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Tag:Ray Guy Award
Posted on: December 15, 2011 3:53 pm
Edited on: December 20, 2011 9:17 pm
 

Poinsettia Bowl Key Match up



Posted by Bryan Fischer


A look at the key matchup that could decide the Poinsettia Bowl

Ryan Allen/Louisiana Tech pass defense vs. Casey Pachall

Go through the logs of head coaches pre- or post-game press conference and you're bound to find at least one emphasis on winning the field position battle. It's no surprise that would be a focus in this bowl match up, which features some pretty good offenses and defenses that don't mind some help.

Allen is a huge weapon for Louisiana Tech, winning the Ray Guy Award as the country's best punter thanks to 36 punts inside the 20 during the regular season. He can also kick for distance, averaging an impressive 46.31 yards per punt. Being able to pin the TCU offense back will be a huge help for a defense that is ranked 55th in the country and has had issues with spread attacks featuring speedy skill position players.

"When you have a punter like they do, he can change the ball game," Gary Patterson said. "When you get a 60 or 70-yard punt, all of the sudden, field position changes."

Pachall has filled Andy Dalton's shoes pretty well in his first year as a starter. He's seventh in the country in passing efficiency, throwing for 24 touchdowns against just six picks. The Horned Frogs offense is among the most balanced in the country and it certainly helps to able to turn around and hand the ball off to Matthew Tucker, Ed Wesley and Waymon James. But Pachall does have some young receivers that can get down the field if he's allowed time to throw.

"They’ve got three outstanding running backs, they’ve got a big, physical offensive line, they’ve got speed at the wide receiver position, they’ve got a quarterback who has not missed a beat, who has improved steadily throughout the course of the season," Bulldogs head coach Sonny Dykes said. "It’s a great offensive football team. They can pound you, they can ‘big play’ you."

If Louisiana Tech plays sound on defense and doesn't bite on the play-action passes, they should be able to slow Pachall and the TCU offense down some. Having Allen pin them back would be big in winning the field position battle and giving the Bulldogs offense a short field. Force some turnovers and this turns into a winnable game for LaTech despite being decided underdogs to a 10-win team in TCU.

"Our guys have got some grit about them," said Dykes. "We’re going to have to play extremely well to compete against TCU. They are a
team that knows how to win."

You can read our complete Poinsettia Bowl preview here.

Posted on: December 15, 2011 3:47 pm
Edited on: December 20, 2011 9:28 pm
 

Keys to the game: Poinsettia Bowl

Posted by Bryan Fischer

TCU WILL WIN IF: How's a trip to San Diego before Christmas for a Mountain West swan song sound? The Horned Frogs dominated conference play for the final time, including a memorable upset of Boise State, and will head to one of just four bowls matching up conference champions. Motivation would normally be a factor for some teams coming from two straight BCS bowls but not for one coached by Gary Patterson - as intense and well-prepared a coach as you will find.

"I think the key is, the team that wins bowl games is the team that wants it the most," Patterson said. "What I’ve found is that you usually find out in the first five minutes of the ballgame how that’s all going to go down, with the intensity level and how they do it. I think this is going to be one of the games people talk about, one of the better ball games in the bowl season."

A win in the bowl game would also give TCU 11 wins for the seventh time in a decade. Though they've taken a few lumps, this team is built on defense and linebacker Tank Carder is looking to cap off a great career by slowing down Louisiana Tech's high-powered offense with help from the secondary. The offense is pretty good too, rounding into form as the season progressed. The Horned Frogs have scored at least 27 straight in every game this year and if quarterback Casey Pachall and the offense - sans coordinator Justin Fuente - keep turnovers to a minimum, they should be riding off to the Big 12 with a bowl game win.

"This ball game is a challenge for us," added Patterson. "Not only is it a challenge at the end of the season but it’s a challenge to go into next season, to teach our kids what it’s about to play at a high level. There are no two ways about it."

LOUISIANA TECH WILL WIN IF: The Bulldogs certainly can score some points, averaging almost 450 yards of offense and 35 points per game ever since Colby Cameron took over at quarterback and started throwing the ball around. The offense gets most of the attention but the defense isn't too shabby either with 20 interceptions on the year - good for third in the nation.

"This will be a bit of a measuring stick for our program and where we are headed," head coach Sonny Dykes said. "This has been a great team to coach, we’ve had a fun ride."

A sound game plan that mixes up a few runs as Cameron finds top wide receiver Quinton Patton should be able to move the chains and find the end zone. If the defense can make some plays and slow down the TCU offense, special teams will come into play and the team has a great weapon in Ryan Allen, who won the Ray Guy Award as the nation's best punter and can help flip the field position battle in favor of LaTech.

"Our guy Ryan Allen had plenty of punts," said Dykes. "We won ball games because of him, especially when we were trying to find an identity offensively early. We were making a quarterback switch and trying to find which direction we were going. Our defense was playing pretty consistent football and our punter was giving us a chance to win. He is a weapon."

"This is the biggest bowl game for us, probably in school history, so we have to see this as an opportunity."

