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December 8, 2010
The best teams typically have the best players, and the Rivals.com All-America team certainly would support that thesis.
The 26-member first team (11 offense, 11 defense, four special teams) has 16 players who were on teams that won conference championships or played in league championship games. And that doesn't include players from Stanford, Oklahoma State and LSU, each of which posted 10 victories this season.
Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, a heavy favorite to win the Heisman, is our overwhelming choice as player of the year after passing for 2,589 yards and rushing for 1,409. He is just the third player in FBS history with 20 rushing TDs and 20 passing TDs in the same season.
Mark Dantonio, who guided Michigan State to an 11-1 finish and a share of the Big Ten championship, is our coach of the year. Four years ago, Dantonio headed to East Lansing to take over a program that had sustained three consecutive losing seasons and hadn't won a Big Ten championship since 1990. This season, with some creativity (a fake field goal in overtime against Notre Dame, a fake punt against Northwestern), some big wins and some luck (he overcame a late-September heart attack), he led the Spartans to the most wins in school history.
Our freshman of the year is South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore, who joined an offense that last season was last in the SEC in rushing. This season, Lattimore rushed for 1,198 yards and 17 touchdowns and was a major factor in the Gamecocks winning the SEC East and advancing to the league championship game for the first time.
Our top offensive coordinator is Oklahoma State's Dana Holgorsen, who arrived from Houston to take over an offense with a new quarterback, a banged-up tailback, a rebuilt offensive line and no proven receivers. But rather than struggle, the Cowboys soared. They averaged 537.6 yards per game to lead the nation in total offense and were third in scoring at 44.9 points per game.
Vic Fangio, in his first season at Stanford after a long run in the NFL, is our top defensive coordinator. He overhauled the Cardinal's defense and oversaw dramatic improvement. Last season, the Cardinal ranked 90th in the nation in total defense and 69th in scoring defense. But under Fangio, Stanford improved to 24th in total defense and 11th in scoring defense.
With Newton and defensive tackle Nick Fairley, Auburn is one of six teams with multiple picks on the Rivals.com first team. Nebraska leads with four selections, while Oregon, Wisconsin, TCU and Florida also have multiple choices.