NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 28: Justin Jackson #21 of the Northwestern Wildcats dives for a touchdown in front of the Pittsburgh Panthers defense during the first half of the New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium on December 28, 2016 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images)
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Justin Jackson’s career day helps Northwestern nip No. 23 Pitt in Pinstripe Bowl

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If you’re a fan of Northwestern football, go ahead and send all of your thank you notes and/or cards to Justin Jackson, c/o NU athletics.  Although, you could save some for the secondary as well.

Thanks in very large part to Jackson’s career day, Northwestern (7-6) was able to hold off No. 23 Pittsburgh (8-5) and stake its claim to the 7th annual New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium with a 31-24 win.  The victory was the Wildcats’ first in a bowl game since 2012 and just the third ever since the program was established in 1892.

And, again, thanks be to Jackson.  The junior running back gashed the Panthers defense for 224 yards and three touchdowns on 32 carries.  His previous career-high was 188, set in a mid-October win over Michigan State earlier this season.

Jackson was part of a back-and-forth second half, with the lead changing hands four times in the last two quarters after the Wildcats had taken a 14-10 lead into the halftime locker room.  What turned out to be the final lead change didn’t involve Jackson, though, as Clayton Thorson connected with Garrett Dickerson for a 21-yard touchdown pass on a fourth and one with 8:23 remaining in the fourth quarter to give the Panthers a four-point lead.

On the first play of the ensuing possession, Quadree Henderson, playing in pace of the injured James Conner, fumbled the ball back to the Wildcats at the Panthers’ 27-yard line; four plays later, a Jack Mitchell 37-yard field goal extended the lead to seven.

Pitt’s second-to-last chance to tie the game nearly ended in a touchdown but for a tremendous defensive play in the end zone and instead came to a halt on an interception tossed by Ben DiNucci, who prior to this game had never attempted a pass at the collegiate level.  The redshirt freshman was in the game because starter Nathan Peterman sustained a third-quarter head injury and didn’t return.  Conner suffered the same fate on the same type of injury in the same quarter.

Another DiNucci interception with 1:22 left sealed the Panthers’ third consecutive bowl loss.  The 24 points were the fewest for a Pitt offense this season that came into the game 11th in the country in scoring at 42.3 points per game.

Interestingly, with Pitt’s loss, ranked teams are off to an 0-3 start to the bowl season.  The Big Ten is 2-1 this postseason, while the ACC suffered its first loss after winning its first three.

Red-zone stands, Justin Jackson push Northwestern to halftime lead on No. 23 Pitt in Pinstripe Bowl

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 28: A general view prior to the Northwestern Wildcats taking on the Pittsburgh Panthers in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium on December 28, 2016 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images)
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Northwestern’s defense bent to the point of breaking but (mostly) never snapped, leading the Big Ten school to a surprisingly defensive 14-10 halftime lead on No. 23 Pittsburgh in the 7th annual New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium.

Already up 3-0 late in the first quarter, Pitt was looking at a fourth and goal from the Northwestern one-yard line that if successful would’ve extend its lead to two scores.  Instead, leading rusher James Conner was stuffed for no gain, with the Wildcats flipping that turnover on downs into a 10-play, 99-yard drive that was aided greatly by a 68-yard Justin Jackson run and capped off by Jackson’s eight-yard touchdown run.  The junior running back accounted for 88 rushing yards by himself on that drive.

The Panthers, though, seemed poised on the ensuing possession to regain the lead.  On a second and goal from the 10-yard line following a false start penalty, however, Nathan Peterman was picked off by the Wildcats’ Godwin Igwebuike with just under 13 minutes remaining in the second quarter.  Pitt’s defense, though, returned the favor, with Avonte Maddox intercepting a Clayton Thorson pass in the end zone five minutes later to snuff out a Wildcats’ scoring opportunity.

The Panthers’ offense could do nothing with the gift, handing the ball right back to the Wildcats on a three and out.  Eight plays and 74 yards later, another Jackson touchdown run, this one from 16 yards out, pushed the lead to 14-3 with just over three minutes remaining in the half.  In addition to scoring both touchdowns, Jackson ran for 147 yards on his 18 carries.

On the next possession for Pitt, however, it was the big play that got the Panthers back into the game, with Peterman hitting Jester Weah on a beautifully-thrown 69-yard touchdown pass just 17 seconds after the Wildcats’ second score.

The fact that the Wildcats held the high-scoring Panthers to a mere 10 points through two quarters was, along with Jackson’s play, the story of the first half.

Pitt came into today’s game 11th in the country in scoring at 42.3 points per game.  The Panthers scored at least 36 points in 10 of 12 regular season games, and in the other two they scored 28.  In their regular-season finale, they scored 76 points in a win over Syracuse.

Despite the relative lack of points, both teams moved the ball relatively well.  Northwestern finished with 294 yards of total offense, Pitt 264.  The Panthers came into the game averaging 447.5 yards per game while the Wildcats are less than 100 yards away from hitting their seasonal average of 392.9.

