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Heisman Trophy Top-10 (Monday, Oct 16)

   by Larry Ness - 10/16/2006

The first BCS standings are out and as expected, Ohio State is No.1, although the Buckeyes' computer average is just No. 3. USC claimed the No. 2 spot (has now been either No. 1 or No.2 in 25 straight BCS standings!), despite three straight less-than-impressive wins over unranked opponents. However, Michigan moved up to the No. 2 spot in the AP poll, giving the Big-10 the top-two spots in that poll for the first time since 1985, when Iowa was No. 1 and Michigan No. 2. Troy Smith led Ohio State to its 14th straight win (13-1 ATS) and with a season-ending injury to Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson, as well as a 25-yard rushing performance by the nation's leader rusher (Garrett Wolfe), Smith's challengers for the Heisman are "dropping like flies." My latest Heisman update follows.

1) TROY SMITH (Ohio State) Last Week: 1. The Buckeyes made short work of Michigan State in East Lansing on Saturday, riding a two-yard TD run by Antonio Pittman, a 60-yard punt return by Ted Ginn and a 12-yard TD pass by Smith to a 24-0 halftime lead. After a three-and-out by MSU to open the second half, Smith quickly drove OSU to another TD (a seven-yard TDP), as the Buckeyes cruised to their 14th straight win (13-1 ATS), the nation's longest active winning streak. Smith finished the game 15-of-22 for 234 yards with two TDPs and no INTs. A comparison of last year's season-ending seven-game winning streak to this year's season-opening streak (also 7-0) shows this for the Ohio State QB. In last year's season-ending streak, Smith completed 66.7 percent of his passing while averaging 246.4 YPG passing (13 TDPs and two INTs), while rushing for an average of 50.7 YPG (4.9 YPC) with six TDs. This year's numbers are similar, although he hasn't offered the same running threat. Smith is completing 68.2 percent of his passes for an average of 213.6 YPG with 17 TDPs and two INTs. However, he's only run for a grand total of 88 yards (2.8 YPC) without scoring. Ohio State will host Indiana this Saturday and is 14-0-1 SU (10-4-1 ATS) against the Hoosiers since 1989. Smith's season stats are: 116-of-170 68.2 percent 1,495 yards 17 TDPs 2 INTs / 32 carries 88 yards 2.8 YPC 0 TDs.

2) BRADY QUINN (Notre Dame) Last Week: 2. Quinn and the Irish were off this past Saturday (will meet UCLA this Saturday for the first time since 1964!) and as I mentioned in last week's poll, while have Quinn's in my second-spot, he's a DISTANT second to Smith at this point! As expected against a winless Stanford team on October 7, Quinn had a good game. He completed 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. 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: 3. The Wolverines are arguably the nation's second-best team and just may have a chance to win their way into the school's first-ever BCS title-game appearance when they visit Columbus on November 18. In the meantime, Michigan added to its resume with a 17-10 win this past Saturday night in Happy Valley, beating the Nittany Lions 17-10. RB Mike Hart was again very productive, rushing 26 times for 112 yards with one TD. He is one of the nation's toughest "inside runners' and he added a "signature" 20-yard run (carrying a number of Penn State defenders) in a late third quarter drive that resulted in his lone TD of the game (a one-yarder), that gave Michigan a 17-3 lead. Hart added one catch for eight yards but topped the 100-yard mark for the sixth time in seven games this year, giving him 16 career 100-yard games (Wolverines are 15-1). Michigan returns to the "Big House" this Saturday to face Iowa. Hart's season stats are: 183 carries 906 yards 5.0 YPC 6 TDs / 7 catches 74 yards 10.6 YPC 0 TDs.

4) STEVE SLATON (West Virginia) Last Week: 4. Slaton ran 20 times for 163 yards (including a 52-yard TD run) in West Va's 41-17 win over Syracuse. It marked the Mountaineers 13th straight win (tying a school record set in the 1952-53 seasons), as well as giving West Va its 31st win in its last 35 regular season games. For Slaton, it marked his 10th 100-yard game (West Va is 10-0) in 15 career contests and his TD gave him 27 career TDs (25 rushing) in only 15 games! Now here's the problem! He was just the second-best offensive player on his team last Saturday. QB Pat White broke his own Big East and school record for rushing yards by a QB with 235 yards on just 14 carries. After scoring on a 69-yard run in the first quarter, While ran for TD runs of 40, 32 and 12-yards on successive third-quarter possessions. West Va will visit U Conn this Friday but as everyone knows, the school's season-defining game awaits them on November 2, with a Thursday night visit to Louisville. Slaton's season stats are: 132 carries 931 yards 7.1 YPC 8 TDs / 7 catches 73 yards 10.4 YPC 0 TDs.

5) ADRIAN PETERSON (Oklahoma) Last Week: 5 and MARIO MANNINGHAM (Michigan) Last Week: 8. I'm combining these two guys at the No. 5 spot, as both will fall out of my top-10 next week due to injuries, not their play. Manningham suffered a knee injury in the Michigan State game (10/7) and no time-table has been released for his return. I believe Manningham was the nation's most dynamic WR this year, as his nine TD grabs averaged better than 35 yards per reception. As for Peterson, one has to wonder if the "football gods," like the Tin Man, have no heart? Peterson's father (just released from jail), was at Oklahoma's game this Saturday to see his son play for the first time since BEFORE high school. Peterson was his "usual self" in the game, running 26 times for 183 yards (two TDs) in the Sooners' 34-9 win over Iowa State. It marked Peterson's 23rd career game of 100 yards or more (five have been for 200-plus) but on his second TD run of 53 yards (with just over 6 1/2 minutes remaining in the game), Peterson injured his shoulder and most likely will miss the remainder of the season. And so it goes...

