If there's been one defining, overarching narrative to the 2010 season to date, it's been ... well, maybe it's been the upheaval at the top of the polls that's seen preseason outsiders Oregon and Auburn seize control of their national championship destiny with four weeks remaining in the season. But if there's been two co-defining narratives, the second, without question, would be the rise of non-AQ teams like Boise State , TCU , and Utah into not only the BCS bowl picture but the BCS national championship picture.
So it's perhaps something of a shame that the lists of semifinalists for the Lombardi Award and the Thorpe Award -- given to the nation's best down lineman or downhill linebacker and best defensive back, respectively, and both announced within the past week -- do little to acknowledge that rise. The lists:
Lombardi AwardSam Acho, Defensive End, Texas, 6-3, 260, Sr., Dallas, TX
Jeremy Beal, Defensive End, Oklahoma, 6-3, 267, Sr. Carrollton, TX
Da'quan Bowers, Defensive End, Clemson, 6-4, 275, Jr., Bamberg, SC
Adrian Clayborn, Defensive End, Iowa, 6-4, 285, Sr., St. Louis, MO
Jared Crick, Defensive Tackle, Nebraska, 6-6, 285, Jr., Cozad, NE
Nick Fairley, Defensive Line, Auburn, 6-5, 298, Jr., Mobile, AL
Cameron Heyward, Defensive Tackle, Ohio State, 6-5, 288, Sr., Suwanee, GA
Rodney Hudson, Offensive Guard, Florida State, 6-2, 282, Sr., Mobile, AL
Greg Jones, Linebacker, Michigan State, 6-1, 240, Sr., Cincinnati, OH
Ryan Kerrigan, Defensive End, Purdue, 6-4, 263, Sr., Muncie, IN
Jake Kirkpatrick, Center, TCU, 6-3, 305, Sr., Tyler, TX
Drake Nevis, Defensive Tackle, LSU, 6-5, 285, Sr., Marrero, LA
Thorpe AwardPrince Amukamara, Sr., Nebraska
Mark Barron, Jr., Alabama
Chimdi Chekwa, Sr., Ohio State
Brandon Harris, Jr., Miami (Fla.)
Cliff Harris, Soph., Oregon
Tejay Johnson, Sr., TCU
Joe Lefeged, Sr., Rutgers
Rahim Moore, Jr., UCLA
Patrick Peterson, Jr., LSU
Tyler Sash, Jr., Iowa
Congratulations are in order for all 22 of these players, each of which is, without question, an outstanding college football athlete and certainly deserving of the honor of becoming a semifinalist.
But it feels remiss not to note that in this year of unprecedented prominence for non-AQ programs, only two of those 22 players represent a non-AQ team, and those two -- TCU 's Jake Kirkpatrick and Tejay Johnson -- each represent the same team. The other 53 teams? Nothin'.
This can be explained, to some extent, by the undeniably true fact that most of the game's best athletes and players ply their trades in BCS leagues. But no one on the Boise State defense that currently ranks third in both scoring and total defense (or Utah's, which ranks sixth in both categories) is worthy of inclusion? Marshall defensive end Vinny Curry , tied for third nationally with 9.5 sacks and seventh nationally with 13.5 tackles for loss (one of only four players to rank in the top 10 in both categories) can't get a nod? Strong safety Domonic Cook of Buffalo leads the country in both passes broken up and interceptions; there's not room enough for him here?
There's no question that it's always going to be an uphill climb for non-AQ players who rarely play on national television and even more rarely receive the sort of fawning from scouts and writers that helps buoy campaigns for national honors, and that's fine. But it's worth wondering whether, in a season like this one, if the climb ought to be quite this steep.
Pictured: Boise State defensive lineman Ryan Winterswyk.