The first competition of the post-season between Alabama and Michigan State will be decided on Thursday. That’s because the Crimson Tide’s Ryan Kelly and Jack Allen of the Spartans are two of the three finalists for the Rimington Trophy, awarded to the nation’s most outstanding center.
Kelly, a senior who will earn his master’s degree in finance Saturday, and Allen are joined by finalist Austin Blythe of Iowa.
Allen’s Michigan State team defeated Iowa to win the Big Ten championship Saturday. The victory put the Spartans into the College Football Playoff as the No. 3 seed, and set up a game against No. 2 seed Alabama in the semifinals at the Cotton Bowl on Dec. 31.
Kelly, a native of Cincinnati, Ohio, is the fourth Crimson Tide player to be named a finalist for the Rimington Trophy, following Barrett Jones (2012), William Vlachos (2011), and Antoine Caldwell (2008).
As senior leader and anchor of the Alabama offensive line, Kelly has made all offensive line calls during his 34-career starts. He has graded out at an average of 88.4 percent, including five games over 90 percent, and has not graded out below 84 percent all season. Kelly only missed eight assignments in 948 snaps for a success rate of 99.2 percent and has 16 knockdown blocks from his center position. He also has not allowed a sack this season and only surrendered four quarterback hurries.
Kelly has helped clear a path for 208.2 rushing yards per game, which ranks 27th nationally and third in the SEC. He blocked for nine 100-yard games for Derrick Henry, including a school record four games over 200 yards. Kelly has only committed one penalty all season and has not been called for holding.
The winner of the Rimington Trophy is selected by determining the consensus All-America center pick from three existing All-America teams including The Walter Camp Foundation, The Sporting News, and the Football Writers Association of America. The center with the most first team votes will be determined the winner. If there is a tie with first team votes, then the center with the most second team votes will win. If there is still a tie, the winner will be determined by a majority vote from the Rimington Trophy committee.
Named after Dave Rimington, a consensus first-team All-America center at Nebraska in 1981 and 1982, the Rimington Trophy was founded in 2000 to honor college football’s most outstanding center.
This year’s Rimington Trophy will be presented Thursday at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta.