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by Larry Ness
Monday, November 1
Saturday's action saw Florida, Florida State and Miami all lose on the same day for the first time since October 14, 1978! It also saw a freshman running back make a strong case that he should be included in any list of Heisman-hopefuls while an early season Heisman front-runner was BENCHED during his team's third straight loss! My latest Heisman run-down follows....
1) MATT LEINART (USC) Last Week: 1. While there are plenty of players having outstanding seasons in 2004, I have had Leinart at the top my list since the opening of the season. As he and USC continue to roll through the schedule it seems fairly obvious to me that he's the prohibitive favorite at this stage! USC easily won at Washington State this past Saturday, 42-14. The Trojans led 42-0 mid-way through the third quarter when Carroll tried to give Leinart the day off but backup QB Cassel turned the ball over on consecutive possessions with WSU scoring twice. Leinart was reinserted to restore order and finished 23-of-28 for 235 yards with two TDs and no interceptions. He's now led the Trojans to 17 straight wins (48 TDs and just seven interceptions during the streak) and is 20-1 as a starter. As a starter he's thrown at least two TDs passes in 19 of his 21 starts and has been amazingly consistent this year despite an inexperienced receiving corps. USC visits Oregon State on Saturday a school it beat 55-28 last year in the regular season finale. Leinart had a career-high five TD passes in last year's games against the Beavers! His season stats are: 159-of-243 65.4 percent 1863 yards 18 TDs 4 INTs / 3 Rush TDs.
2) JASON WHITE (Oklahoma) Last Week: 2. Last year's winner continues his fine play but it's unlikely he'll win again this year as his freshman teammate is 'stealing' most of the headlines. White was brilliant in the first half last Saturday vs Oklahoma State. After two special team miscues by the Sooners allowed Oklahoma State to take a 14-7 second-quarter lead, White led the Sooners on TD drives of 87 yards (72-yard TD pass) and 59 yards (23-yard TD pass), giving Oklahoma a 21-14 lead at the half. White completed just one pass in the second half (after throwing three first-half TD passes) but by then it was Adrian Peterson's game (see No. 4). White finished 14-of-26 for 221 yards with three TDs and no interceptions, as the Sooners escaped Stillwater with a 38-35 win. The Sooners visit College Station this Saturday to take on Texas A&M, a school they beat 77-0 last year in Norman (White was 16-of-18 with five TD passes!). However, two years ago in College Station, the Aggies upset the Sooners 30-26!. White's season stats are: 142-of-223 63.7 percent 1838 yards 20 TDs 4 INTs.
3) CEDRIC BENSON (Texas) Last Week: 3. Benson topped 100 yards for the 22nd time in his career (Texas is 22-0 in those games!) last Saturday in the Longhorns' 31-7 win at Boulder vs Colorado. He carried 32 times for 141 yards and two TDs as he became just the 10th player in NCAA history with at least 5,000 career rushing yards. Benson's Heisman chances face two major obstacles. First, Texas lost AGAIN to Oklahoma (12-0 with Benson failing to get 100 yards for the only time this year!) and secondly, while he may be the best senior RB in the nation, Oklahoma freshman Adrian Peterson looks like the BEST running back, period! Texas hosts Oklahoma State this week, a school they beat 55-16 in Stillwater last year. Benson had 180 yards in that game and has topped 100 yards in all three of his career games vs the Cowboys. Benson's season stats are: 219 carries 1297 yards 5.9 YPC 12 TDs / 1 TD catch.
4) ADRIAN PETERSON (Oklahoma) Last Week: 5. There is little doubt that Peterson is fast becoming the "hot and sexy" Heisman pick of many. One can't ignore this guy's talent but I'm a little more "old-school" and give the above three players extra-credit for their career accomplishments. For the second straight game, Peterson took over in the second half for Oklahoma, this time breaking an 80-yard TD run and then a 56-yard run on consecutive carries. He totaled nearly 200 yards in the second half alone in the Sooners' 38-35 win and finished with 249 yards on 33 carries with one TD. His eighth straight 100-yard game to start his career ties the NCAA record and it also marked his second 200-yard effort of the year. Most impressively, both of his 200-yard games this year have come against ranked opponents. His first one was when he ran for 225 yards vs Texas. He'll get another shot at a ranked opponent this Saturday as the Sooners visit College Station. His season stats are: 210 carries 1272 yards 6.1 YPC 8 TDs.
5) AARON RODGERS and JJ ARRINGTON (California) Last Week: 4. A can't separate the Bears' dynamic duo who have led the school to its highest ranking (No. 4 in the AP) since 1952, after beating Arizona State 27-0. ASU fumbled the opening kickoff and Rodgers tossed a TD pass on Cal's first play, as the Bears never looked back. While Rodgers had his poorest statistical day of the season (15-of-29 165 yards one TD / no INTs), Arrington had a great day rushing for 188 yards and one TD in 30 carries. Arrington topped the 1,000-yard mark with his effort and has now topped 100 yards in all seven of Cal's games, getting to the 1,000-yard mark faster than any player in California history! Cal hosts Oregon this Saturday. The Ducks beat the Bears last year in Eugene 21-17 and have 'owned' California recently with eight wins in nine games since 1992. However, this year's Cal team looks to be something 'special'! Rodgers season stats are: 126-of-177 71.2 percent 1541 yards 15 TDs 4 INTs / 2 Rush TDs. Arrington's season stats are: 158 carries 1106 yards 7.0 YPC 11 TDs.
