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Davey O’Brien Award watch list highlighted by former finalists, semifinalists and SEC

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The Davey O’Brien Award (top quarterback) took the spotlight in the ongoing college football watch list tour on Wednesday morning. A total of 30 quarterbacks were named to the initial watch list for the award, including six from the SEC along with a few potential Heisman Trophy candidates and a Heisman Trophy winner.

Highlighting the watch list are two finalists from last season; Louisville’s Lamar Jackson and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield. Mayfield has been a two-time finalist for the award. Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett and Washington State’s Luke Falk are also on the watch list and are each two-time semifinalists for the award. Joining them on the watch list are former semifinalists Jake Browning (Washington), Sam Darnold (USC), Jalen Hurts (Alabama), Josh Rosen (UCLA), Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma State)m and Wilton Speight (Michigan).

While the SEC led the way with six watch list players, the ACC, Big 12, and Pac-12 each had four players named to the watch list. The Big Ten had three, with Penn State’s Trace McSorley joining Barrett and Speight.

Clemson’s Deshaun Watson won the Davey O’Brien Award each of the past two seasons, becoming the second two-time winner of the award (Oklahoma’s Jason White in 2003-04). A player does not need to be included on the watch list in order to win the award, but only quarterbacks from the 130 FBS programs are eligible.

2017 Davey O’Brien Award Watch List

Austin Allen, Arkansas
Josh Allen, Wyoming
J.T. Barrett, Ohio State
Jake Bentley, South Carolina
Jake Browning, Washington
Shane Buechele, Texas
Sam Darnold, USC
Eric Dungey, Syracuse
Jacob Eason, Georgia
Jesse Ertz, Kansas State
Luke Falk, Washington State
Riley Ferguson, Memphis
Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State
Quinton Flowers, USF
Deondre Francois, Florida State
Jalen Hurts, Alabama
Lamar Jackson, Louisville
Daniel Jones, Duke
Tanner Mangum, BYU
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Trace McSorley, Penn State
Shea Patterson, Ole Miss
Josh Rosen, UCLA
Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
Brett Rypien, Boise State
Brandon Silvers, Troy
Wilton Speight, Michigan
Brent Stockstill, Middle Tennessee
Mike White, WKU
Logan Woodside, Toledo

The Davey O’Brien Award will be trim its watch list down to a handful of semifinalists on November 7. Finalists for the award will be unveiled two weeks later on November 21, and the winner will be announced on December 7 at the annual Home Depot College Football Awards show on ESPN.

Running of the Bulls: USF the decisive preseason media favorite in AAC

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Charlie Strong may be taking over a new program this fall, but he will do so in a familiar role as preseason favorite. The preseason media poll was released by the American Athletic Conference today, and Strong’s USF Bulls were the runaway favorite to win the conference championship in 2017. USF swept the first-place votes in the AAC East Division and took 26 votes out of 30 to win the conference championship.

Strong returns to the conference where he previously made a name for himself as a head coach, dating back to the conference’s days as the Big East. In Strong’s first season as head coach at Louisville, the Cardinals were picked to finish last in the conference, to which Strong reflected on how he had never been picked to finish last before. Soon enough, Strong, with the help of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, quickly ascended the ranks of the Big East and developed into a top contender in the conference. At USF, Strong once again has one of the top quarterbacks in the conference with Quinton Flowers, and these Bulls are locked and loaded for a run to a conference title. After a disappointing experience with Texas, USF appears to have everything in place for Strong to quickly prove he can still coach, and now the bar has been placed as high as it can within the conference.

UCF is also expected to improve this season, as the Knights were picked second in the division behind the in-state rivals from Tampa. Defending conference champion Temple, with a first-year head coach in Geoff Collins, was picked third in the East Division by the media.

In the West Division, Memphis enters the year as the prohibitive favorite after receiving 22 first-place votes. Houston picked up six votes, and Navy and Tulsa each picked one one of the remaining first-place votes from the media.

