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Heisman Trophy Top 10

   by Larry Ness - 09/09/2008

1) TIM TEBOW (Florida) Last Week:1. Tebow is a tremendously likeable guy and he's got plenty of "good will" stored up, much like lone two-time Heisman winner Archie Griffin. Tebow led Florida to a 26-3 win this past Saturday over Miami, ending a six-game losing streak to the hated-Hurricanes (first win since 1985 in this on-and-off series). Tebow's numbers were hardly anything special, as he completed 21-of-35 passes for 256 yards with two TDs plus ran 13 times for 55 yards (no TDs). Florida's defense, not its offense, was the star of this game, holding the Hurricanes to 140 total yards. The Gators needed 17 fourth-quarter points to gain their final margin. Tebow helped the Gators win the national title in his freshman year (2006), offering a "change of pace" to Florida's starting QB that year, Chris Leak. Tebow attempted just 33 passes in '06, throwing five TDs with only one INT. However, in a sign of things to come, ran 89 times for 469 yards (5.3 YPC) while scoring eight TDs. He led a young Florida team a 9-4 mark in 2007, becoming the first player in NCAA history to pass (32) and run (23) for 20 TDs or more in the same season. He completed 66.9 percent of his 350 attempts, while throwing just six INTs (finished second in passing efficiency with a QB rating of 172.47). His 210 rushing attempts were more than double the number of any other player on the team, as he ran for 895 yards (4.3 YPC). He set an NCAA record for rushing TDs by a QB (23), an SEC record for TDs accounted for (55) and a school-record for total offense (4,181 yards). He accomplished all this despite suffering a bruised shoulder in the middle of the season and playing with a fractured right hand in Florida's regular season finale vs Florida St. Tebow is not expected to run the ball as much this year and it's unlikely he'll approach his stats from last year. I'll leave him at No. 1 again this week and wait to see if he has a "breakout" game at Tennessee on September 20 (Gators are idle this week). His season stats are: 30-of-49 for 393 yards (61.2 percent) with three TDs and 0 INTs / 22 carries for 92 yards (4.2 YPC) 0 TDs.

2) CHASE DANIEL (Missouri) Last Week: 3. Daniel is off to a fast start in '08, following a 323-yard passing game with three TDs in a 52-42 win over then-No. 2 Illinois by completing 16-of-17 passes (at 94.1, it was the highest single-game completion percentage in school history) for 245 yards and three more TDs this past Saturday, as Missouri routed Southeast Missouri State, 52-3. Missouri scored on its first five possessions, Sean Weatherspoon returned an interception for a score and the Tigers, who led 42-0 at the half, ended up three points shy of the school record for first-half scoring (against Kansas in 1969). Missouri never punted while Daniel was in the game. Daniel led the Tigers to an 8-5 record in 2006, just the second time Missouri had won eight games in the previous 25 seasons. However, Daniel was just "warming up." He was terrific last year, topping 300 yards passing eight times in 14 games (owns 12, 300-yard games in his career), with a career-high 421 in a 55-10 with at Colorado on November 3 in which he also matched a career single-game high of five TD passes. He finished the season by completing 68.2 percent of his passes for 4,306 yards while throwing 33 TDs and only 11 INTs. However, Daniel and the Tigers lost twice to Oklahoma in '07, 41-31 in Norman on October 13 and 38-17 in the Big 12 championship game on December 1. In those two losses, Daniel threw just one TD pass and was intercepted three times. However, the team's 12-2 finish after a 38-7 win over Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl, allowed the Tigers to finish No. 4 in the final AP poll, the school's highest-ever final ranking. Missouri is ranked No. 6 in the AP's preseason poll (also the highest ranking ever for the school) and the good news is, the Sooners are not on the Tigers' regular season schedule this year. The Tigers will face Nevada this Saturday in Columbia, a team which held Texas Tech's Graham Harrell "under wraps" last Saturday in Reno. However, as the saying goes, "that was then and this is now!" His season stats are: 42-of-62 for 568 yards (67.7 percent) with six TDs and one INT / 9 carries for 46 yards (5.1 YPC) 0 TDs.

