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College Football

College football awards primer

Five finalists will head to New York for the 77th Heisman Trophy ceremony, but they won't be the only ones taking home hardware this week. Numerous other awards are scheduled to be distributed, and many of the races are just as crowded. Here's a breakdown of the finalists, snubs and projected winners for each honor, with the awards listed in alphabetical order.

2010 winner: Patrick Peterson, LSU

2011 finalists: Dont'a Hightower, Alabama; Tyrann Mathieu, LSU; Devon Still, Penn State

Biggest snub: Morris Claiborne, LSU. The other heralded corner in the Tigers' vaunted secondary, Claiborne has more interceptions (six) and passes defended (12) than his explosive, 5-foot-9 counterpart.

Projected winner: Mathieu. A year after another LSU defensive back claimed the Bednarik Award, the Honey Badger will keep the title in Baton Rouge. He's been an all-around phenomenon, tallying 70 tackles, six forced fumbles, two interceptions and two defensive touchdowns. His dominance as a return man (420 yards, two TDs) and big-play persona give him the edge over backfield mainstays Hightower (81 tackles, 9.5 for loss) and Still (55 tackles, 17.5 for loss).

2010 winner: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State

2011 finalists: Blackmon; Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma; Robert Woods, USC

Biggest snub: Kendall Wright, Baylor. Perhaps unfairly perceived as the Big 12's third wideout, Wright amassed 1,572 receiving yards in 2011, 200 more than any of the finalists.

Projected winner: Blackmon. Though his 2011 campaign (1,336 receiving yards, 15 TDs) pales in comparison to his 2010 effort (1,782 yards, 22 TDs), Blackmon was good enough to become the first repeat Bilentnikoff winner since Michael Crabtree in '07 and '08. He made at least six catches in each of the Cowboys' 12 games, and reeled in touchdowns in all but two of them. Broyles is hurt by his season-ending ACL injury, while Woods is docked for his inconsistent finish (he averaged 78 receiving yards in his final five games).

2010 winner: Gus Malzahn, Auburn

2011 finalists: John Chavis, LSU; Paul Chryst, Wisconsin; Greg Mattison, Michigan; Garrick McGee, Arkansas; Sal Sunseri, Alabama

Biggest snub: Todd Grantham, Georgia. After implementing a 3-4 scheme upon being hired in 2010, Grantham saw the Bulldogs thrive in his second year. Georgia ranked third in total defense -- behind just Alabama and LSU -- in surrendering a paltry 269 yards per game.

Projected winner: Chavis. Known as a defensive mastermind since his tenure at Tennessee, the 55-year-old Chavis will finally bring home the elusive Broyles Award. It'll be well-deserved. Under his tutelage, the Tigers boasted the nation's third-ranked rushing defense (85 yards per game), third-ranked pass efficiency defense (93.05 rating) and second-ranked scoring defense (10.54 points per game). Then there's this: LSU has allowed just two offensive touchdowns in the last 20 quarters.

2010 winner: Cam Newton, Auburn

2011 finalists: Robert Griffin III, Baylor; Case Keenum, Houston; Andrew Luck, Stanford; Trent Richardson, Alabama

Biggest snub: Montee Ball, Wisconsin. Overshadowed by Russell Wilson early, Ball emerged as the Badgers' primary threat. He rushed for 1,759 yards and 32 touchdowns, both tops in the country.

Projected winner: Griffin. Check out how much RGIII has meant to Baylor relative to the other contenders and their respective teams.

Any further questions? Griffin has been a more significant part of his team's offense, both yardage- and scoring-wise, than Keenum, Luck or Richardson -- and it's not even close. The junior wunderkind almost single-handedly carried the Bears to a top 12 BCS finish, and torched defenses with both his arm and his legs. Put simply: He's been the nation's Most Outstanding Player.

2010 winner: Dan Bailey, Oklahoma State

2011 finalists: Randy Bullock, Texas A&M; Dustin Hopkins, Florida State; Caleb Sturgis, Florida

Biggest snub: Drew Alleman, LSU. Not only did Alleman record the highest field goal percentage in the FBS with a lofty 88.9 percent, he also showcased his importance on the regular season's biggest stage. He drilled 19-, 30- and 25-yard attempts to top Alabama in Tuscaloosa on Nov. 5.

Projected winner: Bullock. The Aggie senior made more field goals (25) at a higher conversion rate (86.2 percent) than either Hopkins or Sturgis, and was a perfect 14-for-14 from inside 37 yards.

