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Finalists announced for major college football awards

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Bowl season is approaching in college football, which means awards season is also approaching. On Monday, the finalists for the major college football awards except the Heisman Trophy — basically, the Heisman for each side of the ball and/or position — were revealed, leading up to the 28th annual Home Depot College Football Awards show on ESPN.

There’s a lot to get to here, so let’s dive right in:

Bednarik Award (top defensive player)
Josh Allen, Kentucky
Christian Wilkins, Clemson
Quinnen Williams, Alabama
Previous winner: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama

Biletnikoff Award (top wide receiver)
Andy Isabella, Massachusetts
Jerry Juedy, Alabama
Tylan Wallace, Oklahoma State
Previous winner: James Washington, Oklahoma State

Lou Groza Award (top kicker)
Cooper Rothe, Wyoming
Andre Szymt, Syracuse
Cole Tracy, LSU
Previous winner: Matt Gay, Utah

Ray Guy Award (top punter)
Braden Mann, Texas A&M
James Smith, Cincinnati
Mitch Wishnowsky, Utah
Previous winner: Michael Dickson, Texas

John Mackey Award (top tight end)
T.J. Hockeson, Iowa
Albert Okwuegbunam, Missouri
Kaden Smith, Stanford
Previous winner: Mark Andrews, Oklahoma

Maxwell Award (player of the year)
Will Grier, West Virginia
Kyler Murray, Oklahoma
Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama
Previous winner: Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma

Davey O’Brien Award (top quarterback)
Garnder Minshew, Washington State
Kyler Murray, Oklahoma
Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama
Previous winner: Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma

Outland Trophy (top interior lineman)
Christian Wilkins, Clemson
Jonah Williams, Alabama
Quinnen Williams, Alabama
Previous winner: Ed Oliver, Houston

Jim Thorpe Award (top defensive back)
Deandre Baker, Georgia
Julian Love, Notre Dame
Greedy Williams, LSU
Previous winner: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama

Doak Walker Award (top running back)
Travis Etienne, Clemson
Darrell Henderson, Memphis
Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin
Previous winner: Bryce Love, Stanford

Wuerffel Trophy (top community servant)
David Blough, Purdue
Dalton Risner, Kansas State
Drue Tranquill, Notre Dame
Previous winner: Courtney Love, Kentucky

The Home Depot College Football Awards will air Thursday, Dec. 6 at 7 p.m. ET from the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta.

Biletnikoff Award semifinalists are heavy on Big 12 receivers

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College football’s award season is coming soon, which means various individual awards are trimming down their massive watch lists to much smaller lists of semifinalists, and soon finalists. The Biletnikoff Award, which honors the nation’s best receiver regardless of position, released its list of 11 semifinalists for its award this season. As expected, some of the nation’s leading receivers managed to make the cut midway through November.

The list of semifinalists includes some of the top receivers from the Big 12 with Oklahoma’s Marquise Brown, West Virginia’s David Sills V, Oklahoma State’s Tylan Wallace, and Texas Tech’s Antoine Wesley are among the 11 semifinalists for the award. Wesley leads the nation in average receiving yards per game with 134.7 ypg. Wallace is not far behind with 128.2 ypg. Those two are among the seven receivers who have already eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark this season.

UMass receiver Andy Isabella, who leads the nation with 1,479 receiving yards was also named a semifinalist for the award. Hawaii’s John Ursua, the nation’s leader in receiving touchdowns (15) also made the cut.

The SEC’s top two receivers, A.J. Brown of Ole Miss (SEC-leading 1,047 receiving yards) and Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy (SEC-leading 10 touchdowns and second-most receiving yards, 925 yards). Arizona State’s N'Keal Harry, among the Pac-12 leaders in receiving yards and touchdowns, is joined by Stanford’s JJ Arcega-Whiteside as the Pac-12’s semifinalists.

Freshman star Rondale Moore of Purdue is the only player from a Big Ten school named a semifinalist for the award. Among the power conferences, the Big Ten has the longest drought of Biletnikoff Award winners with Braylon Edwards of Michigan being the last Big Ten player to win the award in 2004. The Big 12 has dominated the award over the past decade with seven Biletnikoff Award winners since 2007 including the last three years (Corey Coleman of Baylor in 2015, Dede Westbrook of Oklahoma in 2016, and James Washington of Oklahoma State in 2017) and two back-to-back winners (Michael Crabtree of Texas Tech in 2007-2008 and Justin Blackmon of Oklahoma State in 2010 and 2011).

This list of 11 semifinalists will be trimmed down to three finalists on Nov. 19. The 2018 Biletnikoff Award will be presented on Dec. 6 at The Home Depot College Football Awards Presentation on ESPN.

Oklahoma State WR Jalen McCleskey announces transfer

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In a purely shocking move, Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy announced Monday that wide receiver Jalen McCleskey will utilize the new redshirt rule and transfer immediately.

McCleskey told Gundy he is leaving due to a lack of playing time.

A 3-star recruit out of Louisiana, McCleskey caught 29 balls as a true freshman in 2015, led the team with 73 grabs as a sophomore and snared 50 passes last season. Through four games in 2018, McCleskey ranked second on the team with 15 receptions for 155 yards and two touchdowns. He caught four passes for 52 yards in a 41-17 loss to No. 25 Texas Tech on Saturday.

After years of playing third fiddle to James Washington and Marcell Ateman, McCleskey, presumably figured to be the offense’s top option in his senior year, but fellow senior Taylor Cornelius has favored sophomore Tylan Wallace, turning to him for a team-high 26 completions.

