The 2023 college football season was always going to be memorable on several fronts.
It’s the last year of the Pac-12 as we know it, with Oregon, UCLA, USC and Washington jet-setting to the Big Ten next season. Oklahoma and Texas are making one last tour through the Big 12 before bolting to the SEC. The Big 12 took on a revamped look with four new teams, and this is the last year of the four-team playoff, with the format moving to 12 teams in 2024.
Additionally, Coach Prime has made a few waves in what is Colorado’s final season in the Pac-12.
With the second half of the season still to play, we unveil ESPN’s midseason All-America team. Only six players on the preseason team made the cut this time around.
Penix is currently the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy and has already had his big-stage moment in rallying Washington to a thrilling 36-33 win over Oregon on Saturday. Penix, one of the many talented transfer quarterbacks around the country, is No. 1 nationally by a wide margin with 383.5 passing yards per game and has thrown 20 touchdown passes and just three interceptions.
Honorable mention: Jayden Daniels, LSU
The Longhorns just keep churning out talented running backs, and Brooks is next in line. The 6-foot, 207-pound sophomore leads all Power 5 players with 121 rushing yards per game and has rushed for more than 100 yards in each of his past four games. He’s gaining 6.72 yards per carry and is tied for fifth nationally with five runs of 30 yards or longer and ranks in the top three among Power 5 backs in yards after contact (463).
Honorable mention: Ray Davis, Kentucky
Even though he’s a bigger back (227 pounds), Estime is tied for sixth among Power 5 players with eight runs of 20 yards or longer. He has rushed for more than 80 yards in six of his eight games, gaining 6.2 yards per rush and scoring nine touchdowns. And when the Irish need the tough yards, Estime has delivered. He leads all Power 5 backs with 532 yards after contact.
Honorable mention: Jaylen Wright, Tennessee
Nabers and teammate Brian Thomas Jr. have been lighting it up and benefiting from the best season of quarterback Jayden Daniels’ career. Nabers leads the nation with 122.9 receiving yards per game and is third among Power 5 players with 52 catches. The 6-foot, 200-pound junior leads all FBS players with 19 catches of 20 yards or longer.
Honorable mention: Rome Odunze, Washington
Keeping Burden at home was a coup for the Tigers, and he has been everything he was supposed to be coming out of high school and then some. The sensational sophomore leads all Power 5 players with 56 catches and is as electric after the catch as he is making plays down the field. He leads Power 5 receivers with 489 yards after the catch and all FBS players in yards per route run, according to Pro Football Focus.
Honorable mention: Marvin Harrison Jr., Ohio State
The news that Bowers could be out four to six weeks with an ankle injury was gut-wrenching for Georgia fans. Bowers is one of the best players in college football — period. And he can do a little bit of everything wherever he lines up. He leads Georgia with 41 catches for 567 yards and has five touchdowns (four receptions, one rush).
Honorable mention: Dallin Holker, Colorado State
The 6-6, 317-pound senior has been a rock at his left tackle position for the Nittany Lions. He hasn’t allowed a sack or pressure in pass protection and has been equally dominant as a run-blocker. Penn State was thrilled to get Fashanu back for another season, and he has been an integral part of an offense that is tied for fifth nationally in scoring (44.3 points per game) and has at least 30 points in all six games.
Honorable mention: Patrick Paul, Houston
Beebe has been one of the best and most consistent offensive linemen in college football for the past two seasons. He has made 41 career starts (38 in a row) and is again the heart and soul of the Kansas State offense from his left guard position. The 6-4, 335-pound senior hasn’t given up a sack since the 2020 season and is the highest-graded Power 5 guard, according to Pro Football Focus.
Honorable mention: Tanner Miller, Oregon State
What a luxury for Georgia to bring back the center who started every game during its two national championship seasons. Van Pran, a 6-4, 310-pound redshirt junior, is once again the centerpiece of an offensive line that has paved the way for the Dawgs to rank ninth nationally in scoring (40.1 points per game). Van Pran has played 446 snaps this season and has the second-highest grade among centers, according to Pro Football Focus.
Honorable mention: Jackson Powers-Johnson, Oregon
Michigan is seeking to win its third straight Joe Moore Award as the best offensive line in the country. The interior of that line is headlined by Zinter, a 6-6, 322-pound senior in his third season as the full-time starter at right guard. He has made 36 career starts for the Wolverines. In 360 snaps this season, Zinter has allowed no sacks and just one hurry, according to Pro Football Focus.
Honorable mention: Christian Haynes, UConn
The right side of the Oregon State offensive line has been dominant this season. The 6-6, 334-pound Fuaga is among the best run-blocking tackles in college football, and he teams up with guard Tanner Miller on the right side to build a wall for the 6-1 Beavers. In his second season as a full-time starter, Fuaga has transformed from a second-team All-Pac-12 selection a year ago to one of the most imposing offensive linemen in the country.
Honorable mention: Joe Alt, Notre Dame
Even though Boise State has struggled, Jeanty has been one of the most electrifying players in the country. The sophomore running back leads the nation with 1,264 yards from scrimmage (868 rushing and 396 receiving) and has scored an FBS-best 15 touchdowns. Get Jeanty the ball, and he makes things happen. He leads all FBS running backs with 598 yards after contact and is fourth in the country with 430 yards after the catch.