THE X-FACTOR: As always, turnovers. Pachall has been pretty good in not throwing interceptions or fumbling the ball but he has to keep that up in this game. Give Louisiana Tech extra chances to score and things might get interesting. Spread offenses - Baylor, SMU - have hurt TCU already this year and the WAC champions know how to beat teams if the game is close.


Posted on: December 12, 2011 5:09 pm
 

Pro Football Weekly releases All-American team

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

And now for something not quite completely different, but almost: the Pro Football Weekly All-American team.

As you might expect, the criteria for making an NFL-driven media outlet's All-America team differs dramatically from making most others. In its statement announcing the team, the PFW writes that:

The team annually honors the most talented players in college football and is selected based on considerable feedback from NFL evaluators taking into consideration a player’s pure talent and contribution to his team. Unlike many other teams rewarding the best college football players, PFW places an extra premium on true talent and draft value in the selection process. However, participants are expected to have contributed for the bulk of the season, leaving off some talented prospects who were limited this season. Extra attention was paid to qualities such as toughness, competitiveness and work ethic.

The team:
Quarterback

Andrew Luck, Stanford
HONORABLE MENTION: Matt Barkley, USC, Robert Griffin III, Baylor

Running back

Trent Richardson, Alabama
HM: Montee Ball, Wisconsin, David Wilson, Virginia Tech

Fullback

Jay Prosch, Illinois
HM: Braden Wilson, Kansas State

Wide receivers

Sammy Watkins, Clemson
Kendall Wright, Baylor
HM: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State, Michael Floyd, Notre Dame, Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina, Marvin McNutt, Iowa

Tight end

Coby Fleener, Stanford
HM: Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame, Dwayne Allen, Clemson

Offensive tackles

Matt Kalil, USC
Riley Reiff, Iowa
HM: Barrett Jones, Alabama, Taylor Lewan, Michigan, Zebrie Sanders, Florida State, Cordy Glenn, Georgia

Offensive guards

David DeCastro, Stanford
Kevin Zeitler, Wisconsin
HM: Chance Warmack, Alabama, Alvin Bailey, Arkansas

Center

Peter Konz, Wisconsin
HM: David Molk, Michigan, Ben Jones, Georgia

Defensive Ends

Sam Montgomery, LSU
Melvin Ingram, South Carolina
HM: Whitney Mercilus, Illinois, Barkevious Mingo, LSU, Vinny Curry, Marshall, Ronnell Lewis, Oklahoma

Defensive tackles

Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State
Devon Still, Penn State
HM: Michael Brockers, LSU, Brandon Thompson, Clemson, Josh Chapman, Alabama, Dontari Poe, Memphis

Inside linebacker

Dont’a Hightower, Alabama
HM: Luke Kuechly, Boston College, Lavonte David, Nebraska

Outside linebackers

Courtney Upshaw, Alabama
Jarvis Jones, Georgia
HM: Gerald Hodges, Penn State, Sean Spence, Miami (Fla.)

Cornerbacks

Morris Claiborne, LSU
Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama
HM: Tyrann Mathieu, LSU, Brodrick Brown, Oklahoma State, Leonard Johnson, Iowa State, David Amerson, North Carolina State

Safeties

Mark Barron, Alabama
T.J. McDonald, USC
HM: Markelle Martin, Oklahoma State, Bacarri Rambo, Georgia, Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma, John Boyett, Oregon

Placekicker

Randy Bullock, Texas A&M
HM: Caleb Sturgis, Florida

Punter

Steven Clark, Auburn
HM: Brad Wing, LSU

Return specialist

Joe Adams, Arkansas
HM: Taveon Rogers, New Mexico State
A few comments:

S-E-C! S-E-C! (D-E-F-E-N-S-E). Certainly the pro scouts don't think the SEC's reputation for defense is overblown; only two of their 11 first-team defenders hail from any other conference. They would also tend to lean towards Alabama over LSU when it comes to naming the nation's most talented defense; four Tide defenders make the first team to LSU's two, though three Tigers do make honorable mention (to the Tide's one).

But not offensively. Of course, the opposite is true on the other side of the ball, where Trent Richardson is the SEC's only first-team representative. Perhaps most surprising is that the league's offensive linemen are given such short shrift; instead four of the five first-team OLs hail from the Big Ten, including a pair from Wisconsin.

Sammy power.
Only two freshmen made the team at all, and only one landed on the first team: Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins, who doesn't boast prototypical NFL wideout size but has nonetheless clearly caught the eyes of the pro scouts.

Did the Ray Guy get that right? No. But maybe the award's decision to include Auburn sophomore punter Steven Clark over LSU's Brad Wing (the other freshman honoree) as one of three finalists makes a little more sense given that the pros favor Clark's towering moonshots over Wing's, well, better all-around productivity/statistics.

Major notoriety for mid-major players. Marshall's Vinny Curry has gotten some press, but you won't see many other All-American teams with players from Memphis and New Mexico State honored, we don't think. We'll take the scouts' word for it on Tiger tackle Dontari Poe and Aggie returner Taveon Rogers; congrats to them.
Posted on: December 8, 2011 5:12 pm
Edited on: December 8, 2011 11:24 pm
 

2011 College Football Award Winners

Posted by Tom Fornelli

While the Heisman gets its own show, the rest of the major awards in college football will be given out tonight. And while, by most accounts, the Heisman Trophy's destination is seriously lacking in drama, there could be a few surprises in tonight's ceremony.

