Our 10 imaginary trophies celebrating on- and off-field favorites at the season’s midpoint:
• Best new toy: It’s not Clowney, Farmer or Kouandjio. The biggest impact freshman of 2011 is Clemson’s Sammy Watkins, who ranks in the top 20 nationally in receiving yards per game, sixth in kickoff returns and by the numbers is currently the FBS’ No. 10 all-purpose yardage generated. He’s recorded four games with at least 100 receiving yards in less than two months of college ball, and in two of those games has gone over 150. Against Maryland, he hit the century mark in receiving and racked up 207 yards on kick return duty.
• Best stat: Aren’t early season cherry-picked numbers delicious? Remember those first weeks in September when Robert Griffin’s touchdown passes and incompletions hovered right around the same number? After four weeks of play that ratio was 20:18 and Baylor fan or not, it was hard not to hope it’d stay that way just for the spectacle of it. Subsequent games against Iowa State and Texas A&M knocked his incompletions out of reach. Then again, we’re talking about a guy who has a 78 percent completion rating after six games, so even his off days are nothing to sneeze at.
• Best highlight play: Nothing against the massive runs Trent Richardson’s reeling off, but there’s just something about a good catch that quickens the blood. The year’s best, thus far: Andrew Luck‘s one-handed grab versus UCLA, a move that would’ve been tricky even had the receiver been a receiver, and Mississippi State’s Chris Smith holding onto the ball in an invisible human gyroscope against South Carolina. Honorable mention: LSU punter Brad Wing‘s touchdown-that-wasn’t against Florida.
• Best stadium sign: This one didn’t even have the advantage of GameDay cameras around for a fame booster, which makes his dedication all the more poignant, don’t you think? Unknown Clemson fan, we salute you. And your fence.
• Best fat guy touchdown(s): As an avid chronicler of lumbering scores by very large football players for several years now, I have followed the season of South Carolina’s Melvin Ingram with interest. While a little on the small side for a Fat Guy Touchdowner (his school bio lists him at a svelte 276 pounds), Ingram makes up for what he lacks in mass with points: The senior DE has three touchdowns in the first half of 2011, and one of them was even designed.
• Best school commercial: BYU saunters away with top honors for this devlishly simple ad featuring nothing more complicated than several grown men attempting to entice an actual cougar to attend college.
• Best Heisman candidate you’ll never hear about: Alabama LT Barrett Jones deserves to be a household name outside the borders of the Yellowhammer State. Who’s up for staging a Slamdance-style trophy ceremony in New York this December?
• Best new college football website: Nope, not this one. Occupy Herbstreit is only a few days old, but already making a name for itself as a laff riot for troubled times.
• Unsung Midseason MVP: I attempted to articulate this on The Mandel Initiative roundtable podcast this week, but I hope Montee Ball‘s not being undervalued at Wisconsin. That sounds odd, given that Ball is the leading rusher on the nation’s sixth-ranked football team. What I mean is that as Russell Wilson’s star continues, deservedly, to rise in national prominence and in hardware discussions, I hope Ball’s contributions to the team (he’s scored at least two touchdowns in every game this season) don’t end up being overshadowed by a transfer quarterback. Talent aside, Wilson was a new guy in a new system in September, and having a back like Ball beside him has to have been highly valuable while the Badgers got their rhythm together. Hell, the guy threw a touchdown pass to Wilson. Don’t make him an afterthought.
• Best announcers: Stuck in what could easily be perceived as the kiddie table slot on Friday nights, Joe Tessitore and Rod Gilmore have become fan favorites this season by virtue of presiding over a bizarrely consistent streak of some of the most nailbiting football games in recent memory. That Baylor-TCU shootout in Week 1. Missouri and Arizona State in overtime the week after. BYU’s 96-yard winning touchdown drive against Utah State. Last week’s San Jose State-Hawaii midnight turnover party. Where these guys go, this year, ham will surely follow.
Those are mine, and this is the internet, so you’re probably ready to argue right now. Make your case for some awards of your own in the comments.