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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

USC takes charge in Pac-12 South after upset of No. 10 Utah

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Late Friday night saw the first upset of the weekend in college football. No. 10 Utah (3-1, 0-1 Pac-12) was upset on the road by USC (3-1, 2-0 Pac-12), 30-23, despite the Trojans playing with a third-string quarterback and the Pac-12 officials throwing enough flags to fill five loads of laundry. The win by USC moves the Trojans into a comfortable spot in the Pac-12 South before even getting to October.

USC lost starting quarterback Kedon Slovis on the second play of the game. After Slovis left to be evaluated for a possible head injury, third-string quarterback Matt Fink stepped in to lead the offense. All Fink did was lead USC to touchdowns on their first two possessions of the game and then make some big passes in the second half to keep the Trojans in front of Utah. Fink ended his night off the bench with 351 passing yards and three touchdowns. Michael Pittman Jr. was on the receiving end of 10 of those receptions for a massive 232 receiving yards. The highlight of the night was a 77-yard touchdown pass that saw Pittman come down with a jump ball and then push aside a would-be tackler on his way to the endzone.

A win is a win, fo course, and USC will take them any way they can. On Friday night in the Coliseum, they had to overcome an onslaught of bad penalties. USC was flagged 11 times for 117 yards. Utah had their share of laundry too with 16 penalties called for 120 yards. Both teams were guilty of personal foul penalties as the game was certainly chippy at times. But some of the penalties were questionable at best. Neither coach will walk away from this game feeling great about the discipline or the officiating, as there was plenty of blame to go around in this one.

Utah had their chances to come away with the win, but an inability to defend deep jump ball passes by Fink killed them too often. The Utes ran for 247 yards as a team but managed just one touchdown on the ground. Quarterback Tyler Huntley put his team on the back for much of the night with 210 passing yards and 60 rushing yards, but it was not enough as defenders were able to get to him and bring him under pressure.

In the end, it was just USC’s night, and it was one Clay Helton really needed. For now, USC can live in the moment and not have to worry about distractions about the future of Helton. USC is already 2-0 in conference play with wins against Stanford and Utah. The road is not going to get any easier, with a road game at Washington coming up next week, followed by a trip to South Bend, Indiana to play Notre Dame. But USC ha splayed themselves into a favorable spot in the Pac-12 by being 2-0 and owning a head-to-head tiebreaker with Utah. That gives USC a margin for error in conference play, and they look to be the best team within the Pac-12 South the rest of the season.

While we should be wise not to pencil USC into the Pac-12 championship game just yet (remember, third-string QB and they still have Washington and Oregon to play in a difficult crossover division rotation), but there have been some true signs of promise for the Trojans early on this season. And bouncing back from a hard-fought loss at BYU last week to knock off No. 10 Utah is quite a turnaround for USC.

As USC hits the road to challenge Washington next week, Utah will look to rebound at home in Salt Lake City against Washington State. As of the conclusion of the USC-Utah game, the Washington State Cougars were one of three undefeated teams in the Pac-12 left standing (Cal, Arizona State).

No. 20 Boise State soars past Air Force in second half

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It looked as though Air Force (2-1, 0-1 Mountain West) was going to be giving No. 20 Boise State (4-0, 1-0 Mountain West) some absolute fits Friday night in Boise, Idaho, but the Broncos pulled away from the Falcons with a strong second half in a 30-19 win. Hank Bachmeier passed for 263 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the win as Boise State opened up conference play on the right foot at home.

Air Force lost some potential to spring an upset of the Broncos with an injury to quarterback Donald Hammond. Without Hammond on the field, Air Force’s option offense lost its ability to pick up some key yards when it needed it the most, but credit should also be given to the Boise State defense. Once again, the Broncos took firm control of a game after halftime, just as they have all season.

The win gives Boise State an early lead in the Mountain Division of the Mountain West Conference. Boise State certainly has the look of the best all-around team in the conference so far too, and few teams appear to be the kind of second-half team Boise State has become. The offense comes alive in the second half and the defense continues to keep opponents down after the half. Air Force managed to pick up a touchdown in the fourth quarter, but the game was well out of reach at that point.

Air Force did rack up 242 yards on the ground, which is to be expected given their offensive style, but Boise State held firm on fourth down attempts by the Falcons (0-for-2 on fourth down). Boise State was also only called for three penalties in the game and went without a turnover. It was a pretty clean game for the Broncos.

Boise State will get a week off before playing again. The Broncos will be on the road on Oct. 5 to play UNLV and return to the blue turf a week later against Hawaii.

Air Force will play next week with a home game against San Jose State.

Matt Fink delivers early spark for USC off bench, Trojans leading No. 10 Utah at half

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Playing with a third-strong quarterback, USC is looking to make a statement at home against No. 10 Utah. The Pac-12 contest has been heated from the start with some chippiness and personal foul penalties, and a couple of notable injuries. At the halftime break in the Los Angeles Coliseum, USC leads Utah 14-10.

Utah blew a chance to trim the lead a little bit more or take the lead just before halftime, but a botched handoff by Tyler Huntley led to a fumble recovery by USC in the final 20 seconds of the half from inside the USC five-yard line.

On the second play of the game, USC quarterback Kedon Slovis was removed from the game and examined for a possible head injury. Matt Fink entered the game and led USC to two touchdown drives in the first quarter. Already with over 200 passing yards, Fink and the USC offense ran into a bit of a wall for the rest of the half. USC went three-and-out on their first possession after taking a 14-7 lead. A fumble by Stephen Carr after a 16-yard gain gave Utah possession at their 20-yard line. USC then went three-and-out on their next possession, after the Utes chipped away at the deficit with a field goal.

Later in the half, Utah wide receiver Zack Moss left the game and was being checked for a possible shoulder injury.

Penalties also became a major factor in the second quarter with a handful of questionable roughing the passer and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. Utah has already committed nine penalties for 75 yards, while USC has done their part to have laundry thrown on the field with six penalties for 70 yards. The officials have certainly earned their paycheck tonight so far.

Air Force and Boise State reach halftime knotted at 10-10

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A matchup of undefeated Mountain West Conference teams has been everything it was supposed to be. Air Force is giving Boise State a good battle on the strength of their running game. The two teams are tied 10-10 at the break.

After a scoreless first quarter, Air Force and Boise State exchanged touchdown drives in the second quarter. The Falcons opened the scoring with Donald Hammond III running eight yards for a score. Boise State answered with Hank Bachmeier tossing a 36-yard pass to CT Thomas for a score.

After forcing Air Force to punt on the ensuing possession, the Broncos took their first lead of the game minutes later. Eric Sachse booted a 40-yard field goal to give the home team a 10-7 lead.

As expected, Air Force has thrived by chewing up yards on the ground, but a pass completion from Hammond III to Ben Peterson late in the second quarter moved the football to the Boise State 13-yard line and a first down. That late drive ended with a field goal by Jake Koehnke to send the teams to the locker rooms all squared up.

We should have a good finish coming up on the blue turf in the second half.