Awards like the Davey O'Brien, the Doak Walker, the Bednarik and many more are all going to be given away tonight, and we'll be updating this post all night long as every award is handed out.

DAVEY O'BRIEN AWARD (best quarterback)

WINNER: Robert Griffin
, Baylor

This is a pretty good sign for the man considered to be the Heisman front-runner. Griffin emerged victorious in a group consisting of Andrew Luck and Case Keenum, and it's hard to argue with him winning the award. Griffin had a monster season for Baylor throwing for 3,998 yards, 36 touchdowns and set an NCAA record with a QB rating of 192.3.

CHUCK BEDNARIK AWARD (best defensive player)

WINNER
: Tyrann Mathieu, defensive back, LSU

The Bednarik Award belongs to LSU and the number 7. Last year it was Patrick Petersen claiming the award, and this year the Honey Badger took it. Mathieu has been a force on what could be the best defense in the country all year long. Seemingly every time there was a game-changing play created by the LSU defense, Mathieu was either starting it or finishing it. Often times both. 

BILETNIKOFF AWARD (best wide receiver)

WINNER: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State

Justin Blackmon liked winning the Biletnikoff Award so much in 2010, he decided to do it again in 2011. Blackmon didn't have as amazing a season in 2011 as he did in 2010, but finishing the year with 113 catches for 1,336 yards and 15 touchdowns is a superhuman way to regress. Blackmon is only the second person to ever win the award in consecutive seasons, with Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree being the first.

RAY GUY AWARD (best punter)

WINNER: Ryan Allen, Louisiana Tech

Ryan Allen is the first player in Louisiana Tech history to win the Ray Guy Award. Allen finished the season averaging 46.3 yards per punt, and downed more punts inside the 20 and 10-yard lines than any other punter in the country.

LOU GROZA AWARD (best kicker)

WINNER: Randy Bullock, Texas A&M

Randy Bullock is the first Texas A&M kicker to win the Lou Groza Award. Bullock made more field goals (25) than any other kicker in college football this season, converting on 86.2 % of them, and hitting 11 of 13 from 40 yards or more.

DOAK WALKER AWARD (best running back) 

WINNER
: Trent Richardson, Alabama

Alabama may have a Heisman-winning running back in its history, but Trent Richardson is the first running back in school history to win the Doak Walker Award. Richardson edged out Montee Ball and LaMichael James for the award. He finished the 2011 season with 1,910 total yards and 23 total touchdowns.

COACH OF THE YEAR

WINNER: Les Miles, LSU

Hard to argue with this one, isn't it? After all, no matter where you fell on the debate between Alabama and Oklahoma State, there's little question who the best team in the country was this season, and that was LSU. So it only makes sense that the man in charge of all that would win the Coach of the Year.

JIM THORPE AWARD (best defensive back)

WINNER: Morris Claiborne, LSU

LSU once agains wins a second consecutive award that Patrick Peterson won last season, but this time it's Morris Claiborne taking the trophy, not Tyrann Mathieu. Not exactly a shock, as Claiborne intercepted 6 passes this season and nearly 30 yards per interception return.

OUTLAND TROPHY (best interior lineman)

WINNER: Barrett Jones, Alabama

Jones is the third player in Alabama history to win the Outland Trophy. Trent Richardson has gotten a lot of attention and acclaim for his performance this season, but somebody had to open those holes for him. Barrett Jones was the best player on a strong Alabama offensive line this season.

MAXWELL AWARD (best all-around)

WINNER: Andrew Luck, Stanford

Andrew Luck joins Jim Plunkett as the second Stanford quarterback to win the Maxwell Award. Luck also won the Walter Camp Award on Thursday. Luck threw for 3,170 yards and 35 touchdowns for Stanford in 2011.
Posted on: December 7, 2011 8:24 pm
Edited on: December 7, 2011 11:53 pm
 

CBSSports.com 2011 All-SEC team

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

The season has wrapped, the bowl games are set and it's time to hand out some awards. As part of CBSSports.com's look at the regular season, here is the best of the SEC.

Awards

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR 

Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama. No SEC player was more electrifying to watch on a weekly basis than the Tide workhorse, whose raw strength and unmatched determination could turn an average four-yard gain (usually into the teeth of half the opposing defense) into must-see TV. Of course, the elusive, explosive 70-plus-yard bursts -- like his showstoppers against Ole Miss and Auburn -- weren't too shabby, either. Few have ever combined those gifts like Richardson, and no one in the SEC was any better this season.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU. Claiborne wasn't just the best one-on-one man-coverage corner we saw this season, bar-none, SEC or elsewhere--he might have been the best defender we saw this season, SEC or elsewhere. By erasing his side of the field (except for those lone occasions when he was tested and -- as AJ McCarron found out -- usually ready to make a pick), Claiborne set the tone for the best secondary in the country and played arguably the biggest role of any LSU defender in getting the Tigers to the national title game.

COACH OF THE YEAR

Les Miles, LSU. James Franklin 
has earned legitimate consideration for his work at Vanderbilt. But when you look at not only the juggernaut constructed by Miles in Baton Rouge but his ability in steering it through the storms of the preseason bar fight incident, suspensions, and quarterback controversy, there's not really any other choice to make in this slot.

FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR

Brad Wing, P, LSU. A punter, over a running back like Isaiah Crowell? When we're talking about the nation's third-best net punting average for a No. 1-ranked prfect-record team that thrived on field position, you bet. That Wing's best two games came at the best possible times -- at Alabama and vs. Georgia in Atlanta -- makes his selection even easier.

Offense

QUARTERBACK

Tyler Wilson, Jr., Arkansas. It was far from a banner year for quarterbacking in the SEC -- only three teams were even able to keep the same starter for all 12 games -- but you wouldn't know it from watching Wilson, whose 3,422 passing yards led the league by nearly 600 yards. No team in the conference was more dependent on their quarterback, but despite taking frequent poundings behind a suspect line Wilson repaid that faith to the tune of a 10-2 record.

Honorable mention: Georgia's Aaron Murray led the league with 33 touchdowns and was the East champions' clearcut best offensive player, but his 12 interceptions were also an SEC high. AJ McCarron struggled for Alabama in the LSU showdown but still finished the year with an SEC-best QB rating and that spot in the BCS title game.

RUNNING BACK

Trent Richardson, Jr., Alabama. It won't win him the Heisman Trophy, but Richardson's brilliant 2011 season -- 1,583 yards, 23 total touchdowns, an eye-popping 6.0 per-carry average despite a league-high 263 carries, and more highlight-reel runs than any running back in the country -- deserves to have cemented his status among the SEC's all-time backfield greats. Not even his predecessor Mark Ingram was ever better.

Michael Dyer, Soph., Auburn. The only back besides Richardson to average more than 100 yards per SEC game, Dyer was often the only thing the sputtering Auburn offense had going for it--and he still finished with 1,242 yards while averaging better than 5 yards a carry.

Honorable mention: Vanderbilt's Zac Stacy quietly enjoyed a breakout season as the league's second-most explosive back behind Richardson, scoring 13 touchdowns and averaging 6.2 yards a carry.

WIDE RECEIVER

Jarius Wright, Sr. Arkansas. Though not the most heralded of the Hogs' star-studded receiving corps entering the season, Wright quickly established himself as Wilson's go-to receiver and arguably the league's top wideout, finishing in the SEC's top two in receptions (63), yards (1,029), touchdowns (11), and average per reception (16.3).

Da'Rick Rogers, Soph., Tennessee. Like Wright, Rogers was supposed to take a back seat to fellow Vol wideout Justin Hunter. But when Hunter went down with an ACL injury in Week 3, Hunter stepped forward to lead the SEC with 1,040 receiving yards and 67 receptions--despite often being the woeful Volunteer offense's only threatening playmaker.

Rueben Randle, Jr., LSU. Rather than take a tight end, we're promoting a third receiver to our first team to make room for the SEC's biggest downfield threat. Randle caught "only" 50 passes (fourth in the conference) but saw eight of them go for touchdowns and averaged 18.1 yards per completion, making him one of only three BCS-conference receivers nationally to clear both 50 total catches and 18 yards a reception.

Honorable mention: If we'd gone with a tight end, Georgia's Orson Charles (44 receptions, 572 yards, 5 TDs) would have been an easy choice. Alshon Jeffery didn't have anything like the All-American season expected of him at South Carolina, but he was still the only receiver outside Wright, Rogers, and Randle to finish in the league's top seven in receptions, yards, and touchdowns.

OFFENSIVE LINE

OT/OG Barrett Jones, Sr., Alabama. Whether at guard or tackle, Jones was hands-down one of the nation's best offensive linemen and a deserving All-American who's about to become quite the wealthy individual in the NFL. An easy selection.

OG Will Blackwell, Sr., LSU. The league's best prototype guard this season, Blackwell punished opponents in run blocking and played a major role in LSU's weekly second-half bulldozings on the ground.

C William Vlachos, Sr., Alabama. The SEC's best center, Vlachos put both his considerable strength and veteran guile to use in leading Alabama to the SEC's most productive rushing attack.

OT Alex Hurst, Sr., LSU. As effective as the LSU ground game was, the line also had to give Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson time to uncork those bombs to Randle. And thanks in large part to senior tackle Hurst, they did; the Tigers allowed the fewest sacks in the SEC.

OT Rokevious Watkins, Sr., South Carolina. Even without Marcus Lattimore, the Gamecocks averaged more yards per-carry and scored more rushing touchdowns than any team in the league outside of Alabama and LSU, and the much-improved Watkins was a huge reason why.

Honorable mention: Both Georgia tackle Cordy Glenn and center Ben Jones had strong senior campaigns (following) iffier junior seasons and have strong arguments for first-team inclusion. Kentucky never got anything going on offense, but guard Larry Warford was a bright spot.

ALL-PURPOSE

PR/WR/KR Joe Adams, Sr., Arkansas. Instead of reading this comment or looking up his stats, just watch this video:
 

Defense

DEFENSIVE LINE

DE Melvin Ingram, Sr, South Carolina. His 13.5 sacks and 8.5 sacks -- both among the SEC's top five totals -- might have been enough anyway. Add in his two defensive touchdowns, critical fake punt touchdown rumble vs. Georgia, and skill at kick-blocking, and he's a total no-brainer.

