The College Football Christmas Turkey Awards
By Simon Carroll
As it’s the season for a good old pantomime, Simon launches his inaugural CFB Christmas Turkey awards. If it’s serious content you’re after come back after bowl season when The College Chaps will give you an official season review – this one is just a bit of festive fun…
'WTF' Moment Of The Year
Let’s begin with one of my favourite awards of the lot. College Football is like a hyped-up version of the NFL – the highs are higher, the lows lower, the mistakes bigger and the crazy moments, well, you get the picture…
The WTF moment doesn’t have to be on the field. As long as it remotely involves College Football then it becomes award-eligible. Some of the near misses include The Boomer Schooner crash (my personal favourite but I’m trying very hard not to let my Oklahoma hatred infect my writing), a boat sinking in the Tennessee river whilst docked outside Neyland Stadium, and of course Oregon’s Cyrus Habibi-Likio absolutley obliterating a drunk pitch invader with a tackle from behind.
But none quite match the scene from week one, where Liberty Flames Head Coach Hugh Freeze coached his first game for the program. From a hospital bed. In the coaches box up high in the stands. Sadly they didn’t win – didn’t even score in fact as they went up in ‘Flames’ (sorry not sorry) 24-0 to Syracuse. Fair play to Freeze though – Liberty finished the season 7-5 and won a bowl game to boot. Inspirational.
WINNER: HUGH FREEZE AND HIS HOSPITAL BED
Best Mascot Moment
Whilst the College Football mascot game is strong with some quirky and formidable characters, we’re yet to see the peak levels of chicanery we find in the game of soccer from our own shores. From Cyril the Swan and Deepdale Duck fighting at a charity event, to Captain Blade having a sitdown protest in the centre circle, our American equivalents have a lot to learn.
Having said that, each year brings us something new to enjoy. A few years ago we saw Bevo try and take a bite out of UGA. 2018 introduced us to Cosmo the Cougar, the famous dancing cat from BYU. So what would this season deliver?
In short, not much. I thought about Mississippi State’s mascot Bully nearly getting trodden on by Auburn, but in my mind there’s no way the dog gets any credit for that. Instead, let’s head over to the FCS, where The University of Bethune Cookson’s wildcat mascot – Wil D Cat – thought his defense needed some help recovering the football after a dubious catch:
Yeah he got flagged for that. But so what – it was well worth it. We want to see an improvement next year please mascots!
WINNER: WIL D. CAT, BETHUNE-COOKSON WILDCATS
Literally no point talking about any other contest. I mean, what the hell did I witness at stupid o’clock in the morning on Sunday 22nd September?
Chip Kelly was brought back to College Football by UCLA to turn round this proud program, but it’s a bigger job than anybody imagined. A slow start to the season left many unimpressed, and when the Bruins travelled to Pullman to face the explosive Washington State Cougars, nobody gave them a hope in hell…
And from the beginning, it went to script. The Cougars tore them apart. Quarterback Anthony Gordon threw for nine touchdowns in total, but by the end of it somehow that number just wasn’t enough! I’m not talking you through it – we’d be here all day and i’ve got too much leftover turkey to polish off. Just know the Bruins won 67-63 and it’s well worth fifteen minutes of your time to watch the highlights. Merry Christmas:
WINNER: UCLA BRUINS 67-63 WASHINGTON STATE COUGARS
Play Of The Year
Plenty to choose from here folks. A trio of plays came very close – the Tulane fake kneel that moved the chains and ultimately ended in a big touchdown strike for an underdog win in the game against Houston got my blood pumping. As did Western Carolina Punter Caleb Ferguson, who took a fake punt back 69 yards for a touchdown against Chattanooga. Meanwhile, the CMU three-way catch against Northern Illinois was as improbable as it was ridiculous. But they all miss out.
It’s because Derrick Brown isn’t human. The Auburn Defensive Tackle is already a lock to go in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft – it’s not in question. When he’s not blowing up the run game or providing interior pass rush, it turns out he’s a dab hand at cornerback too:
Scampering onto the field after a late substitution, Brown finds himself a long way from the comfort of the defensive line. Running back Jerrion Ealy catches the pass for Ole Miss out of the backfield, and runs right into the path of Brown, who obliterates him. A worthy award winner, and I can’t wait to see him play on Sundays.
WINNER: DERRICK BROWN, DT, AUBURN TIGERS
Ah. The biggest award of them all. As the (unofficial) head of the #KitWatch police, there have been frequent public service announcements from my twitter handle throughout the season regarding any CFB uniforms that go above and beyond the call of duty.
This year there were many excellent offerings, from the striking Iowa Hawkeyes all-yellow number, to the Under Armour throwback game between Northwestern and Wisconsin, to the multiple blackout uniforms we saw (see Ohio State, Iowa State and TCU for good examples).
