The Associated Press has been honoring college football’s best with an All-America team since 1925. This season, the AP released its first preseason All-America team and last week a midseason team. The full three-team All-America selections are unveiled in December. The sixth installment of the weekly All-America watch features a quarterback who started the season as a backup, an SEC linebacker on a sack streak and a matchup in the middle of the Big Ten’s game of the year.
Khalil Tate, QB, Arizona
Tate began the season on the bench after losing a preseason competition for the starting job to Brandon Dawkins. Then the sophomore was banged up and not available for a couple games. An injury to Dawkins three games ago gave Tate a chance and he has simply been one of the best players in the country since. In the last three games, Tate has run for 694 yards and passed for 468 more while accounting for 11 touchdowns. Playing for coach Rich Rodriguez, the comparisons to former West Virginia quarterback Pat White are inevitable. The Wildcats have won four straight to surge into the Pac-12 South race.
What they are saying: “He is actually playing better than we anticipated that he would, particularly running-wise” — Rodriguez.
Outlook: The Wildcats play No. 15 Washington State and No. 21 Southern California the next two weeks. Let’s see if he can keep the show going against better competition.
Jeff Holland, LB, Auburn
Linebacker is a loaded position and Holland didn’t make the AP’s midseason All-America team, but he is pushing to get recognition on the team that counts most. Holland leads the Southeastern Conference with eight sacks, registering at least one in his last five games and 3.5 in his last two. Against Arkansas last Saturday, he caused two fumbles.
Simmie Cobbs, WR, Indiana
Cobbs missed all of last season with an ankle injury, and then had a breakout game to open this season against Ohio State, with 11 catches for 149 yards and a touchdown. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound senior has not cracked 100 yards in a game since and in the last two games he has been limited to just 94 yards on 11 catches. Cobbs’ issues are really just a symptom of an Indiana offense that ranks near the bottom of the Big Ten in yards per play (4.76) and yards per pass (6.1), and has already made a quarterback change.
ON THE LINE
(Former Auburn offensive lineman and ESPN analyst Cole Cubelic identifies an o-lineman worth watching)
Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
McGlinchey is a vital cog in one of the country’s best running attacks (7.06 yards per carry). He has been dominant, collapsing the left side regularly to open holes. He had a couple of high-profile pass protection lapses against Georgia early this season, but that part of his game has improved as the season has gone on.
GROUP OF 5-STARS
The top of the national leaderboard in sacks is teeming with MACtion. The top three players in the country in sacks all play in the Mid-American Conference.
— Northern Illinois running back-turned-defensive end Sutton Smith, who was a second-team selection on the AP’s midseason All-America team, is third with 8.5 sacks.
— Ball State defensive end Anthony Winbush is second in the nation with 9.5 sacks.
— Central Michigan defensive end Joe Ostman grabbed the national lead in sacks this week when he had four in a victory against Ball State.
Penn State MLB Jason Cabinda vs. Ohio State center Billy Price.
Cabinda is the leader of a defense that doesn’t have a lot of star power, but has been among the best in college football this season. The senior leads the Nittany Lions in tackles (53) and has two sacks. Price was a midseason All-American and the senior leader of the Buckeyes’ line. How often Price can handle Cabinda in the running game could make a huge difference in the Big Ten’s regular-season game of the year.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP