Maxwell Award: QB AJ McCarron, Alabama
AJ McCarron was the winner of the evening's ultimate award over finalists Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel and putative favorite Florida State QB Jameis Winston, but it's not all that surprising; nobody has swept the Maxwell, Walter Camp and Heisman since Cam Newton in 2010, and before him, Ron Dayne in 1999. So yeah, don't interpret this as a sign that Winston's Heisman chances are slipping; interpret it as a sign that the award committees understand the increased attention that comes from not all hailing the same player.
Walter Camp Award: QB Jameis Winston, Florida State
Now that's more like it. Winston took the coveted Walter Camp Award, which is also given annually to the player of the year (though it has deviated from the Heisman Trophy in five of the last six seasons). Winston led the nation in passer rating and led his team to an undefeated, No. 1 rank, so despite the award's recent winners, he was as much a lock to win this award as he is to win the Heisman.
Doak Walker Award: RB Andre Williams, Boston College
In possibly the biggest no-brainer of the evening — and that's saying something — Boston College's 2,102-yard bruiser took home the Doak Walker for best collegiate running back. The nearest running back was Washington's Bishop Sankey, who was 327 yards behind Williams on the season. Williams is one of only two tailbacks invited to New York for the Heisman ceremony (joining Auburn's Tre Mason) so it's clearly no surprise this award is coming his way.
Bronko Nagurski Trophy: DT Aaron Donald, Pitt
Donald took home the defense's top award, and for good reason; Donald put up frightening numbers on the year, including 26.5 tackles for loss totaling 130 yards, 10 sacks and four forced fumbles. That's Ndamukong Suh territory, and it's frankly a shame that Donald got no Heisman traction.
Chuck Bednarik Award: DT Aaron Donald, Pitt
Hey, it's another award for the defensive player of the year, and it too goes to Aaron Donald. The only distinction is that the Bednarik Award is voted on by the Maxwell Football Club whereas the FWAA runs the Nagurski Trophy and okay fine we get it, you don't care.
Home Depot Award: Gus Malzahn, Auburn
This award goes to the best coach of the year, because when you think of things to name an award for the top coach after, logically the first place the brain goes is home improvement retailers. Anyway, kudos to Malzahn, who led a monster crop of coaches this year and led Auburn to an even more improbable SEC championship than the Tigers' 2010 title season — when Malzahn just so happened to be the offensive coordinator.
Outland Award: DT Aaron Donald, Pitt
Donald is also the Outland Award winner for the most outstanding interior lineman on either side of the ball, which basically means offensive linemen and defensive tackles (it's a relic of classification from pre-war football, if you were curious). Donald beat out Texas A&M OT Luke Matthews and Baylor OG Cyril Richardson for the award, and though both are fine offensive linemen, the line of scrimmage belonged to Donald this year.
Fred Biletnikoff Award: WR Brandin Cooks, Oregon State
Every year, it seems like there's one receiver who puts up simply ungodly numbers en route to this award, and Cooks did so in spades this year. We're talking about 120 catches, 1,670 yards and 15 TDs — and in a conference that actually plays defense (this is the part where we're glaring at Fresno State WR Davante Adams, even though it's not his fault the MWC is horrible).
Jim Thorpe Award: CB Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State
Mr. "No Fly Zone," as Dennard was called this season, was the anchor for Michigan State's nightmarishly good defense as the Spartans earned the program's first Rose Bowl bid since before anyone currently on the Spartans' roster had ever been born (1987). It's been said that Michigan State essentially plays rush defense with a nine-man front, and the reason the Spartans can do that is the islands their cornerbacks can play on. That starts with Dennard and his lockdown abilities.
Play of the Year: The "Kick-Six," Auburn-Alabama
We're sorry, Alabama. It was awesome beyond comparison, don't get us wrong, but whenever awards honor something that comes at such grave expense to a team's season we feel just a teeny pang of sympathy. Now with that, Alabama, please skip ahead to the next award so we can talk to everyone else.
That all out of the way? Good. This wasn't just the play of the year, this is one of the greatest, most unbelievable plays in college football history. It was a potentially game-winning play swinging from one team to the other in one fell swoop, and in 109 yards to boot. It knocked leviathan Alabama not only from the ranks of the unbeaten, but completely out of national championship contention for the first time since 2010. It vaulted Auburn, who went 3-9 (0-8) last year, into national championship contention. And in college football's premier rivalry to boot! Like ... how can you ever top that? Oh, right, with a whole band.
BUT THAT'S BASICALLY IT.
Disney Spirit Award: Devon Walker, Tulane
Walker was the Tulane safety who was paralyzed on a helmet-to-helmet hit in 2012, then stayed involved with the school and program and is on track to graduate in May with a degree in molecular biology and progress on to medical school.
Here are some other awards handed out tonight and earlier this week. SPOILER: there are a lot of awards in college football.
Davey O'Brien Award (Best QB): QB Jameis Winston, FSU
Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award (Best senior QB): QB AJ McCarron, Alabama
John Mackey Award (Best TE): Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington
Rimington Trophy (Best center): C Bryan Stork, FSU
Lott IMPACT Trophy (Best defensive player): LB Anthony Barr, UCLA
Ted Hendricks Award (Best DE): DE Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas
Vince Lombardi/Rotary Award (Best lineman): DT Aaron Donald, Pitt
Ray Guy Award (Best punter): P Tom Hornsey, Memphis
Lou Groza Award (Best kicker): K Roberto Aguayo, FSU
Frank Broyles Award (Best assistant coach): DC Pat Narduzzi, Michigan State
Campbell Trophy (Top scholar athlete): OG John Urschel, Penn State
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