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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

Mike Weber to leave Ohio State early for NFL, but will play in Rose Bowl

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Mike Weber has officially decided to ply his football wares at the next level, but not until his last season at this level has played out.

After going back and forth on the subject for the past couple of months, Weber announced on Twitter Sunday that he has decided to leave Ohio State early “and will live the dream I’ve had since 5 years old. I will be declaring for the 2019 NFL Draft.” Additionally, the running back confirmed that he will play in the Rose Bowl against Washington New Year’s Day.

A highly-touted 2015 signee whose OSU career got off to a bit of a bumpy start off the field, Weber has rushed for 2,580 yards (15th all-time at the school) and 24 touchdowns the past three seasons.  The Detroit, Michigan, native’s 1,096 yards as a redshirt freshman led the Buckeyes, while his nine rushing touchdowns tied for the team lead that same season.

Weber’s 858 yards and five touchdowns in 2018 are currently second on the team.

UCF’s 25-game winning streak now longest in all of college football

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When we say a streak, a stat, a side of the ball is the best in college football, typically it’s implied such a statement applies only to FBS. The game’s highest division gobbles up 99.9 percent of the attention, and with good reason — that’s where 99.9 percent of the best players live.

But when we say UCF’s 25-game winning streak is now the longest in college football, it’s actually true now.

Mary Hardin-Baylor (Texas) knocked off Mount Union (Ohio) 24-16 in the Division III National Championship on Friday night, in the process ending the Purple Raiders’ 29-game winning streak and handing UCF the crown.

According to a CFT study, half of the nation’s 10 longest winning streaks reside in the FBS, and with good reason. While the other divisions funnel all their best teams into one bracket in order to find the very best team, FBS puts only four teams in its tournament, allowing UCF to put together two straight unbeaten seasons (minus one game) without competing for the national championship.

Top 10 College Football Winning Streaks
1. UCF — 25 games
2. North Dakota State (FCS) — 20
3(t). Alabama — 15
3(t). Mary Hardin-Baylor (Division III) — 15
3(t). Morningside (NAIA) — 15
3(t). Valdosta State (Division II) — 15
7(t). Clemson — 13
7(t). Notre Dame — 13
9. Princeton (FCS) — 10
10. Army — 8

Certainly the Knights would trade their 25-game winning streak for a shot at Alabama, Clemson and the like, but their consolation prize is the longest winning streak in all of college football — for as long as they keep winning.

Oregon lands commitment from nation’s No. 2 player

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Mario Cristobal got the biggest win of his Oregon head coaching tenure on Saturday, the Ducks don’t play again until New Year’s Eve.

Oregon landed the commitment of 5-star defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux on Saturday, a 6-foot-4, 239-pound defensive end out of Oaks Christian in Thousand Oaks, Calif.

Thibodeaux announced his pledge on ESPN during halftime of Utah State’s New Mexico Bowl drubbing of North Texas.

Thibodeaux is rated the No. 1 player in ESPN’s rankings and No. 10 by Rivals and 247Sports. Those rankings put him at No. 2 in the 247Sports Composite rankings, trailing only IMG Academy defensive end Nolan Smith, a Georgia commit.

Oregon beat out Alabama, Florida and Florida State for Thibodeaux’s services.

“There were a lot of reasons why I chose Oregon,” Thibodeaux said, via 247Sports. “I have a great comfort level with the coaching staff and I know I can go in there and get developed. I’ve known coach (Keith) Heyward since I was just a freshman and I really like coach Joe (Salave’a, DL coach) a lot. He’s a great coach, one of the best coaches in the country and I can’t wait to learn from him.

Thibodeaux will be only the third 247Sports Composite top-2 player to sign with a Pac-12 school in the past decade, following USC’s Matt Barkley in 2009 and UCLA’s Jalean Phillips in 2017. As a cautionary tale for all in Eugene, neither player really lived up to his respective billing. Barkely did not lead USC back to the elite of college football and has thrown just 174 passes as a mid-round NFL draft pick, while Phillips is reportedly leaving the team after two seasons at UCLA.

With Thibodeaux now in the fold, Oregon’s 2019 class now ranks No. 5 nationally in the 247Sports Composite team rankings, a 20-man class that includes 11 4-stars and now a 12th blue chip player in Thibodeaux.

Morningside College claims first NAIA national title

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A 16-yard touchdown pass from Trent Solsma to Connor Niles with 1:29 remaining handed Morningside College its first NAIA national championship on Saturday, capping a 35-28 win over Benedictine in Daytona Beach, Fla.

Morningside College is located Sioux City, Iowa, while Benedictine College is in Atchison, Kan.

The Solsma-to-Niles connection was massive for Morningside. Solsma completed 19-of-36 passes for 292 yards and four touchdowns and two interceptions, with the bulk of the damage going to Niles, who caught seven passes for 164 yards and three touchdowns.

The game started with a Shaefer Schuetz 26-yard touchdown pass for Benedictine, as the Ravens held leads of 7-0, 14-7 and 20-14 — all in the first half. But the Morningside defense stepped up in the second half, allowing the Mustangs to take control of the game with two Solsma touchdown passes, the first an 80-yarder to Niles, then a 19-yard score to Reid Jurgensmeier, putting Morningside in front 28-20 at the 9:53 mark of the third quarter.

Benedictine forged the game’s third tie with a 1-yard Frank Trent rush with 5:49 remaining in the fourth quarter, then had a chance to take the lead again after forcing a Morningside punt, but a holding call killed the Ravens’ drive and then disaster struck when a botched punt snap handed Morningside the ball at the Benedictine 18-yard line with two minutes remaining. On a 3rd-and-8 from the 16, Solsma found Niles for the winning score.

“It was going to him no matter what,” Solsma said. “He’s made big plays his entire career. This was no different.”

Niles’ catch, the last of his career, saw him finish with 6,175 career receiving yards, the most in NAIA history.

“I just remember catching it and then going to my knees,” Niles said. “After that, it was all cameras and teammates mobbing me. This is absolutely amazing.”

Morningside had been on the cusp of their first national title for the majority of the decade; the Mustangs lost the NAIA title game in 2012 and then fell in the NAIA semifinals in four of the past five seasons. The semifinal round saw Morningside avenge its 2016 and ’17 playoff losses to the University of Saint Francis — who would go on to win those seasons’ national titles — in a 34-28 overtime thriller.

“I’ve been motivated to not let this season end,” Morningside head coach Steve Ryan said. “The toughest part for me was that, at the end of the night, the year would be over. I’m so proud of what they’ve accomplished. It ended the way we were hoping … I’m ecstatic.”