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Final Heisman Update
by Larry Ness - 12/07/2006
It will come as no surprise Saturday night when Ohio State's Troy Smith name is called as the 2006 Heisman Trophy winner. He'll be the Buckeyes' seventh Heisman winner (tying Notre Dame and USC) and their first since Eddie George won in 1995. However, Archie Griffin won the award twice (in 1974-75), meaning Ohio State will own more Heismans (eight) than any school in college football history.
Smith should win the award easily. Ohio State opened as the nation's preseason No. 1 team and never relinquished the No. 1 spot. In fact, the Buckeyes posted the BCS' first perfect ranking (1.000) over the final two BCS polls. Smith established himself as one of this year's favorites for the award, by leading Ohio State on a season-ending seven-game winning streak in 2005. During that span, he completed 66.7 percent of his passes for 246.4 YPG with a 13-2 TD-to-INT ratio. He also averaged 50.7 YPG on the ground (4.9 YPG) and scored six more TDs.
Smith finished this season with a completion percentage of 67.0 percent, threw for 2,507 yards and fashioned a brilliant 30-5 TD-to-INT ratio. He made a conscious decision not to run as much this year, so his rushing numbers fell dramatically from 611 yards (4.5 YPC and 11 TDs) in 2005, to 233 yards (3.8 YPC and one TD) this year. However, there's little doubt that Smith was even better this year, than last.
He'll enter the BCS title game against Florida with a 10-1 career record when facing a ranked opponent, a mark buoyed by wins over two teams this season ranked No. 2. Back on September 9, Smith led the Buckeyes to a 24-7 win in Austin over then-No.2 Texas and of course on November 18, the Buckeyes beat then-No. 2 Michigan, 42-39 in Columbus. Speaking of Michigan, Smith is likely the best player in the history of the Michigan/Ohio State rivalry.
In leading Ohio State to three consecutive wins over hated-Michigan, Smith completed 69-of-101 passes (68.3 percent) for 857 yards (285.7 YPG). He threw seven TDPs with just one interception, while adding 194 rushing yards (5.9 YPC) and two rushing TDs. Case closed!
Only three players were invited to Saturday's Heisman ceremony, for the second straight year (Bush, Young and Leinart last year). Joining Smith are Notre Dame's Brady Quinn and Arkansas RB Darren McFadden. Quinn was one of the preseason favorites but after a no TDP performance in Notre Dame's first game of the season (a less-than-impressive 14-10 win over Ga Tech), Quinn was playing catch-up all year. After he threw three INTs plus lost a fumble (that was returned for a TD!) in Notre Dame's 26-point loss to Michigan in South Bend on September 16, the award was Smith's to lose.
Smith didn't lose it and while Quinn did lead the Irish on an eight-game winning streak after the Michigan loss, while throwing 26 TDPs and just two INTs, none of the wins came over any team of note. Quinn's "last gasp" came against USC on December 25 and while he did throw for 274 yards (3 TDPs and 0 INTs) and run for 74 more yards, he completed less than 50 percent of his passes (22-of-45) and more importantly, the Irish were "never in" the 44-24 loss.
McFadden is the third member of Saturday's "Heisman party" and while I guess he's deserving, I'd have rather seen Michigan's Mike Hart get the invite. I guess it's just been "one bad week for Michigan!" McFadden, a sophomore, followed a freshman season in which he gained 1,113 yards, by gaining an Arkansas single-season rushing record of 1,558 yards this year. He averaged 5.9 YPC and scored 14 TDs, while topping 100 yards in seven of his 13 games.
On the other hand, Hart gained 1,515 yards in one less game, topping 100 yards in nine of Michigan's 12 games this season. While McFadden is clearly the more 'explosive' runner, Hart may have been CFB's best "inside runner" this year, as well as its toughest. His nine 100-yard games gives him 19 for his career, with Michigan going 17-2 in those contests. What I particularly liked about Hart's season, was the way he played against Michigan's two biggest rivals.
Hart had "something to prove" this year against both Notre Dame and Ohio State and that's just what he did. In two previous games against Notre Dame, Hart had run for just 21 yards (only eight carries) and in two games vs Ohio State, his totals were 27 carries for 76 yards with one TD.
Michigan had to play both Notre Dame and Ohio State on the road this year but in Michigan's 47-21 win at South Bend, Hart ran 31 times for 124 yards (one TD). In the three-point loss in Columbus against Ohio State, Hart ran for 142 yards (23 carries) and scored three TDs.
Monday I'll return with some comments on the BCS and will then begin my bowl countdown.