LEADOFF: College football stars converge on Atlanta this week


Good morning. This is LEADOFF, today’s early look inside Atlanta sports. 

One month and one day before college football’s national championship game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, two-dozen stars of the 2017 season from around the nation will share the spotlight at another downtown Atlanta event Thursday night. 

They’ll attend the 27th annual “College Football Awards” show, a two-hour made-for-TV event that will air live on ESPN from the College Football Hall of Fame. 

Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield and Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith could cross paths on the awards stage, as they will do in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day. 

Mayfield is a finalist for two of the nine individual awards that will be presented Thursday night: the Maxwell Award as college football’s player of the year and the Davey O’Brien Award as the best quarterback. Smith is a finalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award as defensive player of the year. 

Joining Mayfield as finalists for the Maxwell Award will be Penn State running back Saquon Barkley and Stanford running back Bryce Love. Mayfield’s fellow finalists for the O’Brien Award are Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett and Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph. 

Joining Smith as finalists for the Bednarik Award will be N.C State defensive end Bradley Chubb and Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick. 

The awards show will be held in Atlanta for the third consecutive year after a long run at Disney World. In addition to the two-hour show on ESPN (7-9 p.m. Thursday), a one-hour red-carpet pre-show will air on ESPNU beginning at 6 p.m. and a one-hour post-show “Championship Drive: CFB Playoff Preview” on ESPN at 9 p.m., both also originating from the College Football Hall of Fame. 

In addition to the aforementioned, awards to be presented include the Outland Trophy (best interior lineman), the Doak Walker Award (best running back), the  Jim Thorpe Award (best defensive back) and others. 

The three finalists for each award  typically attend.

In conjunction with the event, the College Football Playoff will bring the head coaches of the four playoff teams -- Clemson’s Dabo Swinney, Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley, Georgia’s Kirby Smart and Alabama’s Nick Saban -- to Atlanta on Thursday for a joint news conference. 

 

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