In what is a great American tradition, the annual Army-Navy football game will once again wrap up the pre-bowl game college football season. Navy has dominated the rivalry in the past two decades, and they are heavy favorite again for Saturday. But alas, it is once again time to unveil the 2015 Rockee Award winners for the college football season. What better way to finish the football season than to give awards in the season of giving?
The Rockee Awards kicked off last year on Newton Campus, and thanks to the great success, our budget has allowed me to host this year’s show in the luxurious land of Walsh Hall. Individual accolades and team awards, along with acknowledgments for this season’s best memories, will be handed out at my discretion. ‘Tis the season.
Without further ado, here are your nominees.
Surprise Team of the Year:
The Nominees: Oklahoma State Cowboys, Auburn Tigers, Northwestern Wildcats, Iowa Hawkeyes
The Winner Is: The Iowa Hawkeyes. Iowa took the college football world absolutely by storm this fall. The 12-1 Hawkeyes started the year unranked by every major poll, and ended the year a consensus #5. More surprisingly, Iowa had a perfect regular season and was in a position to make the College Football Playoff until the very last minutes of this year. The BIG Ten Championship Game between the then #4 Hawkeyes and #5 Michigan State Spartans ended in heartbreak (16-13) for Iowa, but was a game for the ages. Nevertheless for Iowa, the Hawkeyes will be the Big Ten representative in the Rose Bowl, college football’s most storied bowl game, for the first time since 1991.
Biggest Upset of the Season:
The Nominees: Nebraska over Michigan State, Memphis over Ole Miss, Texas over Oklahoma, Georgia Tech over Florida State
The Winner Is: Memphis. Ole Miss was once ranked third in the country this season, after a huge win against Alabama in Tuscaloosa. The rebels tripped up against a feisty Florida team, but were still in control of the SEC West (one of the top two divisions in college football along with the BIG Ten East). But one day in October, the lowly Memphis Tigers knocked off the Ole Miss Rebels and briefly shook up the college football polls. But Memphis now sits unranked, and Ole Miss is in a NY6 Bowl (The Sugar Bowl). These things work themselves out.
Heartbreak Moment of the Year:
The Nominees: Botched Punt Costs Michigan Rivalry Game, LJ Scott Ends Iowa’s Cinderella Story, Baylor Loses Sugar Bowl Bid (and 3 QB’s)
The (Loser) Is: Michigan. This one was decided before I even considered other candidates. The Jim Harbaugh led Michigan Wolverines had a resurgence of a season, ending 9-3. However, a midseason game against highly ranked and now playoff bound Michigan State ended in absolutely flabbergasting fashion when Michigan’s punter fumbled the snap, got his punt blocked, and Michigan State returned it for a touchdown with 0 seconds left to win. If not for that game, the Wolverines would have been in contention for the playoffs going against Ohio State during the last weekend of November. This is a wild, wild sport, folks. This one still stuns me.
Best Game of the Season:
The Nominees: Notre Dame vs. Clemson, Michigan State vs. Iowa, Arkansas vs. Ole Miss, Oregon vs. Stanford
The Winner Is: Michigan State vs. Iowa. This year’s BIG Ten Championship game was the game of the season. A nail-biting, defense-oriented, championship game ended with the Spartans edging out the Hawkeyes of Iowa by three points after a dramatic game ending drive. This game was essentially a playoff quarterfinal, as the two teams were ranked fourth and fifth, and the teams played with bountiful amounts of heart. But like all games, there is a winner and a loser. Michigan State will play Alabama in the Cotton Bowl with a National Championship appearance on the line, and Iowa will have to settle for a Rose Bowl game against Stanford. Both teams should be proud of their seasons, and this wonderful game.
Coach of the Year:
The Nominees: Dabo Swinney of Clemson, Kirk Ferentz of Iowa, Jim McElwain of Florida, Bob Stoops of Oklahoma, Brian Kelly of Notre Dame
The Winner Is: Kirk Ferentz of Iowa. Surprise team of the year Iowa shocked the nation by being one of two undefeated regular season teams, and a Rose Bowl participant. The Hawkeyes are currently ranked fifth in the nation, and were unranked to start the year. The love that Iowa players have for their team is evident, and the passion with which they play is inspiring. Ferentz clearly had every player on his roster buy into the program, something that is incredibly difficult to do when dealing with young adults. Congratulations Coach Ferentz.