McCleskey’s departure is part of a new phenomenon of players utilizing the new redshirt rule to their advantage. By leaving when he is, McCleskey will not have this season count against his eligibility, thus allowing him to play elsewhere in 2019.

He leaves school as one of the 10 most productive receivers in Oklahoma State history, hauling in 167 passes for 1,865 yards and 17 touchdowns.

 

Florida suspends seven for failing to ‘live up to the Gator standard’

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Not that it matters much given the opponent, but Florida will be a bit shorthanded when it opens up the 2018 season.

In a news release about an hour before kickoff, Florida announced that seven players have been suspended for tonight’s opener against FCS Charleston Southern — defensive tackle Luke Ancrum, defensive tackle Kyree Campbell, cornerback Brian Edwards, defensive end CeCe Jefferson, running back Adarius Lemons, wide receiver Kadarius Toney (pictured) and offensive lineman James Washington.

The suspensions of Campbell and Toney aren’t surprising as they were involved in a bizarre offseason incident involving airsoft guns, a frying pan, a baseball bat, rocks and a gambler nicknamed Tay Bang. Five other Gators connected to that incident — wide receivers Tyrie Cleveland and Rick Wells, quarterback Emory Jones and tight ends C’yonta Lewis and Kemore Gamble — avoided suspensions.

Jefferson’s suspension is for academic reasons, the Orlando Sentinel reported.  It’s unclear what exactly the other four players did to earn their respective suspensions.

Toney’s 15 catches for 152 yards were both fourth on the team, while Jefferson led the team in sacks last season with 4½.  Campbell played in nine games during the 2017 season.

CFT 2018 Preseason Previews: The Big 12

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The Big 12 is the most quarterback-driven of all QB-driven leagues, and 2018 represents a major changing of the guard. Gone is Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 pick Baker Mayfield, and so, too, are Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph, TCU’s Kenny Hill, Texas Tech’s Nic Shimonek and Kansas State’s Jesse Ertz. West Virginia returns Heisman candidate Will Grier, but the next-highest returning passer is Texas’s Sam Ehlinger, who threw for all of 1,915 yards as a true freshman in 2017. This is going to be a wide-open year and, as such, a year where the unpredictable will reign supreme over the predictable. It’s an off-year in the Big 12’s your turn/my turn College Football Playoff rotation with the Pac-12, and a year where a young, ascendant team (Baylor?) is likely to rise up and wreck the season of a favored team who is among the best in the land (Oklahoma? West Virginia? TCU?) who’s wobbly from the most difficult week-to-week grind in college football. (Don’t @ me.)

Oklahoma enters as the prohibitive favorite, but the Sooners lose a lot of production from 2017. You know about Mayfield, but Lincoln Riley also loses All-American pass rusher Obo Okoronkwo, All-American left tackle Orlando Brown and All-American tight end Mark Andrews, as well as Swiss army knife fullback Dimitri FlowersKyler Murray will add an extra dimension to Oklahoma’s running game, but can a 5-foot-9 quarterback sit back in the pocket and pick people apart when necessary?

West Virginia enters as OU’s top challenger, and the combination of Grier, Gary Jennings (97 catches for 1,096 yards in 2017) and David Sills (60 grabs for 980 yards and 18 touchdowns) is easily the conference’s most fearsome passing attack. Dana Holgorsen thinks his team finally has the defense and the depth to survive the year-long grind of the Big 12, but he seemingly says that every year. Making four cross-country trips a year is a unique challenge that any program would struggle to solve, though WVU does get Oklahoma and TCU in Morgantown. TCU replaces Hill with Gary Patterson‘s highest-regarded quarterback recruit ever in sophomore Shawn Robinson. He should team with KaVontae Turpin and Jalen Reagor to give the Frogs plenty of sizzle, and TCU’s front seven is probably the scariest in the league, but the Frogs’ four new offensive line starters will have to grow up in a hurry.

Texas has a lot to like on an individual level, but skepticism is warranted until the quarterback position is sorted out. This is a league where 40 touchdowns responsible for from your starting quarterback is a prerequisite for winning the conference title, and Ehlinger and Shane Buechele combined for 22 in 2017. Oklahoma State won’t be as good as they were last year after losing Rudolph and James Washington but will still be much better than you assume they’ll be, which is exactly how Mike Gundy prefers it. Iowa State will be just good enough to ruin your season but not good enough to seriously contend for the league title. Texas Tech enters the year with more question marks on offense than defense for the first time since the 19th century, which could be considered a very good sign considering Kliff Kingsbury will never field a bad offense. Baylor was much better than last year’s 1-11 record, and Matt Rhule‘s 17 returning starters, led by sophomore quarterback Charlie Brewer, means this will be the league’s most improved team — and perhaps the country’s. Kansas State will be about as pleasant to play as a root canal, and junior quarterback Alex Delton will again be a nightmare to contain. David Beaty returns 19 starters and enters a last-chance season to show marked progress with new AD Jeff Long watching.

Before we get to the predictions, consider that the Big 12 is annually a league where the gap between No. 3 and No. 8 is small enough to slip a notecard through, and especially so this year.

PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
1. Oklahoma
2. Texas
3. West Virginia
4. TCU
5. Iowa State
6. Oklahoma State
7. Kansas State
8. Baylor
9. Texas Tech
10. Kansas

IN SHORT…