Josh Rosen

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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.

Baker Mayfield, J.T. Barrett, Lamar Jackson and Sam Darnold among 2017 Heisman Trophy favorites

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The new college football season may still be a long way away, but it is never too early to place your bets on who you think will win the Heisman Trophy in the 2017 season. The very early favorite, according to odds released by Bovada on Monday, is Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield.

Bovada gives Mayfield 11/2 odds to win the Heisman Trophy this fall. He is followed by Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett (6/1), which sets up a nice Heisman Trophy showdown in September when the defending Big 12 champions head to Columbus for the second game in a home-and-home series that was won by Ohio State in Norman in 2016. Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner, is listed with 7/1 odds, with USC’s rising star quarterback Sam Darnold listed at 9/1.

Penn State’s dynamic duo of running back Saquon Barkley and quarterback Trace McSorley each have 10/1 odds, along with Washington quarterback Jake Browning.

Looking back to the early odds from last January, Barrett and Mayfield each had 10/1 Heisman odds. Louisville’s Jackson was not on the radar.

Who will be the favorite for the Heisman Trophy in 2017? How about Lamar Jackson?

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Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson will now have an opportunity to do something no quarterback has ever done. Jackson will attempt to become the first quarterback in the history of the Heisman Trophy to win the award a second time. And considering how weel his 2016 season started (despite sputtering in the end), the hype machine will be in full force in 2017 out of Louisville. History will not be on his side of course, as there has been just one two-time Heisman Trophy winner (Archie Griffin of Ohio State).

Recent quarterbacks who have come up short of winning a second Heisman Trophy have included Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow and Johnny Manziel. Jackson should have some stiff competition to pose with the stiff-arm trophy in 2017, including at the quarterback position alone. For starters, 2016 Heisman Trophy finalist Baker Mayfield will be back at Oklahoma with a chance to pick up where he has left this season, and that will include a second crack against Ohio State (in Columbus).

Other quarterbacks that should be in the conversation will include USC’s Sam Darnold, Washington’s Jake Browning and perhaps UCLA’s Josh Rosen out of the Pac-12. Alabama’s Jalen Hurts will certainly garner some attention, as will Penn State’s Trace McSorley) and Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett if he returns in 2017. And with Tom Herman the QB Whisperer taking over the show in Austin, look for a big year from Texas quarterback Shane Buechele to catch some eyes.

Running backs have lost their edge in the Heisman Trophy game over the last 15 years, but Saquon Barkley of Penn State, Derrius Guice of LSU and Kamryn Pettway of Auburn may be worth watching closely. Ohio State’s biggest playmaker, Kurtis Samuel, should be in the conversation as well. And for those who insist on throwing a defensive player in the mix, Houston’s Ed Olliver will be the name to watch, although a defensive player from a Group of Five program likely has as minimal a chance to win the Heisman Trophy as there exists. USC’s Adoree’ Jackson isn’t shy about starting his own campaign either.

But the fun part about the Heisman Trophy conversation every season is seeing which player pops up out of nowhere to take the college football world by storm. That will likely be the case in the month of September, but it is anyone’s guess who it may be. Or maybe Jackson will have what it takes to make history.

UCLA parts ways with offensive coordinator Kennedy Polamalu

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UCLA head coach Jim Mora appears to be safe for at least one more year, because he is busy making staff changes in preparation for the 2017 season. Offensive coordinator Kennedy Polamalu has been let go from his position on the staff after a dismal season with the Bruins offense.

UCLA finished its season ranked 92nd in total offense, 127th in rushing offense and 96th in scoring offense. The lone bright spot for the Bruins was the passing game, with Josh Rosen leading the way through the air when he was healthy. Unfortunately for UCLA, Rosen was banged up this season  and only played in six games. Senior Mike Fafaul took over and ended his season with 12 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions. UCLA also ranked 99th in the nation in red zone scoring percentage and 96th in the nation in red zone touchdown percentage.

Polamalu took over as the offensive coordinator for UCLA last year to replace Noel Mazzone. Mazzone left UCLA for Texas A&M last offseason, leaving UCLA to promote Polamalu (a former USC offensive coordinator) from running backs coach to take on the role. The lack of focus or improvement in the running game was a surprising development for the Bruins, who relied too heavily on the pass to get things done.

Whoever takes over as offensive coordinator will be the third in three seasons for Rosen, with next season likely being his final year at UCLA before a possible departure for the NFL. Given the instability on the staff and possible uncertainty about what happens beyond 2017 if things go sour once more, Rosen leaving a year early for the NFL feels like a near-given. And who could blame him?

Washington State remains undefeated in Pac-12 after sending UCLA home with loss

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Washington State (4-2, 3-0 Pac-12) remained in control of its own fate in the Pac-12 with a 27-21 victory over visiting UCLA (3-4, 1-3 Pac-12) Saturday night in Pullman. Luke Falk was held without a touchdown pass for the Cougars, and UCLA was without Josh Rosen at quarterback due to an injury from last weekend.

Falk passed for 261 yards and was picked off one time by the Bruins defense. The interception came in the end zone in the first half, when UCLA’s defense did all it could to keep the game within reach for an offense with little to give without Rosen. Senior Mike Fafaul gave it his best effort, however, with 258 passing yards and the first three touchdown passes of his career. UCLA had a chance to steal a win on the road after being down 24-7, but a fumble by receiver Jordan Lasley was recovered by Washington State (after a video review had to overturn the original call on the field). From there, Washington State was able to work the clock, force the Bruins to call their final timeout, and then run the clock down to 49 seconds when a punt was downed at the UCLA two-yard line. Fafaul lobbed on deep down the middle of the field but it was picked off to seal the win for the Cougars.

UCLA had three turnover sin the game. Maybe the inclement weather made for some slippery footballs. Washington State had two turnovers as well.

Washington State travels to Arizona State next week for another late night contest. Arizona State will have a chance to clinch bowl eligibility with a win and will look to shrug off a blowout loss on the road against Colorado. UCLA will be home next week to take on Utah. After a victory on the road against Oregon State, the Utes remain in a tie for first place in the Pac-12 South (with Colorado).