Best Individual Performance:
The Nominees: Christian McCaffrey vs. USC (Pac12 Title Game), Derrick Henry vs. LSU, Corey Coleman vs. Kansas State, Josh Doctson vs. Texas Tech
The Winner Is: Josh Doctson. Doctson was asserting himself as a Heisman contender before his down game against Oklahoma State in November, and then his ensuing injury against Kansas that knocked him out of the remainder of the season. However, against Texas Tech, the man was playing like something out of an ancient Greek myth. 18 receptions for 267 yards and 3 touchdowns, in a win by a three-point margin. Doctson and QB Trevone Boykin kept TCU’s early playoff hopes alive in that game, by willing their way to scores whenever they pleased. Doctson’s numbers were absurd against the Red Raiders, especially when considering he was double covered for the majority of the game. Props.
Heisman Trophy (Best Player in the Country):
The Nominees (As chosen by the real voters): RB Christian McCaffrey of Stanford, RB Derrick Henry of Alabama, QB Deshaun Watson of Clemson
My Winner Is: Christian McCaffrey. McCaffrey just won the Paul Hornung Award – given annually to the nation’s most versatile player. The Stanford running back finished with 2,387 yards from scrimmage, including 1,847 rush yards. Additionally, he added 1,042 yards of kick returns. Although he totaled a “mere” 13 touchdowns, McCaffrey was a dominant player in all aspects of the offensive game. In fact, McCaffrey just set the all time record for total yards gained by a college player in a single season. Henry has a slight edge in TD’s and rushing yards, but McCaffrey was the better player this year.
This section no longer deals with nominees, but simply what I would do if I were the sole hand who picked the College Football Playoff.
Who Should Be In: Clemson, Michigan State, Alabama, Oklahoma
The four teams that are in the playoff are coincidently the same four teams that I think should be there. Although I think Michigan State’s resume is better than Alabama’s, the two will still play in the Cotton Bowl. The only difference between #2 and #3 is jersey color. Alabama got the second seed in real life. These teams are all-conference champions, and two-loss Stanford is the only major conference champion left out. However, Stanford has one more loss than Michigan State, Alabama, and Oklahoma, and two more than Clemson. These are clearly the most deserving teams in the nation, and the committee really had it easy this year as far as avoiding controversy goes.
Teams Going Home Sad: Stanford and Ohio State
Ohio State’s sole loss came to Michigan State, in a game that they never trailed in until the Spartans hit a game winning field goal as time expired. Ohio State didn’t win their Big Ten division, but they are still the seventh ranked team in the nation. Stanford had two heartbreaking losses: against Northwestern and Oregon. The Cardinals only lost by a total of 12 points this year, and played in arguably the nations most competitive conference across the board. Big wins over USC, UCLA, and Notre Dame were not enough to avenge the two losses though.
Championship Prediction: Oklahoma Sooners
The Sooners suffered an embarrassing loss in the Red River Rivalry that seemingly doomed their season, especially with in conference foes Baylor and TCU in the top five for the early portion of the year. But Oklahoma slowly improved and won out, with a trademark win against Baylor, a nail-biter without stud QB Baker Mayfield against TCU, and a domination of Oklahoma State to end the year. The Sooners have a powerful defense, and an explosive offensive that will give the defense-focused Spartans and Crimson Tide trouble. Mayfield should have been a Heisman finalist, and their running back Samaje Perine is one of the country’s finest. Oklahoma will have a tough test against undefeated Clemson and then the winner of what should be a fantastic Cotton Bowl, but in the end, the Sooners are my favorite to win it all.
With that prediction, this years Rockee Awards for college football come to a close. For all those who find enjoyment in the holiday period that is bowl season, you’re in for a real treat this year. As the host, I only come around once a year for an event like this, so until next year, good luck and go Eagles!