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Hot Reads: Midseason picks for our Chinstrap Awards

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Johnny Manziel has been leaving defenses in his dust this season.  (Source: Texas A&M Athletics) Johnny Manziel has been leaving defenses in his dust this season. (Source: Texas A&M Athletics)

(RNN) – By show of hands, who thinks either Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Missouri or Arkansas can go from teams that are "on the fringe" to teams that are "on the verge of a bowl?"

Thank you for participating, now please put your hands down while Mr. Reality prepares to begin class.

Tennessee and Arkansas seem the most likely suspects to move from the SEC basement to the old couch reserved for guests that you marginally like. It's not glamorous, but it's not like the league is ashamed to claim you.

As for the other two, their remaining schedules are the biggest things going for them. Was that a compliment? We tried, but we're not really sure.

You know what Mizzou and Vandy need to save their seasons? They need the greatest football player that has ever graced the halls of Polk High School, a guy who is a virtual folk hero – Al Bundy. All kidding aside, Ed O'Neil was actually good enough to get a cup of coffee with the Pittsburgh Steelers. It's hard to know what's more surprising – his football talent or his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame … You're right, the star is definitely more surprising.

But on to more serious matters, it's the midway point of the season, which means it's time to update the Hot Reads nominations for the first-ever Chinstrap Awards.

And my, how the tables have turned for several teams and players since we released the first nominations.

Best Drama

Frontrunner: Auburn – Arkansas got the initial nod for this award, and we thought no one else would give them any competition. Wrong. The Razorbacks are starting to look like the team most people thought they would be, and Auburn resembles something more like Gene Chizik's 5-19 Iowa State squads. You could say Chizik is not as good a coach without Cam Newton, but you know what? Cam actually ran the football.

Other nominees: Arkansas, Mizzou

Best Comedic Performance

Frontrunner: Mizzou's defense vs. Alabama – And Vandy. And South Carolina. Someone please, just make it stop. How do you let Eddie Lacy juke your entire secondary? He has cinder blocks for thighs.

Other nominees: Steve Spurrier vs. newspaper reporter; Derek Dooley's press box reactions vs. Miss. State

Jockstrap Award

Frontrunner: Keith Marshall is now the favorite for this award that goes to the backup player most likely to step up to help his team. Marshall is a bench player in name only. He and fellow true freshman Todd Gurley combine for 173 rushing yards per game and the most annoying nickname in college football.

Other nominees: T.J. Yeldon (Bama); Chaz Sutton (South Carolina); Tre Mason (Auburn – we haven't given up on him, even if his offensive coordinator has)

No "I" in Team Award

Frontrunner: Mississippi State – You look at a singular aspect of their game, and you think to yourself, "No big deal." Look at the total package, and it's still doesn't blow you away, but you begin to understand how an undefeated season up to this point was possible. The game two weeks down the road in Tuscaloosa is looking mighty interesting.

Other nominees: Florida, Texas A&M, Arkansas

Unknown-to-Unstoppable Award

Frontrunner: Johnny Manziel – Show us a sportswriter or armchair alum who says they thought Manziel would be this productive, and we'll show you a liar.

Other nominees: Avery Williamson (Kentucky); Todd Gurley (UGA); Tyler Russell (Miss. State)

Bottom-of-the-Pile Award

Frontrunner: Kiehl Frazier – He's been up and down this year (most recently down with Clint Moseley's move to No. 1 on Auburn's depth chart), and we're not so sure coaching hasn't had something to do with that. Per the Tigers' recent history, Frazier will probably be a receiver next year, and a JUCO recruit will be the signal caller.

Other nominees: James Franklin (Mizzou); Jordan Rodgers (Vandy); Joker Phillips (Kentucky)

Manning Award

Frontrunner: Jeff Driskel – This news just in: Florida's quarterback can run. It's hard to tell whether he has blazing speed or "Oh, God, they're chasing me" speed. Either way, the manner in which he deflated Vanderbilt on a single play (yes, we know it's Vanderbilt) sent a clear message that Florida's opponents will have a lot more to think about from now on.

Other nominees: Johnnny Manziel (Texas A&M vs. Ole Miss/La. Tech); Tyler Russell (Miss. State vs. UT); Jarvis Jones (UGA vs. Mizzou)

Tree Falls in Forest Award

Frontrunner: Connor Shaw – South Carolina's QB had an almost perfect passing game against Mizzou, which means about as much as beating Usain Bolt in a foot race while he's running backward.

Other nominees: Zac Stacy/Brian Kimbrow (Vandy vs. Presbyterian); Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M vs. SMU); Tyler Bray/Justin Hunter, (UT vs. Georgia State)

Flop and Fail Award

Frontrunner: Georgia's defense vs. South Carolina – Come on, really? Shaw completed six passes, and two of them were for touchdowns. Even the Gamecocks' fans were hoping for a better contest than this. And that circus they're putting on in Lee County, AL, is running a very close second.

Other nominees: Auburn's offense vs. Arkansas; Knile Davis (Arkansas); LSU's offense vs. everyone that matters

Cool Customer Award

Frontrunner: Will Muschamp – It was pretty much a no-brainer that Florida's coach would hold onto the lead for this award. He's not afraid to take chances and not dumb to let opponents prey on his team's tendencies, whatever they are.

Other nominees: Dan Mullen (Miss. State); Kevin Sumlin (Texas A&M); Steve Spurrier (South Carolina)

Hot Seat Award

Frontrunner: Gene Chizik – We really did not want to do this, but it doesn't look like Auburn will pick its head up out of the mud long enough to make something halfway meaningful of this season. And as always, the head coach is the most likely offering that will appease the fervent mob of blood-thirsty fans.

Other nominees: Joker Phillips (Kentucky); Derek Dooley (UT); Gary Pinkel (Mizzou)

Team Logo Face Tattoo Award

Frontrunner: Texas A&M fans – Apparently, people in College Station don't like anyone to outdo them in anything. Fans have literally busted the seams at Kyle Field – 105 percent capacity for three home games so far. A trip to that stadium should have been on your bucket list even before they joined the NFL Lite.

Other nominees: Arkansas fans; Mizzou fans (as much for their fervor as their long-suffering)

You Couldn't Do This Without Me Award

Frontrunner: Zach Fulton – You could line your grandmother up behind him, and we guarantee she would rush for positive yardage. He's definitely the most active guy on Tennessee's line, but he's not even the most talented. Watch the film. Scary.

Other nominees: Antonio Richardson, left tackle (UT); Kelcy Quarles, defensive tackle (South Carolina); Caleb Sturgis, kicker (Florida)

This Week's Unique Stat

12.91: In our shameless pleas to get more teams (Auburn) to commit to running the football, we're dropping this bomb on you. Teams in the NFL Lite lead the nation with an average of 12.91 yards per completion despite attempting the second-fewest passes per game. What does that have to do with running, you ask?

Considering that SEC teams also attempt nearly 10 more rushes than passes and run fewer plays than any other conference, it proves two things: An effective running game can kill opponents by controlling the clock, and forcing teams to play closer to the line of scrimmage opens bigger holes downfield. It's not brilliant strategy. It's just common sense.

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