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Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey starts 2016 Heisman campaign with record-setting show in blowout of Iowa

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If you are looking for your 2016 Heisman Trophy frontrunner, look west. Christian McCaffrey set a Rose Bowl record with 361 all-purpose yards as No. 6 Stanford pounded No. 5 Iowa, 45-16, in the Rose Bowl on New Years Day. McCaffrey got things going on the first play of the game with a 75-yard touchdown reception from Kevin Hogan. It was the longest play from scrimmage of the year and his career for McCaffrey, and he was just getting warmed up.

McCaffrey had a busy afternoon. By the end of the game, McCaffrey became the first player in Rose Bowl history to record 100 rushing and 100 receiving yards in the Rose Bowl. He ended his season with 2,019 rushing yards to become Stanford’s first 2,000-yard rusher in school history. McCaffrey reached these marks by rushing for 172 yards and leading all players with 105 receiving yards in the lopsided victory over the Hawkeyes. If Iowa spent any time focusing on McCaffrey’s and Stanford film, it sure did not show, but that may be just how good McCaffrey and Stanford were. McCaffrey’s performance was definitely worthy of high praise, but he did not do it all alone, if you can believe that.

Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan turned in an admirable performance as well, passing for 223 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for another score. Stanford’s defense held Iowa to 5-of-17 on third down and allowed just 51 rushing yards. Iowa managed just 290 yards of offense and they needed three fourth-down conversions to help get there. Stanford head coach David Shaw is now 3-2 in bowl games as head coach of the Cardinal, and that now includes two Rose Bowl victories. This Stanford program is not going to be going anywhere any time soon in the Pac-12, it continues to be the gold standard college football program in the same state that is home to USC and UCLA.

Stanford was left out of the College Football Playoff, but by halftime the Cardinal had Twitter blazing about reasons why the College Football Playoff selection committee either got the top four teams wrong or why the playoff should be expanded. Given how Alabama and Clemson seemed to handle Michigan State and Oklahoma, respectively, it was pretty easy to make a case that Stanford should have been in the mix. Of course, hindsight is always 20/20, and the Cardinal lost two games this season. Many will point to Stanford’s season-opening loss at Northwestern as the main reason why Stanford was left out, but a later loss to Oregon may have been more damaging in a “what have you done for me lately” sport.

This loss should not take away too much from the overall success of the season Iowa experienced. Though the Hawkeyes ended the year with two straight losses, Iowa put together some memorable moments en route to an undefeated regular season, which saw them come up just shy of a likely spot in the College Football Playoff. Kirk Ferentz may not have a program locked and loaded for a repeat performance in 2016, which makes a season like this as special as it coudl be.

McCaffrey was this season’s best all-around player in college football, and he accomplished something no other player had done since the 2010 season by scoring a touchdown with a pass, a run, a reception, a punt return and a kickoff return. Troy’s Jerrel Jernigan was the last player to accomplish the rare feat. LSU running back Leonard Fournette ended his 2015 season on a high note as well with a big showing in LSU’s bowl victory over Texas Tech. McCaffrey and Fournette will be the top two Heisman Trophy candidates in the running over the summer months and as the preseason plays out leading up to the start of the 2016 season. Next year, McCaffrey will no longer be in hiding out west, and nobody will be late to picking up who he is. McCaffrey was not as hidden in the west coast late kickoffs as many believe he was, but he did not have his biggest games when most people were watching (Notre Dame, for example).

Butkus Award names 51 linebackers to 2018 watch list

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College football watch list season resumed Monday with the release of the Butkus Award and Jim Thorpe Award watch lists. The Butkus Award watch list named 51 linebackers to its preseason list, including players from 41 different schools.

This year’s watch list is highlighted by finalists for the 2017 Butkus Award in Devin Bush of Michigan and T.J. Edwards of Wisconsin. Josh Allen of Kentucky and Cameron Smith of USC are also on the list after being a semi-finalist last year. Former high school Butkus Award winners Caleb Kelly of Oklahoma and Dylan Moses of Alabama also were named to the list.

Alabama and Wisconsin lead the nation with three Butkus Award watch list players each. Ryan Connelly and Andrew Van Ginkel join Edwards of Wisconsin and Anfernee Jennings and Mack Wilson of Alabama are also included.