3) KNOWSHON MORENO (Georgia) Last Week: 5. The Bulldogs opened the season No. 1 in the AP preseason poll for the first time in school history. However, the Bulldogs' season-opening 45-21 win over Georgia Southern was not good enough for them to hold on to the top spot last week, as USC moved up from No. 3 to No. 1 by winning 52-7 at Virginia. The Bulldogs took no prisoners this past Saturday in Athens, beating Central Michigan and its outstanding QB Dan LeFevour, 56-17. Georgia has now won nine straight games dating back to last season, the second longest streak in the nation (BYU has won 12 straight) and since Mark Richt became head coach, Georgia is 22-0 "between the hedges" against teams outside the SEC. The Bulldogs totaled 552 yards with sophomore RB Knowshon Moreno rushing for 168 yards on 18 carries, as he tied his career high with three TDs for the second straight week. In Georgia's opening week win, Moreno ran just eight times for a mere 59 yards but also scored three times. After losing 35-14 in Knoxville to the Vols on October 6 of last year, the Bulldogs record was a disappointing 4-2. True freshman RB Knowshon Moreno was held to just 30 yards in 13 carries (2.3 per) in that game and had hardly resembled Jamaica's Usain Bolt, "coming out of the blocks!" However, the Bulldogs would not lose again, finishing the year with seven straight wins. Moreno turned into a star in the first five games of that season-ending run by Georgia, gaining 766 yards or 153.2 YPG. He finished his freshman season with 1,334 yards rushing (5.4 YPC) and 14 TDs. Georgia finished the '07 season at 11-2, with a final ranking of No. 3 in the coaches' poll and No. 2 in the AP poll. Moreno's 168-yard effort was his seventh career 100-yard game, as he showed the kind of talent which has many believing he can become Georgia's third Heisman winner (Frank Sinkwich won in 1942 and Herschel in 1982). The Bulldogs visit South Carolina for their SEC opener this Saturday. In a 16-12 home loss to the Gamecocks last year, Moreno (in just his second career game) had 104 yards rushing on 14 carries. His season stats are: 26 carries for 227 yards (8.7 YPC) six TDs / five catches for 83 yards (16.6 YPC) 0 TDs.

4) SAM BRADFORD (Oklahoma) Last Week: 7. Bradford was spectacular as a red-shirt freshman last year, throwing for 3,121 yards (69.5 percent) with 36 TDs and eight INTs. His 36 TD passes were a new NCAA freshman single-season record and his QB rating of 176.52 led the nation last year. Bradford was brutal (8-of-19 with 112 yards / 1 TD and 2 INTs) in a 27-24 loss at Colorado (OU was favored by 23 points) on September 29 and at Texas Tech on November 17, he suffered a concussion very early (had attempted just three passes), as the Sooners lost their second regular season game of the year, 34-27. Bradford did come up big in Oklahoma's two wins over Missouri, completing 42-of-60 passes for 475 yards with four TDs and one INT, but he couldn't turn around Oklahoma's recent failures in BCS bowl games, as the Sooners were blown out 48-28 by West Va in the Fiesta Bowl, the school's fourth consecutive BCS bowl loss. Oklahoma's defense was the star in its season-opening 57-2 win over Chattanooga, limiting them to just 36 yards of total offense (20 passing, 16 rushing). However, Bradford was hardly silent, completing 17-of-22 for 183 yards with two TDs and no INTs. The sophomore was terrific last Saturday, leading the Sooners to their 20th consecutive home win (longest active home winning streak), a 52-26 win over Cincinnati. Bradford completed 29-of-38 passes for 395 yards, throwing five TDs and his first two INTs of the year (only the second multiple-interception game of his career). The 395 yards was a career high (third 300-yard game of his career) and the five TD passes tied a career-high (he's done it twice before). The Sooners broke open a completive 28-20 game in the third quarter by scoring 24 straight points. Oklahoma is now 56-2 in Norman under Stoops and has scored 30-plus in 15 straight home games. The Sooners visit Washington this Saturday, a school still recovering from a 28-27 loss to BYU last Saturday, which was caused in part by a horrible "excessive celebration" penalty on QB Locker. Bradford's season stats are: 46-of-60 for 578 yards (76.7 percent) with seven TDs and two INTs.

