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Heisman Trophy Top-10 ( Monday, October 23)

   by Larry Ness - 10/23/2006

There are six CFB weekends remaining in the 2006 regular season, with almost all schools wrapping up their games over the next five weekends. While this year's season still has many significant things yet to be decided, the 2006 Heisman chase has clearly become a "two-horse" race between two QBs, Ohio State's Troy Smith and Notre Dame's Brady Quinn. And, Smith has a significant lead as he passes the three-quarters pole! My latest Heisman update follows.

1) TROY SMITH (Ohio State) Last Week: 1. Smith and Ohio State made short work of Indiana on Saturday, as the Buckeyes' QB tied a single-game career-high with four TDPs (all in the 1st half!) in a 44-3 win. In winning their 15th straight game (14-1 ATS), the Buckeyes ran for 270 yards and passed for 270 yards with Smith going 15-of-23 for 220 yards with four TDPs and no interceptions. Smith led OSU to TD drives of 87, 53, 78 and 49-yards in each of its final four possessions of the first half, ending each drive with a TD throw. While he hasn't run with the same authority he showed last year (611 YR / 4.5 YPC / 11 TDs), he did add 38 yards rushing on four carries (had a 29-yarder) and has now run for 140 yards (5.8 YPC) over his last five games, although he still has yet to run for a TD in 2006. It's Homecoming for OSU this coming Saturday and the Buckeyes will host Minnesota, a school they've gone 31-2 against since 1969. Smith's season stats are: 131-of-193 67.9 percent 1,715 yards 21 TDPs 2 INTs / 36 carries 126 yards 3.5 YPC 0 TDs.

2) BRADY QUINN (Notre Dame) Last Week: 2. Quinn was clearly the Heisman front-runner at the beginning of the year and is just as clearly the only legitimate threat at this point of the season to a Troy Smith coronation as this year's winner. After Quinn was stopped on a 4th-and-one QB sneak at the UCLA 35 late in Saturday's game with the Bruins clinging to a 17-13 lead, Quinn's Heisman hopes and more importantly, Notre Dame's aspirations for a BCS bowl bid, seemed all but over. However, the Notre Dame D held UCLA to a three-and-out and Quinn promptly moved the Fighting Irish to the game-winning score. Quinn completed consecutive passes of 21 yards and 14 yards, before hitting Jeff Samardzija with a game-winning 45-yard TD pass with 29 seconds remaining. It marked just the third time in ND history the Irish had won by scoring a TD in the final 30 seconds of a game. For Quinn, he finished 27-of-45 for 304 yards with two TDPs and no INTs. It was his third 300-yard game this year and the 10th of his career (half of those have been 400-yard games!). He also became just the 32nd Division I-A player with more than 10,000 career passing yards, as well. Next up for ND is Navy, a team the Irish have beaten an NCAA-record 42 straight times! Quinn's season stats are: 175-of-278 63.0 percent 1.938 yards 18 TDPs 4 INTs / 1 rush TD.

3) MIKE HART (Michigan) Last Week: 3. Hart is arguably CFB's toughest and best "inside runner" and the real test would be his ability to run against his own defense, as Michigan's rush D continues to lead the nation allowing just 33.6 YPG and 1.4 YPC. Since that will never happen, let's just give Hart his due as one of this year's Heisman finalists. Michigan avoided the recent "jinx" of being the AP's 2nd-ranked team, as the Wolverines got past Iowa this past Saturday, 20-6. Michigan led just 3-0 at the half, with Hart being held to 27 yards on eight attempts. However, his nine-yard TD run gave Michigan a 10-3 in the third quarter and his 10-yard TD run in the 4th gave the Wolverines a 20-6 lead, capping a nine-play TD drive. The win also allowed Michigan to move up to No. 2 in the latest BCS standings. Hart finished with 126 yards on 31 carries, giving him 100 yards or more in seven of eight games in 2006 and 17 100-yard games in his career (Michigan is 16-1). It's Homecoming for Michigan this Saturday and it will host Northwestern, a team that just lost to Michigan State last Saturday, after leading 38-3! Hart's season stats are: 214 carries 1,032 yards 4.8 YPC 8 TDs / 9 catches 91 yards 10.1 YPC 0 TDs.