2010 winner: Chas Henry, Florida

2011 finalists: Ryan Allen, Louisiana Tech; Steven Clark, Auburn; Jackson Rice, Oregon

Biggest snub: Brad Wing, LSU. The Tigers' freshman was a special teams phenom, with 23 of his 57 punts being downed inside the 20. Even more striking: In 17 returns, LSU opponents collected just six yards, a sparkling -- and almost inconceivable -- 0.4-yard average.

Projected winner: Allen. The big-footed junior will become the first Bulldog to win a major college award since Troy Edwards captured the Bilentnikoff in 1998. He punted 78 times for 3,612 yards -- an average of 46.3 yards per kick and 301 per game.

2010 winner: Nick Fairley, Auburn

2011 finalists: Dont'a Hightower, Alabama; Luke Kuechly, Boston College; Jonathan Martin, Stanford; Courtney Upshaw, Alabama

Biggest snub: Whitney Mercilus, Illinois. Though 2011 lacked the elite pass rushers of 2010 (Fairley, Da'Quan Bowers), Mercilus was the best of the bunch. He notched a nation-leading 14.5 sacks and nine forced fumbles, five of the latter coming in Illinois' season-ending six-game losing streak.

Projected winner: Upshaw. It's simple: Upshaw was consistently the best player on the nation's best defense. The hard-hitting senior led Alabama in tackles for loss (17), sacks (8.5) and quarterback hurries (11). Alabama led the nation in rushing, pass efficiency, red zone, scoring and total defense.

2010 winner: D.J. Williams, Arkansas

2011 finalists: Dwyane Allen, Clemson; Orson Charles, Georgia; Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame

Biggest snub: Coby Fleener, Stanford. The 6-6, 244-pounder proved to be Luck's favorite red zone target, collecting 10 touchdowns, the most of any tight end in the nation.

Projected winner: Eifert. Despite Allen's late-season surge -- three touchdowns in Clemson's final two games -- Eifert has been the most consistent tight end threat all season. He racked up 713 receiving yards (second among tight ends) and five touchdowns, including one of Notre Dame's biggest scores of the year. Before his game-winning six-yard grab at Pitt, The Irish were 1-2. After it, they went 7-2 to clinch a Champs Sports Bowl berth.

2010 winner: Cam Newton, Auburn

2011 finalists: Andrew Luck, Stanford; Kellen Moore, Boise State; Trent Richardson, Alabama

Biggest snub: Robert Griffin III, Baylor. Sure, he doesn't have the perfect record (or the supporting cast) that Newton did. But RGIII's numbers stack up strikingly well to last year's Heisman winner. Newton: 4,327 yards (2,854 passing, 1,473 rushing) and 50 touchdowns; Griffin: 4,642 yards (3,998 passing, 644 rushing) and 45 scores.

Projected winner: Richardson. With Griffin, Ball and Mathieu -- three of the five Heisman finalists -- out of the picture, Richardson should win the Maxwell Award handily. While Luck struggled down the stretch, tossing six picks in his final five games, Richardson only improved as the season wore on. His final three games: 127, 175 and 203 rushing yards, respectively, and five all-purpose touchdowns.

2010 winner: Da'Quan Bowers, Clemson

2011 finalists: Mark Barron, Alabama; Morris Claiborne, LSU; Luke Kuechly, Boston College; Whitney Mercilus, Illinois; Devon Still, Penn State

Biggest snub: Tyrann Mathieu, LSU. As last Saturday's SEC Championship made clear, the Honey Badger can take over games at will. To exclude the nation's most dynamic player -- and the only defensive finalist for the Heisman -- from the discussion of the game's Most Outstanding Defensive Player is simply egregious.

Projected winner: Claiborne. Kuechly's stats are staggering, as his 191 tackles are 44 more than any other player recorded. But Claiborne spearheaded the top-ranked Tigers' D. He picked off Tyler Wilson, A.J. McCarron, Matt Simms and Aaron Murray, among others, and five of his six interceptions turned into LSU points.

2010 winner: Cam Newton, Auburn

2011 finalists: Robert Griffin III, Baylor; Case Keenum, Houston; Andrew Luck, Stanford

Biggest snub: Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State. Where is the love? In addition to being spurned from the BCS Championship Game, Weeden was omitted from consideration for every major college award. His gaudy stats argue otherwise: 379-of-522 (72.6 percent), 4,328 yards and 34 touchdowns in leading the Cowboys to an outright Big 12 title.

