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John Mackey Award names eight semi-finalists for top tight end award

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Eight of the nation’s top tight ends were officially named semi-finalists for this season’s John Mackey Award on Monday. The award, named after Pro Football Hall of Fame tight end and former Syracuse player John Mackey, is presented to the nation’s top tight-end as determined by a select voting panel.

This year’s semi-finalists are:

  • Harrison Bryant, Florida Atlantic
  • Hunter Bryant, Washington
  • Brycen Hopkins, Purdue
  • Brevin Jordan, Miami
  • Charlie Kolar, Iowa State
  • Albert Okwuegbunam, Missouri
  • Colby Parkinson, Stanford
  • Giovanni Ricci, Western Michigan

A couple of notable omissions from this list stand out. Florida’s Kyle Pitts, who has the second-most receptions and fifth-most receiving yards among the nation’s tight ends somehow slipped through the voters here. The sophomore for the Gators has averaged 4.2 receptions per game and has accounted for 566 yards and five touchdowns for the Gators. No other tight end in the SEC has more yards per game than Pitts. Penn State’s Pat Freiemuth being omitted was also slightly surprising. Freiermuth has seven touchdowns, easily more than any other Big Ten tight end this season and tied for third-most in the conference this season.

Iowa’s T.J. Hockenson won the John Mackey Award in 2018. Other past winners of the award include Dallas Clark of Iowa, Tyler Eiffert of Notre Dame, Jake Butt of Michigan, Austin Seferian-Jenkins of Washington, and Aaron Hernandez of Florida.

This year’s Mackey Award winner will be announced on Dec. 11th.

No. 9 Utah survives trip to Washington to keep Pac-12 South hopes alive

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Over two games last season against Washington, including the conference championship game, Utah combined to produce just 10 points as Kyle Whittingham’s team came up just short of winning their first Pac-12 title. Out for a little revenge on Saturday, the No. 9 Utes reversed the trend by pulling away in the second half to keep their 2019 title hopes alive by scoring an impressive 33-28 win up in Seattle over a reeling Huskies squad.

Despite a backfield that was limping around from all the shots they took in the game and the lead up to it, the Utah combo of QB Tyler Huntley and tailback Zach Moss was fantastic down the stretch in finally solving the riddle that was Jimmy Lake’s defense. The former threw for 284 yards and a touchdown, moving around the pocket quite well to make a number of big throws under pressure. It helped that he was able to have Moss take the pressure off with his hard running (100 yards, one touchdown) and ability to sneak out into the flat (five catches, 41 yards and a score receiving too).

Their efforts helped pick up the slack for a defense that was finally tested for the first time since mid-September. Though the Utes forced three turnovers and allowed just five third down conversions, Washington was still able to score three touchdowns — one more than Whittingham’s unit had allowed in their past four games combined. Still, their pressure was apparent on nearly every snap and they did a pretty good job forcing their opponents to be one-dimensional most of the afternoon by limiting things on the ground (three yards per carry).

UW signal-caller Jacob Eason looked good for spurts but it just wasn’t enough to hold onto a halftime lead as he threw for 316 yards, four touchdowns and two rough interceptions. He needed to attempt 52 passes in the affair as running the football was tough going for Salvon Ahmed (50 yards) and company. Tight end Hunter Bryant was a bright spot at least with 105 yards and two scores as he seemed to be wide open in the middle of the field every other snap.

The effort kept Washington from becoming bowl eligible and dropped them to 5-4 on the year — reinforcing how disappointing the team has been this year after starting 2019 in the preseason top 15. They’ll still have opportunities to get to the postseason but whatever promise this group had on both sides of the ball is long gone by this point.

On the other sideline however, the Utes’ victory was a nice way to head into the first College Football Playoff Selection Committee rankings next week at 8-1 with their impressive run continuing to roll on. The team remains in the hunt to get back to Santa Clara for the Pac-12 title game but will have to hope for Oregon to beat USC later on Saturday night if they want to take the top spot in the division standings. Either way, the conference that many wrote off for final four contention a month ago suddenly has more than one team surging on both sides of the ball the past few weeks.

