Who Will Win The 2012 Home Depot College Football Awards?

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2012 Home Depot College Football Awards

Klein-Te'o-Manziel
Denny Medley/Gary A. Vasquez/Thomas Campbell - USA TODAY Sports

With conference championships decided and bowl games yet to be played, it’s time to hand out some different hardware to the most outstanding individual college football players in the country. Tonight, the Home Depot College Football Awards show will air and we will find out the winners for some of college football’s highest individual honors.

The best wide receiver, best kicker, best punter, best interior lineman, best quarterback, best running back, best defensive back, most outstanding defensive player and best all-around college football player will all be decided tonight in Orlando. While everyone invited will be worthy of winning, only one will walk away with the proof that they were the best this season.

For some, it will be a consolation prize to the Heisman Trophy or a BCS bowl game appearance, but these awards will give them something to hang their hat on for an incredible season. It is deserved recognition for the hard work and dedication that made each of these players among the best in college football.

For the players who will be going pro next season, it will be another notch to add to their resume as they audition for NFL scouts over the next five months. For those underclassmen returning to school, it will serve as a nice bit of motivation to push them on during the offseason workouts to achieve even greater things in 2013.

In all, nine trophies will be handed out tonight and nine college football players will be recognized as the best among their peers. Without further ado, we break down the races for every award up for grabs at the 2012 Home Depot College Football Awards.

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Ray Guy Award

Ryan Allen Ray Guy
Chuck Cook - USA TODAY Sports

The Ray Guy Award is given annually to the nation’s best punter. This year, the race comes down to Ryan Allen of the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, Kyle Christy of the Florida Gators and Scott Kovanda of the Ball State Cardinals.

While Christy has been a field-position weapon for the No. 3 Gators all season long, the Ray Guy Award will more than likely go to Allen of La Tech. Allen boomed kicks for an average of 48.04 yards per kick (two yards better than Christy). This will be Allen’s second straight Ray Guy Award after winning last year as well when he averaged just 46.12 yards per punt.

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Lou Groza Award

Dustin Hopkins Lou Groza
Bob Donnan - USA TODAY Sports

The Lou Groza Award is given to the nation’s top placekicker each year. This season, it is a heated race between Dustin Hopkins of the Florida State Seminoles, Cairo Santos of the Tulane Green Wave and Caleb Sturgis of Floida.

Sturgis will make a strong case for the award and Santos has been exceptional this season as the only kicker to kick two field goals of 54-yards or more, but Hopkins is the clear favorite in this one. On the season, the Seminoles kicker has hit on 85.7 percent of his kicks (24-of-28), including a perfect 5-of-5 from beyond 50 yards with a long of 56. He has scored 133 points this season, most among any of the finalists.

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Outland Trophy

Barrett Jones Outland
Derick Hingle - USA TODAY Sports

The Outland Trophy goes to the nation’s best interior lineman, and this year the race is between three offensive linemen. Barrett Jones of the Alabama Crimson Tide is going for his second Outland Trophy and is up against Luke Joeckel of the Texas A&M Aggies and Jonathan Cooper of the North Carolina Tarheels.

Cooper will be a strong contender for the award after winning the Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the best offensive lineman in the ACC, but Jones should win the award again this year. His contribution to one of the best offensive lines in college football on top of the fact that he moved down to center just this year and continues to dominate are just too impressive to ignore.

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Jim Thorpe Award

Phillip Thomas Thorpe
Troy Babbitt - USA TODAY Sports

The Jim Thorpe Award goes to college football’s best defensive back. This year, the award is down to Jonathan Banks of the Mississippi State Bulldogs, Dee Milliner of Alabama and Phillip Thomas of the Fresno State Bulldogs.

Despite playing for a smaller school, Thomas should still be the favorite to win the award tonight. The senior was the most consistent player among the finalists this season and set a Mountain West Conference record with eight interceptions, which led all FBS players. He returned three of those interceptions for touchdowns, good for a Fresno State record and second-best in NCAA history. He also led the Bulldogs in tackles with 82.

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Biletnikoff Award

Marqise Lee Biletnikoff
Matt Kartozian - USA TODAY Sports

The Biletnikoff Award is given out the nation’s top wide receiver. This year, the award will go to either Stedman Bailey of the West Virginia Mountaineers, Marqise Lee of the USC Trojans or Terrance Williams of the Baylor Bears.

