo Scarbrough of Alabama, Washington’s Myles Gaskin, and Western Michigan’s Jarvion Franklin.

D’Onta Foreman of Texas beat out both Barkley and Pettway last season for the award. The Doak Walker Award has been presented to the nation’s top running back annually since 1990. Among the winners over the years have included Ricky Williams, LaDainian Tomlinson, Reggie Bush, and Montee Ball.

To be included on this watch list, the university athletic department must submit a nomination.

2017 Doak Walker Award Watch List

Josh Adams, Notre Dame
Ryquell Armstead, Temple
Kalen Ballage, Arizona State
Saquon Barkley, Penn State
Alex Barnes, Kansas State
Jamauri Bogan, Western Michigan
D’Angelo Brewer, Tulsa
Nick Chubb, Georgia
Jordan Chunn, Troy
Justin Crawford, West Virginia
Damarea Crockett, Missouri
Rico Dowdle, South Carolina
D’Andre Ferby, WKU
Kendrick Foster, Illinois
Jarvion Franklin, Western Michigan
Myles Gaskin, Washington
James Gilbert, Ball State
Derrius Guice, LSU
Damien Harris, Alabama
Kyle Hicks, TCU
Justice Hill, Oklahoma State
Jon Hilliman, Boston College
Justin Jackson, Northwestern
Chris James, Wisconsin
Ty Johnson, Maryland
Ronald Jones II, USC
Ray Lawry, Old Dominion
Phillip Lindsay, Colorado
Tonny Lindsey Jr., Utah State
Bryce Love, Stanford
Sony Michel, Georgia
Dedrick Mills, Georgia Tech
David Montgomery, Iowa State
Jamal Morrow, Washington State
Ryan Nall, Oregon State
Jacques Patrick, Florida State
Kamryn Pettway, Auburn
Demario Richard, Arizona State
Diocemy Saint Juste, Hawaii
Bo Scarbrough, Alabama
Jordan Scarlett, Florida
LJ Scott, Michigan State
Bradrick Shaw, Wisconsin
Armand Shyne, Utah
Justin Silmon, Kansas State
Ito Smith, Southern Miss
Rodney Smith, Minnesota
Benny Snell Jr., Kentucky
Terry Swanson, Toledo
Shaq Vann, Eastern Michigan
Akrum Wadley, Iowa
Mark Walton, Miami
Warren Wand, Arkansas State
Tre Watson, California
Ralph Webb, Vanderbilt
Mike Weber, Ohio State
Braeden West, SMU
Devwah Whaley, Arkansas
Aeris Williams, Mississippi State
Shaun Wilson, Duke
Marquis Young, Massachusetts

Big 12’s new slogan is “guaranteed” to settle its one true champion issue

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The Big 12 is bringing back the conference championship game this season for the first time since being reduced in size to 10 members. Once the NCAA decided it was OK for conferences with fewer than 12 members to hold a championship game, it was only a matter of time before the Big 12 brought the money-making game 13th data point back to the table for its top playoff and conference championship contenders.

Of course, with the return of the championship game and the start of a new season brings a brand new slogan for the Big 12. As College Football Talk contributor Zach Barnett shows us, the new slogan is a neat little play on words, and may take a jab at its predecessor in the process.

The Big 12 has abandoned the “One True Champion” fiasco, which was doomed from the start, and replaced it with a bonafide guarantee that the Big 12 will once and for all be able to declare an unquestionable conference champion. The top two teams in the Big 12 will square off for the Big 12 championship this season, with the hope that the conference title game will help give a playoff contender one final push to get into the College Football Playoff. The Big 12 has been left out of the playoff mix two out of the first three years of the new national championship model. The Big 12 was ultimately passed over by the College Football Playoff selection committee, and this indecisiveness was believed to have hurt the Big 12’s chances (even though Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State had more than fair reasons for being included in the playoff that first year).

In 2015, Baylor and TCU tied for the conference championship. Despite Baylor winning the head-to-head matchup with the Horned Frogs, the Big 12 chose to award a split Big 12 title, thus making a mockery of the conference’s slogan of “One True Champion,” which was built on the emphasis that the Big 12 was the only power conference to play a full conference schedule where every team plays through the entire conference.

Last year, the Big 12 had Oklahoma go 9-0 in conference play to end the season as one of the hottest teams in the country, but two non-conference losses made it a tough uphill battle for the eventual Big 12 champions to get in (especially since one loss came against a playoff participant, one-loss Ohio State).

So here we are in 2017. The Big 12 held off on expanding the conference but is bringing the conference championship game back into the schedule. We will indeed get a guaranteed undisputed champion in the Big 12, but the Big 12 is guaranteed to be setup for a setback if a viable playoff contender is upset in a rematch in the Big 12 championship game.