6) DAVID GREENE (Georgia) Last Week: 10. Greene is the PERFECT example of a player I rate higher due to his career accomplishments. Greene is having an excellent season for the once-beaten and eighth-ranked Bulldogs but it's his excellence over his four-year body of work that gets him the sixth spot in my rankings. Greene picked up his 39th career win last Saturday(tying him for first all-time with Peyton Manning), as Georgia beat Florida 31-24. The win snapped a six-year Florida winning streak over Georgia and gave Greene his first win in four tries vs the Gators. Georgia jumped out to an early 21-7 lead over the Gators on the strength of two Greene TD passes. However, with a chance to go up 28-7 late in the first half Greene fumbled at the Florida goal line. Greene later made amends when after Florida had closed to 24-21, he was flushed out of the pocket on Georgia's very next possession and made a beautiful throw on a 51-yard completion. Five plays later, he threw his third TD pass of the game. Greene finished 15-of-23 for 255 yards with three TDs and no interceptions. The Bulldogs visit Kentucky this Saturday a school they beat 30-10 in Athens last year with Greene throwing for 284 yards but with no TDs. In two weeks, Georgia goes to Auburn!. Greene's season stats are: 121-of-208 58.2 percent 1746 yards 15 TDs 1 INT / 1 Rush TD.
7) ALEX SMITH (Utah) Last Week: 7. The Utes are the year's 'feel-good' team as they try and crash the BCS party. Utah moved up to No. 7 in the recent AP poll and we'll see where the Utes will be in the next BCS standings (they were No. 6 last week). Utah wasted little time in scoring this past Saturday, as the Utes scored on their first four possessions and seven of their first eight in the team's 51-28 win at San Diego State. Smith threw for a career-high five TD passes and finished 22-of-33 for 298 yards without an interception. Just for good measure, he ran 15 times for 45 yards. Utah has now won 12 straight games (third-longest current streak) and Smith is 17-1 since becoming the team's starting QB. During that stretch, he's passed for 33 TDs with just five interceptions while rushing for 13 scores! Utah hosts Colorado State this Saturday, a school the Utes beat 28-21 in Fort Collins last year. Smith was 17-of-21 in that game but it should be noted that these schools have not played a game decided by more than eight points since 1995! His season stats are: 131-of-203 64.5 percent 1905 yards 20 TDs 2 INTs / 83 carries 384 yards 4.6 YPC 8 TDs.
8) BRAYLON EDWARDS (Michigan) Last Week: NR. Last year was a banner year for receivers as Larry Fitzgerald finished second in the Heisman voting. I had Edwards in my top-10 earlier this year but after two lackluster efforts vs Illinois and Purdue, he fell out. However, Edwards left LITTLE DOUBT about his place among the nation's best players with his performance this past week. Michigan trailed Michigan State by 17 points in the fourth quarter and with his team down by 14 points and just over six minutes to play, Edwards made two leaping TD grabs to force the game into OT. Edwards then scored the game-winner in the third OT on a 24-yard slant over the middle. While freshman QB Henne and freshman RB Hart were also stars in the Wolverines' 45-37 win over MSU, it's the senior Edwards who gets the call here. Michigan gets the week off and after four consecutive comeback wins the last four weeks, the team deserves it! Edwards' season stats are: 69 catches 995 yards 14.4 YPC 11 TDs.
9) VERNAND MORENCY (Oklahoma State) Last Week: 6. Morency was held under 100 yards for the first time this year (17 carries 93 yards two TDs) in OSU's 38-35 loss to Oklahoma. It also ended his streak of nine consecutive 100-yard efforts in regular season games. Morency has been outstanding all year for the Cowboys despite the team's lack of a passing game. His effort vs Oklahoma while not spectacular, was very good. The second of his two short TD runs brought the Cowboys within three points in the fourth quarter. On the Cowboys' final drive (in which they missed a 49-yard field goal), Morency made a great comeback catch for 17 yards, just his second catch of the entire year! Morency and the Cowboys get little rest this week as they visit Austin to play the Longhorns, a team that beat them 55-16 in Stillwater last year and owns a six-game winning streak over them. Morency's season stats are: 207 carries 1246 yards 6.0 YPC 11 TDs.
10) JASON CAMPBELL and CARNELL WILLIAMS (Auburn) Last Week: NR. Williams was supposed to be the Tigers' Heisman candidate this season but he's spent most of the year splitting time with Ronnie Brown and has just three 100-yard games. However, Williams had his best all-around game in Auburn's 35-14 win at Ole Miss last Saturday. He ran for 96 yards with a TD, caught two passes for 70 yards and returned punts for 71 yards. Campbell, the much-maligned senior QB, completed 11-of-22 passes for 234 yards with one TD pass and one interception plus added two short TD runs. Auburn is 9-0 this year and ranked No. 3 in the latest AP poll. The Tigers get a week of rest before hosting Georgia on November 13. Campbell's season stats are: 114-of-173 65.9 percent 1724 yards 14 TDs 3 INTs / 3 Rush TDs. Williams' season stats are: 167 carries 862 yards 5.2 YPC 9 TDs / 1 TD catch.
No. 8 Kyle Orton (Purdue). Has any player in recent memory fallen SO FAR, SO QUICKLY?
No. 9. Andrew Walter (Arizona St). See Walter's efforts at USC and Cal in which his team lost by the combined score of 72-7!