Whoa, we’re halfway there.
As we approach Week 7 and some college football teams have played six games and are halfway through their regular seasons, we figured now was a good time to hand out some midseason awards.
Even as the second half of the season with all of its rivalry games and conference matchups will undoubtedly be crazy, the first half of 2017 has been far from underwhelming. Who thought Oklahoma would beat Ohio State and lose to Iowa State? Or that Florida State would have three losses? Or that LSU would lose to Troy?
Yeah, it’s been a fun first six weeks.
The panel includes Yahoo Sports college football writers Pat Forde, Pete Thamel, Nick Bromberg and Sam Cooper.
Pat: Bryce Love, Stanford. A month ago I figured I’d have three QBs on my ballot. Now I may have three RBs, including two who weren’t even starters last season.
Pete: Saquon Barkley, Penn State. Barkley has dazzled on the run (6.4 yards per carry), via the air (13.6 yards per catch) and has a 98-yard kick return. But his best play may have been a deft block on the last-second touchdown pass to win at Iowa.
Nick: Bryce Love, Stanford. I totally understand picking Barkley over Love because of Barkley’s contributions in the passing game and the kick-return game. But damn, there’s a guy on a Power Five team averaging over 10 yards a carry through the first half of the season. And his team has played two top-25 teams and a third that was ranked at the time. It’s got to be Love.
Sam: Saquon Barkley, Penn State. I’m giving Saquon Barkley the edge over Bryce Love — barely. His performance against Iowa was the best individual performance — save for maybe Joel Lanning vs. Oklahoma — from any player so far this year. The past few games have been underwhelming on the ground, but his contributions elsewhere, especially as a pass-catcher, for an undefeated team gives him the edge over Love.
Pat: Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma. Certainly not his fault the Sooners lost to Iowa State. He’s been great, and almost error-free (zero interceptions so far).
Pete: Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma. Mayfield has 15 touchdowns, zero interceptions and authored the season’s most significant victory, a blowout upset at Ohio State.
Nick: Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma. This is a clean sweep here for obvious reasons. And it says a lot about Mayfield’s play that all four of us picked him the week after his team lost to a four-score underdog at home.
Sam: Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma. I was a little surprised he couldn’t make a play to help his team late against Iowa State, but Baker Mayfield has been the nation’s best quarterback so far. He has 15 TDs without an interception, is completing 74.6 percent of his passes and is tops in the nation with a 214.1 passer rating, ahead of his FBS record rating (196.4) from 2016. That level of efficiency is really special.
BEST DEFENSIVE PLAYER
Pat: Bradley Chubb, North Carolina State. Surprised some people by coming back this season, and he’s delivered as advertised. Chubb is a big reason why the Wolfpack are 5-1 and might be the second-best team in the ACC this year.
Pete: Austin Bryant, Clemson. Bryant ranks fourth nationally in tackles for loss with 11. He’s also played the biggest under bright lights, pummeling Auburn (12 tackles, 2.5 sacks) and Virginia Tech (2.5 sacks, interception).
Nick: Hercules Mata’afa, Washington State. This pick is a bit unconventional as the defensive end has just 19 tackles. But 10 of those have gone for a loss and he has 4.5 sacks. And, perhaps most importantly for the sake of my choice, Mata’afa is the symbol of Washington State’s improved and really, really good defense this season. Yes, a team coached by Mike Leach can play defense and run the ball. Welcome to 2017.
Sam: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama. Fitzpatrick is such a good all-around player. He can do it all. He covers well, is a sound tackler (he leads Alabama in TFL) and has the speed, instincts and physicality to line up at safety, inside as a nickelback or outside at corner.
TEAM THAT HAS EXCEEDED EXPECTATIONS
Pat: TCU. I knew the Horned Frogs would be better than 6-7, but I didn’t think they would already have matched that 2016 victory total.
Pete: N.C. State. Let’s give some props to the Wolfpack, which has Top 20 wins over Louisville and Florida State. Quarterback Ryan Finley is No. 10 nationally in passing yards and State is No. 25 nationally in total offense, as they’ve found a groove under offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz
Nick: San Diego State. How are the Aztecs ranked behind South Florida in the AP poll? Without star running back Donnell Pumphrey and just 11 starters returning, the Aztecs were going to take a step back, right? Wrong. Rashaad Penny is awesome and SDSU is 6-0 with wins over Stanford and Arizona State. If SDSU beats Boise at home on Saturday, the schedule looks really good for the Aztecs to be 11-0 before hosting New Mexico on Nov. 25.
