Our picks for college football’s biggest awards

Based on PFF data, we're sharing our top picks for the biggest awards in college football.

| 2 years ago
(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Our picks for college football’s biggest awards

With the regular season and college championship games in the books, it’s time to take a look at which players deserve recognition for this season’s body of work. Based on PFF data, below are our top picks for the biggest awards in college football:

Make sure to check out our top 10 candidates for the Heisman Trophy as well.

Davey O’Brien Award (Top quarterback)

  1. Baker Mayfield (+52.9)
  2. Jared Goff (+43.5)
  3. Matt Johnson (+38.5)

The best quarterback in the nation, Mayfield has graded positively in every game this year, and has even out graded last season’s Heisman trophy winning quarterback Marcus Mariota. At his best throwing downfield, he has gone 25-for-52 for 997, with 10 touchdowns and no interceptions on passes of 20 yards or more downfield.

Doak Walker Award (Top running Back)

  1. Christian McCaffrey, Stanford (+43.4)
  2. Leonard Fournette, LSU (+32.9)
  3. Royce Freeman, Oregon (+30.9)

People point to McCaffrey’s now NCAA all-time single season all purpose yardage record as somewhat of a gimmick. It’s worth noting however that he also leads the nation in yards from scrimmage. Forcing 63 missed tackles as a runner, he is our second highest graded rusher and highest graded receiver among running backs.

Fred Biletnikoff Award (Top wide receiver)

  1. Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma (+30.8)
  2. Josh Docston, TCU (+25.6)
  3. Tyler Boyd, Pittsburgh (+21.3)

While Baker Mayfield gets the praise, and for good reason, it’s worth noting just how good a wide receiver he has to throw to. Shepard has dropped just four of the 82 catchable passes thrown his way, forcing 11 missed tackles as a receiver on his way to the highest grade at the position.

John Mackey Award (Top tight end)

  1. David Morgan II, UTSA (+36.6)
  2. Tyler Higbee, Western Kentucky (+15.6)
  3. Jaylen Samuels, NC State (+9.9)

The tight end position lacks a true standout receiver this year, with Western Kentucky’s Higbee the best in that regard. Our award recipient David Morgan II has had a solid year as a receiver, with five touchdown grabs, but has made his mark as a run blocker with a grade of +32.9.

Joe Moore Award (Top offensive line)

  1. Stanford Cardinal
  2. Ohio State Buckeyes
  3. Iowa Hawkeyes

The Cardinal’s offensive line boasts arguably the best offensive lineman in the nation in guard Joshua Garrett (+39.5). That being said, the line in general is particularly impressive, with four of the five starters finishing the season with a positive grade, with their run blocking really standing out.

Rimington Trophy (Top center)

  1. Matt Skura, Duke (+37.7)
  2. Jesse Chapman, Appalachian State (+37.2)
  3. Austin Blythe, Iowa (+26.2)

In pass protection Skura has allowed just four hits and six hurries, with no sacks, giving him the 13th highest pass blocking grade at the position at +3.7. Where he’s really stood out is as a run blocker though with the second highest grade there at +31.8.

Outland Trophy (Top interior lineman)

  1. DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon (+67.7)
  2. Jonathan Bullard, DT, Florida (+52.3)
  3. Sheldon Day, DT, Notre Dame (+49.7)

The award for the best interior lineman on either side of the ball sees plenty of outstanding candidates, but one player stands out above the rest. Oregon’s Buckner has been the highest graded 3-4 defensive end both against the run and as a pass rusher. With 11 sacks, 14 hits and 38 hurries, he has been one of the most disruptive players in the country.

Chuck Bednarik Award (Top defensive player)

  1. Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State (+66.6)
  2. DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon (+67.7)
  3. Jeremy Cash, S, Duke (+34.7)

The battle between Bosa and Buckner at the top is an incredibly close one. Both cause opposing offenses nightmares on a weekly basis and make their impact felt both against the run and as pass rusher. In the end Buckner just shades it, but both are very much deserving.

Ted Hendricks Award (Top defensive end)

  1. Joey Bosa, Ohio State (+66.6)
  2. Derek Barnett, Tennessee (+45.6)
  3. Myles Garrett, Texas A&M (+42.8)

For the second year in a row there is no edge defender who can match what Ohio State’s Bosa has produced. He may have recorded just seven sacks, but he tops that up with 21 hits and 41 hurries, proving that there is more to rushing the passer than just sacks.

Dick Butkus Award (Top linebacker)

  1. Steven Daniels, Boston College (+47.6)
  2. Kentrell Brothers, Missouri (+36.6)
  3. Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame (+30.5)

Daniels doesn’t get a lot of attention and is viewed by a lot of people as someone who will be limited beyond his college days because he really specialising against the run. What he’s done this season however, continues to impress us. He has been a force against the run all year, recording 78 defensive stops.

Jim Thorpe Award (Top defensive back)

  1. Jeremy Cash, S, Duke (+34.7)
  2. Jourdan Lewis, CB, Michigan (+21.2)
  3. Derwin James, S, Florida State (+25.3)

Cash has been one of the most exciting defensive players in all of college football this year, doing his best work close to the line of scrimmage. No safety comes close to his run defense grade of +22.6 but he is also an extremely efficient pass rusher. Rushing the passer 74 times this year, he registered three sacks, 12 hits and 15 hurries.

Lou Groza Award (Top kicker)

  1. Michael Badgley, Miami (+4.6)
  2. Conrad Ukropina (+4.3)
  3. Andy Phillips (+4.0)

Badgley is our highest graded kicker on field goals and extra points this year, connecting on 86.2% of his field goals including 8-of-10 from 40 yards and beyond.

Ray Guy Award (Top punter)

  1. Hayden Hunt, Colorado State (+11.6)
  2. Tom Hackett (+2.7)
  3. Michael Carrizosa (+0.7)

By far our highest graded punter this season, Hunt has averaged 45.6 per punt, and has seen 24 of his 49 punts land inside the 20 yard line.

| Analyst, Lead Special Teams Analyst

Gordon has worked at PFF since 2011, and now heads up the company’s special teams analysis processes. His work in-season focuses on college football, while he is also heavily involved in PFF’s NFL draft coverage.

  • Matt

    You have a typo on the “Chuck Bednarik Award (Top defensive flayer)”

    Per usual, good piece!