4) STEVE SLATON (West Virginia) Last Week: 4. West Virginia's 37-11 win on Friday at U Conn was hardly pretty but interestingly enough it did allow the Mountaineers to move past Auburn to the No. 4 spot in the latest BCS standings. The win was West Va's 14th in a row (11-2 ATS), which set a new school record. As for Slaton, his 56-yard TD run in the fourth quarter against the Huskies gave him 128 yards on the game (19 carries) but for the second straight game, he played "second-fiddle" to QB Pat White as the team's offensive star. White followed his 247-yard four TD effort against Syracuse by running for 102 yards and one TD in 15 carries plus competed 9-of-14 passes for 156 yards with one TDP and one INT against U Conn. Still, Slaton is as good a choice as any at this spot, as he's now topped 100 yards rushing in 11 of his 16 career games at West Va (team is 11-0 in those games!), while scoring 28 TDs (26 rushing) over his last 14 games! West Va is off until its November 2 Thursday night showdown with Louisville. Slaton's season stats are: 151 carries 1,059 yards 7.0 YPC 9 TDs / 9 catches 87 yards 9.7 YPC 0 TDs.

5) MARSHAWN LYNCH (California) Last Week: 7. Since falling behind Tennessee 35-0 back on September 2 in a 35-18 loss, Cal had rebounded to win six consecutive games, while getting off to very quick starts (had averaged 32 PPG in the first halves of those six wins). However, this past Saturday, Cal found itself down to Washington 10-3 at the half (FG came with just 21 seconds remaining in the 2nd quarter). Cal came back though, led by junior RB Lynch, who continues to play on two sprained ankles. Lynch's 17-yard TD run (plus a two-point conversion by his back-up Forsett), gave the Bears a 24-17 lead with just 1:52 left in the game. However, Washington tied the score on the game's final play of regulation, on a 40-yard "Hail Mary." In the OT, Lynch's 22-yard run gave Cal its seventh straight win, 31-24. He finished with 150 yards on 21 carries and caught four passes for 53 yards. It marked the sixth time he's topped 100 yards in eight games this year, failing to do so only in the Tennessee game (when the team fell way behind) and against Oregon when his sprained ankles forced him out of the game in the 2nd quarter. He now owns 15 career 100-yard games, tying a school record and in his three-year career at Berkeley, sports a 7.0 YPC average. Cal is off this weekend before hosting UCLA on November 4. Lynch's season stats are: 132 carries 907 yards 6.9 YPC 8 TDs / 19 catches 216 yards 11.4 YPC 3 TDs.

6) ERIK AINGE (Tennessee) Last Week: 6. I would have dropped Ainge this week but I had no one to move ahead of him! The Vols entered their game with Alabama on Saturday averaging 421.5 YPG and 35.2 PPG. Ainge has been arguably CFB's most improved player this year but in the first half against the Tide, he looked the Ainge of the 2004 and '05 seasons. He was intercepted three times in the first half (had been picked off just five times in the Vols' first six games) and his major contribution of the 1st half was his TD-saving tackle on his second INT of the game, which forced Alabama to settle for a FG (led just 6-3 at the half). While Ainge was far from perfect in this game, he did lead the Vols on a nine-play 70-yard TD drive, giving them a 16-13 lead with just 3:28 remaining, in what would turn out to be the game's final score. Ainge finished the game 28-of-46 for 302 yards with no TDPs and those three INTs. It marked his third 300-yard passing game this year, compared to none in 17 previous games in 2004 and '05. Tennessee plays at South Carolina this Saturday, where it will face old nemesis Steve Spurrier. Ainge's season stats are: 146-of-217 67.3 percent 1,959 yards 14 TDPs 8 INTs / 1 rush TD.