Sam: Georgia. I expected a good start for UGA in its second season under Kirby Smart, but the level of domination through three weeks of SEC play has been really impressive, especially with backup, true freshman QB Jake Fromm. The defense is just nasty and the Bulldogs are legitimately four or five deep at running back. With the SEC East as mediocre as it is, Georgia should keep piling up wins and is a legitimate CFP contender.
TEAM THAT HAS FALLEN SHORT
Pat: LSU. I’ve never been a Coach O believer, but neither did I ever envision the Tigers losing to Troy. Or by 30 to Mississippi State.
Pete: Tennessee and LSU have been dueling Dumpster fires for most of the first half of the season. We’ll give LSU the edge after its historic loss to Troy, which didn’t give the Tiger faithful much hope that Ed Orgeron is the man who can de-throne Nick Saban. They can settle this argument on the field on Nov. 18.
Nick: Nebraska and Northwestern. No one is disputing the preseason notion that the Big Ten West was Wisconsin’s to lose. But goodness, the Huskers and Wildcats were going to put up a fight, right? Instead, Northwestern is already 0-2 in the league and both teams have three overall losses. The Big Ten West is the only Power Five division that has one team with fewer than two losses.
Sam: Florida State. It has to be Florida State, right? FSU was No. 2 entering the season but lost starting QB Deondre Francois in the opener against Alabama. Now FSU followed with close, tough losses to Miami and NC State. Miami and NC State are good teams, but the defense everybody expected to be one of the best has been a little lackluster for FSU’s standards while the offense is uber-conservative with freshman James Blackman at QB.
TEAM TO WATCH IN THE SECOND HALF
Pat: Notre Dame. Fighting Irish have a single loss by a single point to a good team, and five dominant victories. Running game is powerful, defense is improved. Some big opportunities in the second half of the season: USC Oct. 21, N.C. State Oct. 28, Miami Nov. 11, Navy Nov. 18, Stanford Nov. 25. Get through that gauntlet without a loss and the Irish are in the playoff.
Pete: Washington State has marquee games remaining at home against Stanford and at Washington to close the season. The Cougars are 6-0, with a sturdy defense and this has the trappings of a once-a-generation team on the Palouse.
Nick: Miami. How about the Hurricanes? The shine has been buffed off Miami’s undefeated start with the news that star running back Mark Walton will miss the rest of the season because of ankle surgery. But damn, the schedule is pretty tempting the rest of the way. Miami’s two toughest games are against Virginia Tech and Notre Dame and both come at home in back-to-back weeks. Miami could finish the season 10-1.
Sam: Washington State. Washington State has always been able to put up points, but it now has a really solid defense to go with Mike Leach’s high-scoring offense. Senior QB Luke Falk is putting up huge numbers with a deep stable of receivers while the defense is ranked No. 11 in total defense (275.5 ypg) and No. 23 in scoring defense (18.5 ppg). Wazzu could very well be 9-0 heading into a tough final three games: vs. Stanford, at Utah and at Washington in the Apple Cup.
NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP PICK (Has it changed from the preseason?)
Pat: Alabama-Clemson. It has changed. Didn’t think Clemson would be this good.
Pete: Alabama-Clemson. It sure would be easy to put Alabama up against Clemson for the title. Both of their leagues aren’t what they were in recent seasons, as Alabama’s biggest foil (LSU) and Clemson’s (FSU) have regressed. So, yes, we’ll go with the easy pick because of lack of competition.
Nick: Alabama-Clemson. I picked Alabama to win the title and realized that I didn’t pick an opponent in our preseason picks video. But since we had Florida State at No. 2 in our preseason poll, the Seminoles were that team. Whoops.
So yes, it’s changed. Swap out Florida State for Clemson and a third iteration of the game.
Sam: Alabama-Clemson. This is boring but I think we’re heading toward round 3 of Alabama vs. Clemson for the national title. I had Alabama and Ohio State when the year began, but I don’t see the Buckeyes returning to the College Football Playoff. Alabama has a pretty clear path back to the Playoff with Auburn and a projected SEC title game matchup against Georgia as their only two tests.
I knew the Clemson defense would be really good, but it has already surpassed my expectations with such impressive depth on the line. Kelly Bryant has also been a pleasant surprise, but he won’t be able to pull out the kind of magic that Deshaun Watson did against the Tide. Alabama is my (boring) pick to win it all.