Matt Campbell pleased with Joel Lanning’s QB-to-LB transition

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It’s going to be one of your favorite story lines of the 2017 season, even if you’d forgotten it was happening before reading this post. Joel Lanning, Iowa State quarterback, is now Joel Lanning, Iowa State linebacker.

Lanning made the transition in March with the understanding he would start at middle linebacker while retaining his role on offense in a limited capacity. “Coach (Matt) Campbell told me, ‘If everything works, you’re probably going to be throwing up after all the games because you’re going to be playing so much,” Lanning told the Des Moines Register during the spring.

At Big 12 Media Days on Monday, Campbell said he was impressed to the point of excited about Lanning’s feel for his new position.

“I was probably taken back a little bit about just as much growth as he was able to make from practice one through 15,” Campbell said. “I do think, playing where he played, he really has an understanding about playing at that depth of where he played on the offensive side, but now it’s just a different mindset and a different mentality.

“But Joel always played with a linebacker’s mentality at quarterback, but transitioning to now tackling and playing in space and doing those things, I think that’s been probably his biggest transition, but it’s really been fun to watch. I thought by practice 13, 14, 15, boy, he really looked like he belonged for sure.”

Lanning completed 99-of-169 passes for 1,290 yards with nine touchdowns against three interceptions while rushing 121 times for 559 yards and three scores in splitting time at quarterback with Jacob Park last season. The hunch here is he’ll rack up as many tackles in 2017 as he had completed passes in ’16.

ACC, SEC place most DBs on Jim Thorpe Award watch list

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Another day, yet another watch list as the 2017 offseason barrels towards a merciful death.

This time around it’s the Jim Thorpe Award doing the honors, with the trophy given annually to the nation’s top defensive back releasing a watch list consisting of a mere 45 players from all 10 FBS conferences.  Headlining this year’s list are a pair of semifinalists from a year ago, Louisville’s Jaire Alexander and Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick.

The ACC and SEC lead all conferences with seven players apiece selected, followed by the Pac-12’s six and five each for the Big Ten and Big 12.  Conference USA was next with four, while the AAC, MAC and Sun Belt had three and the Mountain West two.

Alabama, Florida State and Stanford were the only programs with two players each selected.

USC’s Adoree’ Jackson won the 2016 version of the Thorpe Award.  The other finalists for last year’s trophy were Michigan’s Jourdan Lewis and LSU’s Tre’Davious White.  All three of those players were selected in the 2017 NFL draft.

Baker Mayfield, Kansas pass rusher headline preseason All-Big 12 team

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The Big 12 on Wednesday unveiled its 2017 preseason all-conference teams, led, of course, by Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield. The 2016 Heisman Trophy finalist was named the league’s preseason Offensive Player of the Year and preseason All-Big 12 quarterback. Kansas’s Dorance ArmstrongJr., the conference’s leading returning sack man, was named the league’s preseason Defensive Player of the Year.

Oklahoma, Texas and TCU led the conference with five selections, followed by Kansas State and Oklahoma State with four. Texas Tech and Iowa State claimed two selections, followed by West Virginia and Baylor’s one.

Yes, that adds up to 29 players.

Offensive Player of the Year: Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Defensive Player of the Year: Dorance Armstrong Jr., Kansas
Newcomer of the Year: Will Grier, West Virginia

Offense
QB: Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
RB: Justice Hill, Oklahoma State
RB: Justin Crawford, West Virginia
FB: Winston Dimel, Kansas State
WR: Keke Coutee, Texas Tech
WR: Allen Lazard, Iowa State
WR: James Washington, Oklahoma State
TE: Mark Andrews, Oklahoma
OL: Orlando Brown, Oklahoma
OL: Zach Crabtree, Oklahoma State
OL: Dalton Risner, Kansas State
OL: Austin Schlotmann, TCU
OL: Connor Williams, Texas
K: Clayton Hatfield, Texas Tech
KR/PR: KaVontae Turpin, TCU

Defense
DL: Dorance Armstrong, Jr., Kansas
DL: Poona Ford, Texas
DL: Malcolm Roach, Texas
DL: K.J. Smith, Baylor
DL: Reggie Walker, Kansas State
LB: Travin Howard, TCU
LB: Malik Jefferson, Texas
LB: Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Oklahoma
DB: Kamari Cotton-Moya, Iowa State
DB: Tre Flowers, Oklahoma State
DB: Nick Orr, TCU
DB: D.J. Reed, Kansas State
DB: Jordan Thomas, Oklahoma
P: Michael Dickson, Texas