Having deferred after winning the pregame coin toss, Pitt will open the second half on offense.

Alabama and Ohio State each land six players on AP All-American teams

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 03:  Jonathan Allen #93 of the Alabama Crimson Tide reacts after sacking Austin Appleby #12 of the Florida Gators in the fourth quarter during the SEC Championship game at the Georgia Dome on December 3, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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The Associated Press released its 2016 All-American teams for the 2016 season, and it should be no surprise the teams are loaded with a healthy sampling of players from Alabama and Ohio State, as well as headlined by the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner, Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson. Jackson was named a First-Team All-American by the AP, as well as fellow Heisman Trophy finalists Jabrill Peppers of Michigan and Dede Westbrook of Oklahoma.

Four players from Alabama were named to the Frist Team, which was more players from a single school than any other program; DL Jonathan Allen, LB Reuben Foster, DB Minkah Fitzpatrick and OT Cam Robinson. Linebacker Tim Williams and tight end O.J. Howard received second-team recognition. Ohio State had three players on the first team; center Pat Elflein, safety Malik Hooker, and H-Back Curtis Samuel.

Houston freshman defensive tackle Ed Oliver is the first freshman to be named First-Team All-American since Sammy Watkins of Clemson and LSU punter Brad Wing received the honor in 2011.

The Associated Press All-American team is the third of the five All-American teams to be released that is used t determine the Consensus All-American team. At this rate, there should be a good number of consensus All-Americans on the list, with just the AFCA and FWAA All-American teams to be released in the coming days.

AP First Team All-Americans By Conference

  1. SEC (8)
  2. Big Ten (7)
  3. Pac-12 (4)
  4. ACC (2)
    Big 12 (2)
  5. American (1)
    MAC (1)

FIRST TEAM

OFFENSE

Quarterback — Lamar Jackson, sophomore, 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, Louisville

Running backs — D'Onta Foreman, junior, 6-2, 249, Texas; Dalvin Cook, junior, 5-11, 213, Florida State

Tackles — Cam Robinson, junior, 6-6, 310, Alabama; Ryan Ramczyk, junior, 6-6, 314, Wisconsin

Guards — Cody O’Connell, junior, 6-8, 354, Washington State; Dan Feeney, senior, 6-4, 305, Indiana.

Center — Pat Elflein, senior, 6-3, 300, Ohio State

Tight end — Evan Engram, senior, 6-3, 235, Mississippi

Wide receivers — Dede Westbrook, senior, 6-0, 176, Oklahoma; Corey Davis, senior, 6-3, 213, Western Michigan

All-purpose player — Curtis Samuel, junior, 5-11 197, Ohio State

Kicker — Zane Gonzalez, senior, 6-1, 195, Arizona State

DEFENSE

Ends — Myles Garrett, junior, 6-5, 270, Texas A&M; Derek Barnett, junior, 6-3, 265, Tennessee

Tackles — Jonathan Allen, junior, 6-3, 290, Alabama; Ed Oliver, freshman, 6-2, 290, Houston

Linebackers — Reuben Foster, senior, 6-1, 228, Alabama; Zach Cunningham, junior, 6-2, 230, Vanderbilt; Jabrill Peppers, junior, 6-1, 205, Michigan

Cornerbacks — Jourdan Lewis, senior, 5-11, 186, Michigan; Adoree’ Jackson, junior, 5-11, 185, Southern California

Safeties — Malik Hooker, sophomore, 6-2, 205, Ohio State; Minkah Fitzpatrick, sophomore, 6-1, 200, Alabama

Punter — Mitch Wishnowsky, sophomore, 6-2, 220, Utah

___

SECOND TEAM

OFFENSE

Quarterback — Deshaun Watson, junior, Clemson

Running backs — Donnel Pumphrey, senior, San Diego State; Christian McCaffrey, junior, Stanford

Tackles — Connor Williams, sophomore, Texas; Orlando Brown, sophomore, Oklahoma

Guards — Billy Price, junior, Ohio State; Will Hernandez, junior, UTEP

Center — Tyler Orlovsky, senior, West Virginia

Tight end — Jake Butt, senior, Michigan

Wide receivers — Zay Jones, senior, East Carolina; John Ross, junior, Washington

All-purpose player — Quadree Henderson, sophomore, Pitt

Kicker — Daniel Carlson, junior, Auburn

DEFENSE

Ends — DeMarcus Walker, senior, Florida State; Harold Landry, junior, Boston College

Tackles — Carlos Watkins, senior, Clemson; Montravius Adams, senior, Auburn

Linebackers — Raekwon McMillan, junior, Ohio State; T.J. Watt, junior, Wisconsin; Tim Williams, senior, Alabama

