Which ACC stars have the best chance to win 2021 Home Depot College Football Awards?
Tiz the season. Awards season, that is.
On Thursday night (at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN), the Home Depot College Football Awards will crown a select group of individuals. We’ve got debates all over the place, too.
Is Aidan Hutchinson or Will Anderson more deserving of the Bednarik Award as the best defensive player in America? Is Pitt star Kenny Pickett or Bryce Young more worthy of the Davey O’Brien Award as the nation’s top quarterback? And what about the Ray Guy Award?
Oh. Just kidding. That’s going to that dude with a monster leg from San Diego State.
MATT ARAIZA SAN DIEGO STATE PUNTER WITH A MAJESTIC 79 YARD PUNT!!! pic.twitter.com/QypMVgGFb0
— Sickos Committee (@SickosCommittee) November 7, 2021
Sorry for the spoiler.
Speaking of spoilers, let’s predict who will win each of the 10 Home Depot College Football Awards:
Bednarik Award (best defensive player)
Nominees — Will Anderson (Alabama), Jordan Davis (Georgia), Kyle Hamilton (Notre Dame), Kayvon Thibodeaux (Oregon)
Predicted winner — Anderson
Just because Anderson inexplicably got left out of the Heisman Trophy field in New York doesn’t mean he’ll get snubbed for the Bednarik Award. Anderson already broke the FBS record for tackles for loss (32.5), and he’s the national leader in sacks (15.5). On top of that, his leadership has been an immense part of Alabama’s roller-coaster ride to the No. 1 seed in the Playoff. There’s no way Anderson shouldn’t win the award, especially with Hutchinson not even nominated (I have no idea why the Michigan star was left out).
Biletnikoff Award (best receiver)
Nominees — Jordan Addison (Pittsburgh), David Bell (Purdue), Jameson Williams (Alabama)
Predicted winner — Addison
This could be super close between Williams and Addison. After all, an Alabama receiver won the award 3 of the past 7 years and 2 of the past 3. There’s a fairly decent chance that Williams, fresh off his dominant showing in the SEC Championship against Georgia, gets the nod. But Addison has Williams beat in the 3 major categories (catches, yards and touchdowns). Kenny Pickett’s go-to target should be rewarded for being a massive part of Pitt’s offensive revolution.
Lou Groza Award (best place-kicker)
Nominees — Gabe Brkic (Oklahoma), Jake Moody (Michigan), Noah Ruggles (Ohio State)
Predicted winner — Ruggles
Hey, Ohio State might beat Michigan after all! OK, that was mean, especially considering Ruggles actually nailed both of his attempts in that snow-filled game in Ann Arbor. At one point near the end of the season, the UNC transfer had the longest active streak in the nation with 18 consecutive made kicks. That ended against Michigan State, but other than that, he’s been money. He made all 4 of his attempts in a 9-point win against Penn State, and then matched that the following week in a 9-point win at Nebraska. Ruggles was a valuable part of the nation’s top-scoring offense.
Ray Guy Award (best punter)
Nominees — Matt Araiza (San Diego State), Adam Korsak (Rutgers), Jordan Stout (Penn State)
Predicted winner — Araiza
Why tell you when I can show you?
Most teams’ MVP plays on offense or defense, but not at San Diego State.@AztecFB punter Matt Araiza just might be in the midst of the greatest punting season in college football history. pic.twitter.com/x6KLt0TSwF
— College GameDay (@CollegeGameDay) December 4, 2021
Araiza is the most valuable player on a Top 25 team. That’s stunning. There are people who want to rename the Ray Guy Award after him after averaging more than 51 yards per punt. By the way, he boomed an 81-yard punt this year. Dude is a straight-up weapon.
Maxwell Award (best player)
Nominees — Bryce Young (Alabama), Kenny Pickett (Pittsburgh), Kenneth Walker III (Michigan State)
Predicted winner — Young
Six of the past 7 years, the award went to the eventual Heisman Trophy winner. I’d expect that to continue with Young. Crazy it is that Young should make it the 3rd different Alabama player in the past 4 years to win the award. In fact, the only times in the past 8 seasons that the Maxwell Award didn’t go to the eventual Heisman winner was 2013 and 2018 … when it went to AJ McCarron and Tua Tagovailoa. Young should join that group of Alabama quarterbacks to be named the best player in the country, though he’s going to be the first to take home the Heisman.