5) MARK SANCHEZ (USC) Last Week: 8. My preseason top-10 listed QBs Todd Boeckman (Ohio State), Cullen Harper (Clemson) and Matthew Stafford (Georgia) at the No. 8 spot. Playing QB for a national title contender is always a good way to get involved in the Heisman 'hunt' but after the season's first weekend, I moved USC's Mark Sanchez into my No. 8 spot. I mentioned in my Heisman preview that USC earned the moniker "Tailback U" when Garrett, OJ, White and Allen won Heismans from 1965-1981 but in Charlottesville against Virginia on August 30, four different USC tailbacks had scored a rushing TD by the end of the first half. However, USC's offensive star was Sanchez. Sanchez threw three TD passes in his first game as the Trojans' true No. 1 QB on Saturday, leading USC to a 52-7. Just more than three weeks removed from a dislocated kneecap that kept him out of practice until the season opener, Sanchez was 26-of-35 for 338 yards with three TDs and one INT. The win vaulted USC to No. 1 in the first regular season AP poll (up from its No. 3 preseason ranking). The Trojans were idle last week but with so many poor performances from players ranked above him, I've moved Sanchez up to the No. 5 spot. USC hosts No. 5 Ohio State this Saturday and after OSU's "sad-sack" effort last week vs Ohio U, the Trojans will have to avoid being over confident.

6) PAT WHITE (West Virginia) Last Week: 6. White entered this year having won Big East POY the last two seasons, with 4,207 career passing yards (64.2 percent), 35 TDs and 16 INTs. He's added 3,506 rushing yards (7.1 YPC) and scored 39 rushing TDs, topping 100 yards in 15 games. White's also a perfect 3-0 in bowl games in his career, leading West Va past Georgia 38-35 in the Sugar Bowl in his freshman season and beating Ga Tech (also 38-35) in the Gator Bowl as a sophomore. His three-year bowl record is very impressive, as he's completed 30-of-48 passes (62.5 percent) for 427 yards (5 TDPs / 0 INTs), while rushing 66 times for 372 yards (65.6 YPC) and one TD. West Va opened the '08 season with a home date against Villanova. The Wildcats offered little resistance to White and Co, as the Mountaineers won 48-21. White had 271 total yards (208 pass yards / 63 rush yards) and now has 7,984 yards of total offense, passing Marc Bulger for the most total yards in school history. He completed 25-of-33 passes with five TDs and just one INT, while rushing nine times without a score. White had never before thrown more than two TD passes in a single game, so his five-TD effort was impressive, even if it came against 'Nova. White became the fourth QB in West Va history to throw for TDs in a single game (Brad Lewis last accomplished the feat in 2000). As I mentioned in my Heisman preview, West Virginia had a realistic shot at going unbeaten in '08, which sure wouldn't have hurt White's chances of winning the Heisman. However, the Mountaineers were embarrassed this past Saturday at Greenville, North Carolina, losing 24-3 to East Carolina. The three-point effort marked the first time since 2001 West Virginia was held without a TD. White ran for 97 yards in 20 carries but passed for a pathetic 72 yards, while completing 11-of-18 passes. East Carolina entered last Saturday's meeting with seven straight losses to West Va and an all-time mark of 2-17, having been outscored by an average score of 33-15. White and West Va have Saturday off to think about "what might have been" this year. Truth be told, I'm not sure I've dropped White far enough. The Mountaineers are next in action Thursday night September 18, at Colorado. White's season stats are: 36-of-51 for 280 yards (70.6 percent) five TDs one INT / 29 carries for 160 yards (5.5 YPC) 0 TDs.

