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Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson, Bryce Love among Lombardi Award candidates

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The college football season may be in the books for the 2017 season, bu there is still a piece of hardware to present to one of the sport’s top players from the most recent season. On Monday, the Lombardi Foundation unveiled a list of 21 players named as a candidate for the Lombardi Award for the 2017 season. This year, the award is open to players of any position based on performance, leadership, character and resiliency and the list of candidates includes a number of names you should be familiar with.

2017 Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield, 2016 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson, Bryce Love, Saquon Barkley, Roquan Smith, and J.T. Barrett are all among the players nominated for the award. The list of 21 candidates will be whittled down to seven finalists by a select panel of award voters this week, and four of those finalists will be invited to the Lombardi Honors presentation for the awarding of the Lombardi Award. The seven initial finalists will be announced this coming Monday, January 22.

Saquon Barkley, Penn State (RB)
J.T. Barrett, Ohio State (QB)
Bradley Chubb, N.C. State (DE)
Tyrell Crosby, Oregon (OT)
DeShon Elliott, Texas (S)
Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama (S)
Shaquem Griffin, UCF (LB)
Lamar Jackson, Louisville (QB)
Derwin James, Florida State (S)
Joel Lanning, Iowa State (LB/QB)
Bryce Love, Stanford (RB)
Hercules Mata’afa, Washington State (DE)
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma (QB)
Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame (G)
Ed Oliver, Houston (DT)
Da’Ron Payne, Alabama (DT)
Rashaad Penny, San Diego State (RB)
Roquan Smith, Georgia (LB)
Vita Vea, Washington (DT)
James Washington, Oklahoma State (WR)
Christian Wilkins, Clemson (DT)

Alabama’s Jonathan Allen won the award for the 2016 season.

Record-setting day for Rashaad Penny not enough for San Diego State as Army wins a wild Armed Forces Bowl

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Army’s triple option isn’t exactly a two-minute offense. But give them five and they’re golden.

The Black Knights gutted out a game-winning touchdown in the final few seconds and grabbed a late defensive score for good measure to spoil a record-setting day for San Diego State tailback Rashaad Penny and claim victory in the Armed Forces Bowl 42-35.

Penny, who led FBS in rushing yards and all-purpose yardage, once again showed why he should have been invited to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony earlier in the month. He tied a FBS record with 200+ yards rushing for a fifth straight game — and needed only 10 carries to hit the mark to boot. All told the senior finished with 221 yards on just 14 carries while recording four touchdowns on the day, including the first points of the game on his second carry as he scampered 81 yards untouched to the end zone.

The star running back also set the Aztecs’ single-season school rushing record when he scored a 31 yard touchdown early in the second quarter, breaking the mark set by last season’s leading rusher and his good friend, Donnel Pumphrey.

Even with Penny’s heroics the game was a close, hard-fought game as you would expect between two teams that each won at least nine games in the regular season. The Black Knights’ held the ball for an even 46 (!!) minutes in the game as that option offense churned out yards and long drives a plenty. Quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw, somewhat surprisingly, completed a pass for six yards but did most of his damage on the ground to the tune of 180 yards rushing and a pair of touchdowns. Crucially, he had several huge pitches to his running backs as Darnell Woolfolk and Andy Davidson combined for 168 yards and three scores of their own.

While Kell Walker may not have had the stats of his teammates (five carries, 37 yards), he did find the end zone on the most important carry of the day when the team went for two to give them a one point margin with just 18 seconds left on the clock. While SDSU did have a shot at the very end, Elijah Riley ended all hopes of that by emphatically securing the win when he grabbed a lateral on the final play and ran it back 29 yards for the final margin.

The victory gives Army a 10 win season for the first time since 1996 and caps a remarkable turnaround run under head coach Jeff Monken. While he probably would have preferred a few defensive stops of Penny to make things more comfortable, gutting out a win in that fashion is just as satisfying as the Black Knights head into the offseason with plenty of momentum.

Big plays help San Diego State keep things tied up with Army at halftime of Armed Forces Bowl

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The Armed Forces Bowl pitted the nation’s leading rushing attack against the nation’s leading rusher and the battle lived up to the hype on Saturday afternoon in Forth Worth. San Diego State tailback Rashaad Penny’s set the single-season school record for rushing yards but his Aztecs were a bit worn down on defense as Army’s triple option attack kept pace to keep things locked at 21-all going into halftime.

Penny’s second run from scrimmage saw him go nearly untouched 81 yards to the end zone, leaving a trail of Black Knights defenders in his wake. He added another touchdown run from 32 yards out to start the second quarter and break the school record of his good friend and current Philadelphia Eagles running back Donnel Pumphrey held. If there was one major negative after the first half for the SDSU offense outside of Penny, it was the fact that they didn’t spend hardly any time on the field with the quick scoring drives and senior offensive lineman Antonio Rosales was ejected after receiving two personal fouls on one play.

