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Heisman Trophy Top 10

   by Larry Ness - 09/01/2008


1) TIM TEBOW (Florida) Last Week:1. 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. The Gators opened the '08 season with an easy 56-10 win over Hawaii. The game was close in the beginning, as the Warriors only had five less offensive yards than the Gators in a scoreless first quarter. However, by the end of the third quarter, Florida owned a 56-0 lead. Tebow "hardly broke a sweat," completing 9-of-14 passes for 137 yards and a touchdown (no INTs). Meyer had said that Tebow is not expected to run as much this year and against the Rainbows, he rushed just nine times for 37 yards. It marked the first time he didn't have a rushing TD since 2006 but the Gators got a rushing TD from four different players plus added a 74-yard punt return TD and two interception TDs. Since Tebow is the 'defending champ,' I'll leave him No. 1 until I see what happens this coming Saturday when the Gators host the 'Canes, who have beaten them SIX straight times.


2) PAT WHITE (West Virginia) Last Week: 2. 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 has a realistic shot at going unbeaten in '08, which sure wouldn't hurt White's chances of winning the Heisman. West Va travels to Greenville, North Carolina this Saturday, to play East Carolina. The Mountaineers are 17-2 all-time vs the Pirates, winning by an average score of 33-15. However, East Carolina just upset preseason No. 17 Virginia Tech this past Saturday in Charlotte, 27-22.


3) CHASE DANIEL (Missouri) Last Week: 3. Daniels 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. Missouri opened last year with a hard fought 40-34 win over Illinois in St Louis and last Saturday, beat preseason No. 20 Illinois 52-42 in another St Louis shootout (for the second straight year, the two teams combined for over 1,000 yards). Daniel saw a second quarter INT brought back for a TD which gave Illinois a 13-10 lead, but he settled down and finished the game with three TD passes, 323 yards passing (26-of-45) plus 46 yards rushing on nine attempts. It marked his 13th 300-yard passing game but arguably, Daniel was only the second-best QB on the field in this game. Illinois' Juice Williams was 26-of-42 for 451 yards and threw five TD passes (both career highs). Missouri plays its home opener on September 6, against Southeast Missouri.


4) CHRIS WELLS (Ohio State) Last Week: 4. I ranked Wells as the top RB on my preseason list (one spot ahead of Georgia's Knowshon Moreno), mainly because I believe the Buckeyes have a much easier overall schedule than the Bulldogs. Wells ran for 576 yards as a freshman (2006) and followed with an impressive 1,609 yards last year as a sophomore (averaged 5.9 YPC and scored 15 rushing TDs). After not topping 100 yards in any game in '06, Wells topped the 100-yard mark nine times in 2007, including 221 yards at home vs Michigan State, gaining a school-record (which is obviously a career-high for Wells) 222 yards in the regular season finale at Michigan plus gaining 146 yards on 20 carries in the BCS title-game loss to LSU, where he set a BCS record for the longest TD run (65 yards) in that game's 10-year history. Wells accomplished all this, while suffering with bone spurs the entire year. If the Buckeyes can win at USC on September 13 (no small feat), Ohio State just could reach the BCS championship game for the third consecutive year. If that's the case and Wells improves on last year's stats (which is hardly far-fetched), he's a legitimate Heisman threat. In Columbus last Saturday, Wells was off to a terrific start in Ohio State's 30th consecutive season opening victory, a 43-0 win over Youngstown State. However, Wells was hurt in the third quarter on a first and goal at the Youngstown State 2. His feet slipped underneath him as he planted to make a cut. He was helped off the field but later returned to the bench in the fourth quarter wearing a boot on his right foot. Wells ran for 111 yards on 13 carries (his 10th career 100-yard game), including a 43-yard touchdown run. As of Monday morning, the "Beanie watch" was still on for fans of the Buckeyes. If he's out for any significant time, or can't play at USC on September 13, his Heisman hopes are all but over. Ohio State hosts Ohio U this coming Saturday.


5) KNOWSHON MORENO (Georgia) Last Week: 5. 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. To begin '08, the Bulldogs have opened as the No. 1 team in the nation in both the coaches' and AP preseason polls, marking first-time the school has topped either of those polls in the preseason. Georgia is seeking its first national title since Herschel Walker's freshman year (1980) and Moreno is seeking the school's third Heisman (Frank Sinkwich won in 1942 and Herschel in 1982). Georgia made it 9-0 for head coach Mark Richt in home openers, beating Georgia Southern 45-21 this past Saturday. Amazingly, the Bulldogs' win snaps a three-game losing streak by AP No. 1-ranked teams. QB Matthew Stafford threw for a career-high 275 yards with two touchdowns (13-of-21 and no INTs), while Moreno carried just eight times for a mere 59 yards but scored three TDs, as the Bulldogs scored the game's first 38 points. I didn't make any major changes from my preseason top-10, giving everyone at least one "mulligan." Georgia hosts Central Michigan this Saturday and its prolific QB, Dan LeFevour.


