The college football regular season is finished and the bowl matchups are set, which means it's time to start handing out 2017 awards. Before the Heisman Trophy presentation on Saturday, these are our picks for the best individual players and coaches in a variety of categories. Check back for Sports on Earth's All-America teams on Thursday.
Offensive Player of the Year
1. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma. The choice is clear, just as the choice for the Heisman Trophy will be clear. Mayfield is having one of the greatest passing seasons in the history of college football. After setting the single-season FBS passer rating record last year (196.4), he's on track to break it again, albeit with tough playoff matchup(s) to come. Mayfield's rating is 203.8, nearly 20 points ahead of second place, and his average of 11.8 yards per attempt would also set a new single-season record, too. In 13 games, Mayfield has completed 71 percent of his passes for 4,340 yards, 41 touchdowns and only five interceptions. He's been brilliant against top opponents like Ohio State and TCU, and he finds a way to make big plays every week. Despite losing a Heisman finalist receiver and two 1,000-yard running backs from last year's team, Oklahoma averages 8.4 yards per play, nearly a yard more than it did last season. Mayfield still has a talented supporting cast, especially the offensive line, but he's the reason Oklahoma has a chance to win the national championship. A three-time top-four finisher in the Heisman race, the ex-walk-on at Texas Tech is going to finish his Oklahoma career as one of the most accomplished quarterbacks in the history of college football.
2. Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville. The Cardinals unfortunately stumbled to a 5-4 start before winning their final three games, so Jackson never really had a chance to repeat as Heisman winner, even though most of the blame rested with the defense. He's rightfully a finalist, however, after another jaw-dropping season in which he put up numbers rarely seen before in the sport. Jackson averages 411 yards of total offense per game, 30 more than second place. He has accounted for 42 touchdowns with only six interceptions. He's thrown for 3,489 yards and he's rushed for 1,443 yards. That puts him 13th nationally in rushing yards per game and 14th in passing yards per game. He finished 12th and 20th in those categories, respectively, last season, and this year's numbers overall look good next to last year's Heisman-winning performance.
3. Bryce Love, RB, Stanford. Love unfortunately dealt with an ankle injury in the second half of the season, but the torrid pace he set in the first half meant that he still put up ridiculous numbers as a big-play running back. In replacing Christian McCaffrey, one of the best players in school history, Love has run 237 times for 1,973 yards and 17 touchdowns, averaging 8.3 yards per carry in 12 games. He had over 100 yards in all but one game, and he had a two-game stretch early in the season in which he had 263 yards against UCLA and 301 against Arizona State. According to cfbstats.com, Love's 23 runs of 30-plus yards are eight more than anybody else and 10 more than anybody had in either of the past two seasons. He had 12 runs of 50-plus yards, making this one of the best big-play seasons ever from a tailback.
Defensive Player of the Year
1. Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia. Smith's numbers aren't necessarily the gaudiest, but it doesn't matter: He's been the best defensive player in college football this year. The junior Georgia linebacker is speedy and instinctive with great range and the ability to make a huge impact whether he's stuffing the run or dropping into coverage. He has 113 tackles, 10 ½ tackles for loss, two pass breakups and a forced fumble for one of the nation's best defenses. Smith has been remarkably consistent, becoming a reliable superstar who's been the best player on a breakthrough Georgia team that made the playoff after capturing its first SEC title since 2005.
2. Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama. Fitzpatrick has in some ways done for Alabama what Jalen Ramsey did for Florida State: He's a highly skilled defensive back who can play anywhere in the secondary and help the defense in a variety of ways. As the starting strong safety as a junior this season, Fitzpatrick has been the leader of yet another exceptional Alabama defense that leads the nation in yards per play allowed and yards per pass attempt allowed. Fitzpatrick has 52 tackles, seven pass breakups, an interception, a forced fumble, six tackles for loss and a blocked kick, and he's anchored what's been as good a secondary as any in the country.
3. Bradley Chubb, DE, N.C. State. Chubb returned to N.C. State for a senior season that turned out to be one of the Wolfpack's best in years. Chubb lived up to the individual hype as the nation's top defensive end, racking up 10 sacks and a Power Five-best 25 tackles for loss with 73 tackles, three forced fumbles, two pass breakups and a blocked kick. He's been a consistently disruptive force off the edge, standing out as a valuable player for a stellar run defense in addition to relentlessly pressuring opposing quarterbacks.
All-Purpose Player of the Year
1. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State. Barkley's Heisman campaign didn't work out, but don't blame him. The offensive line had issues in the second half of the season and opponents spent a lot of their energy trying to take him out of the game and avoid showing up in his jam-packed highlight reel. You have to look beyond Barkley's rushing numbers -- which are still quite good -- to see his full impact. He ran 199 times for 1,134 yards and 16 touchdowns. He caught 47 passes for 594 yards and three touchdowns. He threw a touchdown pass. And he returned two kicks for touchdowns. He's a powerful and explosive athlete with rare agility, making him arguably the best prospect for the 2018 NFL Draft. His performance against Iowa -- 305 yards from scrimmage -- may have been the most memorable individual effort of the season.
2. Rashaad Penny, RB, San Diego State. Penny rushed for over a thousand yards as a backup to 2,000-yard rusher Donnel Pumphrey last year. In 2017, Penny got his chance in the spotlight and became a 2,000-yard rusher himself. In 13 games, Penny has 275 carries for 2,027 yards and 19 touchdowns, averaging 7.4 yards per carry. If that isn't enough, he returned two kicks and one punt for touchdowns, leading the Aztecs to another 10-win season.
