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Heisman Trophy Top-10

   by Larry Ness - 10/09/2006

Auburn became the first top-10 team this year to lose to an unranked opponent when the No. 2 Tigers lost to Arkansas 27-10 on Saturday. Florida became the AP's new No. 2 team (the fourth school this year to hold the No. 2 spot) and will ironically visit Jordon-Hare Stadium this Saturday to play the Tigers. One also can't find either Florida State or Miami-Florida in the latest AP top-25 poll for the first time since the final poll of the 1982 season, a span of 24 years. There was not nearly as big a shake-up in my latest Heisman top-10, as Ohio State's Troy Smith continues be the unquestioned front-runner. My latest Heisman update follows.

Heisman Trophy Top-10
Monday, October 9

1) TROY SMITH (Ohio State) Last week: 1. When one talks of passing efficiency, Ohio State QB Troy Smith comes to mind. Smith was a near-perfect 17-of-20 this past Saturday in leading the No. 1 Buckeyes to their 13th consecutive win, a ho-hum 35-7 victory over Bowling Green. OSU opened the game with a nine-play 64-yard TD drive (capped by a Smith TDP) and then after a blocked FG attempt of the Falcons, drove 72 yards on nine plays for a 14-0 lead. Leading just 21-7 in the fourth quarter, Smith led OSU on a 14-play 70-yard TD drive (ending with his 2nd TDP of the game) and after a three-and-out by BG, hit Ted Ginn with a 57-yard scoring strike on the first play after the punt. Smith finished with 197 yards passing (three TDPs and no INTs) and also had his biggest rushing game of the season (7 carries for 54 yards). The only this missing from Smith's arsenal this year has been his threat to run but after the first three games saw him with negative rushing yards, he's run 17 times for 92 yards (5.4 YPC) these last three games. Ohio State travels to East Lansing this coming Saturday to face a Spartan team that's lost three straight games. Smith's season stats are: 101-of-148 68.2 percent 1,261 yards 15 TDPs 2 INTs / 29 carries 78 yards 2.7 YPC 0 TDs.

2) BRADY QUINN (Notre Dame) Last Week: 3. Quinn takes over the second spot in my poll but I've still got him far behind Smith. As expected against a winless Stanford team, Quinn had a good game, completing 27-of-37 for 232 yards with three TDPs and no INTs. However, the Irish were far from impressive in their 31-10 win. The good news for Quinn is that RB Darius Walker followed the previous week's 146-yard effort with 153 YR vs Stanford and has not only posted back-to-back excellent rushing games but also caught six passes for 45 yards after catching nine passes for 73 yards vs Purdue. If Walker can continue to play like this, Quinn's passing lanes will open even more. With Samardzija and McKnight as his WRs, expect some huge passing days for Quinn in the weeks ahead (prior to the USC showdown on November 25). Quinn's three TDPs marked the fourth game (in six) that's he's thrown for at least that many this year and the 12th time in his career in which he's had at least three TDPs in a game. The Irish are off this coming week before hosting LA's "other team," UCLA, on October 21. Quinn's stats are: 148-of-233 63.5 percent 1,634 yards 16 TDPs 4 INTs / 1 rush TD.

3) MIKE HART (Michigan). Last Week: 5. The Wolverines may be only the second-best team in the Big-10 but the more I see of them makes me think that they may just be the 2nd-best team in the nation as well. Michigan easily took care of Michigan State on Saturday, beating the Spartans 31-13. The win moved Michigan to 6-0 for the first time since 1997, when the school won the national title. Hart posted another 100-yard game, despite sitting out the fourth quarter after rolling his ankle (he could have returned). Hart was kept out of the end zone on Saturday but ran for 122 yards on 22 carries, giving home five 100-yard games in six tries this year, as well as 15 for his career (Michigan is 14-1 in those games). The Wolverines get a huge test this week as they visit Happy Valley to play Penn State. Hart's season stats are: 157 carries 794 yards 5.1 YPC 5 TDs / 6 catches 66 yards 11.0 YPC 0 TDs.