Cornerbacks — Rasul Douglas, senior, West Virginia; Desmond King, senior, Iowa

Safeties — Budda Baker, junior, Washington; Jamal Adams, junior, LSU

Punter — Cameron Johnston, senior, Ohio State

___

THIRD TEAM

OFFENSE

Quarterback — Baker Mayfield, junior, Oklahoma

Running backs — Saquon Barkley, sophomore, Penn State; Aaron Jones, junior, UTEP

Tackles — Mike McGlinchey, senior, Notre Dame; Forrest Lamp, senior, Western Kentucky

Guards — Nico Siragusa, senior, San Diego State; Quenton Nelson, junior, Notre Dame

Center — Ethan Pocic, senior, LSU

Tight end — O.J. Howard, senior, Alabama

Wide receivers — Amba Etta-Tawo, senior, Syracuse; Austin Carr, senior, Northwestern

All-purpose player — Christian Kirk, sophomore, Texas A&M

Kicker — Gary Wunderlich, junior, Mississippi

DEFENSE

Ends — Hunter Dimick, senior, Utah; Jordan Willis, senior, Kansas State

Tackles — Christian Wilkins, sophomore, Clemson; Solomon Thomas, junior, Stanford

Linebackers — Kendell Beckwith, senior, LSU; Jimmie Gilbert, senior, Colorado; Ben Boulware, senior, Clemson

Cornerbacks — Teez Tabor, junior, Florida; Cordrea Tankersley, senior, Clemson

Safeties — Nathan Gerry, senior, Nebraska; Weston Steelhammer, senior, Air Force

Punter — Michael Dickson, sophomore, Texas

Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield takes home second straight Burlsworth Award

NORMAN, OK - SEPTEMBER 5: Quarterback Baker Mayfield #6 of the Oklahoma Sooners looks to throw against the Akron Zips September 5, 2015 at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. Oklahoma defeated Akron 41-3.(Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
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For the second straight season, Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield has been named the recipient of the Burlsworth Award. Mayfield is now the first player to win the award two times.

The award is given to college football’s top player who began his career as a walk-on player. Mayfield was originally a walk-on player at Texas Tech before eventually transferring to Oklahoma, where he has emerged as a Heisman Trophy candidate and led the Sooners to two consecutive Big 12 championships and one appearance in the College Football Playoff.

Mayfield beat out Washington State quarterback Luke Falk and Northwestern wide receiver Austin Carr for the award. Mayfield will also have a chance to add one more Burlsworth Award to his name next season, as the Sooners passer has already said he will return to Oklahoma for the 2017 season.

Lamar Jackson, Jabrill Peppers headline list of major awards finalists

ANN ARBOR, MI - OCTOBER 22: Jabrill Peppers #5 of the Michigan Wolverines signals a teammate while playing the Illinois Fighting Illini on October 22, 2016 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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The college football version of the Oscars are coming, and the nominees were just announced. The National College Football Awards Association, basically every major award south of the Heisman, jointly dropped its finalists on Monday evening.

Winners will be unveiled at the annual Home Depot College Football Awards show set to air from the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta on Thursday, Dec. 8 (7 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Let’s get right to them.

Chuck Bednarik Award (best defensive player)
– Jonathan Allen, Alabama
– Myles Garrett, Texas A&M
– Jabrill Peppers, Michigan

Biletnikoff Award (best wide receiver)
Austin Carr, Northwestern
– Zay Jones, East Carolina
Dede Westbrook, Oklahoma

Butkus Award (best linebacker)
– Kendall Beckwith (LSU)
– Zach Cunningham (Vanderbilt)
– Jarrad Davis (Florida)
– Rueben Foster (Alabama)
– Josey Jewell (Iowa)

Lou Groza Award (best kicker)
– Daniel Carlson, Auburn
– Zane Gonzalez, Arizona State
– Younghoe Koo, Georgia Southern

Ray Guy Award (best punter)
– Micheal Dickson, Texas
– Cameron Johnston, Ohio State
– Mitch Wishnowsky, Utah

Mackey Award (best tight end)
Jake Butt (Michigan)
O.J. Howard (Alabama)
Jordan Leggett (Clemson)

Maxwell Award (best player)
– Lamar Jackson, Louisville
– Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
– Jabrill Peppers, Michigan

Davey O’Brien Award (best quarterback)
– Lamar Jackson, Louisville
– Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
– Deshaun Watson, Clemson

Outland Trophy (best interior lineman)
– Pat Elflein, Ohio State
– Cody O’Connell, Washington State
– Cam Robinson, Alabama

Jim Thorpe Award (best defensive back)
Dalvin Cook, Florida State
– D’Onta Foreman, Texas
Donnel Pumphrey, San Diego State

Wuerffel Trophy (best community servant)
Christian McCaffrey (Stanford)
– Trevor Knight (Texas A&M)
– Garrett Adcock (New Mexico State)

The Home Depot awards show will also recognize the Home Depot Coach of the Year, the NCFAA Contributions to College Football Award, the Disney Spirit Award (already awarded to Pittsburgh’s James Conner), the William V. Campbell Trophy (to be awarded two nights prior at the National Football Foundation dinner in New York), the Allstate Good Works Team and the Walter Camp All-America team.