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Monday, October 22, 2018

Handing out college football midseason awards for 2018

Tua Tagovailoa

We’re midway through college football season, but that’s not too early to hand out some hardware for standout teams and player — for both good and bad reasons. There’s the Heisman, of course, but we’ve put together our own set of awards to recognize some of the leading lights of the 2018 college football season so far.

Here are ten of our midseason award winners for the 2018 college football season.

Heisman Trophy — Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama

This is still open enough that someone could come in and take it from Tagovailoa, but the Alabama quarterback doesn’t look like he intends to loosen his grip on the award. He’s completed 75 percent of his passes, has thrown 18 touchdowns without any interceptions, and is the offensive backbone of the best team in the nation — something that should not be underrated. He has to be considered the clear favorite at the moment, and unless he regresses quickly, will probably stay that way.

Coach of the Year — Brian Kelly, Notre Dame

A few weeks ago, LSU’s Ed Orgeron probably gets the nod here, but the Tigers’ loss to Florida combined with Notre Dame’s continued success opens the door for Kelly. At 6-0, the Irish have a legitimate shot at the playoff, especially when you consider that they’ll be favored in every game they play from this point forward. Kelly deserves credit. Two years ago, they won just four games, but recovered to win 10 last year and have continued the momentum into 2018. Kelly made a bold quarterback decision that seems to have benefited the team as well. It will be hard to deny him this honor if the Fighting Irish go unbeaten.

Offensive Player of the Year — Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State

Tua Tagovailoa deserves this one too, but we’re giving it to someone else for the sake of variance. Dwayne Haskins will get the nod instead for his superb play at quarterback. Haskins leads the country with 25 touchdown passes this season. He has completed 71.7 percent of his passes for 1,919 yards. His shakiest performance came against his toughest opponent so far — Penn State on the road — and he still threw three touchdown passes. Ohio State’s schedule the rest of the way is somewhat forgiving, so expect Haskins to put up even more big stats as the season goes on.

Defensive Player of the Year — Ed Oliver, DT, Houston

Nick Bosa might have had something to say about this if not sidelined by injury, but instead he cedes it to the consensus best defensive player in the nation. The thing about Oliver is that his impact isn’t really adequately reflected by statistics. He has 40 total tackles but no sacks, in part because opposing offensive lines are so desperate to stop him that he can find it rough going (he sometimes has been triple-teamed). He still racks up double-digit tackles per game and looks likely to be the most likely defensive player to get Heisman votes.

Freshman of the Year — Alan Bowman, QB, Texas Tech

Even in a pass-heavy offense, what Bowman has done is impressive, and it gets him the nod over Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence. In fact, Bowman has nearly twice as many passing yards as Lawrence in one fewer game, all while throwing 11 touchdowns to three interceptions. A partially collapsed lung cost him a game, but it’s expected to be a brief absence, and that should enable the Texas Tech freshman to put up more big numbers going forward.

Comeback Player of the Year — Deondre Francois, QB, Florida State

Francois’s play hasn’t been elite, but he’s been pretty good for a struggling Florida State team. The fact that he’s doing it after a season-ending patellar tendon injury in 2017 is more impressive. Francois has thrown for 1,506 yards and 11 touchdowns this year, close to where he was pre-injury. He’d probably be even better if his offensive line was a little more solid and capable of protecting him. He deserves a lot of credit for his comeback.

Surprise Team of the Year — Kentucky Wildcats

They’re coming off a somewhat surprising defeat at the hands of the Texas A&M Aggies. So what? It was their first defeat of the season and it didn’t come until early October. Nobody could have expected that from this Wildcats team. They have wins over Florida and Mississippi State, both ranked opponents, and both of those wins came by at least two scores. They deserve a ton of credit for what they’ve been able to achieve this year.

Disappointing Team of the Year — Michigan State Spartans

At the start of the year, the Spartans were placed in the same category as Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, and Wisconsin — potential Big Ten champions. They’ve shown from the first moment of their season that they’re well off that pace. They haven’t faced a single ranked opponent yet, but are still just 3-2 with losses at Arizona State and at home to Northwestern. Their wins haven’t been particularly impressive either, with Utah State nearly upsetting them at home as well. The Spartans still have Penn State, Michigan, and Ohio State to come on their schedule. If they continue playing like they have, they’ll lose all three and find themselves miles away from the Big Ten’s elite.

Group of Five Team of the Year — UCF Knights

Scott Frost may have left, but as it turns out, no other Group of Five foe has yet been able to trip up UCF. McKenzie Milton continues to be one of the country’s top dual-threat quarterbacks as the 5-0 Knights are right back in the top ten under coach Josh Heupel. They have a long way to go, however, with matchups against fellow Group of Five unbeatens Cincinnati and South Florida to close their season.

Upset of the Year — Old Dominion over Virginia Tech

At the time of this game, Old Dominion was 0-3 with losses to Liberty, Florida International, and Charlotte. Since beating Virginia Tech, they have failed to win a game and lost to both East Carolina and Florida Atlantic. Yes, the Monarchs are 1-5, and their lone win was over a team that was on the verge of surging into the top ten. It wasn’t even unconvincing — Old Dominion scored 49 points and put up nearly 500 passing yards. You won’t see a stranger college football result all season.


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