4) STEVE SLATON (West Virginia). Last Week: 6. The Mountaineers rolled to their 12th straight win (second to only Ohio state) on Saturday, beating Mississippi State, 42-14. Slaton led the way with 185 yards and one TD on 26 carries, as West Va ran for 314 yards as a team. West Va led just 14-7 at the half but opened the third quarter with a 10-play 80-yard drive, capped by Slaton's 11-yard TD run. When MSU closed to 28-14 with just about 5 1/2-minutes left, West Va drove for another quick TD and then after a defensive stop, tacked on a 50-yard punt return TD for the final margin. The Mountaineers have now won 30 of their last 34 regular season games and Slaton's TD gives him 26 TDs (24 rushing) in his 14 career games! He topped the 100-yard mark for the fourth time in five games this year and the ninth time in his 14-game career (team is 9-0). West Va hosts Syracuse this Saturday. Slaton's season stats are: 112 carries 768 yards 6.9 YPC 7 TDs / 6 catches 70 yards 11.7 YPC 0 TDs.

5) ADRIAN PETERSON (Oklahoma) Last Week: 2. Peterson and Oklahoma came up pretty lame in the annual showdown with the Longhorns this past Saturday. Peterson had a 59-yard KO return (would have been longer if not for a penalty) after Texas took a 7-0 lead but he then lost a fumble on the final play of the first quarter. He had a nice 29-yard TD run in the second quarter that tied the score and Oklahoma added a FG to lead at the half. It was all downhill for the Sooners (and Peterson) after that, as the Sooners failed to score again, in a 28-10 loss. Early in the fourth quarter, Peterson was totally unaware that a swing pass to him was actually a fumbled lateral and looked on confusedly as Texas scored the game's final points on a three-yard fumble return. While Peterson returned four kickoffs for 94 yards, gained 109 yards in 25 attempts (with that one TD run) and caught one pass for another 10 yards, he didn't come close to having the kind of game he need to make a strong Heisman case. The 100-yard game was the 22nd of his career and I imagine he'll put up excellent numbers the rest of the way but like his team, AP missed his chance to "make a statement" against Texas. Oklahoma will host Iowa State this Saturday. Peterson's season stats are: 142 carries 752 yards 5.3 YPC 8 TDs / 5 catches 82 yards 16.4 YPC 1 TD.

6) CHRIS LEAK (Florida) Last Week: 4. I've been a huge fan of Leak this year and some may find it odd that I dropped him two spots after Florida moved to 6-0 for the first time since 1996, the year the Gators won the school's lone national title, by beating LSU 23-10. However, Leak was only the second-best QB on his team last Saturday! Freshman Tim Tebow was the game's star, throwing for two TDs (on just two attempts) plus rushing for one score on just 15 total 'touches' in the game. His one-yard TD on a QB sneak (on a fourth-and-goal play) tied the game at 7-all in the first quarter and his one-yard "jump-pass" TD throw, gave the Gators a 14-7 lead with just 22 seconds remaining in the 2nd quarter. Following a safety on the second-half's opening KO, Tebow's 35-yard TD pass gave the Gators a game-clinching 23-7 lead. Leak finished the game with 17 completions on 26 attempts for a season-low 155 yards. He also failed to throw a TDP for the first time this year, while tossing one INT. The Gators, now No. 2 in the AP poll, will travel to Auburn this Saturday to play the Tigers, who are fresh off a 27-10 upset at the hands of the Razorbacks. Bad timing? Leak's season stats are: 101-of-156 64.7 percent 1,395 yards 14 TDPs 5 INTs.