7) GRAHAM HARRELL (Texas Tech) Last Week: 6. Harrell began the '06 season (his sophomore year) at Texas Tech as the school's starting QB. It marked the first time since 2001 that the Red Raiders did not open the year with a senior at that position. All Harrell did in '06 was complete 412-of-617 passes (66.8 percent) for 4,555 yards with 38 TDs and 11 INTs. All he did last year as a junior, was to improve on those numbers! Harrell completed 512-of-713 passes in '07 (71.8 percent) for 5,705 yards with 48 TDs and 14 INTs. His 646 yards passing at Oklahoma State was the fourth-highest single-game mark in NCAA history and by year's end he had become just the fifth QB in NCAA history with two 4,000-yard seasons on his resume. If he continues to improve, what can we expect this year? The Red Raiders are really a well-kept secret, as Texas Tech enters the '08 season with a run of 13 consecutive winning seasons (starting in 1994). The Big 12 was formed the following year and Tech is the only Big 12 team to post a winning season in each of that conference's 12 years. Now here's the rub. I earlier mentioned that Harrell had 646 yards passing at Oklahoma State on September 22 (also had five TDs and no INTs) but I didn't mention that the Red Raiders lost that game, 49-45. Tech stood at 6-1 through seven games last year but then Harrell had back-to-back four-interception games at Missouri (a 41-10 loss) and at home to Colorado (a 31-26 loss as a 13 1/2-point favorite). I stated in my preseason top-10 that Harrell would undoubtedly put up huge numbers again this year and he wasted little time proving me right (like I was going out on a limb?). Texas Tech's pass-happy offense was in midseason form against an overmatched Eastern Washington in the team's season-opener, winning 49-24 on August 30. Harrell completed 43-of-58 passes for 536 yards with two TDs and one INT plus also ran for a score. He connected with eight different receivers and his 536-yard effort gives him 23 games of 300 passing yards of more, including 15 games of 400-plus. I warned in last week's column that Reno was a "tough place to play" and while the Red Raiders outscored Nevada 21-7 in the final 20 minutes to come away with a 35-19 win last Saturday Harrell had a terrible game (by his standards). Harrell and Michael Crabtree hooked up for an 82-yard TD pass in the early fourth quarter, as Tech opened a 28-12 lead but Harrell was just 19-46 for 297 yards (one TD / two INTs), his lowest passing total since 2006. His 19 completions and 41.3 percent completion percentage were also career lows as a starter, plus it marked just the fourth time since he took over as Tech's starting QB in '06, in which he had failed to throw at least two TD passes in a game. Texas Tech scored on a 21-yard TD run by Woods with about six minutes remaing in the game, as the Red Raiders topped 30 points for the 18th time in their last 20 games. However, Harrell has a "boatload full of critics", who argue that it's "the system not the QB". This game only gave that argument more 'fuel.'. The Red Raiders host U Mass this coming Saturday and it won't help Harrell's "rep" if Leach leaves him in too long to "run up his numbers." Harrell now owns 92 career TD passes. Six players have thrown at least 100 career TDs all-time, with Colt Brennan topping the list with 131. Considering Harrell has thrown 86 TD passes the last two seasons (an average of 43 per), he's "right on pace" to own that record by year's end. His season stats are: 62-of-104 for 833 yards (59.6 percent) with three TDs and three INTs.