Utah, Washington picking up where they left off as Pac-12 title game rematch hits halftime

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The setting may have moved North to Seattle from Santa Clara but Washington and No. 9 Utah picked up where they left off in a rematch of last season’s Pac-12 title game, staging a predictably defensive-minded first half that saw the Huskies take a slim 14-13 lead going into the break.

UW quarterback Jacob Eason proved to be a difference maker from that meeting last year, throwing for 129 yards and two touchdowns against a defense that had allowed just two trips to the end zone in their previous four games. The strong-armed signal-caller came up big on several plays down the field, taking the pressure off a running game that struggled to get going against a stacked box (Salvon Ahmed was limited to just 37 yards). Hunter Bryant looked like the best player on the field for the Huskies offense, recording three catches for 50 yards and a score while attacking the middle of the field through two quarters.

It didn’t help the Utes that for as good as their effort was defensively, they got no help from their own offense until the final few minutes of the third quarter. Tyler Huntley completed eight passes for an even 100 yards and a TD while banged-up tailback Zach Moss got off to a slow start before posting 55 yards on the ground — using a nasty stiff-arm to get into the end zone off a short pass in the red zone. Utah converted just two third downs in the first half and ran just 27 plays but remained in the game thanks to their ability to get stops on the other end.

The pads are certainly popping out on Montlake as a result of these two mirror images facing off. We’ll see what kind of adjustments each side has in store but this is a huge game for the conference overall this week as Utah looks to remain in the College Football Playoff chase while keeping pace in the South division race at the same time. Washington has controlled the series between these two teams in recent times but they certainly have another fight on their hands with a critical second half coming up.

Joe Burrow, Jalen Hurts headline Unitas Golden Arm Award finalists

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The list of candidates for one of the premier quarterbacking awards in college football has been further whittled.

Wednesday, the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award announced its initial list of 10 finalists.  Eight of those 10 come from Power Five schools, including three from the Pac-12, while the other two hail from Group of Five programs.

Below are those 10 finalists, in alphabetical order:

  • Ian Book, Notre Dame
  • Joe Burrow, LSU
  • Jacob Eason, Washington
  • Justin Herbert, Oregon
  • Tyler Huntley, Utah
  • Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma
  • Bryce Perkins, Virginia
  • Nate Stanley, Iowa
  • Zach Thomas, Appalachian State
  • Brady White, Memphis

Wait a minute, no Tua Tagovailoa?  No Justin Fields?  Blasphemy!

It’s at this point in the program where I give our annual reminder to those with such thoughts that this award is given yearly to the top signal-caller in the country who is either a senior or fourth-year junior on schedule to graduate with their class and takes into account his accomplishments both on and off the field.

Last year’s winner was Washington State’s Gardner Minshew.  The first winner, handed out in 1997, was Tennessee’s Peyton Manning.

Two Power Five WRs among four added to Biletnikoff Award watch list

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For the third time this month, a major college football award is adding to its watch list.

This week, the Biletnikoff Award announced that it has added four wide receivers to its in-season watch list, including two from Power Five schools and two from Group of Five programs. Those included this go-around are Washington State’s Brandon Arconado (pictured), Colorado State’s Warren Jackson, Indiana’s Whop Philyor and Tulsa’s Keyon Stokes.

Below are each players’ statistical particulars for the 2019 season:

  • Arconado: 39 receptions, 591 yards, four touchdowns
  • Jackson: 49-719-6
  • Philyor: 57-737-3
  • Stokes: 44-695-4

Both Jackson and Philyor are in the Top 20 nationally in receiving yards, while Jackson’s receptions are tied for sixth at the FBS level.

The Biletnikoff Award is handed out annually to the nation’s most outstanding FBS receiver. The Tallahassee Quarterback Club Foundation, which oversees the honor, stresses that “[a]ny player, regardless of position (wide receiver, tight end, slot back and running back) who catches a pass is eligible for the award.”

Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy was the 2018 winner of the award.  A wide receiver has won the award every year since it was first handed out in 1994.