Not to be left out of the party, Penny’s backup looked pretty good himself as Juwan Washington looked more than capable of taking over the workload next year with a 78-yard kick return touchdown right before halftime to keep things knotted up going into the break.

Army never seemed to panic despite giving up some early scores, as level-headed quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw looked superb running the option attack and racked up 83 yards rushing and a touchdown though two quarters. As expected, he didn’t pass the ball at all for Army but did have some terrific pitches to his running backs —  Andy Davidson punched in a TD to go with his 60 yards on the ground and Darnell Woolfolk chipped in with 42 yards and a score as well.

This was one of the better bowl matchups of the week and that rang very true early on in this one. Both teams have their work cut out for them in terms of stopping the run in the second half but it should make for a thrilling finish if those first two quarters were any indication.

CFT Previews: Your Dec. 23 Bowl Viewer’s Guide

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Taking a quick-hit look at the Dec. 23 bowl menu, which today features a pair of 10-win teams, another that could’ve gotten to double digits were it not for a hurricane and a service academy that’s on the verge of its best season ever wins-wise.

WHO: Texas Tech (6-6) vs. South Florida (9-2)
WHAT: The 12th Birmingham Bowl
WHEN: Noon ET on ESPN
WHERE: Legion Field, Birmingham, Alabama
THE LINE: Texas Tech, +3
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

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WHO: San Diego State (10-2) vs. Army (9-3)
WHAT: The 15th Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
WHEN: 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, Texas
THE LINE: Army, +7
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

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WHO: Appalachian State (8-4) vs. Toledo (11-2)
WHAT: The 19th Dollar General Bowl
WHEN: 7 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Mobile, Alabama
THE SKINNY: These two teams are very familiar with each other, at least when it comes to the recent postseason as they met in last year’s Camellia Bowl, with Appalachian State coming away with a three-point win. That game, incidentally, is the only meeting ever between the two schools. … Arguably the biggest surprise in this game is that Toledo head coach Jason Candle is neither coaching his last game nor already off to a bigger program.  In two full seasons, Candle has won 20 games at UT, the best start for a Rockets head coach ever.  This time next year, though, expect Candle to be in charge of his own Power Five program. … Toledo, incidentally, can post its highest win total since its 12-0 1971 season under Jack Murphy. A win would not only match that season, but could also leave the Rockets ranked in the final College Football Playoff Top 25 for the first time ever. … Both teams left the regular season on a high, with the Mountaineers winning three in a row and the Rockets doing the same, with the bonus for the latter being the last of those wins coming in the MAC championship game. … ASU is looking to run its all-time bowl record to 3-0. with the first two wins coming the past two seasons… If you like quality quarterback matchups, this one’s for you.  UT’s Logan Woodside and ASU’s Taylor Lamb are two of only three FBS quarterbacks, the other being Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma, to throw for 25 or more touchdowns and fewer than eight interceptions this season.  Woodside is currently fifth in the country in pass efficiency, while Lamb is 16th. Woodside is also 11th in passing yards (3,758), while Lamb can also beat a defense with his legs as his 539 yards rushing are 10th amongst Group of Five quarterbacks. … Don’t sleep on the Rockets’ running game, though, as Terry Swanson‘s 1,319 yards leads the MAC. … Stat to note: Teams from the Sun Belt Conference have won two straight and four of the last five Dollar General Bowls.
THE LINE: Appalachian State, +7
THE PREDICTION: Toledo 50, Appalachian State 42

CFT Previews: Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl

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WHO: Army (9-3) vs. San Diego State (10-2)
WHAT: The 15th Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
WHEN: 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, TX
THE SKINNY: If you like running games, the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl is for you this year. San Diego State rides into the bowl season with one of the nation’s top rushers in Rashaad Penny. On the other side of the field is Army’s signature option running game, led by quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw. Expect plenty of rushing yardage in this one.

Army is in a postseason bowl game for the second year in a row for the first time since 1984 and 1985. It’s been a long time coming for the Knights, who also look to reach the 10-win total for the first time since 1996. Jeff Monken has done a terrific job turning things around for the program, including having won back-to-back Army-Navy Games and securing the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy for the first time since the mid-1990s.

The Aztecs certainly had a great year as well, but San Diego State fell short of being able to play for the Mountain West Conference championship. Despite a Heisman-worthy season from Penny and a signature win over Bryce Love and Stanford, San Diego State is hoping to cap another otherwise successful season under Rocky Long with a shot at finishing in the AP top 25 for the second season in a row. San Diego State can also win 11 games in a season for a third straight season, which would be a remarkable accomplishment and a testament to the stability this program has achieved.

Army will be more likely to slowly pile up the offensive yardage, but do not be shocked if Penny breaks free for some quick long gains.

THE PICK: San Diego State 34, Army 28