6) 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 team last Saturday, winning 49-24. 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. Harrell now owns 91 career TD passes. Six players have throw 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. Texas Tech visits Nevada this coming Saturday and watch out. Nevada is 19-5 SU in Reno since Chris Ault returned as head coach in 2004).


7) SAM BRADFORD (Oklahoma) Last Week: 7. Bob Stoops won a national title in just his second year as Oklahoma's head coach. In '08, Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford will try to give his head coach a second title, in Bradford's second year in Norman. 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 last Saturday, limiting Chattanooga to just 36 yards of total offense (20 passing, 16 rushing) in a 57-2 win. Bradford went 17-of-22 for 183 yards with two TDs and no INTs, as Oklahoma extended CFB's longest active home winning streak to 19 straight. Oklahoma goes for its 20th straight home win this Saturday, when it hosts a Cincinnati team which was 11-3 last year and opened '08 with a 40-7 win over Eastern Kentucky.


8) MARK SANCHEZ (USC) Last Week: NR. My preseason top-10 listed QBs Todd Boeckman (Ohio State), Cullen Harper (Clemson) and Matthew Stafford (Georgia) in this slot, as all three were the starting QBs on teams destined for excellent seasons. While Boeckman and Stafford (as well as their teams) got off to solid starts last Saturday, Harper and Clemson "laid an egg," in a 34-10 loss to Alabama in Atlanta. Harper, who completed 20-of-34 passes for 188 yards without a TD and one INT, likely will not be mentioned in this column again. It didn't help him though, that the Tigers' highly-touted one-two RB punch of Davis and Spiller gained just 20 yards on eight carries. Playing QB for a national title contender is always a good way to get involved in the Heisman 'hunt' and after the season's first weekend, I'm moving 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. Last Saturday in Charlottesville, 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 victory against Virginia. Just more than three weeks removed from a dislocated kneecap that kept him out of practice until this week, Sanchez was 26-of-35 for 338 yards with three TDs and one INT. No. 3 USC is off this coming Saturday, giving the Trojans two weeks to prepare for No.2 Ohio State (with or without Wells?) on September 13.


9) JEREMY MACLIN Maclin (Missouri) Last Week: 9. Joining Maclin in the No. 9 spot last week were 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. Well, advantage Maclin. First of all, Harvin sat out Florida's game with Hawaii, which obviously eliminated him. As for Crabtree, the nation's leading receiver in 2007 had a rather quiet game in Texas Tech's 49-24 win over Eastern Washington. He finished with 73 yards on nine catches, including a 4-yard TD in the first quarter. Crabtree had eight games of at least 10 catches last year, 12 games of 100-plus receiving yards and he opened the '07 season by catching 17 TD passes in his first six games. Now to Maclin. The sophomore was spectacular in Missouri's 52-42 win over Illinois last Saturday but like Ohio State's Wells, he got hurt (although it's not thought to be serious). 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 plays its home opener on September 6 against Southeast Missouri, so there is no reason for Maclin to "rush back" if he isn't 100 percent.


10) DAN LEFEVOUR (Central Michigan) Last week: 10. Here's what I wrote in my preseason poll about LeFevour. Now everyone outside of Mt. Pleasant, Michigan knows a player from the MAC can't win the Heisman. However, Chippewas fans will point out the similarities of Dan LeFevour's 2007 stats to that of Heisman winner Tim Tebow's. Tebow had a TD-to-INT ratio of 32-6 and LeFevour had one of 27-13. Tebow threw for 3,286 yards while completing 66.9 percent and LeFevour threw for 3,652 yards while completing 65.4 percent. Tebow ran for 895 yards (4.3 YPC) with 23 TDs and Lefevour ran for 1,122 yards (6.0 YPC) with 19 TDs. Now all the Chippewas need to do is go 13-0 in the regular season (which would include a win in the MAC title game) and for LeFevour to greatly improve on his 2007 stats for him to even be considered as a Heisman finalist! The Chippewas opened the '08 season last Thursday (Aug 30), as Central Michigan won its season opener for the first time since 2002 with a 31-12 win over Eastern Illinois. LeFevour completed 21-of-31 for 217 yards with three TDs and no INTs, plus ran for 42 yards on 11 carries (no TDs). CMU travels to Athens the next two weeks. However, I think the Chippewa's may just find Athens, Georgia (this Saturday vs No. 1 Georgia) a bit more inhospitable than Athens, Ohio (vs Ohio U on September 13)? Check back next week to see what happened.

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