DT Josh Chapman, Sr., Alabama. When you're the nose tackle that anchors a run defense that not only finishes No. 1 in the nation but allows an unbelievable three rushing touchdowns all season, yes, you've had quite the campaign.

DT Malik Jackson, Sr., Tennessee. Don't hold the Vols' poor team numbers (or record) against Jackson; the ever-active veteran finished with 11 tackles-for-loss (second among SEC tackles) despite receiving constant attention from opposing offensive lines.

DE Sam Montgomery, Soph., LSU. Picking the best LSU defensive lineman is like picking which cast member of Arrested Development How I Met Your Mother is your favorite, but we'll go with Montgomery, who combined incredible disruption (9 sacks, 13 tackles-for-loss) with stout down-to-down run defense.

Honorable mention: Mississippi State's Fletcher Cox led all SEC tackles in tackles-for-loss with 12.5 and Auburn's Corey Lemonier led all SEC ends with 9.5 sacks; both deserve a tip of the cap.

LINEBACKERS

Jarvis Jones, Soph., Georgia. Todd Grantham's 3-4 system made a star out of Justin Houston a year ago, but it paid even bigger dividends for Jones, who led the SEC in both tackles-for-loss and sacks and his Georgia defense -- one of the nation's best -- in tackles overall.

Courtney Upshaw, Sr., Alabama. Of the many terrors in the Tide linebacking corps, Upshaw may have been the biggest, collecting 17.5 tackles-for-loss, 8.5 sacks, and as much general havoc caused as any player in the country.

Danny Trevathan, Sr., Kentucky. No SEC player filled the whirling-dervish tackling-machine middle linebacker role better than the veteran Wildcat, who led the league in tackles for a second straight year and seemed to be three or four places at once late in the season.

Honorable mention: We're pretty sure that Crimson Tide inside linebacker Dont'a Hightower makes the first team in any other league in the nation; given the Tide's unreal rushing defense numbers and Hightower's role in them, we won't argue if you want to put him first in this league, too.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

CB Dre Kirkpatrick, Jr., Alabama. Much as we've talked up Alabama's run defense, the Tide's pass defense was No. 1, too, and Kirkpatrick was the best player in pass coverage Nick Saban had in 2011--quite the accomplishment considering the competition.

CB Morris Claiborne, Jr., LSU. As much as we admire Claiborne's mustelid teammate in the LSU secondary, Claiborne's outrageous cover-corner skills means that if forced to pick one or the other to build our secondary (or team) around, we don't even have to think very long before taking Claiborne.

S Mark Barron, Sr., Alabama. Ho-hum, just another All-American season as the leader of the nation's top pass defense and the second-leading tackler on the nation's top rush defense.

CB/S Tyrann Mathieu, Soph., LSU. The Honey Badger is a tad overrated as a corner--which is why he wound up playing safety late in the year when Eric Reid suffered an injury. But it's pretty much impossible to overrate his nose for the ball or knack for the big play, which stands alone as the best in the nation.

Honorable mention: Casey Hayward and his five interceptions (and outstanding ball skills) for Vandy could and maybe should have him in the All-American discussion ... but since this is the SEC secondary we're talking about, he's here. The same goes for Georgia safety Bacarri Rambo and LSU's Reid, and though not quite in that class, Mississippi State corner Johnthan Banks had a season worth mentioning as well.

SPECIALISTS

P Brad Wing, rFr., LSU. We're assuming the Ray Guy Award voters left him off because they expected to simply hand the thing over each of the next two seasons.

PK Caleb Sturgis, Jr. Florida. His 21-of-25 season was a rare positive for the Gators in difficult season.
Posted on: December 7, 2011 1:46 pm
Edited on: December 7, 2011 4:19 pm
 

CBSSports.com 2011 All-Pac-12 team

Posted by Bryan Fischer

The season has wrapped, the bowl games are set and it's time to hand out some awards. As part of CBSSports.com's look at the regular season, here is the best of the Pac-12 conference, which placed three teams in the top 10 in the first year as a 12 team league.

Awards

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Andrew Luck, quarterback, Stanford

A redshirt junior, Luck led the Cardinal to a second consecutive 11-1 regular season and was named a finalist for the Heisman Trophy. Against Notre Dame, Luck set a new school record for touchdown passes and broke the Stanford career record held by John Elway with 80 in three seasons. The Cardinal offense averaged 43.6 points per game this year and 480.9 yards of total offense and no one in the conference has meant more to an offense than Luck does to his. Thus, the future top draft pick is CBSSports.com's Pac-12 Player of the Year. Just as important, the native Texan also came back to complete his degree during his final semester on the Farm - in architectural design

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Mychal Kendricks, linebacker, California

A tackling machine during his time in Berkeley, Kendricks once again led the Bears in tackles and was fourth in the conference in tackles per game. He also had 13 tackles for a loss, two interceptions and helped lead the Cal defense to rank 27th nationally in total defense.   