Projected winner: Luck. If history is an indication, O'Brien Award voters select the starting quarterback on the nation's top team. Nine of 11 winners since 2000 (other than Tim Tebow in 2007 and Iowa's Brad Banks in 2002) have played for the BCS title. Since that's not an option this year, expect them to settle on the next closest thing. Though RGIII and Keenum have thrown for 800 more yards than Luck -- and Griffin has rushed for 644 yards and nine scores -- the likely No. 1 draft pick will get the nod for leading the 11-1 Cardinal to the Fiesta Bowl.

2010 winner: Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin

2011 finalists: Devon Still, Penn State; David DeCastro, Stanford; Barrett Jones, Alabama

Biggest snub: Nate Potter, Boise State. A starter in the Broncos last 33 games, Potter is the centerpiece of a front line that surrendered eight sacks, tied for the fewest in the nation.

Projected winner: Jones. He won't win the Heisman -- as SI's Andy Staples campaigned for during the preseason -- but Jones should finally receive some long overdue credit. The 6-5, 311-pounder paved the way for a ground attack that averaged 5.58 yards per carry, and provided necessary time for a first-year starter to lead the Tide to the BCS Championship. He also holds the historical advantage: Six of the last eight Outland winners have played on the offensive side of the ball.

2010 winner: Jake Kirkpatrick, TCU

2011 finalists: Dalton Freeman, Clemson; Grant Garner, Oklahoma State; Ben Jones, Georgia; Peter Konz, Wisconsin; David Molk, Michigan; William Vlachos, Alabama

Biggest snub: Mike Brewster, Ohio State. A four-year starter in Columbus, Brewster solidified one of the nation's most underappreciated units. The Buckeyes accumulated 2,348 rushing yards despite lacking any individual 700-yard rusher.

Projected winner: Konz. The latest in a lineage of decorated Wisconsin lineman, the 315-pound Konz was immovable in 2011. He opened holes for the nation's leading rusher Montee Ball, and helped the Badgers maintain possession for an average of 31:58 per game. He was named to the AFCA All-American team on Monday.

2010 winner: Chip Kelly, Oregon

2011 finalist: Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State; Brady Hoke, Michigan; Les Miles, LSU; Bill Snyder, Kansas State; Dabo Swinney, Clemson

Biggest snub: David Shaw, Stanford. In NFL-bound Jim Harbaugh's absence, the Cardinal haven't missed a beat. They've gone 11-1 -- one win shy of the program record for wins -- and could equal that mark with a victory in the Fiesta Bowl. That's especially impressive given the loss to linebacker Shayne Skov (84 tackles, 7.5 sacks in 2010) to a season-ending knee injury in September.

Projected winner: Projected winner: Miles. The 72-year-old Snyder was arguably the better story, but the Mad Hatter was unquestionably brilliant. Eight of LSU's 13 wins came against ranked opponents. The Tigers outscored them 284-108.

2010 winner: Patrick Peterson, LSU

2011 finalists: David Amerson, NC State; Mark Barron, Alabama; Morris Claiborne, LSU

Biggest snub: Nigel Malone, Kansas State. This should be Mathieu as well, but for the sake of spotlighting someone else, take K-State's Nigel Malone. The 5-10 junior corralled a Big 12-best seven interceptions, including a 24-yard pick-six in the Wildcats' 41-34 thriller over Texas Tech.

Projected winner: Claiborne. The Thorpe Award will also stay in the Bayou, as Claiborne adds to his growing hardware collection. But don't overlook the sophomore Amerson. His 11 interceptions match Dre' Bly's 1996 total as the most in ACC history.

2010 winner: LaMichael James, Oregon

2011 finalists: Montee Ball, Wisconsin; James; Trent Richardson, Alabama

Biggest snub: David Wilson, Virginia Tech. The versatile junior did it all -- 1,627 rushing yards, 126 receiving yards, 376 return yards and 10 total touchdowns -- in leading the Hokies to a coveted, albeit controversial, Sugar Bowl berth.

Projected winner: Richardson. Despite posting inferior statistics to Ball, Richardson (1,583 rushing yards, 20 TDs) staked a claim as the nation's premier feature back. He routinely ripped through eight-man fronts and sprinted past SEC foes to the tune of 1,093 yards and 10 scores. That's no small feat: Eight of the 12 conference defenses rank among the top 50 nationally, and Arkansas falls just outside the group at No. 51.

Butkus Award (Most Outstanding Linebacker): Luke Kuechly, Boston College

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