7) GARRETT WOLFE (Northern Illinois) Last Week: 7. Wolfe got a chance for a rare TV appearance Sunday night but unfortunately for him it aired opposite the Steelers/Chargers (NFL), the Padres/Cardinals (NLDS) and Desperate Housewives (Eva Longoria!). Now that's what I call bad timing! The Huskies won their fourth straight game last night, beating winless Miami-Ohio, 28-25. It was hardly an impressive win, as the Huskies got the go-ahead score with just 7:46 remaining in the game. Wolfe converted the two-point try to give Northern Illinois' a three -point lead on that score and also had the game's first TD on a 16-yard run in the first quarter. For the game, he finished with 162 yards on 29 carries with that one score. He's now topped 100-yard in all six games this year and going back to the 2005 season, has put together 11 straight 100-yard efforts (averaging 220.5 YPG). His season-low effort (now that's impressive!) was his 20th career 100-yard game. He's the nation's leading rusher at 223.8 YPG, 62.6 YPG ahead of Ray Rice of Rutgers, who's No. 2. Also of note, his per game rushing average is higher than all but six other schools' team totals! Northern Illinois will be at Western Michigan this Saturday. Wolfe's season stats are: 156 carries 1,343 yards 8.6 YPC 13 TDs / 13 catches 162 yards 12.5 YPC 1 TD.

8) MARIO MANNINGHAM (Michigan) Last Week: 8. Manningham continues to be the nation's most impressive WR. In Michigan's 31-13 win over Michigan State, Manningham caught just three passes (for 75 yards) but two went for TDs. His first TD covered 41 yards and his second, 27 yards. Amazingly, that 34-yard average per TD catch was actually lower than the 36.2 per TD catch average he brought into the game. Manningham may not have been a household name at the beginning of the year but he's sure made a name for himself these last four weeks, beginning with his breakout game in South Bend on September 16. Michigan plays at Penn State this Saturday. Manningham's season stats are: 24 catches 527 yards 22.0 YPC 9 TDs.

9) ERIK AINGE (Tennessee) Last week: NR. I included Ainge in my first two top-10 polls of the year and he's back! And well he should be! Ainge and his Vols fell behind Georgia this past Saturday night, 24-7 in Athens. That figured to be "all she wrote," as the Bulldogs entered the game with the nation's best defense, having allowed just 6.8 PPG. However, someone forgot to tell Ainge. He drove Tennessee 65 yards to a score with just 50 seconds left in the half and then exploded in the second half. The Vols scored 37 second-half points, including 27 in the fourth quarter, to become just the second team to ever score 50 points on Georgia at home, in school history. Ainge finished the game 25-of-38 for 268 yards with two TDs (plus his first rushing TD of the year), in the Vols' 51-33 win. He led Tennessee to 27 FDs, as wells as TDs on six-of-six red zone trips. All this from a player who backed up the underachieving Rick Clausen during last year's 5-6 season, while completing just 45.5 percent of his 145 attempts with five TDPs and seven INTs. The Vols get a well-deserved week off, before hosting Alabama on September 21. Ainge's season stats are: 118-of-171 69.0 percent 1.657 yards 14 TDs 5 INTs / 1 rush TD.

10) NATE LONGSHORE (California). Last Week: NR. I've been listing Longshore's teammate (RB Marshawn Lynch) in my last few polls but Lynch was forced out of Cal's game this past Saturday after re-spraining his very troublesome ankle. Lynch had gained 50 yards on just seven carries (plus had a 23-yard reception) but was replaced by Justin Forsett, who took over and ran for 163 yards in Cal's 45-24 win over Oregon. Meanwhile, Longshore continued his fine play at QB, completing 14-of-26 passes for 189 yards with three TDPs and one INT. Those numbers may seem kind of modest (and they are) but after a nightmare game back on September at Tennessee. (Cal lost 35-18, after trailing 35-0!), Longshore has led the Bears to five straight wins. The Bears have averaged 43.8 PPG during their winning streak, with no win coming by fewer than 21 points. As for Longshore, he's completed 66.4 percent of his passes, averaged 265 YPG passing and thrown 17 TDPs against just four INTs. Not a bad choice at No. 10. Cal visits Washington State this Saturday. Longshore's season stats are: 102-of-157 1,410 yards 17 TDPs 5 INTs / 1 rush TD.

Dropped Out:

No. 9 Marshawn Lynch (California)
No. 10 Ray Rice (Rutgers)

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