Austin Carr has been the Big Ten's top receiver pretty much all season long. And he could go down as the best receiver in the country this season.
Monday, the Northwestern senior was named one of three finalists for the Fred Biletnikoff Award, handed out annually to college football's outstanding receiver regardless of position.
Carr is the Big Ten leader in three major pass-catching categories with 80 receptions, 1,170 receiving yards and 12 touchdown catches. Barring some sort of gargantuan performance by another conference receiver in the regular season's final week, he'll finish as the leader in those three categories — he'd be just the third Big Ten wideout since 1990 to do that, joining Michigan's Desmond Howard and Penn State's Allen Robinson — and should be the obvious selection for the Big Ten Wide Receiver of the Year award.
The other two names on the list of Biletnikoff finalists were Oklahoma's Dede Westbrook and East Carolina's Zay Jones. Jones and Westbrook rank first and second in the country in receiving yardage with 1,685 yards and 1,354 yards, respectively. Carr ranks 10th nationally. Westbrook's 15 touchdown catches trail only two other receivers in the country. Carr is tied for sixth with his 12, and Jones has eight (tied for 34th). Jones, though, has the most catches in college football with 151. Carr also ranks in the top 10 with his 80, while Westbrook has 70.
Aside from those credentials, though, Carr's resume for such a high honor is stellar. He's put up six 100-yard games and three multi-touchdown games. He already has the school record for the most touchdown catches in a single season and ranks third on the program's single-season list in receiving yardage and receptions. Plus, he's the only receiver in the country with at least five catches and at least 68 receiving yards in every game.
Whether Carr can add to all those statistics is up in the air at the moment. He left last weekend's loss at Minnesota after taking a helmet-to-helmet hit. Monday, Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald said Carr is day-to-day and feeling good, but the official word on whether Carr will play in Saturday's regular-season finale against Illinois.
If Carr were to win the Biletnikoff Award, he'd be the first Wildcat to do so. The award, handed out every year since 1994, has only gone to a Big Ten receiver four times: Penn State's Bobby Engram (1994), Ohio State's Terry Glenn (1995), Michigan State's Charles Rogers (2002) and Michigan's Braylon Edwards (2004). It's been 12 years since the last win by a Big Ten wideout, a streak Carr could stop this year.