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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.

SEC sets pace on Maxwell Award watch list as Big Ten looks to end 14-year drought

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Brace yourselves, everybody, because college football award watch list season is in full swing! The fun got underway on Monday with the release of the watch lists for the Bednarik Award and the Maxwell Award from the Maxwell Football Club.

The Maxwell Award has been awarded annually to the top overall player in college football since 1973. Though not won by the Heisman Trophy winner every season, the award has gone to the Heisman Trophy winner each of the past three seasons, including Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson last year. The Big Ten currently has the longest drought for a Maxwell Award winner among the Power 5 conferences. Penn State running back Larry Johnson was the most recent Big Ten player to win the award in 2002. Since then, the SEC (6), Big 12 (3), Pac-12 (2), and ACC (1) have all had at least one Maxwell Award winner since 2003. Notre Dame has also had two Maxwell Award winners in that span.

Quarterbacks and running backs dominate the watch list, with 34 passers and 33 rushers on the initial watch list. Since 1994, only Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o has managed to break up the run of quarterbacks and running backs winning the award.

This year’s Maxwell Award watch list is below…

RB Josh Adams, Notre Dame
QB Austin Allen, Arkansas
QB Josh Allen, Wyoming
RB Kalen Ballage, Arizona State
RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State
QB J.T. Barrett, Ohio State
QB Jake Bentley, South Carolina
RB D’Angelo Brewer, Tulsa
OT Orlando Brown, Oklahoma
QB Jake Browning, Washington
QB Shane Buechele, Texas
RB Nick Chubb, Georgia
RB Justin Crawford, West Virginia
RB Damarea Crockett, Missouri
QB Sam Darnold, USC
QB Eric Dungey, Syracuse
QB Jacob Eason, Georgia
QB Jesse Ertz, Kansas State
QB Luke Falk, Washington State
QB Riley Ferguson, Memphis
QB Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State
DB Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
QB Quinton Flowers, USF
QB Deondre Francois, Florida State
RB Royce Freeman, Oregon
RB Myles Gaskin, Washington
RB James Gilbert, Ball State
WR Janarion Grant, Rutgers
QB Will Grier, West Virginia
RB Derrius Guice, LSU
AP Quadree Henderson, Pitt
RB Kyle Hicks, TCU
QB Jalen Hurts, Alabama
QB Lamar Jackson, Louisville
RB Justin Jackson, Northwestern
S Derwin James, Florida State
QB Daniel Jones, Duke
DE Arden Key, LSU
WR Christian Kirk, Texas A&M
DE Harold Landry, Boston College
RB Ray Lawry, Old Dominion
RB Phillip Lindsay, Colorado
RB Bryce Love, Stanford
QB Tanner Mangum, BYU
QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
OT Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame
QB Trace McSorley, Penn State
RB Dedrick Mills, Georgia Tech
RB Jalin Moore, Appalachian State
RB Ryan Nall, Oregon State
OT Cody O’Connell, Washington State
DT Ed Oliver, Houston
QB Jacob Park, Iowa State
QB Shea Patterson, Ole Miss
RB Rashaad Penny, San Diego State
RB Kamryn Pettway, Auburn
WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama
RB Larry Rose III, New Mexico State
QB Josh Rosen, UCLA
QB Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
QB Brett Rypien, Boise State
WR Deebo Samuel, South Carolina
AP Jaylen Samuels, N.C. State
RB Bo Scarbrough, Alabama
RB LJ Scott, Michigan State
QB Brandon Silvers, Troy
RB Rodney Smith, Minnesota
RB Ito Smith, Southern Miss
RB Benny Snell, Kentucky
QB Wilton Speight, Michigan
QB Jarrett Stidham, Auburn
QB Brent Stockstill, Middle Tennessee
QB Clayton Thorson, Northwestern
RB Akrum Wadley, Iowa
RB Mark Walton, Miami
RB Chris Warren III, Texas
WR James Washington, Oklahoma State
RB Ralph Webb, Vanderbilt
RB Mike Weber, Ohio State
QB Mike White, WKU
DE Christian Wilkins, Clemson
OT Connor Williams, Texas
RB Trayveon Williams, Texas A&M
QB Logan Woodside, Toledo
QB Malik Zaire, Florida

Anthony Wales runs Western Kentucky past Memphis in Boca Raton Bowl

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The Boca Raton Bowl boiled down, essentially, to one statistic: the ability of Memphis to stop the run. The Tigers ranked a respectable 44th in the country in rushing defense over their eight victories… and a dreadful 125th in their four losses, allowing an average of 372 yards and five touchdowns on 6.7 yards per carry.

Memphis couldn’t stop the run on Tuesday night, and Western Kentucky had its way with the Tigers, ending the best 2-year run in program history with a 51-31 victory.

Playing in his final collegiate game, Anthony Wales recorded the best night of his career. The senior rushed 35 times for a career-high 245 yards and three touchdowns, essentially breaking open what was a tight, 21-17 game himself. Wales’s first scoring dash came at the end of the first half put WKU up by 11 — Memphis would climb no closer than 13 the rest of the night —  his second score pushed the game into blowout territory and his final score, a 1-yard jaunt around right end with 2:18 remaining, ended any hope of a Memphis comeback.

