Neither the Notre Dame Fighting Irish nor the Illinois Fighting Illini may return to a BCS bowl in 2012, but there are individual players on both teams that could be recognized come the postseason. Today brings watch lists for the Maxwell (best player) and Bednarik (best defensive player) awards, and both the Irish and Illini find themselves represented.
The list of Irish players is headlined by standout middle linebacker Manti Te'o, who is named on the Bednarik watch list. has a chance of leading all of college football in tackles provided he stays healthy. On the offensive side of the ball, Irish tight end Tyler Eifert and running back Cierre Wood land on the Maxwell watch list. As juniors in 2011, Eifert caught 63 passes for 803 yards and five touchdowns while Wood rushed for 1,102 yards and nine touchdowns.
The Illini didn't land a player on the Maxwell list, but do have two on the Bednarik list. Those players are cornerback Michael Buchanan and linebacker Jonathan Brown, who will lead an Illini defense that could be at the top of the Big 10.
For full watch lists for both awards, click here.
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