Predicting who will -- and should -- win CFB's top awards

It's time once again to hand out some hardware at The Home Depot College Football Awards show Thursday night, when the best players in the nation will gather at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta.

We might get a first early clue at where a tight Heisman race stands between Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray and Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Both are up for the Maxwell Award (given to the college player of the year) and the Davey O'Brien Award (given to the nation's best quarterback).

Four of the past five times the same player won both awards, he went on to win the Heisman. Colt McCoy was the only one who did not, in 2009.

In all, nine awards will be handed out. The ceremony begins at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Chuck Bednarik Award (defensive player of the year)

Josh Allen , LB, Kentucky, senior: Allen had a monster year to help the Wildcats to their best season since 1984, setting a single-season school record with 14 sacks (which led the SEC). He also leads the SEC with 18.5 tackles for loss and five forced fumbles, and he racked up 84 total tackles.

Christian Wilkins , DT, Clemson, senior: Ask Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables for his MVP and he'll tell you it's Wilkins, the leader on the Tigers' stout line. Wilkins has 13 tackles for loss, five sacks and 10 quarterback hurries, and he has been a big reason why Clemson allows just 93 yards per game rushing.

Quinnen Williams , DT, Alabama, sophomore: Williams entered the season as a relatively unknown first-year starter. But by the time the Tide finished off Georgia in the SEC championship game, Williams had grown into the most dominant interior lineman in the country, with 66 tackles, 18 for loss, eight sacks and 11 quarterback hurries.

Who should win: Williams
Who will win: Williams

Biletnikoff Award (outstanding receiver)

Andy Isabella, UMass, senior: Isabella has the underdog story of the year. After getting only two FBS offers out of high school, Isabella worked his way up to becoming the most prolific receiver in the nation, playing in the slot. He leads the nation in receiving yards (1,698) and receiving yards per game (141.5) and is third in receptions per game (8.5).

Jerry Jeudy, Alabama, sophomore: With Tagovailoa behind center, Jeudy showed his speed and athleticism at receiver with a breakout season, leading the SEC with 12 touchdown receptions, the second most in a single season in school history. His 1,103 receiving yards ranks third on Alabama's single-season list.

Tylan Wallace , Oklahoma State, sophomore: Perhaps the most explosive receiver in the nation, Wallace tied for the FBS lead in the regular season with 25 catches that went 20 yards or more. Wallace averages 17.8 yards per reception and ranks third nationally with 1,408 receiving yards and 117.3 receiving yards per game.

Who should win: Isabella
Who will win: Wallace

Lou Groza Award (outstanding kicker)

Cooper Rothe , Wyoming, junior: Rothe made 16 of 17 field goal attempts, the highest percentage of any FBS kicker with at least 10 attempts. He's looking to become the first Wyoming player -- and first Mountain West player -- to win the award.

Andre Szmyt, Syracuse, redshirt freshman: The former walk-on emerged during fall camp to win the starting job and ended up leading the FBS with 28 field goals this season. He scored 141 total points, becoming the first kicker in Syracuse history to score 100 points in a season.

Cole Tracy , LSU, senior: Tracy is virtually automatic, especially from long distances. He leads the SEC with 25 field goals, ranking third in a single season in school history. His nine field goals made from 40-plus yards this season is tied for the second most in the FBS.

Who should win: Szymt
Who will win: Tracy

Ray Guy Award (punter of the year)

Braden Mann, Texas A&M, junior: Jimbo Fisher didn't know what he had in Mann until he saw him booming punts in spring practice and realized this could be a special season. He leads the FBS in punting (51.2 yards per kick) and net punting (45 yards per kick). He also is the first player in FBS history to average over 50 yards per punt while punting at least 40 times.

James Smith , Cincinnati, sophomore: Smith is averaging 47 yards per punt this season, on pace to break the school record set by Kevin Huber in 2007 (46.9 yards per punt). He ranks second in the FBS in net punting (44.5 yards per kick) and leads the AAC with 25 punts inside the 20-yard line.

Mitch Wishnowsky , Utah, senior: Mr. Consistency is a finalist for the third time, winning the award in 2016. He leads the Pac-12 in net punting (42.8 yards per kick) and is trying to become the fourth player to win the award multiple times. A Utah player has won the award three of the past four seasons.

Who should win: Mann
Who will win: Mann

Maxwell Award (player of the year)

Will Grier, West Virginia, senior: Grier had the type of season many expected when the year began, throwing for 3,864 yards (third most in school history) and notching 10 games with at least 300 passing yards. His 71 touchdown passes over the past two seasons leads the FBS.

Kyler Murray, Oklahoma, junior: Murray followed Baker Mayfield and put up prolific numbers of his own, making plays in the air and on the ground. His 96.0 QBR is the highest by any quarterback in the 15 seasons that the metric has been used, and his 51 total touchdowns is more than Mayfield had in 14 games last year.

Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama, sophomore: Tagovailoa picked up where he left off in the national championship game, elevating the Crimson Tide offense to another level. Tagovailoa threw for 3,353 yards and a school-record 37 touchdowns to just four interceptions. His 42 total touchdowns is also a school record.

Who should win: Murray
Who will win: Murray

Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award (best quarterback)

Gardner Minshew, Washington State, senior: Minshew captured hearts and minds with his moustache. His performance was pretty good, too. Minshew leads the FBS with 373 passing yards per game, and he needs 121 yards in the Cougars' bowl game to break the school single-season passing record of 4,597 yards set by Connor Halliday in 2013.

Kyler Murray, Oklahoma
Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama  

Who should win: Tagovailoa
Who will win: Tagovailoa

Outland Trophy (most outstanding interior lineman)

Christian Wilkins, Clemson
Jonah Williams , Alabama, junior: Williams has started every game of his Alabama career, and this season the Tide are averaging 7.9 yards per play (on pace to set the school record). He was the Outland Trophy Player of the Month in September.

Quinnen Williams, Alabama

Who should win: Quinnen Williams
Who will win: Quinnen Williams

Paycom Jim Thorpe Award (best defensive back)

Deandre Baker, Georgia, senior: Baker was consistently good for the Bulldogs, shutting down elite receivers across the conference. He tied for the team lead with two interceptions and led Georgia with nine pass breakups.

Julian Love , Notre Dame, junior: Love was dominant for the Irish, setting the single-season school record with 15 pass breakups and the career record with 38. He also had three fumble recoveries, including one he returned for a touchdown against Virginia Tech.

Greedy Williams , LSU, sophomore: Though his total interceptions were down compared to last year, Williams remains one of the best cornerbacks in the game. He had nine pass breakups, two interceptions and anchored an LSU secondary that led the SEC in takeaways. He has already declared for the NFL draft.

Who should win: Love
Who will win: Williams

Doak Walker Award (best running back)

Travis Etienne, Clemson, sophomore: Etienne won ACC Player of the Year honors after a breakout performance, setting the school's single-season mark with 21 rushing touchdowns (and counting). He leads the ACC with 1,463 yards rushing but is largely overshadowed because of all the superstars on the team.

Darrell Henderson, Memphis, junior: Henderson is as explosive as he his powerful, ranking second in rushing yards (1,909) and rushing yards per game (146.8). He's tied for the FBS lead with 22 rushing touchdowns, and he leads the FBS with 27 runs that went 20 or more yards.

Jonathan Taylor , Wisconsin, sophomore: Though the Badgers struggled to a disappointing 7-5 season, Taylor remains the one constant. He leads the FBS with 1,989 rushing yards and had at least 100 yards rushing in 11 of 12 games.

Who should win: Henderson
Who will win: Taylor