Irish lead with four on Bednarik watch list

You know what today is, right? Of course you do -- it's the official kickoff of watch list season, meaning we get a new list of players each weekday for the next two weeks.

More importantly, it means we are one step closer to college football season.

The watch lists for the Maxwell and the Bednarik awards were the first to be released today, and Notre Dame has a strong presence on both lists.

Stephon Tuitt, Louis Nix, Prince Shembo and Bennett Jackson are four of the 75 players on the watch list for the Bednarik Award, giving the Irish the most of any team, topping Alabama, Florida, Ohio State and Stanford, which each had three.

The Bendarik Award is given to the nation's best defensive player, and it was won last year by former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o.

Te'o also won the Maxwell Award last season, becoming the first player to win both honors in the same year. Two of his former teammates, Tuitt and Nix, are on the 76-man watch list this season for that award, which goes to the player of the year.

Semifinalists for both awards will be announced Oct. 29, with three finalists for each then being announced on Nov. 25. The winners are unveiled during the Dec. 12 Home Depot College Football Awards Show.

An important note, via the Birmingham News' Jon Solomon: Two of the past three Heisman Trophy winners were not on preseason watch lists.