Honorable mention: Travis Hunter, Colorado
With Will Anderson Jr. off to the NFL, Turner has stepped up as Alabama’s top defender and is playing at an elite level. He has been consistent and productive in key situations. The 6-4, 242-pound junior is the team leader in sacks (seven), tackles for loss (9.5), quarterback hurries (10) and forced fumbles (two) on a defense ranked in the top 15 nationally in scoring and total defense.
Honorable mention: Jonah Elliss, Utah
When he showed up on Ohio State’s campus, Williams weighed more than 350 pounds. He’s now in the best shape of his career and playing his best football. The 6-2, 290-pound junior is fifth on the Buckeyes in total tackles (27) and leads the team in tackles for loss (six), while ranking second in pass breakups (four). In other words, he’s a menace in the middle of an Ohio State defense that has given up just seven touchdowns in six games.
Honorable mention: Jer’Zhan Newton, Illinois
Cross is making the most of his first full season as a starter. He leads Notre Dame in total tackles (42) and tackles for loss (five), and has forced two fumbles. His 26 pressures rank second among all interior defenders, while his 21 run stops on defense are tied for second, according to Pro Football Focus. Cross had a career-high 13 tackles in the Irish’s win over Duke.
Honorable mention: T’Vondre Sweat, Texas
It’s hard to believe Latu had to medically retire from football after missing the 2020 and 2021 seasons with a neck injury while at Washington. But getting clearance from doctors to play again has paid dividends for both him and UCLA. In his second season with the Bruins, Latu is again one of the more disruptive defenders in the country with nine tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.
Honorable mention: James Pearce Jr., Tennessee
It hasn’t been a great season for the Wolfpack, but Wilson has been a tackling machine. He ranks second among Power 5 defenders with 81 total tackles. The sixth-year senior is a sure tackler in space from his outside linebacker spot, and he has great instincts. One of those guys who just seems to find the football, Wilson has four sacks to go along with an interception and two fumble recoveries.
Honorable mention: Jason Henderson, Old Dominion
The 6-3, 230-pound Cooper is in his fourth year in the program and was having a breakout season until he was injured last week in the first half against Tennessee and was unable to return. Few inside linebackers have been better, as Cooper leads all FBS players with 13.5 tackles for loss. He has the perfect blend of size and speed to make life miserable for both quarterbacks and running backs.
Honorable mention: Tommy Eichenberg, Ohio State
A year ago, Stutsman led the Big 12 in total tackles, and he has taken his game to another level this season on an Oklahoma defense that has given up more than 20 points only once. Stutsman leads the Sooners with 10.5 tackles for loss. Most notably, he has grown more comfortable in pass coverage and took an interception back 30 yards for a touchdown earlier this season.
Honorable mention: Cedric Gray, North Carolina
Since the beginning of last season, DeJean has seven interceptions, including two this season. Nobody else in the FBS has more during that span. The 6-1, 207-pound junior is also strong against the run and ranks fourth on the team with 33 total tackles. DeJean has played 309 snaps this season in coverage without giving up a touchdown, and he returned a punt for a touchdown against Michigan State.
Honorable mention: Mike Sainristil, Michigan
Coming into the season, Kool-Aid McKinstry was the Alabama cornerback getting most of the publicity, but Arnold has emerged as one of the Tide’s best and most versatile defenders. He moved over to the hybrid “star” position last week against Arkansas with Malachi Moore out with an injury. A basketball star in high school, Arnold leads Alabama with four pass breakups and has four tackles for loss.
Honorable mention: Kris Abrams-Draine, Missouri
Starks was one of the best true freshmen in college football last season and has only gotten better as a sophomore. He’s third on the team with 25 total tackles to go along with two interceptions and four pass breakups. The 6-1, 205-pound Starks is the only safety in the country to rank in the top 15 for both coverage grade and run defense grade, according to Pro Football Focus.
Honorable mention: Cole Bishop, Utah
Formerly a cornerback, Simpson has blossomed as a safety in Ron Roberts’ defense. The 6-1, 178-pound senior is second nationally among safeties with four interceptions and is fifth on Auburn with 20 total tackles. Simpson’s 90.3 coverage grade leads all safeties, according to Pro Football Focus, and he hasn’t allowed a touchdown in 160 coverage snaps.
Honorable mention: Caleb Downs, Alabama
The SEC’s all-time leader for career points with 486, Reichard is perfect on kicks this season. He has made all 13 of his field goal attempts, including six from 40-plus yards (with a long of 51 yards), and has also made all 21 of his extra-point attempts. Nick Saban said Reichard has probably been as good a player at his position as anybody Saban has coached at Alabama.
Honorable mention: Graham Nicholson, Miami (Ohio)
The Hawkeyes are sitting atop the Big Ten West standings, and Taylor may be the MVP on a team that has struggled offensively. The 26-year-old Aussie is tied for the FBS lead with 45 punts. Only one of those has gone for a touchback, and he’s fourth nationally with a 48.3-yard average, with 17 punts downed inside the 20. He punted 10 times in the Hawkeyes’ 15-6 win over Wisconsin and kept the Badgers in bad field position all game.
Honorable mention: Matthew Hayball, Vanderbilt
After missing two games with an injury, Branch returned to the lineup for USC’s 48-20 loss at Notre Dame. In his first four games, the true freshman returned both a kickoff and a punt for touchdowns. He’s averaging more than 24 yards a return on both punts and kickoffs. Branch, who also has two receiving touchdowns this season, didn’t score against Notre Dame but did have a 60-yard punt return.
Honorable mention: Matthew Golden, Houston