7) CHRIS LEAK (Florida) Last Week: 9. Florida was off last weekend after losing the Saturday before at Auburn, 27-17. Leak played very poorly, in the loss, 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. Leak gets a chance to make amends this Saturday in Jacksonville as the Gators take on Georgia in the "World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party." Leak is 2-1 vs Georgia in his career, completing 66.2 percent of his passes (for an average of 196.7 YPG with four TDPs and no INTs). He'll need a win to keep Florida's slim national title hopes alive and a HUGE game to revive any dark-horse chances he might have at an invite to New York. His season stats are: 110-of-173 63.6 percent 1,508 yards 15 TDPs 6 INTs.

8) RAY RICE (Rutgers) Last Week: NR. I had Rice in my top-10 a few weeks ago and with a huge shake-up at the bottom of this week's poll, he's back at No. 8. Rutgers remained one of seven Division I-A unbeatens this past Saturday with a 20-10 win at Pitt. In a defensive battle that saw Rutgers shut down Pitt QB Tyler Palko, who entered as the nation's No.1-rated QB, Rice was basically Rutgers' entire offense. When Pitt closed to within 13-10 in the early 4th quarter, it was Rice who responded with a 63-yard run that got Rutgers out of a hole. That burst led to his one-yard TD run that gave the Scarlet Knights a 20-10 lead, which became the game's final score. Rice, now the nation's second-ranked rusher at 160.6 YPG, finished with a career-high 225 yards on 39 carries (also a career-high). It was his third 200-yard game this year and the fourth of his career. Rice, just a sophomore, now owns 11 career 100-yard games (19 total games), with Rutgers going 9-2 when he tops the century mark. With the win, Rutgers placed 16th in the latest AP poll (is No. 14 in the BCS), the highest ranking since the school was 15th in the final poll of 1961. Rutgers will host U Conn on Saturday. Rice's season stats are: 201 carries 1,124 yards 5.6 YPC 12 TDs / 3 catches 26 yards 8.7 YPC 0 TDs.

9) JAMES DAVIS (Clemson) Last Week: NR. Followers of the ACC had all but given Ga Tech's Calvin Johnson the league's player-of-the-year- award but they may just want to re-think that after Clemson took care of Ga Tech last Saturday night, 31-7. While Johnson was being held without a catch for the first time in his collegiate career (doubt we'll hear anymore Johnson-4-Heisman slogans now!), Davis ran for a career-high 216 yards in 21 carries with two TDs. He's now topped 100 yards in three of his last four games and owns seven 100-yard games in his career (Clemson is a perfect 7-0 in those games). Clemson looks like the ACC's best team but the Tigers must travel to Blacksburg this Thursday to take on Va Tech. Davis' season stats are: 139 carries 961 yards 6.9 YPC 16 TDs / 4 catches 102 yards 25.5 YPC 0 TDs.

10) IAN JOHNSON (Boise State) Last Week: NR. Why not give the nation's top-scorer a spot in my top-10? Boise State is trying to match Utah in 2004, which became the first school from a non-BCS conference to earn a BCS bowl bid. The Broncos will need to finish among the top-12 in the final BCS standings to get an automatic bid and after Boise's 42-26 win at Idaho on Saturday, the 8-0 Broncos did no better than remain at No. 15. Don't blame Johnson, as he ran for 183 yards (27 carries) and scored four TDs (two in the game's final five-plus minutes). His 18 TDs scored are the most of any player this year and he's now topped 100 yards in five of his eight games this year (low-game was 88 yards). Boise State is off this weekend but will host Fresno State on Wednesday, November 1. Johnson's season stats are: 169 carries 1,181 yards 7.0 YPC 18 TDs / 3 catches 31 yards 10.3 YPC 0 TDs.

Dropped out:

No. 5 Adrian Peterson (Oklahoma) and Mario Manningham (Michigan)

No. 8 Calvin Johnson (Ga Tech)

No. 10 Garrett Wolfe (Northern Illinois)

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