FRESHMEN OF THE YEAR

Marqise Lee (USC) and De'Anthony Thomas (Oregon)

Both players from the Los Angeles area burst onto the scene early and produced highlight play after highlight play for their teams this season. Lee finished the season with 73 catches for 1,143 yards and 11 touchdowns while paired with his former high school teammate Robert Woods. He was instrumental in USC's upset win over Oregon with 187 yards receiving and a total of 325 all-purpose yards. Thomas set a Ducks freshman record with 16 touchdowns and ended the year with 1,921 all-purpose yards to finish second in the Pac-12 to his teammate LaMichael James.

COACH OF THE YEAR

Lane Kiffin, USC

In his second season in charge of the Trojans, Kiffin has deflected criticism and NCAA sanctions to finish 10-2 and ranked in the top five in the country. Despite having one of the youngest teams in the country, USC finished 17th in the country in total offense in 2011 and the defense jumped nearly 30 spots nationally. Under Kiffin the team essentially won the Pac-12 South division and beat rivals Notre Dame and UCLA. USC lost to 4th-ranked Stanford in triple overtime but ended Oregon's 19-game winning streak.

All-Pac-12 Offense

QUARTERBACK

Matt Barkley, USC

Wait, the player of the year wasn't the best quarterback? Such was the case in the Pac-12, which had an embarrassing amount of good signal-callers. Barkley took the leap to another level this season despite his two best wide receivers being underclassmen. The junior passed for a school and conference record 39 touchdowns against just seven interceptions and threw for 3,528 yards. Though Barkley wasn't named a Heisman finalist or had the same load to shoulder in the offense like Luck, he makes the first team as the best quarterback in the conference. You could say the margin at quarterback was so thin between the two that Luck's receiving abilities put him over the top for player of the year.

RUNNING BACK

LaMichael James, Oregon, and John White, Utah

Despite missing two games, James still led the conference in rushing with 1,646 yards - 242 yards more than second place White. The flashy Ducks running back also led the nation in yards per game and was third in total purpose yardage. In his first year in a BCS AQ conference, White certainly made a lasting impression as the focal point of the Utes offense that dealt with plenty of injuries.

WIDE RECEIVER

Marquess Wilson, Washington State, and Robert Woods, USC

Here's a scary thought if you're a Pac-12 defense, four of the top five receivers in the league were either a freshman or sophomore. That includes Wilson and Woods (both sophomores) who turned in brilliant seasons that land both of them on the All-Pac-12 team. Wilson is a name many people don't know about because he plays on the Palouse but he led the Pac-12 in receiving yards and averaged nearly 17 yards per catch. Woods was hampered by injury late in the year but still finished with a school and conference record 111 catches to go with his 15 touchdowns.

TIGHT END

Coby Fleener, Stanford

It was pretty much a lock for one of the Cardinal's tight ends to fill this spot given their role in the offense. Fleener turned in a productive senior campaign, leading all tight ends in yards (648) and touchdowns (10). He also finished the year with an impressive 20.3 yards per catch.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Jonathan Martin, Stanford; Tony Bergstrom, Utah; Garth Gerhart, Arizona State; David DeCastro, Stanford; Matt Kalil, USC

There were plenty of great quarterbacks and offenses in the Pac-12 this year and one reason why was the abundance of great offensive linemen. Stanford allowed nine sacks all year while USC allowed a nation's best eight.

All-Pac-12 Defense

DEFENSIVE LINE

Dion Jordan
, Oregon; Nick Perry, USC; Travis Long, Washington State; Star Lotulelei, Utah

Perry led the league in solo sacks with nine, good enough for 12th in the nation, and had 14 tackles for loss this season. Jordan wasn't too far behind him in terms of numbers and was an issue for opposing offensive lines all year. Lotulelei was the top nose tackle in conference and Long was one of the bright spots in an average Wazzu defense.

LINEBACKER

Mychal Kendricks, California; Chase Thomas, Stanford; Alex Hoffman-Ellis, Washington State

Kendricks was an impact player for Cal's stingy defense and Thomas led the conference in tackles for a loss and was second in sacks. Hoffman-Ellis didn't put up gaudy stats but was a strength on the Cougars defense.

SECONDARY

Nickell Robey and T.J McDonald, USC; Eddie Pleasant and John Boyett, Oregon

Despite his size, Robey locked up opposing receivers and forced quarterbacks to throw to the other side of the field while McDonald roamed around and delivered some vicious hits. The Ducks defense wasn't quite as sharp as it was last season but it was still tough to throw against Pleasant and Boyett, who helped Oregon finish with 16 interceptions.

SPECIALISTS

PK Andre Heidari, USC; P Jackson Rice, Oregon; Returner De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon

Heidari made 15-of-17 field goals and every extra point this year. Rice led the Pac-12 in punting and was sixth in the nation with an average of 45.6 yards per punt. Opponents returned just 12 of his punts and he was also named a finalist for the Ray Guy Award for the country's top punter. Thomas had two kick returns for touchdowns and averaged nearly 30 yards a return.

Posted on: December 5, 2011 4:55 pm
Edited on: December 5, 2011 4:57 pm
 

Richardson, Mathieu headline AP All-SEC team

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

The Associated Press has released its selections for the 2011 All-SEC team, with Alabama running back Trent Richardson named the league's Offensive Player of the Year and Tyrann Mathieu the Defensive Player of the Year. Les Miles was unsurprisingly named the SEC Coach of the Year and Isaiah Crowell the Freshman of the Year.

