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Heisman Trophy Top 10 -- Oct. 18, 2004

   by Larry Ness - 10/18/2004

Heisman Top-10
Monday, October 18

Did Kyle Orton lose the Heisman last Saturday when his late fumble was returned 40 yards for the winning score? Is an LA Times headline on Sunday that proclaimed "Leinart Puts His Name Back in the Trophy Dash", right? My latest take on the 2004 Heisman Trophy race follows....

1) MATT LEINART (USC) Last Week: 1. My response to the LA Times headline is when was Leinart out of the dash (race)? USC faced its third consecutive undefeated opponent last Saturday and after two struggles vs Stanford and California, put it all together in routing Arizona State, 45-7. USC had just 205 total yards vs Cal the week before but had 307 by the half (led 42-7) as Leinart was 11-of-16 for 193 yards with four TD passes and a TD run before halftime! He finished 13-of-24 for 224 yards with four TDs and no interceptions plus that TD run. He's now led USC to 15 consecutive wins (44 TDs and just six interceptions during the streak!) and is 18-1 as a starter (at least one TD pass in every game and two or more in 17 of the games!). USC hosts Washington this Saturday, a team that is 1-5 SU (0-6 ATS) on the year and one the Trojans beat last year 43-23 in Seattle with Leinart throwing for 351 yards and four ! TDs. His season stats are: 112-of-172 65.1 percent 14 TDs 3 INTs / 3 Rush TDs.

2) JASON WHITE (Oklahoma) Last Week: 3. After going three-and-out on his first two possessions of the game, White had two first-half TD passes at Kansas State and the Sooners led 17-14. He opened the third quarter with a poor pass in the flat that was intercepted and returned for a TD, very reminiscent of last year's Big-12 title game. It was not to be deja vu all over again though, as White led Oklahoma on two long TD drives in the second half, capping each with TD tosses to Mark Clayton. The Sooners won 31-21 and White finished 20-of-31 for 256 yards with four TDs and one interception. He's somewhat under the radar this year but it's my opinion that his performance this season is being greatly underrated! Oklahoma hosts Kansas this Saturday (OU has won 17 straight at home all by double-digits) a team the Sooners did not play last year. Talk about being underrated, the Jayhawks are 5-1 ATS in 2004 with thei! r lone pointspread loss coming at Northwestern when they lost 20-17 getting 2 1/2 points! White's season stats are: 101-of-153 66.0 percent 1228 yards 13 TDs 4 INTs.

3) KYLE ORTON (Purdue) Last Week: 2. I dropped Orton from the number two spot as for the second straight week he's had problems protecting the ball. He's had a remarkable season-to-date but against Penn State two weeks ago his two second-half interceptions (his first two of the year!) nearly cost the Boilermakers and this week his interception and two fumbles DID cost them! Orton was facing the nation's best defense in Wisconsin and midway through the fourth quarter it looked as if he and Purdue were going to escape with a hard-fought win. Orton had just scrambled for a six-yard TD run (first rushing TD allowed this year by Wisconsin!) giving Purdue a 17-7 lead. The Boilermakers almost sealed the win a few minutes later when DB Kyle Smith had an interception right in his arms. He dropped it though and five plays later Wisconsin got within 17-14. Then came Orton's fumble as he was lunging for a first down on a bootleg. I! t was returned 40 yards for the go-ahead score. Orton did lead his team downfield for a game-tying field goal (to be fair he had a catchable pass dropped inside the five!) but Ben Jones, a perfect 11-for-11 in his career from 40-to-49 yards, missed from 42 yards! Michigan invades West Lafayette this Saturday and Purdue is just 2-12 vs the Wolverines since 1986. Orton completed less than 50 percent of his passes and threw two interceptions in last year's 31-3 loss at Ann Arbor. He'll have to be much better this time! His season stats are: 144-of-217 66.4 percent 1877 yards 19 TDs 3 INTs / 3 Rush TDs.

4) CEDRIC BENSON (Texas) Last Week: 4. Benson was back on track last week rushing for 150 yards and two TDs (28 carries) in the Longhorns' 28-20 win over Missouri. After Missouri tied the game at 14-all, Benson capped a long second quarter drive with a 13-yard TD run and then did the same in the fourth quarter when his 14-yard TD run gave Texas a 28-14 lead. He has had some problems holding on to the ball lately (three fumbles although he recovered two of them himself) but he's just 12 yards shy of his fourth consecutive 1000-yard season (a rare feat!). Benson's running was a key to the win as Texas QBs Young and Mock combined to complete just 7-of-19 passes for 58 yards with two interceptions. He now owns 20 career 100-yard games with Texas going 20-0 in those contests and is currently the nation's leader rusher averaging 164.7 YPG. Texas visits Texas Tech this Saturday and the Longhorns better watch out. Tech has scored! 70 points in each of its two home games this year and although Texas won in Austin 43-40 last year (Benson had 142 yards and two TDs), the Longhorns lost in Lubbock in 2002, 42-38. Benson's season stats are: 149 carries 988 yards 6.6 YPC 9 TDs / 1 TD catch.

