The 2018 college football season has completed outside of the annual Army vs Navy game. With the culmination of the season, comes the rewards. Tonight, we look at the best players in the country as we provide a look at the 2018 college football awards preview. With this in mind, we’ll give you everything that you need to know for tonight’s award show.
How to watch
When: 7 PM ET
Stream: Watch ESPN
Chuck Bednarik Award
The Bednarik award goes to the best defensive player in the country. The finalists for this season are Josh Allen of Kentucky, Christian Wilkins for Clemson, and Quinnen Williams from the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Allen has had an outstanding senior season for the Wildcats who finished 9-3 on the season. But, he was nothing if not consistent. He finished the season with 84 tackles, 14 sacks, five forced fumble. Meanwhile, Wilkins led a terrorizing defensive line for the Tigers. He only had 24 tackles, but 12 1/2 of those were for loss with 4 1/2 sacks. Finally, Williams has been strong inside for the Tide. From his nose tackle position, he has 66 tackles with 18 resulting in a loss and has added eight sacks.
Fred Biletnikoff Award
The nations top receiver will come away with the Biletnikoff award. Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy leads the finalist list. He is joined by Oklahoma State’s Tylan Wallace who replaced James Washington in admirable fashion in 2018. Finalizing the list is UMASS senior Andy Isabella.
Jeudy was a key member of the offensive explosion for Alabama this season. He hauled in 59 catches for 1,103 yards and 12 touchdowns this year. However, Wallace may have been the most valuable receiver. He hauled in 79 balls for 1,398 yards and 11 scores. Finally, Isabella may have not had the notoriety of the others, but he had a better statistical year. He brought in 101 receptions that accounted for 1,697 and 13 touchdowns.
Lou Groza Award
Yes, even the kickers receive some love as well. The Groza award is given to the top placekicker of the year. Believe it or not, Cole Tracy from LSU even received some Heisman consideration this year. He headlines the finalists. Andre Szmyt from the Syracuse Orange has made the list as a finalist as well. And, even though he has been off the radar a little, Cooper Rothe out of Wyoming finalizes our list.
Tracy connected on 25 of his 29 attempts for the Tigers and didn’t miss on any of his PAT’s on the year. Syracuse was one of the most improved teams in 2018. That is partly due to Szmyt as he nailed 28 of 32 and was successful on all 57 extra point attempts. Even though he didn’t have the same amount of attempts, Rothe was slightly more accurate. He hit 16 of 17 and over the last three years, he has 128 successful extra point attempts.
Ray Guy Award
Normally, punting isn’t necessarily a good thing. However, it is a necessity at times and the Ray Guy award rewards the best punter in the country. Braden Mann from Texas A&M leads the charge as the first finalist. And, James Smith is our second finalist for the award from Cincinnati. Finally, Mitch Wishnowsky out of Utah completes our finalist list.
Mann has proved pivotal for the Aggies in terms of flipping the field with his 51.1 punting average for the season. Smith was just slightly lower at a 47.7 average, but he fits right in with the field position games that have benefited the Bearcats all year. And, Wishnowsky helped Utah get to the PAC 12 championship game with his 45.1 average on the year.
The Maxwell trophy is awarded to the best player in college football. The highly contested award is broken down to three outstanding finalists. Will Grier of West Virginia is the first finalist. He is followed by fellow Big 12 quarterback Kyler Murray. And, certainly not least is the Hawaiian flamethrower in Tua Tagovailoa.
All three have been in the top five of our Heisman field nearly all season. Grier threw for 3,864 yards and 37 yards against only eight interceptions. Murray was the best dual threat in the country with 4,053 yards through the air and another 892 yards on the ground with 51 total scores. Finally, Tagovailoa has been considered the best player in the country most of the season with 3,353 yards passing and an incredible 37 to four touchdown to interception ratio.
Davey O’Brien Award
In this day and age, the O’Brien award and the Maxwell typically go hand in hand as the top player is generally the quarterback. Be that as it may, the O’Brien award is given to the nations best quarterback.
Gardner Minshew headlines this list of finalists. Not necessarily because he is the leader, but more importantly because we just gave you the introductions for the next two finalists. However, Minshew came out of relative obscurity to be one of the best passers in the country. He threw for 4,477 yards and 36 touchdowns of his own. Additionally, Murray and Tagovailoa are the other finalists joining Minshew.
Let’s not forget the big guys up front. The Outland trophy awards the best interior lineman in college football. Two of the three finalists we have already introduced you to in Quinnen Williams and Christian Wilkins. However, another Alabama lineman enters the picture in Jonah Williams.
Jonah Williams is the lone offensive lineman up for the award. But, he has been critical in the protection of Tagovailoa. Furthermore, he has helped pave the way of the Tide rushing attack. Alabama has run for over 2,600 yards and 31 touchdowns on the ground while adding another 46 scores through the air.
Jim Thorpe Award
It’s safe to say that you won’t see any Big 12 players in this category. However, we do have some outstanding secondary players in this award that celebrates the nations top defensive back. Headlining this group are a couple of ball-hawkers from the SEC in Deandre Baker from Georgia and Greedy Williams from LSU. Along for the ride is Julian Love from the playoff-bound Irish of Notre Dame.
Let’s start with Love. Love has been all over the field for the Irish with his 61 tackles. He also has one interception on the year but has 15 passes defended for the season. Even though his stats aren’t equal to Love’s, Williams has left his mark. He has 33 tackles, two interceptions, and nine passes defended. Baker is the epitome of a shutdown corner. But, he also has 40 tackles, two sacks, two interceptions, and nine passes defended as well.
Doak Walker Award
Our final award is the Doak Walker award. This award goes to the best running back in the country. This might be the closest award as all three finalists have incredible statistics. Travis Etienne leads the group from the Clemson Tigers. However, Jonathan Taylor and Darrell Henderson from Wisconsin and Memphis are right there.
Let’s begin with the Heisman trophy candidate in Etienne. In his sophomore campaign, Etienne has 1,464 yards rushing with 21 touchdowns for the Tigers. It’s difficult to find a guy that has had a more dynamic start to a career that has Taylor. After a freshman season in which he ran for 1,977 yards, he was able to surpass that this season with 1,989 yard and 15 touchdowns. Arguably, nobody has meant more to his team than Henderson has. He has 1,909 yards and 22 touchdowns on the ground and added another 295 yards and three more scores through the air.