Here's the full first and second teams ("u" signaling a unanimous choice), with some commentary after:
FIRST TEAM

Offense


WR — Jarius Wright, Arkansas, 5-10, 180, Sr.
WR — Da'Rick Rogers, Tennessee, 6-3, 215, So.
L — u-Barrett Jones, Alabama, 6-5, 311, Jr.
L — Will Blackwell, LSU, 6-4, 290, Sr.
L — Cordy Glenn, Georgia, 6-5, 348, Sr.
L — Rokevious Watkins, South Carolina, 6-4, 340, Sr.
C — William Vlachos, Alabama, 6-1, 294, Sr.
TE — Orson Charles, Georgia, 6-3, 241, Jr.
QB — Tyler Wilson, Arkansas, 6-3, 220, Jr.
RB — u-Trent Richardson, Alabama, 5-11, 224, Jr.
RB — Michael Dyer, Auburn, 5-9, 210, So.
K — Caleb Sturgis, Florida, 5-11, 183, Jr.

All-Purpose — Joe Adams, Arkansas, 5-11, 190, Sr.

Defense

T — Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State, 6-4, 295, Jr.
T — Malik Jackson, Tennessee, 6-5, 270, Sr.
E — Melvin Ingram, South Carolina, 6-2, 276, Sr.
E — Sam Montgomery, LSU, 6-4, 245, So.
LB — u-Jarvis Jones, Georgia, 6-3, 241, So.
LB — Danny Trevathan, Kentucky, 6-1, 232, Sr.
LB — Courtney Upshaw, Alabama, 6-2, 265, Sr.
CB — u-Tyrann Mathieu, LSU, 5-9, 175, So.
CB — Morris Claiborne, LSU, 6-0, 185, Jr.
S — Mark Barron, Alabama, 6-2, 218, Sr.
S — Bacarri Rambo, Georgia, 6-0, 218, Jr.
P — Brad Wing, LSU, 6-3, 184, Fr.

SECOND TEAM

Offense


WR — Rueben Randle, LSU, 6-4, 208, Jr.
WR — Alshon Jeffrey, South Carolina, 6-4, 229, Jr.
L — Chris Faulk, LSU, 6-6, 325, So.
L — Alvin Bailey, Arkansas, 6-5, 319, So.
L — Larry Warford, Kentucky, 6-3, 336, Jr.
L — Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State, 6-4, 320, So.
C — Ben Jones, Georgia, 6-3, 316, Sr.
TE — Philip Lutzenkirchen, Auburn, 6-5, 250, Jr.
QB — Aaron Murray, Georgia, 6-1, 211, So.
RB — Zac Stacy, Vanderbilt, 5-9, 208, Jr.
RB — Vick Ballard, Mississippi St., 5-11, 220, Sr.
K — Drew Alleman, LSU, 5-11, 183, Jr.

All-Purpose — Dennis Johnson, Arkansas, 5-9, 213, Jr.

Defense

T — Josh Chapman, Alabama, 6-1, 310, Sr.
T — Michael Brockers, LSU, 6-6, 306, So.
E — Corey Lemonier, Auburn, 6-4, 240, So.
E — Barkevious Mingo, LSU, 6-5, 240, So.
LB — Dont'A Hightower, Alabama, 6-4, 260, Jr.
LB — Chris Marve, Vanderbilt, 6-0, 242, Sr.
LB — Jerry Franklin, Arkansas, 6-1, 245, Sr.
CB — Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama, 6-3, 192, Jr.
CB — Casey Hayward, Vanderbilt, 5-11, 188, Sr.
S — Antonio Allen, South Carolina, 6-2, 202, Sr.
S — Eric Reid, LSU, 6-2, 208, So.
P — Dylan Breeding, Arkansas, 6-1, 211, Jr. 
Our thoughts:

The linebackers in this conference are pretty good. If you didn't know it already, we'd think seeing Dont'a Hightower -- a Butkus Award finalist -- reduced to a second-teamer would be proof enough.

How do you solve a problem like Tyrann? The kind of season Mathieu has enjoyed clearly deserves to see him named a first-team All-SEC player ... but if we're strictly talking about who we'd take to play cornerback, we'd go with either second team player (Alabama's excellent Dre Kirkpatrick or Vanderbilt's Casey Hayward) over the Honey Badger, whose strengths lie more in his unparalleled knack for the big play and ferocious run support rather than one-on-one coverage. If we're in charge, we either drop one of the safeties for Kirkpatrick and simply name three corners, or we assign Mathieu to the all-purpose role.

Not always about the numbers. Nothing against Fletcher Cox or Malik Jackson, who each had oustanding seasons for Mississippi State and Tennessee, respectively. But given that this is the conference boasting both the No. 1 and No. 3 rush defenses in the country, it's something of a surprise to see both first-team interior defensive linemen come from teams. Alabama's Josh Chapman, in particular, didn't rack up many tackles or sacks but was the rock-solid anchor that paced the Tide rush defense to their top-ranked billing.

