Can Michael Pittman win USC’s second Biletnikoff Award?

Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy
Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy /

Michael Pittman is a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award, but what are the USC receiver’s chances of actually winning the award.

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Despite producing a squadron of outstanding college receivers, USC has only had one Biletnikoff Award winner in program history. That was Marqise Lee in 2012.

Could Michael Pittman be the next wide out to secure that top honor as college football’s top receiver?

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Pittman is having a stellar senior season, having crossed the 1,000-yard mark with another big performance against Cal this past weekend. On Monday, he was named a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff, along with 11 other hopefuls.

The argument for Pittman, who ranks first in the Pac-12 in catches and yards, has a lot to do with circumstances.

He has caught passes from three different quarterbacks this year. Coming into the season, he prepared to link up with JT Daniels, but he went down injured in the first half of the opening game. In came true freshman Kedon Slovis, who found his groove with Pittman in Week 3, finding him nine times for 95 yards and two touchdowns on the road. Of course, Slovis was knocked out of the Utah game early and Matt Fink entered the fray. Fink gave his receiver complete faith when he launched up 10 passes for him and Pittman came down with 232 yards and a touchdown.

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Impressively, Pittman has spent the last two weeks playing on a sprained ankle. Yet he amassed 13 catches for 146 yards against ASU and another 11 catches for 180 yards and a touchdown against Cal.

He now ranks third nationally in receiving yards, top among all Power 5 receivers.

Here is where Pittman stands statistically next to the rest of the Biletnikoff semifinalists:

  • Michael Pittman (USC): 82 catches, 1,118 yards, 9 TDs
  • Rashod Bateman (Minnesota): 44 catches, 945 yards, 7 TDs
  • Omar Bayless (Arkansas State): 73 catches, 1,262 yards, 14 TDs
  • Ja’Marr Chase (LSU): 57 catches, 1,1116 yards,13 TDs
  • Antonio Gandy-Golden (Liberty): 64 catches, 1,244 yards, 8 TDs
  • Isaiah Hodgins (Oregon State): 73 catches, 1,021 yards, 13 TDs
  • Justin Jefferson (LSU): 71 catches, 1,010 yards, 11 TDs
  • Jerry Jeudy (Alabama): 64 catches, 867 yards, 9 TDs
  • CeeDee Lamb (Oklahoma): 44 catches, 983 yards, 13 TDs
  • James Proche (SMU): 88 catches, 1,008 yards, 12 TDs
  • DeVonta Smith (Alabama): 56 catches, 1,026 yards, 11 TDs
  • Sage Surratt (Wake Forest): 66 catches, 1,001 yards, 11 TDs

The trouble for Pittman is he has played more games than the rest of his competition. Since USC will spend the final week of the regular season on a bye, the Trojans have already completed 11 contests. Most other teams have only played 10.

That means Pittman has only one more opportunity to impress voters (two if USC manages to secure a berth to the Pac-12 Championship game). The other receivers in the running have at least two, if not more themselves.

With Bateman, Chase, Jefferson, Jeudy, Lamb and Smith playing on a national stage in the final weeks of the season, it would seem like an uphill climb for Pittman to truly contend for the award.

Fortunately for Pittman, he may have other avenues to pick up national recognition.

He is also a finalist for the Pop Warner Award and a semifinalist for the Jason Witten College Man of the Year Award. Both of those honors account for off the field contributions to a player’s community, which Pittman has made a priority in his senior year.

Regardless of what national acclaim Pittman receives, he has at the very least established himself among USC’s wide receiver greats.

His 2019 campaign already ranks ninth in Trojan single-season history, with room to move up into the Top 5 with a strong enough finish to the season.

With 152 career receptions, he ranks 14th all-time. He is 24 catches away from the Top 10.

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