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by Larry Ness - 11/08/2004
Monday, November 8
Sports Illustrated correctly stated last week that only three times since 1950 has a Heisman winner had a teammate who finished in the top five in the voting. Conventional wisdom has always said that teammates siphon votes from each other.That could easily be the case this year unless there are some unforeseen circumstances (as if that's never happened in the world of sports!). However, I've stayed pretty much with the same top-three all season and this past weekend results did little to change my point of view. My latest Heisman poll follows....
1) MATT LEINART (USC) Last Week: 1. In my view Leinart is really beginning to feel the heat from last year's winner, Jason White. In the gloaming of Corvallis, Oregon last Saturday, USC fell behind the Beavers 13-0 but Leinart and Bush got the Trojans back in it and the USC defense did what it's done all year, shut down opponents in the second half when needed. Leinart's first TD pass of the game closed to score to 13-7 but right before the half, Leinart made a rare mistake with an interception deep in Oregon State territory. He made up for it by throwing his second TD pass of the game on the team's first possession of the second half to give USC a lead it would not relinquish. Bush returned a punt 65 yards for a TD in the early fourth quarter and USC went up 28-13 a little while later. The final was 28-20. Leinart finished 17-of-31 for 205 yards with two TDs and one interception. The Trojans have been the nation's top-ranked team all year and have now won 18 straight games. Leinart has 50 TDs and just eight interceptions over those 18 games plus is 21-1 as a starter, having thrown for two TDs or more in 20 of the 22! USC hosts Arizona at the Coliseum where the Trojans have won 19 straight. Leinart's been at the top of my list all year but it's not a foregone conclusion that he'll remain there. The Trojans beat Arizona last year in Tucson 45-0 with Leinart throwing for 296 yards and four TDs. Leinart's season stats are: 176-of-274 64.2 percent 2068 yards 20 TDs 5 INTs / 3 Rush TDs.
2) JASON WHITE (Oklahoma) Last Week: 2. As teams become more and more focused on Adrian Peterson, White's really coming on. Oklahoma trailed by two TDs three different times in the first half last week at College Station but behind two TD passes by White and a TD run by Peterson (set up by a long White completion), the Sooners trailed just 28-21 at the break. White then converted two A&M third-quarter turnovers into points with his third and fourth TD passes of the game. White matched his career-high of five TD passes in a game, when he connected on a 39-yarder to Mark Bradley with just under nine minutes left, in what proved to be the game winner in a 42-35 Oklahoma win. White has 16 TD passes and just one interception while averaging 311.5 YPG passing in Oklahoma's last four games. Those look like Heisman numbers to me. Oklahoma meets Nebraska this Saturday for the first time since 2001. Nebraska won that game 20-10 (White was 5-of-13 for 50 yards with one interception and tore up a knee) but the 'Huskers are hardly the team in 2004 they were in 2001. Oklahoma has won 18 straight in Norman, all by double-digits! White's season stats are: 161-of-258 62.4 percent 2130 yards 25 TD 4 INTs.
3) CEDRIC BENSON (Texas) Last Week: 3. What does Benson need to do to get some respect? I guess helping Texas beat Oklahoma back on 10/9 would have helped! However, Benson sure did his part in helping Texas beat Oklahoma last Saturday. The Longhorns trailed the Cowboys 35-7 late in the second quarter but came back to score 49 unanswered points for a 56-35 win! The 28-point comeback win was three points shy of an NCAA record. Speaking of NCAA records, Benson tied one by scoring at least one TD in his 35th game (he had a career-high FIVE, by the way!). He gained 141 yards in 23 carries (his 23rd career 100-yard game / Texas is 23-0 in those games!) and moved into 9th-place all-time in career rushing yards (SIX of the eight players ahead of him own a Heisman!). Benson's 159.8 YPG is fourth-best in the nation and his 18 TDs are tied for first. Texas visits Kansas on Saturday, a team that's dropped six of its last seven games. The last time these two schools met was when Benson was a freshman (2001). In that game (won by Texas 59-0), Benson had his first-ever 200-yard game, rushing for 213 yards and two TDs. Benson's season stats are: 242 carries 1438 yards 5.9 YPC 17 TDs / 1 TD catch.
4) ADRIAN PETERSON (Oklahoma) Last Week: 4. Clearly opposing teams are making a conscious decision to stop Peterson at all costs. It's not really working plus it's really opened things up for Jason White. Now if Stoops can only figure out how to fix his defense? Peterson barely made it to the 100-yard mark in Oklahoma's 42-35 win over A&M, as the freshman needed 29 carries to gain 101 yards. His 3.5 YPC average was his lowest single-game average of the season. However, the fact remains that he became the first player in NCAA history to top 100 yards in each of his first nine games and next up is Anthony Davis' (Wisc) freshman record of 10 100-yard games in a season. Peterson's a STUD but remember no freshman (nor sophomore for that matter) has ever won the Heisman and can anyone really make the case he's having a BETTER year than Benson or Arrington! I SURE can't! Peterson gets his first taste of a Nebraska-Oklahoma game this Saturday. His season stats are: 239 carries 1373 yards 5.7 YPC 9 TDs.
