College football award fever has begun as the watch lists for numerous postseason awards have been released this week. Just getting on a list puts a player in rarified air.
With the regular season almost upon us, let's look into the crystal ball and pick the winners for the offensive awards not named the Heisman.
DAVEY O'BRIEN AWARD - Matt Barkley, USC
If this award for most outstanding quarterback were given out before the season it would have already gone to Barkley. The senior decided to remain in the college ranks and forgo the bright lights of the NFL after a stellar junior season in which he threw for 3.528 yards and a Pac-12 record 39 touchdowns. Barkley also has the benefit of throwing to the most talented wide receiving unit in the country led by Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, who combined for 174 receptions, 2,435 yards and 26 touchdowns in 2011. With a season like he had in 2011 on his resume and the talent around him, Barkley is the odds on favorite to take home this year's top prize among college quarterbacks.
RUNNER UP - Landry Jones, Oklahoma
DARK HORSE - Tajh Boyd, Clemson
DOAK WALKER AWARD - Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina
Lattimore was slowed up by a knee injury last year or he very well could be defending this spot as the top running back in the nation this season. The junior is a bruising runner who does not go down easily, even against the punishing defenses of the SEC. Even though he missed six games, Lattimore still rushed for 818 yards and 10 touchdowns with a 5.0 yards-per-carry average, putting him on pace to eclipse a stellar freshman campaign (1,197 yards, 17 TDs, 4.8 YPC). If he stays healthy, expect Lattimore to rip up SEC defenses and put up some gaudy numbers in 2012.
RUNNER UP - Montee Ball, Wisconsin
DARK HORSE - Rex Burkhead, Nebraska
FRED BILETNIKOFF AWARD - Robert Woods, USC
Fortunately for the rest of college football's wide receivers, Justin Blackmon is gone after taking the award the past two seasons. Unfortunately for that same group is that Woods will return to USC, giving him the pole position heading into the season. Woods is a rangy athlete at 6-foot-1 who can line up anywhere on the field and catch just about anything. His numbers from 2011 were eye-popping (111 receptions, 1,292 yards, 15 TDs) and with an obvious rhythm with Heisman frontrunner Matt Barkley, he should keep that impressive pace up.
RUNNER UP - Sammy Watkins, Clemson
DARK HORSE - Da'Rick Rogers, Tennessee
JOHN MACKEY AWARD - Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame
There have been some pretty impressive names that have collected this award since it was first given out in 2001. Eifert should end 2011 as a member of that exclusive group. The senior had the numbers (63 receptions, 803 yards, five TDs) to contend for the award last season and that was with eventual NFL draftee wide receiver Michael Floyd getting the bulk of the passes in the Fighting Irish offense. At 6-6, Eifert is a huge target that should pile up touchdowns and receptions all season for the Irish.
RUNNER UP - Philip Lutzenkirchen, Auburn
DARK HORSE - Robert Griffin, Connecticut
JOHN OUTLAND AWARD - Chance Warmack, Alabama
Just because 2011 Outland Award winner Barrett Jones moved to center and is no longer eligible for the trophy, doesn't mean it won't go to a player from Tuscaloosa. Warmack is a senior who has been on an offensive line that has helped win two national championship, paving the way for two star running backs, including 2009 Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram. The right guard will be a part of one of the top units in the nation and one that could collect more than one national award.
RUNNER UP - Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
DARK HORSE - Jake Pugh, Syracuse
DAVE RIMINGTON AWARD - Barrett Jones, Alabama
Jones should make the switch to center flawlessly after dominating during his first three seasons, which included the top honors at his position with the 2011 Outland Trophy. Jones is now the unquestioned anchor of one of the best offensive lines in the country that will need to play at a high level to give quarterback A. J. McCarron time and new starting running back Eddie Lacy holes if the Crimson Tide hope to defend their 2011 national title. With Jones at the front that shouldn't be a problem.
RUNNER UP - Khaled Holmes, USC
DARK HORSE - Joe Madsen, West Virginia