5) AARON RODGERS and JJ ARRINGTON (California) Last Week: 7. I haven't been able to separate these two players and last week's performances in Cal's 45-28 win over UCLA didn't make it any easier. Playing their first home game since 9/11, Rodgers passed for a career-high four TD passes (19-of-29 for 260 yards and no interceptions) while Arrington ran for a career-high 205 yards with two TDs on 29 carries! Cal ran up 550 yards of total offense as Rodgers followed his remarkable performance at USC last week (completed first 23 passes!) with another great game and Arrington became the first Cal player-ever to post five straight 100-yard games! Cal visits Arizona this Saturday and they haven't won in Tucson since 1991. The Wildcats however have dropped five straight since a season-opening win over No. Arizona. Cal beat Arizona last year in Berkeley, 42-14. Rodgers' season stats are: 91-of-121 75.2 percent 1141 yards 11 TDs 2 INTs /! 2 Rush TDs. Arrington's season stats are: 104 carries 783 yards 7.5 YPC 9 TDs.

6) ADRIAN PETERSON (Oklahoma) Last Week: 6. The true freshman continues to impress as he came up with a huge second half in last week's win at Manhattan. After being held to just 26 yards in the first half, Peterson gained 104 yards in the second half, including 46 of the team's 68 yards on the TD drive that put them up 31-21. He finished with 130 yards on 36 carries and while his 3.6 YPC were way below his 6.5 YPC average coming in, it was still an impressive effort. He continued to extend his school record by rushing for more than 100 yards in each of his first six games at Oklahoma!. His season stats are: 155 carries 901 yards 5.8 YPC 6 TDs.

7) VERNAND MORENCY (Oklahoma State) Last Week: Morency is barely hanging on after OSU was embarrassed at home last week by A&M, 36-20. The Cowboys fell behind 27-6 at the half and Morency contributed to the collapse with his first two lost fumbles of the year on consecutive first-half possessions! The nation's leading rusher entering the game finished with a season-low 111 yards on 28 carries with one TD. He did extend his streak of 100-yard games in the regular season to eight but all-in-all it was a bad Saturday for Morency and the Cowboys.They visit Missouri this Saturday and another loss will drop the Cowboys out of the top-25 (currently No. 22) and most-likely Morency from my top-10. His season stats are: 159 carries 980 yards 6.2 YPC 9 TDs.

8) JASON CAMPBELL (Auburn) Last Week: NR. Carnell Williams had the sexy nickname (Cadillac) and was expected to be the Tigers' Heisman candidate this year but isn't it ironic that the much-maligned Jason Campbell has been the team's best offensive player in 2004! Campbell has been outstanding all year but he was near-perfect in last week's 38-20 rout of Arkansas. He led the Tigers to scores on their first five possessions, as the team opened a 30-0 lead. He finished the first half 11-of-12 with two TD passes and the game 17-of-19 (89.5 percent is a school single-game record!) for 297 yards (a career-high!) with three TD passes and no interceptions. Auburn is ranked No. 3 this week in the AP, its highest ranking since 1994. The Tigers (on a nine-game winning streak) host Kentucky this Saturday, a team they did not play last year but one they haven't lost to since 1966! Campbell's season stats are: 92-of-136 67.6 percent 1363 yards 1! 3 TDs 2 INTs.

9) ALEX SMITH (Utah) Last Week: NR. Smith makes his first appearance in my poll and I guess the question could be, why did it take so long? The Utes have won 10 straight games after trouncing North Carolina last Saturday (46-16) and are ranked No. 9 in the latest AP poll (key will be where they show up in the first BCS rankings!). Smith showed all his skills in a masterful 10-play 99-yard TD drive to end the first half and then opened the third quarter with an 80-play TD drive to put the Utes up 37-10. He finished the game 29-of-37 for 341 yards with four TDs and one interception plus 55 yards on 10 carries and another TD. He is now 15-1 as the Utah starter throwing 25 TD passes and just five interceptions as well as rushing for 12 TDs in that span. Utah will be solid favorites in all of its remaining games and could be the first non-BCS school to get a BCS Bowl-invite! Smith's season stats are: 98-of-151 64.9 percent 1460 yards 12 TDs ! 2 INTs / 59 carries 262 yards 4.4 YPC 7 TDs.

10) ANDREW WALTER (Arizona State) Last Week: 5. Walter fell flat on his face against USC last Saturday as the Sun Devils were out of the game by the early second quarter (eventually lost 45-7). He finished 19-of-34 for 181 yards with no TDs, two interceptions and was sacked six times! He'll need a big game this week vs UCLA to stay in this poll again next week over a David Greene (Ga.), whose 37 career wins are a new school record and are just two shy of Peyton Manning's all-time NCAA record! Walter was injured in the first quarter of last year's 20-13 loss at UCLA. His season stats are: 117-of-213 54.9 percent 1430 yards 15 TDs 3 INTs.

DROPPED OUT:

No. 9 Laurence Maroney (Minnesota). School-record streak of seven straight 100-yard games ended with a 13-54 effort in Minny's 51-17 loss at MSU!

No. 10 Braylon Edwards (Michigan). Tough for a wide receiver to stay in the hunt with three catches for 18 yards!

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