The ‘Dallas’ white jersey sported by SMU this year makes the podium in third, but the top two, unsurprisingly, come from the same game. Every year the Army-Navy game brings us the crème de la crème of uniform matchups, and 2019 was no different. Army’s gold and black were spectacular, but comfortably pushed into second place by Navy, whose pastel blue and yellow ensemble was quite simply spectacular. A fantastic way to end a great season for the Midshipmen. Congrats!
WINNER: NAVY MIDSHIPMEN vs ARMY
LVP - Least Valuable Player
It turns out my writers are very passionate about how awful players are, so I left this award up to them to decide. My colleague Oli Hodgkinson was adamant the honour shouldn’t just be given to Michigan State QB Brian Lewerke, it should be named after him…
However he was won over by Rebecca Rennie, who argued that a five-star quarterback recruit from Clemson that transferred to the Big Ten should be doing a whole lot better than throwing just one touchdown to four picks with a pathetic pass completion of 46%. Only playing in half the games is still no excuse for Northwestern QB Hunter Johnson, who had less yardage in one season (432) than Anthony Gordon did in close to nine of his games for Washington State.
This ineptitude allowed Johnson to lead The Wildcats from first in the Big Ten West in 2018 to last this year. Congratulations on your award Hunter! Please see @Bex_R86 for details.
WINNER: HUNTER JOHNSON, QB, NORTHWESTERN WILDCATS
Chump Of The Year
Chump. Such an underrated insult. Not used nearly often enough, but The Touchdown has brought it back into the modern day lexicon with relish! Now, I thought about giving this award to the Arkansas punter, who tried that fake punt trick shot that went woefully wrong. But then it wasn’t him who drew up the play or called the play, so where does the blame lie? No. I needed a much bigger mug than that to win such a prestigious accolade…
When it comes to chumps there’s only really one place to head. DESTINATION: TALLAHASSEE. Full steam ahead! Willie Taggart definitely showed chump traits throughout his tenure at Florida State, and he needed to go. But I’d argue that having to pay someone $18.25m to no longer work for you is even worse. Step forward FSU Athletics Director David Coburn. Well done sir – that’s a lot of free shoes for the roster you’ve just lost out on.
WINNER: DAVID COBURN, ATHLETIC DIRECTOR, FLORIDA STATE UNIVERSITY
Team Of The Year
Only one team in the running for me, despite impressive seasons from the likes of Baylor, Memphis and no doubt many more. PJ Fleck came to Minnesota with an impressive resume of galvanising a program and turning them around. Despite green shoots last year, it was hard to see him having as quick success with the Golden Gophers in the very competitive Big Ten.
Well competitive they were. They went unbeaten for the first ten games of the season, the first time Minnesota have done that for more than 100 years. They beat a Penn State team ranked in the top ten along the way, and for a brief moment had visions of making the playoffs. Two late season losses to Iowa and Wisconsin shouldn’t dampen at all what Fleck has achieved this year in Minneapolis.
Let me offer you further context. This is a man of absolute character and integrity. A man who lost a son from childbirth and has allowed it to shape his philosophy of personal development with his student athletes. ‘Row The Boat’ isn’t just a corny catchphrase – read Oli’s piece here on the culture and success he’s created in his three years at the university.
And if that isn’t enough, what about the story of Casey O’Brien, a student-athlete who has beaten cancer a remarkable four times? After years of enduring physically brutal chemotherapy he finally achieved his dream of playing collegiate football as Fleck sent him out to be a holder for an extra point that gave the Gophers the lead against Rutgers. An incredible moment from an incredible season. Congrats Minnesota!
I’m not crying. YOU’RE crying.
WINNER: MINNESOTA GOLDEN GOPHERS
Mike Gundy Award for Ultimate Loss of Composure
Alright. We finish off with an award where a head coach explodes in a such a way it goes viral. Mike Leach REALLY wanted to win this award. Calling his own players fat (the sheer hypocrisy) after the UCLA game, before rounding on reporters later on in the season and accusing them of an agenda – he gave it a good go.
But he didn’t win. And whilst it was just a momentary slip of the mask from Nick Saban, the Alabama head honcho steals the award when he didn’t even mean to. Saban is famous for his grouchy demeanour, frequently bemoaning the playoff committee, or the schedule, or anything else he takes umbrage with in his press conferences. Regardless, he’s always in control and knows what he’s up to.
But the Iron Bowl is both his and his team’s kryptonite. As this year’s rivalry game headed towards halftime, Auburn got a very generous rub of the green when the coaches failed to run off any time before the snap, allowing The Tigers to sneak in a field goal before the break.
SABAN. WAS. FURIOUS.
WINNER: NICK SABAN, ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE
Top banter. Have a cracking Christmas and a happy new year folks!
Feature Image Credit: TheNewsleak.Blogspot.com
previously the founder of nfl draft uk, simon has been covering college football and the nfl draft since 2009. based in manchester, simon is also co-creator & weekly guest of the collapsing pocket podcast.