Originally posted on Optimum Scouting  |  Last updated 12/6/11

Now that the regular season has been completed, it's time to review the 2011 college football season and reflect at how the season went. It has been a very unique year in college football with quite a few firsts. First time in a while a defensive player is in the Heisman Final Five. First time in a while Michigan has been in BCS prominice. First time in a while two teams from the same conference have made the championship game.

In a year of firsts and a year where the champion has not yet been crowned, here is where I feel the awards for both coaches and players belong.



Coach of the Year - Brady Hoke, Michigan
Last season, the Michigan Wolverines finished 7-6 and ended the Rich Rodriguez era in Ann Arbor. Just one year removed from a season that ended in a 52-14 beatdown by Mississippi State, Brady Hoke lead this Michigan team to a potential BCS berth with wins over Notre Dame, Nebraska, and most importantly, Ohio State. His turnaround in one year show why he was the right man for the job, and has this program is shape to challenge for BCS berths now and in the future.

Offensive Player of the Year - Matt Barkley, QB, USC
The Trojans and the USC players were slighted most of the year thanks to the sanctions of the NCAA and removing their bowl dream hopes. Regardless of their lack of post-season play, USC has clearly been one of the best teams in the country, and most of it is thanks to the remarkable play of Barkley. He finished with 39 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions, and was just as impressive, if not more-so, as Andrew Luck at Stanford.

Defensive Player of the Year - Tyrann Mathieu, DB, LSU
The "Honey Badger" has been a difference maker statistically and scheme-wise for this LSU team. Despite being just 5'9, 180, and having the most talented cornerback in the country, Morris Claiborne, across from him, Mathieu has dominated games and changed the team's fortunes single-handedly, similar to how Ndamukong Suh did for Nebraska two years ago. A legit Heisman candidate, Mathieu has been feared as the most dynamic "ballhawk" in the country in every sense of the word.

Coordinator of the Year - Greg Mattison, DC, Michigan
Watching Michigan this year as opposed to last year, many of the players are the same. But in 2010, that unit finished 108th in the team defense standings, giving up 35.2 points per game. This year, they forced 27 turnovers and  allowed just 17.2 points per game, with only 7.2 points per game in the second half. Mattison was an outstanding hire to go along with Brady Hoke in the pre-season, and renewing that defensive physicality that Michigan had lost under Rich Rodriguez was thought to be a much needed transition. With Mattison, they got it instantly.

Game of the Year - USC vs. Stanford
Five future 1st round NFL draft  picks. Four weeks prior to the conference championship  game in the Pac-12. Three overtimes. Two Heisman candidates, both of which with very promsing NFL careers. And one fumble to end the game. A battle of two goliaths of the quarterback position in college football, The Andrew Luck vs. Matt Barkley game came down to just that. The game ended on a fumble, another frustrating in a season full of teasing by the bowl-less Trojans. An elite game full of elite talent, and two quarterbacks who played like outstanding professionals in the LA Coliseum.

 Freshman of the Year - Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Instantly coming onto the season as the team's feature receiver, Watkins became Tahj Boyd's most trusted deep option for the Tigers, and was consistently making plays down the field. Watkins finished with 1153 yards, 11 touchdowns, five plays over 50 yards, and five games over 100 yards (3 of which were over 150). And with Tahj Boyd returning next year as well, it could another big season for Watkins in 2012.

Comeback Player of the Year -  Case Keenum, QB, Houston
Early in 2009, Houston's Case Keenum was set to begin his assault on the record books. But after throwing an interception and attempting to make a tackle, Keenum suffered a devestating knee injury that ended his season. But after successful recovery and a granted 6th year of eligibile, Keenum returned to lead the Cougars to a Top 10 ranking after regular season play as well as breaking nearly every passing record in the FBS's history.

Most Improved Player of the Year -  Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Geno Smith was a highly talented quarterback who followed Pat White and Jarrett Brown at West Virginia. In his second year as a starter, Geno Smith had to change his system. But this change made all the difference for Smith. While his touchdowns numbers only increased by one, his yardage numbers saw a huge increase, and the overall productivity of the offense he lead thrived under new head coach Dana Holgorsen. The Geno Smith lead Mountaineers scored 21 points on LSU, 2nd most the Tigers had scored on them all year long.


Conference-by-Conference Most Valuable Players
ACC: Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson
Big East: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Big Ten: Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin
Big 12: Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State
Pac-12: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford/Matt Barkley, QB, USC
SEC: Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU
MAC: Bernard Pierce, RB, Temple
Mountain West: Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State
C-USA: Case Keenum, QB, Houston
Sun Belt: Bobby Rainey, RB, Western Kentucky
WAC: Robert Turbin, RB, Utah State             

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