Western Kentucky quarterback Mike White, playing back home in South Florida, was hyper-efficient as usual. White came into the night averaging 10.4 yards per attempt — which would be the most in FBS over the past three years if not for Baker Mayfield‘s 11.1 average — and improved upon that absurd number by completing 20-of-30 passes for 336 yards (that’s 11.2 yards per attempt) with three touchdowns against one interception. And White actually threw four touchdowns but had this beauty taken away by scoring technicality.

That’s offensive tackle Forrest Lamp finding the end zone on what was scored a 9-yard run, giving WKU a 14-10 lead it would not relinquish.

Memphis (8-5) struggled to run the ball, averaging only 2.5 yards on 31 carries, but Riley Ferguson still got his, completing 25-of-43 passes for 372 yards with four touchdowns and one pick.

The win closes a 2-year run under head coach Jeff Brohm — who has already left for Purdue; Nick Holt served as interim head coach on Tuesday — in which the Hilltoppers (11-3) posted a 23-5 overall record, a 17-1 mark against Conference USA competition, two C-USA titles and two bowl victories over American opponents. Those five losses: to No. 5 LSU in 2015, to No. 1 Alabama earlier this season, and losses of three, one, and three points.

What comes next will fall on the shoulders of new head coach Mike Sanford. Considering the trajectory of this program from Willie Taggart to Bobby Petrino to Brohm and now to Sanford, whatever comes next should still be pretty darn good.

Western Kentucky and Memphis in Boca Raton Bowl shootout

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Someone wake up Morty Seinfeld because we’ve got a barnburner in the Boca Raton Bowl.

Western Kentucky holds a 28-17 lead over Memphis and, as the score suggests, each defense has had trouble getting a handle on the opposing offense.

After a three-and-out to open the game, Western Kentucky scored touchdowns on its next four possessions. The Hilltoppers got touchdown passes from Mike White to Stevie Donatell, offensive lineman Forrest Lamp (though this technically went down as a run) and Nicholas Norris and a 2-yard plunge from Anthony Wales.

Western Kentucky had a chance to blow the game open just before the halftime horn. After accepting the ball at their own 15 with 35 seconds left, Western Kentucky appeared to set up to take a knee but instead handed to Wales, who ran mostly unimpeded down the left sideline for 53 yards. White threw to the end zone on the next play but was intercepted in the end zone.

White hit 13-of-18 passes for 184 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, while Wales rushed 15 times for 144 yards and a score.

Memphis scored on two long touchdown passes from Riley Ferguson and, with two field goal attempts from Jake Elliott (one good, one a rare miss), the Tigers have only been truly stopped on a three-and-out to open the game and a four-and-out to close the half. Ferguson has hit 14-of-22 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns, while five Tigers have rushed 16 times for 66 yards.

CFT Previews: Your Dec. 20 Bowl Viewer’s Guide

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Taking a quick-hit look at the Dec. 20 bowl menu, which is a little thin volume-wise for the second consecutive day but could prove to be a very entertaining single-game fare.

WHO: Memphis (8-4) vs. Western Kentucky (10-3)
WHAT: The 3rd Boca Raton Bowl
WHERE: FAU Stadium, Boca Raton, Florida
WHEN: 7 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: Western Kentucky ended the 2016 regular season as Conference USA champs, winning eight of their last nine and scoring at least 44 points in every single one of those games. The Hilltoppers scored 50 or more in six of those contests.  Memphis, meanwhile, allowed at least 42 points in four of its last six games; you see where this is going, right?  This stand-alone Tuesday night bowl game has all of the makings of a defense-optional affair with offensive fireworks as far as the eye can see.  To further that point: WKU scored 10 points in a loss to top-ranked Alabama; the only teams to put more on the scoreboard against the Crimson Tide in the regular season were Ole Miss, Arkansas, Texas A&M and Auburn.  Both teams had to replace prolific quarterbacks this offseason — Brandon Doughty for WKU, Paxton Lynch for the U of M — and each of the successors were more than respectable, with Mike White throwing for 4,027 yards and 34 touchdowns for the Hilltoppers, Riley Ferguson 3,326 and 28 for the Tigers.  Don’t sleep on Anthony Wales, though, as the WKU running back ran for 1,376 yards this season (6.8 ypc) and whose 24 rushing touchdowns were second nationally to Navy’s Will Worth‘s 25.  Hell, he averaged exactly four yards a carry against a ‘Bama defense that gave up just 2.03 yards per carry on the season, far and away the best figure at this level of football.  Speaking of running the ball, the Hilltoppers were fourth in the country in stopping it, giving up just 99.1 yards per game.  Aerially?  That same defense was 11oth in the FBS in giving up 268.7 passing yards per game.  Again, almost every single sign is pointing toward a shootout.
THE LINE: Memphis, +5
THE PREDICTION: Western Kentucky 48, Memphis 44