8) MATTHEW STAFFORD (Georgia) Last Week: NR. I had Stafford listed No. 8 in my preseason poll, along with fellow QBs Todd Boeckman (Ohio State) and Cullen Harper (Clemson). He owned the most modest stats of that "group of three" last year (55.7 percent / 2,523 yards / 19 TDs and 10 INTs) but many experts feel this guy could be the top QB taken when he enters the draft. His modest stats were brought to 'life' by the fact that in Georgia's season-opening 45-21 win over Georgia Southern, Stafford's 275 yards passing were a career high. He finished that game 13-of-21 with two TDs and no INTs. The Bulldogs were 'sharp' last week against Central Michigan, as Stafford completed 18-of-28 for 213 yards, hooking up with Mohamed Massaquoi on a pair of touchdown passes and for the second straight game, didn't throw an interception. Georgia passed for 289 yards and rushed for 263, the sort of balance that should serve them well in much tougher games to come. The No. 2 Bulldogs have a brutal schedule the rest of the way, beginning with back-to-back road games the next two Saturdays at South Carolina and No. 15 Arizona State. Stafford's stats are: 31-of-49 for 488 yards (63.3 percent) with four TDs and no INTs.

9) TODD REESING (Kansas) Last Week: NR. Why not give this 5-11 dynamo his props. Reesing had thrown just 24 passes as a freshman when he stepped in as Kansas' starting QB at the beginning of last year. The Jayhawks entered the '07 season having never finished in the upper half of the Big 12 North since its inception in 1996. In fact, Kansas' best conference record had been just 3-5 and the Jayhawks Big 12 record stood at 23-65 over 11 years. So what happened? The Jayhawks won their first 11 games, before losing to Missouri in Kansas City, 36-28. However, Kansas bounced back from that loss to beat Va Tech 24-21 in the Orange Bowl to finish 12-1 (first time in school history a Kansas team had won more than 10 games). Reesing was terrific in '07, completing 276-of-446 passes (61.9 percent) for 3,486 yards with 33 TDs and just seven INTs. In the team's 40-10 season-opening win over FIU, he was 37-of-52 for 256 yards with three TDs and one INT. Last week, in the team's 29-0 win over La Tech, Reesing passed for a career-high 412 yards (32-of-38), the third-highest single-game total in school history. He threw three more TDs and wasn't picked off. It marked the school's 11th straight home game, the second-longest streak in school history. However, Reesing and the Jayhawks will be tested this Friday night, as they travel to Tampa to take on USF. His season stats are: 69-of-90 for 668 yards (76.7 percent) with six TDs and one INT.

10) JEREMY MACLIN Maclin (Missouri) Last Week: 9. Maclin was listed in the No. 9 spot in my preseason Heisman top-10, along with fellow WRs Michael Crabtree (Texas Tech) and Percy Harvin (Florida). The trio were listed together as a tribute to the only three WRs to have ever won the Heisman. That group included Johnny Rodgers (Nebraska) in '72, Tim Brown (Notre Dame) in '87 and Desmond Howard (Michigan) in '91. The one thing all of these three winners had in common was their ability to return kicks. After the season's first week, I left Maclin alone at No. 9 on the basis of his spectacular effort in Missouri's 52-42 win over Illinois on August 30. With Missouri down 13-10 in the second quarter (after a Daniel INT was returned for a TD), Maclin returned the ensuing KO for a 99-yard TD, sparking the Tigers to a 21-0 run, which gave them a 31-13 halftime lead. Before leaving the game in the fourth quarter with a sprained left ankle, Jeremy Maclin had 206 all-purpose yards, including a 45-yd punt return and that 99-yd kickoff return for a TD. He only had four catches for 31 yards plus three runs for just two yards but those kick returns are the ones that make the "highlight reels." Missouri played its home opener on September 6 against Southeast Missouri but hardly needed much from Maclin (see Chase Daniel at the No. 2 spot). He played sparingly, catching two passes for 20 yards (one TD) and rushing once for 11 yards. Let's see if he's healthier this week and what he can do against Nevada? I really like this guy but he'll have to make me "sit up and take notice" to remain in my top-10 next week. His season stats are: six catches for 51 yards (8.5 YPC) one TD / four carries for 13 yards (3.3 YPC) 0 TDs.

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