The list will be trimmed down to a list of semi-finalists on October 29 and then down to a smaller list of finalists on November 19. Georgia running back Roquan Smith won the award last year.

2018 Butkus Award Watch List

Curtis Akins, Memphis
Otaro Alaka, Texas A&M
Josh Allen, Kentucky
Jeffrey Allison, Fresno State
Azeez Al-Shaair, Florida Atlantic
Joe Bachie, Michigan State
Markus Bailey, Purdue
Thomas Barber, Minnesota
Bryton Barr, Massachusetts
Tevis Bartlett, Washington
Devin Bush, Michigan
Josh Buss, Montana
Te’von Coney, Notre Dame
Ryan Connelly, Wisconsin
Deshaun Davis, Auburn
Troy Dye, Oregon
Koa Farmer, Penn State
Paddy Fisher, Northwestern
Joe Giles-Harris, Duke
Dre Greenlaw, Arkansas
Porter Gustin, USC
Nate Hall, Northwestern
Terez Hall, Missouri
Terrill Hanks, New Mexico State
Darius Harris, Middle Tennessee
De’Jon Harris, Arkansas
Khalil Hodge, Buffalo
Justin Hollins, Oregon
Oluwaseun Idowu, Pitt
Anfernee Jennings, Alabama
Gary Johnson, Texas
Kendall Joseph, Clemson
Caleb Kelly, Oklahoma
Jordan Kunaszyk, California
Tre Lamar, Clemson
Dylan Moses, Alabama
Bobby Okereke, Stanford
Justin Phillips, Oklahoma State
Germaine Pratt, N.C. State
Shaq Quarterman, Miami
David Reese, Florida
Cameron Smith, USC
Ty Summers, TCU
Jahlani Tavai, Hawaii
Drue Tranquill, Notre Dame
Andrew Van Ginkel, Wisconsin
D’Andre Walker, Georgia
Devin White, LSU
Mack Wilson, Alabama
Juwon Young, Marshall

Big Ten releases list of preseason honors

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As the Big Ten gets set to begin their media day fun in Chicago, the conference assembled a panel of media members to come up with a list of 10 players to receive preseason recognition. Five players from each division were named to this year’s mini-watch list of Big Ten players, with Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley the lone player designated as a unanimous selection.

Ohio State is represented on the list by two players in the East Division with sophomore running back J.K. Dobbins and junior defensive end Nick Bosa each being recognized by the panel. Bosa was last year’s defensive lineman of the year in the Big Ten despite not being a full-time starter. Michigan defensive lineman Rashan Gary and Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke were also honored in addition to McSorley of Penn State.

The West Division representatives is highlighted by last season’s freshman of the year in the Big Ten, Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor. The Badgers also are represented by linebacker T.J. Edwards. Northwestern linebacker Paddy Fischer, Nebraska wide receiver Stanley Morgan Jr. and Iowa tight end Noah Fant also made up the West Division representatives.

Some names that stand out as possible omissions include Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson and Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson, but it may be difficult to argue against the names appearing on this preseason list.

Ole Miss reveals Great White Shark uniform with new white helmet for season opener vs. Texas Tech

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With Shark Week upon us, Ole Miss is playing right into the theme with the announcement of its brand new “great white shark” uniform selection for the upcoming season. When Ole Miss takes the field for the season opener against Texas Tech in Houston, they will do so in a uniform featuring white from head to toe, including the helmet.

Ole Miss traditionally wears a blue helmet, so coming out in white is a brand new look for the Rebels. It also completes the idea of going all in on a great white shark theme, which is a play off the idea of Ole Miss embracing the land shark as its spirit animal on the football field. The video showed no nameplate on the back of the uniform, but that may just be because it is a demo uniform used specifically for the promotional video.

Ole Miss faces Texas Tech on September 1 in Houston’s NRG Stadium.

Sun Belt championship game MVP will get an MVP Belt

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The Sun Belt Conference will introduce a brand new conference championship game beginning this season, and the player of the game will be taking home quite the unique reward. The Sun Belt Conference championship game MVP will be given a championship belt, as opposed to a traditional trophy. It looks fantastic.

With the Sun Belt now home to the best conference championship game MVP prize, it is time for other conferences to step their game up!