6) ERIK AINGE (Tennessee) Last Week: 9. Ainge and the Vols were off last week after their second-half 'explosion' at Georgia. Ainge is arguably CFB's most improved player this year, after completing just 45.5 percent of his 145 attempts last year, while throwing five TDs and getting intercepted seven times. When we last saw him in action, he was leading the Vols to 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. Ainge finished the 51-33 win 25-of-38 for 268 yards with two TDs (plus his first rushing TD of the year). He led Tennessee to 27 FDs, as well as TDs on six-of-six red zone trips. Tennessee hosts Alabama on Saturday. Ainge's season stats are: 118-of-171 69.0 percent 1.657 yards 14 TDs 5 INTs / 1 rush TD.

7) MARSHAWN LYNCH (California) Last Week: NR. Lynch was forced out of Cal's game two weeks ago against Oregon after re-spraining his very troublesome ankle. Lynch had gained 50 yards on just seven carries (plus had a 23-yard reception) in a game Cal eventually won, 45-24. Lynch may not have been full-speed this past Saturday but one wouldn't know it by his results, as (sore ankle and all) he ran for 152 yards with two TDs and caught three passes for 17 yards. Cal saw its streak of 40-plus points end at five games but did extend its winning streak to six straight with a 21-3 win over Washington State. Cal's special teams set up Lynch's first TD run on a blocked punt and his second TD run was set up by the defense on an interception. Cal led at the half 21-3 and neither team scored the rest of the way. The win was no small feat for the Bears, as they hadn't won in Pullman in 27 years (nine straight losses!). Lynch topped the 100-yard mark for the fifth time this year and for the 14th time in his career, which has seen him average a 'cool' 7.0 YPC! Cal will host Washington this Saturday. Lynch's season stats are: 111 carries 757 yards 6.8 YPC 6 TDs / 15 catches 163 yards 10.9 YPC 3 TDs.

8) CALVIN JOHNSON (Georgia Tech) Last Week: NR. Johnson may be the first receiver taken in the NFL draft when he decides to turn pro (after this year or next) but makes his first appearance in my top-10. The Heisman Trophy is not about "pro-potential" but rather about performance at the collegiate level, otherwise how could Doug Flutie (1984), Andre Ware (1989) or Ty Detmer (1990) ever have won (just to name a few). Johnson began the year with a seven-catch 111-yard effort vs Notre Dame (one TD) but was held to just two catches for 16 yards in the second half of that game, while his team was being held scoreless. He then combined to catch just six passes for a total of only 35 yards (two TDs) in back-to-back games against national powers, Samford and Troy State. That being said, Johnson has looked like the "real deal" in his last three games, catching 22 passes for 413 yards (18.8 YPC) with five TDs. Johnson has topped the 100-yard mark in each of his last three games and has 10 career 100-yard efforts. All this with a QB (Reggie Ball) who completed less than 50.0 percent of his passes in each of the last two seasons (27-to-30 TD-to-INT ratio) and one who is completing just 51.9 percent this year (10-5). Johnson and Ga Tech have a HUGE test this Saturday, as the team visits "Death Valley" to play Clemson. Johnson's season stats are: 35 catches 559 yards 16.0 YPC 8 TDs.

9) CHRIS LEAK (Florida) Last Week: 6. Florida became the fourth AP No.2 team to fall this season, when the Gators were beaten last Saturday night at Auburn, 27-17. Leak played very poorly, finishing the game just 9-of-17 for a season-low 108 yards with one TD and one INT. Trailing 18-17 (with around nine minutes left), Leak had the Gators back in a position to take the lead with a third-and-three play at the Auburn six-yard line. However, he was hit and fumbled (it may have been an incomplete pass), giving Auburn the ball. When the Gators got "bailed-out" by an Auburn missed FG, Leak threw an interception on Florida's very next play, sealing the team's fate. Florida's national title hopes all but ended Saturday night, as did any outside chance Leak had at the Heisman, or at least an invite to New York. The Gators get a much-needed week off this Saturday before heading to Jacksonville on October 28 for the "World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party." Leak's season stats are: 110-of-173 63.6 percent 1,508 yards 15 TDPs 6 INTs.

10) GARRETT WOLFE (Northern Illinois) Last Week: 7. T-H-U-D! Wolfe, amost everyone's "dark-horse" favorite, saw his slim Heisman chances end this past Saturday in beautiful downtown Kalamazoo! The Huskies not only saw their four-game winning streak come to an end with a 16-14 loss to the Broncos but Wolfe was held to the almost unbelievable total of just 25 yards rushing on 18 carries. Wolfe had entered the game as the nation's No. 1-ranked rusher (223.8 YPG) and also took a streak of 11 consecutive 100-yard games into the contest. He had avergaed 220.5 YPG in that stretch, while scoring a total of 26 TDs, with at least one in every game. Well ALL those streaks came to an end, as did Wolfe's Heisman campaign. He has 20 career 100-yard games and is still Division I-A's leading active rusher but he'll NEVER overcome this performance. Wolfe's season stas are: 174 carries 1,368 yards 7.9 YPC 13 TDs / 18 catches 193 yards 10.7 YPC 1 TD.

Dropped Out:

No. 10 Nate Longshore (California)

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