3. D.J. Reed, CB, Kansas State. Special teams are always an emphasis for Bill Snyder teams, and Reed made his presence felt: He ranks second nationally in kick return average (35.3) and second nationally in punt return average (17.1). He scored a touchdown in each category. Defensively, he added 43 tackles, four interceptions, nine pass breakups and a forced fumble.
Coach of the Year
1. Kirby Smart, Georgia. Smart took over one of the best jobs in college football and has unlocked the Bulldogs' potential. After a forgettable 8-5 debut season, Smart went 12-1 this year, earning the Bulldogs their first SEC championship since 2005 and a playoff bid that will give them their first chance for a national title since 1980. Smart has built Georgia in the mold of some of the early Nick Saban teams at Alabama: dominant defense, dominant running game and an efficient quarterback who isn't asked to do too much. In this case, it's a true freshman QB, Jake Fromm, who didn't open the season as starter. Smart started the year by signing a phenomenal recruiting class that signals a bright future; first, he and his staff are winning big with a mix of some of those young players and a big crop of impressive veterans.
2. Dabo Swinney, Clemson. Coach of the year awards usually go to the coaches who defy preseason expectations. Swinney won the national title last year, so there is almost nowhere to go but down. But this year was a reminder of just how fantastic a job he's doing. After back-to-back national title game appearances behind QB Deshaun Watson, the Tigers had to regroup this year without their two-time Heisman finalist quarterback. And yet they're right back at No. 1 entering the playoff, a 12-1 ACC championship team that continues to reload. Swinney has built a recruiting machine with one of the best coaching staffs in college football, and Clemson continues to emphasize that it's here to stay as a national power.
3. Scott Frost, UCF. This wasn't an ordinary winless team two years ago -- the Knights were two years removed from winning the Fiesta Bowl -- but Frost nevertheless stepped into a broken situation, went to a bowl game his first year and transformed the offense in his second season in 2017. In his first head coaching job, Frost led UCF to a perfect 12-0 record and an AAC championship, giving the Knights a trip to the Peach Bowl not long after things were so bad that an Orlando bar was offering free beer during games until the team actually won. Such rapid success meant that Frost was never going to stay at UCF long, especially since his alma mater, Nebraska, opened up and proved to be a natural fit.
3a. Bill Clark, UAB. There are many good choices this year: Lincoln Riley and Mark Richt are among those who also deserve coach of the year mentions. But we must find room to include Clark. He led UAB to a 6-6 record in his first season in 2014, but the football team was subsequently disbanded. The team was ultimately restored but went two years without playing. Nobody knew what to expect this season upon their return, and yet Clark led the Blazers to an 8-4 record and their second bowl ever, a deserved trip to the Bahamas Bowl.
Freshman of the Year
1. Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin. With a strong bowl performance, Taylor could crack 2,000 yards as a true freshman. Rated a three-star recruit in the 247Sports composite rankings, Taylor wasted no time exceeding that evaluation for a Badgers team that won its first 12 games before losing the Big Ten championship. Taylor had over 200 yards in three of his first six college games, and right now he has 273 carries for 1,847 yards and 13 touchdowns, making him the newest star among a long line of productive Wisconsin tailbacks.
2. J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ohio State. Sometimes it didn't feel like Dobbins got the ball enough, but in sharing carries with Mike Weber and quarterback J.T. Barrett, he has still racked up 1,364 yards and seven TDs on 181 carries, giving him an average of 7.5 yards per rush. Dobbins also has 22 catches. He's a dynamic and explosive athlete who saved his best for last with 174 yards to beat Taylor and Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game. He'll be on preseason Heisman lists next year.
3. Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia. For the most part, Fromm wasn't counted on to win games for Georgia. That was the job of the defense and a loaded stable of running backs. But the true freshman quarterback has to get credit for looking poised beyond his years most weeks: Fromm, who entered the season behind former five-star recruit Jacob Eason, jumped into the lineup upon a Week 1 injury to Eason and never let go. He has completed 63 percent for 2,173 yards, 21 TDs and five INTs, placing him sixth nationally in passer rating and sixth in yards per attempt for an SEC championship team that's going to the playoff.
Group of Five Player of the Year
1. Rashaad Penny, RB, San Diego State. We covered Penny already in the all-purpose section, but it's worth re-emphasizing how good the senior tailback has been after patiently waiting his turn for the lead role: He leads the nation in rushing (2,027 yards) and all-purpose yards (224.8 yards per game). He has scored 24 touchdowns four different ways (19 rushing, two receiving, two kick return, one punt return). He has rushed for over 200 yards in each of his past four games, and he had 216 yards against Arizona State and 175 yards against Stanford in the Aztecs' two Pac-12 victories. He's joined the pantheon of San Diego State running backs that includes Marshall Faulk and Donnel Pumphrey.
2. McKenzie Milton, QB, UCF. As a freshman, Milton ranked ninth in the AAC in passer rating and averaged just 5.9 yards per attempt. As a sophomore, Milton led UCF to an undefeated season and a national-best average of 49.4 points per game. He ranks second to Baker Mayfield in passer rating, completing 69.2 percent for 3,795 yards, 35 TDs and nine INTs, and he also has 497 yards and seven touchdowns as a runner.
3. Sutton Smith, DE, Northern Illinois. The 6-foot, 225-pound redshirt sophomore played sparingly as a redshirt freshman. Now he leads the nation in sacks and tackles for loss. Smith has racked up 14 sacks, 28 ½ tackles for loss, three forced fumbles, three pass breakups, 56 tackles and two touchdowns on fumble returns. He had 8 ½ tackles for loss in two games against Power Five opponents (Boston College, Nebraska) alone.