Posted by Adam Jacobi
There are still four weeks of regular season football left, but the Lombardi Award has evidently seen enough to select four finalists already. The finalists for the Lombardi Award, given annually to the top lineman or linebacker in college football (no linebackers are in the running this season), are listed below.
- Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
- Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
- Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
- Jake Kirkpatrick, C, TCU
Clayborn is unlikely to win, as his 2010 statistics aren't nearly at the level of last season; it'll take an Iowa win over Ohio State that prominently features Clayborn in a disruptive role to bring him into the conversation as a potential winner. Even then, it might not do much to the overall narrative.
Nick Fairley was relatively unheralded coming into the season, but he has been an absolute terror on the interior and is easily the defensive MVP for the undefeated Auburn team. His 18 tackles for a loss lead all defensive tackles; he's got to be a unanimous All-American at DT this season.
TCU's offense is rolling, and Jake Kirkpatrick is the presumptive winner of the Rimington Award this season, but an offensive lineman hasn't won the award since Orlando Pace won at Ohio State in 1995 and 1996. Though we mean zero disrespect to Kirkpatrick, he is not the transformative blocking talent that Pace was, and Kirkpatrick will probably be the first to agree (humility is sort of an offensive lineman's "thing"; this usually only intensifies toward the middle of the line).
That leaves Da'Quan Bowers, the star defensive end for Clemson. Bowers leads the nation in both sacks and tackles for loss, and has generally made iife hell for opposing quarterbacks; while the Clemson defense's touchdowns and yards per pass are generally pretty pedestrian, its overall pass efficiency defense is one of the better in the nation. The incompletion percentage and interception percentages, meanwhile, are relatively high. That means one thing: pressured passes ahoy, and plenty of that credit goes to a terrorizing defensive line. Unless Clemson collapses down the stretch, this award is Bowers's to lose, and it would be an honor well-earned.