AAC East Division

  1. USF (30 first-place votes)
  2. UCF
  3. Temple
  4. Cincinnati
  5. East Carolina
  6. UConn

AAC West Division

  1. Memphis (22)
  2. Houston (6)
  3. Navy (1)
  4. Tulsa (1)
  5. SMU
  6. Tulane

AAC Championship

  1. USF (26)
  2. Houston (2)
  3. Memphis (1)
  4. Navy (1)

As noted by the AAC, the preseason conference favorite has ended the year as the conference champion just once in the four years of the existence of the AAC. Cincinnati was picked as the 2014 preseason favorite and ended the season in a three-way tie with UCF and Memphis. In 2013, Strong’s Louisville team was picked to win the conference, but UCF ended the year as conference champion. Louisville did go 12-1 that season, with the lone loss coming against the Knights, who went on to beat Big 12 champion Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl.

American going all in on Power 6 push

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There are five power conferences in college football, and the American isn’t one of them. Those five leagues each have their own guaranteed tie-ins to New Year’s Six bowls, while the American tussles for one spot with the Mountain West, MAC, Conference USA and Sun Belt. That’s just the reality of college football.

It hasn’t stopped the AAC from trying to change the reality, though.

The league’s media days are underway in Newport, R.I., Monday, and the league has opted to use its public relations extravaganza to make its “Power 6” push official.

Note the hashtags.

And nothing says official like a golf ball, right?

This all-too-public push has the potential to backfire on the conference in the inevitable event that the Peach, Cotton or Fiesta bowls do not extend yearly, guaranteed invites to the American. (The Rose, Sugar and Orange spots are all taken.)

Then again, if the conference wants to change its station in life, why not push for it? Ask and ye shall receive, right? Didn’t LaVar Ball teach us that if you want your impossible dreams to become real you have to speak them into existence?

Central Florida and Houston have won BCS or New Year’s Six bowl games in the past four seasons. Cincinnati, Navy and Tulsa have been as consistent winners as anyone else in their weight class. SMU has had its moment in the sun and is rising under Chad Morris. Temple nearly took down a good Notre Dame team two years ago, the same season Memphis beat Ole Miss. South Florida enters the fall as likely the odds-on favorite to snare the Group of 5 this season.

The football in the American is good, but, still, it’s hard to argue the AAC is on par with the Power 5 when a third of the conference has watched its coaching roster leave for Power 5 jobs in the past two years. The American, through new hashtags and logos, is going to make that argument.

Pair of 2016 finalists headline Outland Trophy watch list

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In yet another sign that the offseason is quickly coming to an end and another season is rapidly approaching, the Outland Trophy has become the latest college football award to release its preseason watch list.

Given annually to the nation’s top interior linemen on either side of the ball, the Outland’s watch list this year consists of 81 players from all 10 FBS conferences.  Headlining that group are Washington State senior guard Cody O’Connell (pictured, No. 76) and Texas junior offensive tackle Connor Williams, two of the three finalists for the 2016 award won by Alabama offensive tackle Cam Robinson.

From the release, courtesy of the Football Writers Association of America:

The ACC (17) led all conferences with members on the Watch List, followed by the Big Ten and SEC (11 each), Pac-12 (10), American Athletic (9), Big 12 and Mid-American (6 each), Independents and Mountain West (4 each), Conference USA (2) and Sun Belt (1).

The list includes 24 offensive tackles, 21 defensive tackles, 20 centers and 16 offensive guards.


ACC tops as Bronko Nagurski watch list hits triple digits

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It may not be the biggest award in college football, but it’s certainly the most voluminous.

Watch List Season continued unabated Thursday morning, with the Bronko Nagurski Trophy revealing a group which consists of a whopping 103 FBA players.  Within that triple-digit preseason club, there are 30 defensive backs, 29 linebackers, 25 defensive ends and 19 defensive tackles.

Two 2016 first-team Football Writers Association of America All-Americans appear on the list — Clemson’s Christian Wilkins (pictured) and Florida State’s Tarvarus McFadden.

Conference-wise, the ACC leads with 20 players selected for the initial watch list.  The Big Ten is next with 16, followed by the SEC’s 14, the Pac-12’s 13 and the Big 12’s 11.  The AAC paced Group of Five leagues with 10, with the Sun Belt (6), Mountain West (5), Mid-American (3) and Conference USA (2) rounding out the conferences, while football independents chipped in the remaining three.

The Nagurski Trophy has been handed out annually since 1993 to college football’s best defensive player.  Last year’s winner was Alabama defensive end Jonathan Allen.