If not for the Trojans’ five losses, Lee would be heading to New York City for the Heisman Trophy presentation on Saturday. He will have to take solace with a win for the Biletnikoff after one of the most dominant seasons in college football history. Lee set Pac 12 records for receptions in a season (112), yards in a season (1,680) and yards in a game when he exploded for 345 yards on 16 carries against the Arizona Wildcats. That performance was one of eight 100-yard days for the sophomore this season.

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Doak Walker Award

Kenjon Barner
Kirby Lee - USA TODAY Sports

The winner of the Doak Walker Award is considered to be the best running back in college football. This year, that distinction will go to either Montee Ball of the Wisconsin Badgers, Kenjon Barner of the Oregon Ducks or Jonathan Franklin of the UCLA Bruins.

While Ball has put together an unbelievable career with Wisconsin, setting the career mark for touchdowns in a career, this award will likely go to Barner. He finished the season with 1,624 yards rushing, averaging 135.3 yards per game, good for fifth in FBS. His total yardage could have easily eclipsed 2,000 yards if he had gotten to play in the second half of games this season (Oregon pulled its starters in at least six blowouts this season). He set an Oregon single-game record with 321 yards rushing at USC and ran for 201 yards against Fresno State. He just missed out on another pair of 200-yard games against the Washington State Cougars (195) and the Oregon State Beavers (198).

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Davey O'Brien Award

Johnny Manziel Davey O'Brien
Thomas Campbell - USA TODAY Sports

The Davey O’Brien Award will go to the nation’s best quarterback. The candidates this year include a pair of Heisman Trophy finalists in Collin Klein of the Kansas State Wildcats and Johnny Manziel of the Texas A&M Aggies along with Braxton Miller of the Ohio State Buckeyes.

While Klein has been every bit as important to his team’s success, the fact that he plays with a similar style with inferior stats as Manziel gives Johnny Football the advantage. Manziel passed for 3,419 yards this season with 24 touchdowns this season (roughly 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns more than Klein) while completing 68.3 percent of his passes. His signature performance came against Alabama when he threw for 253 yards with two touchdowns and no turnovers as he led the Aggies to the upset. And that doesn’t even touch the work he did rushing the ball.

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Chuck Bednarik Trophy

Manti Te'o Bednarik
Mark L. Baer - USA TODAY Sports

The Chuck Bednarik Trophy, also known as the Maxwell Football Club Defensive Player of the Year, goes out to the most outstanding defensive player in college football. This season, the race comes down to Jadeveon Clowney of the South Carolina Gamecocks, Jarvis Jones of the Georgia Bulldogs and Manti Te’o of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

There is a heated debate over whether Jones or Te’o is the better linebacker this season, and Jones has a strong case to make (77 tackles, 22.5 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks, 7 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, 33 quarterback hurries and an interception), but the leader of the Notre Dame defense has just been too good of a player and story to not take home the trophy. He made 103 tackles on the season, his third straight 100-yard tackle season, while intercepting seven passes, the most among non-defensive backs this season. In addition, his production and leadership has returned Notre Dame to national prominence and one win away from a national championship, their first since 1988.

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Maxwell Award

Johnny Manziel Maxwell
John David Mercer - USA TODAY Sports

The Maxwell Award is given out to the most outstanding all-around college football player and this year is a preview of the Heisman Trophy presentation on Saturday. Klein, Manziel and Te’o will go head-to-head-to-head two days before the Heisman is awarded to see who might have the upper hand.

While all three players have been outstanding all season long, the unbelievable achievements of Johnny Manziel as a freshman in the SEC have been just too good to ignore. He has been the most exciting and most valuable player in the country this season, leading the Aggies in both passing and rushing. We’ve already listed his passing numbers, but his rushing stats are just as gaudy. On the season, he’s rushed for 1,181 yards with 19 touchdowns, leading the SEC in rushing and breaking the SEC all-purpose yards record for a single season previously held by Cam Newton who took the title from Tim Tebow. The things Manziel has done this season have never been seen at this level by a freshman, and he’s going to have plenty of hardware this offseason to commemorate it.

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