Davey O’Brien Award (best quarterback)
Nominees — Bryce Young (Alabama), Kenny Pickett (Pittsburgh), CJ Stroud (Ohio State)
Predicted winner — Young
I think this comes down to Young vs. Pickett, but give me the future Heisman winner. The only time in the past 10 years that a future Heisman-winning quarterback didn’t win the Davey O’Brien Award was 2016. That year, Lamar Jackson took home the Heisman and Deshaun Watson won the Davey O’Brien, which felt like a knock on Jackson’s abilities as a pure passer. Young isn’t in question for that. He’s got the passing stats with a 43-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio and 332.5 passing yards per game. Young is a touch better than Pickett in every major passing category, and after watching what the Alabama signal-caller did to that Georgia defense, I’d be surprised if he didn’t lock this award up, as well.
Outland Trophy (best interior lineman)
Nominees — Jordan Davis (Georgia), Tyler Linderbaum (Iowa), Ikem Ekwonu (NC State)
Predicted winner — Davis
If Iowa had a vintage ground game, this award would be Linderbaum’s all day. He’s Pro Football Focus’ highest-graded offensive player, and there’s no denying that he’s one of the sport’s top centers in recent memory. But Iowa doesn’t even have a top 100 rushing offense. Davis, despite the Alabama game, was the most valuable player on a historically dominant Georgia defense. The guy takes on double teams, he stops ball-carriers dead in their tracks and he gets pressure on quarterbacks. Look beyond the box score and watch Davis actually play if you’re still doubting his abilities.
Jim Thorpe Award (best defensive back)
Nominees — Coby Bryant (Cincinnati), Verone McKinley III (Oregon), Jalen Pitre (Baylor)
Predicted winner — Pitre
You could make a strong case for Bryant or McKinley. Bryant is the 5th-year guy who came back to school to help deliver Cincinnati’s historic season and McKinley is the nation’s leader in interceptions. But Pitre is the do-it-all stud in Dave Aranda’s defense. Much like previous Thorpe Award winner Grant Delpit did a few years ago with Aranda at LSU, Pitre was everywhere for the Big 12 champs. He had 70 tackles, a ridiculous 17.5 tackles for loss, 3 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries, 2.5 sacks and 2 interceptions. Look at Pitre’s 2021 snap count (via PFF):
- Slot CB: 546
- D-Line: 147
- Box: 108
- Wide CB: 19
- Free safety: 14
Pitre ain’t your typical corner, but he’s more than worthy of winning the Thorpe Award.
Doak Walker Award (best running back)
Nominees — Kenneth Walker III (Michigan State), Tyler Badie (Mizzou), Breece Hall (Iowa State)
Winner — Walker
Finally, Walker will get the shine he deserves. There’s a case to be made for him as the most valuable player in all of college football. He leads all Power 5 backs in rushing, and among Power 5 backs who averaged at least 15 carries per game, Walker ranks No. 1 with 6.22 yards per carry. Efficient, reliable, explosive … Walker did it all for Mel Tucker’s squad. That 6-carry game against Ohio State was the only thing keeping him from having a ticket punched to New York. There shouldn’t be much debate that the Wake Forest transfer was the best back in America in 2021.
Mackey Award (best tight end)
Nominees — Charlie Kolar (Iowa State), Trey McBride (Colorado State), Jalen Wydermyer (Texas A&M)
Winner — McBride
Other than being a true freshman, I’m not sure how Georgia star Brock Bowers didn’t make the cut here. He has more yards (791) and TDs (11) than both Power 5 finalists. He doesn’t, however, have McBride beat in catches (90) or yards (1,121). How McBride only has 1 receiving touchdown — he did have a 69-yard touchdown run — is beyond me. I suppose that could’ve had something to do with why Colorado State went 3-9 and Steve Addazio was fired at season’s end. Nonetheless, McBride is a stud. He had 305 more receiving yards than the next-closest tight end (Coastal Carolina’s Isaiah Likely) and he was easily PFF’s highest-graded tight end. The vast majority of McBride’s snaps came inline (80%), so any debate about him being more receiver than tight end should be out the window. Lack of touchdowns aside, McBride should claim the nation’s top tight end award.