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College football awards primer

It's become clear that we're on the verge of a historic awards season. With Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel and Notre Dame's Manti Te'o announced as two of the three Heisman Trophy finalists, it's all but inevitable that a freshman or defense-only player will win the award, something that hasn't happened in the Heisman's prior 77 years. One of college football's longest-standing barriers is poised to fall, and one of sport's most exclusive fraternities will add a distinctive member.

Still, the Heisman isn't the only award to keep an eye on this week. Plenty of other hardware will be handed out to recognize the best players from the 2012 season. Here's a breakdown of the finalists, snubs and projected winners for each honor, with the awards listed in alphabetical order.

2011 winner: Tyrann Mathieu, LSU

2012 finalists: Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina; Jarvis Jones, Georgia; Manti Te'o, Notre Dame

Biggest snub: Bjoern Werner, Florida State. The 'Noles standout spearheaded the nation's second-ranked defense with 13 sacks. Unlike many of his teammates, he also stepped up in the Florida game: Werner amassed 3.5 sacks against the Gators, his second-highest total of the season.

Projected winner: Te'o. After winning both the Butkus Award and the Bronco Nagurski Trophy on Monday, the Irish's all-everything linebacker seems primed for some more recognition. Though Clowney and Jones rank second and fourth in the FBS in sacks, respectively, Te'o has anchored the nation's top-ranked scoring defense. He collected 103 tackles and seven interceptions, including his diving pick to seal Notre Dame's win at Oklahoma.

2011 winner: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State

2012 finalists: Stedman Bailey, West Virginia; Marqise Lee, USC; Terrance Williams, Baylor

Biggest snub: DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson. How's this for big-play potential? Hopkins made 69 receptions in 2012; 18 went for 25 yards or longer and 16 went for touchdowns.

Projected winner: Lee. It's not just his eye-popping stats, which include 2,588 all-purpose yards, the third-highest total in the FBS. It's how he simply outruns defenders like no other player in the nation. Lee's wow factor -- coupled with his historic numbers -- will give him the slight edge over the FBS leaders in receiving yards (Williams) and touchdowns (Bailey).

2011 winner: Andrew Luck, Stanford

2012 finalists: Kenjon Barner, Oregon; Collin Klein, Kansas State; Marqise Lee, USC; Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M; Manti Te'o, Notre Dame

Biggest snub: Jarvis Jones, Georgia. Despite missing two games, Jones led the nation with 22.5 tackles for loss. His fourth-quarter forced fumble against Florida also gave the Bulldogs the inside track to the SEC East crown.

Projected winner: Klein. The Walter Camp results have aligned with the Heisman results just once over the last five years, when both honors went to Cam Newton in 2010. Here's guessing that trend continues. Though Manziel boasts superior all-around statistics, Klein piloted his team to a BCS bowl -- a trait he shares with seven of the last eight Walter Camp winners dating back to 2004.

2011 winner: Randy Bullock, Texas A&M

2012 finalists: Dustin Hopkins, Florida State; Cairo Santos, Tulane; Caleb Sturgis, Florida

Biggest snub: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State. He made the most field goals (25) of any kicker and was deadly accurate from close range. Sharp connected on all 17 of his attempts inside 40 yards, and he went 65-for-65 on PATs.

Projected winner: Santos. Hopkins (24-of-28) and Sturgis (23-of-27) have been good, but Santos has been perfect. The little-known Tulane junior converted all 21 of his attempts this year -- and went an absurd 12-of-12 on kicks of 40 yards or longer.

2011 winner: Ryan Allen, Louisiana Tech

2012 finalists: Ryan Allen, Louisiana Tech; Kyle Christy, Florida; Scott Kovanada, Ball State

Biggest snub: Riley Stephenson, BYU. Stephenson ranks second in the FBS in punting average (47.3 yards) and had 24 punts that landed inside the opponent's 20-yard line.

Projected winner: Allen. Christy may have more punting yards (2,858) than Allen (2,162), but a deeper look at the numbers reveals Allen's unmatched effectiveness. The Bulldogs' senior has the highest punting average in the country (48 yards per punt) and is the primary reason Sonny Dykes' team led the nation in net punting.

2011 winner: Luke Kuechly, Boston College

2012 finalists: Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina; Barrett Jones, Alabama; Jarvis Jones, Georgia; Manti Te'o, Notre Dame

Biggest snub: Khaseem Greene, Rutgers. One of the nation's most frequently overlooked talents, Greene was a force for the Scarlet Knights in 2012. He tallied 125 tackles -- the second-highest total among bowl-eligible, AQ-conference defenders -- and forced six fumbles, second in the FBS.

Projected winner: Jones. A defensive player has won the Lombardi every year since 1996, which seems to bode poorly for Alabama's Jones. As for the remaining three candidates, this feels like the award Jones stands the best shot at capturing. A premier pass rusher has won the Lombardi in four of the past five years, and though Te'o has been the best player on the better defense, Jones has been the more consistently disruptive presence. In addition to his impressive sack and TFL totals, Jones leads the nation with seven forced fumbles.

2011 winner: Dwayne Allen, Clemson

2012 finalists: Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame; Zach Ertz, Stanford; Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington

Biggest snub: Ryan Otten, San Jose State. The senior accumulated 706 receiving yards, fourth among tight ends, to help fuel the Spartans' unexpected 10-win season.