Sorry, Rueben. Can we just add a third wideout to the first team? LSU's Rueben Randle doesn't have the overall numbers of either of the first team receivers, but no wideout in the league was a more consistent, more dangerous downfield threat than Randle, as his 18-yard average per reception illustrates. As with Hightower, we're not sure who we'd drop from the first team, but Randle's nonetheless had a full All-SEC caliber season.

Nope, still scratching our heads. Certainly Auburn punter Steve Clark had a fine year. But we were nonetheless more than a little surprised when he was named a Ray Guy Award finalist, and it looks like the AP voters were, too; they've gone with LSU's impeccable Brad Wing first-team and Arkansas's Dylan Breeding for the second.
Posted on: September 29, 2011 1:22 pm
Edited on: September 30, 2011 3:32 pm
 

SEC shakedown: Florida vs. Alabama

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

In which we break down the SEC's biggest games. This week: Gators and Crimson Tide, 8 p.m. ET Saturday on CBS.




AT STAKE: Nothing less than the winner's continued presence in the national championship race. Yes, Alabama could potentially lose and still work their way back in via a victory over LSU, but the way teams like Oklahoma and Wisconsin are playing, we wouldn't risk it if we were them. And no, Florida isn't widely viewed as a national title contender at the moment--but a win over the Tide would change that in the biggest of hurries.

WHEN ALABAMA HAS THE BALL, THEY MUST: Give AJ McCarron time to throw. The Tide's pass protection hasn't exactly been an Achilles heel so far this 2011 season, but it hasn't been a strength, either; the Tide have given up eight sacks in their four games, ranking them 77th in the FBS in that department, and that's with the offense heavily favoring the run game and North Texas and Kent State on the schedule.

Now tackles Barrett Jones and D.J. Fluker will have to deal with the most fearsome pass rush they've faced yet. The Gators have collected seven sacks the past two weeks alone, and it's not the result of just one superstar player; Will Muschamp's blitz packages have resulted in six different Gators collecting at least one sack, with linebacker Jonathan Bostic and defensive end Ronald Powell tying for the team lead with two. Tackles Jaye Howard, Dominique Easley and Sharrif Floyd mean the Gator pass rush is just as strong inside as it is outside, too. In short: the Tide offensive line is going to have its hands full.

But the rewards for keeping McCarron clean should be lavish. The Gator secondary is athletic and has been highly productive to date (four interceptions in the last two games, 4.7 yards per-attempt allowed for the season), but they're also young, mistake-prone (as the avalanche of penalties vs Tennessee showed) and no doubt highly concerned with the Tide rushing attack. Keeping McCarron upright likely also means the handful of big plays that would keep the Gators defense honest ... and honesty is no way to deal with Trent Richardson.

WHEN FLORIDA HAS THE BALL, THEY MUST:
break Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey free for big plays--and we mean really big plays, plays of the 60-, 70-yard touchdown variety the Gators have already enjoyed vs. Tennessee and Kentucky.

Against the Tide, that's easier said than done, of course. But that's also the Gators' best hope. The Tide have allowed only four plays all season longer than 20 yards (second-fewest in the nation), and yielded just one to Arkansas. Result? Being forced to drive the length of the field, neither the Razorbacks nor Penn State before them were able to muster more than one serious drive before the game was well out of reach.

And it's not as if the Gators are any better built for pounding out long, methodical possessions; for all their brilliance neither Demps nor Rainey is the sort of back to move a pile of Crimson Tide defenders on 3rd-and-2, and while much improved, John Brantley still only completed 59 percent of his passes in the Gators' two SEC contests to date. Charlie Weis must figure out a way to get Demps and Rainey into space -- we suggest a heavy dose of the screen passes and check-downs that so damaged the Vols -- and hope they can work their magic. Otherwise, first-year punter David Lerner is going to get an awful lot of work.

WHAT ALABAMA CAN'T ACCOUNT FOR: The Florida Field crowd. The Swamp hasn't always been The Swamp as of late -- it was just last year the Gators conspired to lose an unthinkable three consecutive home games -- but with the 4-0 start, the burst of energy from Muschamp, the primetime start, and no less an opponent than Nick Saban's Alabama, the atmosphere in Gainesville promises to be as hostile as any college football will see this year.

On the whole, a veteran team like the Tide should be able to handle it. But can McCarron? And if the Tide fall behind, will he be alone in feeling the pressure?

WHAT FLORIDA CAN'T ACCOUNT FOR: The inevitable deflation of that crowd. At some point, Alabama will connect for a big play, whether it's Marquis Maze on special teams, Richardson breaking loose on a screen pass or Eddie Lacy coming off the bench to thunder for 40 yards or so. While Florida has any number of upperclassmen leaders, this remains a young team on the whole, with a first-year coaching staff, that's enjoyed nothing but prosperity so far in 2011. When Alabama socks them in the mouth and the crowd loses its buzz momentarily, there's no guaranteeing how the Gators will respond.

AND IN THE END: Buoyed by the home crowd, Florida's defense holds up much better in the face of the Tide running game than Arkansas's did. But there's not enough weapons in the Gator passing game to keep Demps and Rainey from being swarmed under, and the Tide seizes control early in the second half. Alabama 27, Florida 16.

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