Each of the two representatives on the Maxwell Award watch list from West Virginia universities should have a pretty good idea why the other is among the 76 names announced Monday morning.
Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato and West Virginia running back Charles Sims have stood on opposite sidelines twice in their careers, but not when Sims was wearing a Mountaineers uniform. Sims spent his first four collegiate seasons at the University of Houston, which, until this year, was the Thundering Herd's Conference USA foe.
The Maxwell Award has been given to college football's top players since 1937. The Maxwell Football Club's selection committee chose the candidates, analyzing past performance and future potential.
The Mountaineers had three on the 2012 Maxwell watch list - quarterback Geno Smith and receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, with Smith being named a semifinalist. Cato is the first Marshall player on the list since Darius Marshall was added in October 2009. He led the nation in rushing and all-purpose yards through the first five games that season.
Cato led the Football Bowl Subdivision in completions per game (33.83), passing yards per game (350.08), was third in touchdown passes (37) and fifth in total offense (352.67 yards per game) and completion percentage (69.5). All those numbers led C-USA. With Cato under center, Marshall led the FBS with 365.08 passing yards per game.
In the Thundering Herd's single-season record books, the junior finished first in completions (406), second in attempts (584), third in yards (4,201) and tied for third in touchdowns.
While Sims has yet to carry the football for the Mountaineers, he was a highly regarded runner with the Cougars. He averaged 6.2 yards per carry in three seasons in Houston, with 29 touchdown runs and eight touchdown catches. In 2012, he finished third in Conference USA in rushing yards per game (94.6), rushing yards per game and was second in all-purpose yards per game (136) despite missing three full games and the second half of three others with injuries.
Sims was an all-C-USA second-team pick last season and a first-team pick in 2011, when he rushed for 821 yards on 110 carries, caught 51 passes for 575 yards and scored 13 total touchdowns. He announced in June that he would transfer to WVU for his senior season.
The two have squared off twice with Cato under center. In 2011, Cato spelled then-starter A.J. Graham in the fourth quarter of the Cougars' 63-28 win in Houston. He completed two of four passes for 52 yards and an 8-yard touchdown. Sims ran for a 6-yard score in the second quarter of that game, one of his 10 carries for 75 yards. He added two catches for 40 yards.
Cato got the upper hand in last season's game, a 44-41 Marshall win at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
He completed 32-of-50 passes for 377 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Sims was still hampered by injuries and carried the ball just three times for two yards.
This season's Maxwell semifinalists will be announced Oct. 29, with the three finalists announced Nov. 25th. The Maxwell Award winner will be announced as part of the Home Depot College Football Awards Show on Dec. 12th.