5) AARON RODGERS and JJ ARRINGTON (California) Last Week: 5. Arrington's 30 yard TD run got Cal off to a quick 7-0 lead but after four first-half Luke Clemens TD passes the Bears trailed Oregon 27-14 late in the second quarter. Rodgers' 21-yard TD pass right before the half was HUGE, cutting the margin to 27-21. His third TD pass of the game in the early fourth quarter, turned out to be the game-winner, as the Bears survived an Oregon dropped pass on a fourth-down play (a sure first down) at the Cal 22-yard line with about 1 1/2 minutes remaining in the game! Rodgers finished 21-of-32 for 275 yards with three TDs and no interceptions. Arrington topped 100 yards for the eighth consecutive game with 188 yards on 26 carries and one TD. Rodgers and Arrington are truly inseparable and will undoubtedly 'steal' support and votes from each other! Cal plays at Washington on Saturday, the nation's lone winless point spread team (0-9). The Bears beat the Huskies 54-7 last year in Berkeley with Rodgers passing for 348 yards and three TDs and Arrington (a backup for most of 2003) gaining a season-high 185 yards. Rodgers' season stats are: 147-of-209 70.3 percent 1816 yards 18 TDs 4 INTs / 2 Rush TDs. Arrington's season stats are: 184 carries 1294 yards 7.0 YPC 12 TDs.
6) DAVID GREENE (Georgia) Last Week: 6. David Greene thought he was enjoying a short work-day when he left the game against Kentucky in the early third quarter with Georgia leading 34-3. Greene had already tossed a TD pass moving him past Eric Zeier for number-one on the school's all-time list with 68 career TD passes. However, the Wildcats quickly closed the score to 34-17 and Greene re-entered the game to immediately lead the Bulldogs on a 71-yard TD drive. DJ Shockley took it from there as Georgia went on to win 62-17. Greene completed 14-of-19 passes for 259 yards with one TD and no interceptions. The biggest news for Greene was that the win marked the 40th win (40-9) of his career, making him the winningest QB in NCAA history. He also extended his streak of passes without an interception to 206, setting a new SEC-mark. The NCAA record of 271 passes without an interception is held by Trent Dilfer of Fresno State. Greene is the PERFECT example of a player whose career accomplishments keep in the running! Georgia plays ay Auburn this week, a team it beat 26-7 last year in a game Greene played poorly in (11-of-24 for 168 yards with one TD and no interceptions). For Georgia a win would be great but without a Tennessee loss to either Vandy or Kentucky, the Bulldogs will be shut out of the SEC title game. Greene's career stats are: 135-of-227 59.5 percent 2005 yards 16 TDs 1 INT / 1 Rush TD.
7) ALEX SMITH (Utah) Last Week: 7. Alex Smith most likely feels he won't and probably doesn't deserve to win the Heisman in 2004. However, I'm CONFIDENT he believes his Utes DESERVE a BCS Bowl bid. Utah was at it again last Saturday scoring 21 points in both the first and second quarters against Colorado State and opened a 49-10 lead over the Rams on the strength of three Smith TD passes. The Rams closed the gap to 56-31 with Smith on the sidelines and Urban Meyer put his starting QB back in the game. Naturally, Smith immediately took the Utes on a six-play 77-yard TD drive, capping it with his fourth TD pass of the game! Smith finished 21-of-26 for 291 yards with four TD passes and no interceptions. He also ran for 55 yards on nine carries. Utah has now won 13 straight games, upping its record to 9-0 this year. Utah is the ONLY one of the six major unbeatens that has NOT been pushed to the limit, as NONE of the team's nine wins has seen the game as close as 14 points with less than 10 minutes remaining. Smith is now 18-1 as a starter with 37 TDs and just five interceptions in those games, as well as accounting for 13 rushing TDs. Utah plays at Wyoming this Saturday, a team that is 5-0 at home in 2004. However, oddsmakers are not impressed, as the Utes opened as a 20-point favorite. Utah beat Wyoming 47-17 last year in Salt Lake City with Smith throwing for two TDs and running for three more! Smith's season stats are: 152-229 66.4 percent 2196 yards 24 TDs 2 INTs / 92 carries 439 yards 4.8 YPC 8 Rush TDs.
8) BRAYLON EDWARDS (Michigan) Last Week: 8. Michigan and Edwards were off last week and got some much-deserved rest after four consecutive comeback wins. The Wolverines are kind of like the Bulldogs, as they can win-out but if Wisconsin does the same, it's Michigan on the outside looking in! Edwards ranks fourth in receptions per game and his total of 11 TD catches places him third nationally. Michigan hosts Northwestern on Saturday, a team it beat last year in Evanston 41-10, with Edwards catching nine passes for 112 yards with one TD. His season stats are: 69 catches 995 yards 14.4 YPC 11 TDs.
9) JASON CAMPBELL and CARNELL WILLIAMS (Auburn) Last Week: 10. 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 two weeks ago (Auburn was off 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 and the BCS standings. The Tigers host Georgia this Saturday as they try to avenge last year's 26-7 loss in Athens and keep their national title hopes alive. Neither Campbell (178 yards passing with no TDs and one interception) nor Williams (12 carries for 45 yards) played well in last year's loss. 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.
10) REGGIE BUSH (USC) Last Week: NR. Reggie Bush is a FABULOUS player but has NO BUSINESS being mentioned as a Heisman candidate! I place him 10th here, to state my case! Bush is a running back that has gained 55 yards or less in FIVE of his team's nine games this season, totaling less than 30 yards rushing in THREE games (on the year he averages 62.1 YPG rushing and 5.5 YPC)! What would happen to Arrington's, Benson's or Peterson's stock if they had just ONE game like that? Bush is a dangerous receiver who had three TD catches in USC's opening-game win over Virginia Tech but on the year has just 30 catches for 317 yards and six TDs. Bush's punt return for a TD last week was a HUGE play (he has two kick returns this year for TDs giving him 12 TDs on the season) but how can people seriously make a case for this guy to be one of the nation's five-best players?
No. 9 Vernand Morency (0klahoma State). Too bad Morency can't play defense! His Cowboy teammates have allowed 38 and 56 points the last two weeks vs Oklahoma and Texas!