Projected winner: Ertz. The 6-foot-6 target is the leading receiver among FBS tight ends, with 837 yards and six touchdowns. He also accounted for three of the Cardinal's most pivotal catches. Ertz made game-winning touchdown grabs against USC, Oregon State and Oregon -- the latter a diving, last-minute reception that put Stanford in position to clinch its third straight BCS bid.

2011 winner: Andrew Luck, Stanford

2012 finalists: Collin Klein, Kansas State; Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M; Manti Te'o, Notre Dame

Biggest snub: Marqise Lee, USC. In addition to his prolific receiving numbers -- he caught at least 10 passes in seven different games -- Lee averaged more than 28 yards per kick return, 10th nationally.

Projected winner: Manziel. Te'o's impact is unmistakable, but it's difficult for a defensive player to steal votes from stat-stuffing offensive stars. And between Manziel and Klein, Johnny Football's numbers are far better. Manziel broke the SEC record by racking up 4,600 yards of total offense and became one of five players in FBS history -- and the first freshman -- to register 3,000 passing yards and 1,000 passing yards in the same season.

2011 winner: Robert Griffin III, Baylor

2012 finalists: Collin Klein, Kansas State; Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M; Braxton Miller, Ohio State

Biggest snub: Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois. Sometimes described as the Johnny Football of the MAC, Lynch is the driving force behind the Huskies' surprising Orange Bowl berth. He collected 4,733 total yards and rushed for more than 100 in 11 consecutive games, an NCAA record for quarterbacks.

Projected winner: Manziel. In addition to putting up record-settings statistics, Manziel has accounted for more of his team's offense than either of the other finalists. Johnny Football is responsible for 69.4 percent of A&M's total yardage. That's a slightly higher percentage than Klein (68.6) and Miller (65.1) had for their respective teams.

2011 winner: Barrett Jones, Alabama

2012 finalists: Barrett Jones, Alabama; Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M; Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina

Biggest snub: Chance Warmack, Alabama. The 6-3, 320-pound senior has been 'Bama's most polished lineman in 2012. He opened holes for an Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon-led rushing attack that averaged more than 224 yards per game.

Projected winner: Jones. Joeckel and Cooper have been terrific, the former blocking for Manziel and the latter paving the way for Gio Bernard. But Jones has established himself as college football's most versatile lineman. After playing right guard his first two seasons and left tackle as a junior, Jones moved to center and graded out an average of 90.8 percent in the Tide's 12 regular-season games.

2011 winner: David Molk, Michigan

2012 finalists: Mario Benavides, Louisville; Braxston Cave, Notre Dame; Dalton Freeman, Clemson; Barrett Jones, Alabama; Matt Stankiewitch, Penn State

Biggest snub: Hroniss Grasu, Oregon. The sophomore stalwart helped pave the way for a Ducks offense that averaged an astounding 550 yards per game.

Projected winner: Jones. This may be Jones' most impressive stat: In 656 regular-season plays, he missed just six assignments for the BCS national championship-bound Tide.

2011 winner: Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State

2012 finalists: Gary Andersen, Utah State; Dave Doeren, Northern Illinois; Brian Kelly, Notre Dame; Urban Meyer, Ohio State; Will Muschamp, Florida; David Shaw, Stanford; Bill Snyder, Kansas State; Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M

Biggest snub: Mike Riley, Oregon State. Though the Beavers tailed off in the second half of the season, Riley's work turning them into a contender is impressive nonetheless. After finishing 3-9 last year, Oregon State went 9-3 to set up an Alamo Bowl showdown with Texas.

Projected winner: O'Brien. While other coaches led their teams to more successful seasons, none did as much under more trying circumstances than O'Brien. Despite many of Penn State's best players transferring before the year, O'Brien's Nittany Lions won eight of their final 10 games to help give State College a team to be proud of in 2012.

2011 winner: Morris Claiborne, LSU

2012 finalists: Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State; Dee Milliner, Alabama; Phillip Thomas, Fresno State

Biggest snub: Ed Reynolds, Stanford. The first-year starter tied for the FBS lead with three pick-sixes and made a momentum-changing interception in last week's Pac-12 title game.

Projected winner: Milliner. Fresno State's Thomas leads the nation in interceptions (eight), but Milliner has been arguably the best player on 'Bama's top-ranked defense. He notched 20 passes defended, third in the FBS, while headlining a secondary that allowed a paltry 166 passing yards per game.

2011 winner: Trent Richardson, Alabama

2012 finalists: Monteé Ball, Wisconsin; Kenjon Barner, Oregon; Johnathan Franklin, UCLA

Biggest snub: Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona. The sophomore leads the nation in rushing (1,757 yards) and finished the season with a flourish, running for 742 yards and seven touchdowns in the Wildcats' final three games.

Projected winner: Barner. Overshadowed by De'Anthony Thomas entering the year, Barner quickly established himself as the Ducks' premier rushing threat. He boasts a higher yards-per-carry average (6.55) than both Franklin (6.34) and Ball (5.21), and he delivered perhaps the single-game performance of the season on Nov. 3 by gashing USC for a whopping 321 yards and five touchdowns.

Frank Broyles Award (Most Outstanding Assistant Coach): Bob Diaco, Notre Dame

Butkus Award (Most Outstanding Linebacker): Manti Te'o, Notre Dame

Bronko Nagurski Trophy (Most Outstanding Defensive Player): Manti Te'o, Notre Dame

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