Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett was placed on the Manning Award watch list on Thursday. The award has existed since 2004, and it honors the best college quarterback in the nation as chosen by the Sugar Bowl Committee.
The watch list features 32 of the top signal-callers in college football, and all 10 FBS conferences are represented. The ACC has more selections than any other conference, with five; the Big 12 and the Sun Belt both have four; and the American, Big Ten, MAC, Pac-12 and SEC have three selections each.
The four ACC quarterbacks joining Pickett on the list are Malik Cunningham of Louisville, Sam Howell of North Carolina, Phil Jurkovec of Boston College and D’Eriq King of Miami. Howell will have a leg up on Pickett — and many of the other 31 players on the watch list — as one of the finalists for the award last season. But Manning Award voters will get to see Pickett and Howell face off in a nationally televised showdown when the Tar Heels visit Heinz Field for a primetime game on Nov. 11.
In 2020, Pickett threw for 2,408 yards and 13 touchdowns, completing 61.1 percent of his 332 pass attempts. The New Jersey native also posted a quarterback rating of 129.6, setting a new personal best, and tacked on eight more scores on foot to bring his touchdown total for the season to 21. However, Pickett struggled with turnovers, as he threw nine picks for the second straight season. And drops were an issue for Pitt’s wide receivers once again.
This year, with Jordan Addison anchoring the Pitt receiving corps and Lucas Krull returning from injury to start at tight end, it seems Pickett will have more effective offensive weapons at his disposal. And with Pickett now four years into his college career, the hope among Pitt fans is that he can capitalize on the emergence of two pass-catchers with star potential and take Pitt to the next level.
The Manning Award has never gone to a Pitt player since it was established 17 years ago, so Pickett would be the first to take it back to Pittsburgh if he defied the odds and earned the honor. The award has gone to ACC players four times, with Matt Ryan of Boston College winning in 2007, Jameis Winston of Florida State winning in 2013, and Deshaun Watson of Clemson becoming the only individual to win the honor twice in 2015 and 2016.
The most recent Manning Award winner was Alabama quarterback Mac Jones. After receiving the honor, Jones was selected by the New England Patriots in the first round of the 2021 NFL draft. Every winner of the Manning Award has been selected in the first round of the NFL draft with the exception of Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, who won in 2009 and was subsequently selected the Cleveland Browns in the third round of the 2010 draft.