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Heisman Top 10

   by Larry Ness - 09/22/2008

1) CHASE DANIEL (Missouri) Last Week: 1. I moved Daniel into my No. 1 spot last week and there is no reason not to have him at the top again this week. Daniel completed 36-of-43 passes for a career-high 439 yards and two TDs (no INTs) on Saturday, as Missouri overcame a slow start to beat Buffalo 42-21. He completed a school-record 20 consecutive passes and actually has just 13 incompletions over his last three games. Daniel fell only three completions shy of the NCAA record of 23 in a row shared by Tennessee's Tee Martin (1998) and Cal's Aaron Rodgers (2004) but did break the Big 12 record of 18 straight completions shared by Iowa State's Seneca Wallace (2001) and Oklahoma's Sam Bradford (2007). The Tigers turned the ball over three times in Buffalo territory but did win their 10th straight home game (18 of last 19). Daniel led Missouri to 12-2 season in '07, as the Tigers finished No. 4 in the final AP poll (school's highest-ever final ranking). Missouri was ranked No. 6 in the AP's preseason poll (also the highest ranking ever for the school) and Missouri is currently ranked No. 6 in the AP poll this week. Daniel became the all-time leading passer in school history (passing Brad Smith) in the team's 69-17 win over Nevada on 9/13 and against Buffalo, his 439-yard game marked his 15th career 300-yard passing game and his fourth of 400-plus yards. Missouri failed to score more than 50 points for the first time this season and dropped to second in nation with a 53.8 PPG average (idle Oklahoma is now No. 1 at 54.7 PPG) but still tops the nation in total offense (595.5 YPG), after its 4-0 start. Daniel and his fellow Tigers get next week off before traveling to Lincoln for their first road game of '08 against the Cornhuskers on October 4. His season stats are: 101-of 133 (75.9 percent) for 1,412 yards with 12 TDs and one INT / 14 carries for 74 yards (5.3 YPC) 0 TDs.

2) SAM BRADFORD (Oklahoma) Last Week: 2. The Sooners were idle last week but as mentioned in the Daniel write-up, now lead the nation in scoring at 54.7 PPG. Sophomore QB Sam Bradford is the main reason for that, as he's opened the '08 season in the same manner as he played last year. As a red-shirt freshman in '07, Bradford threw 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. 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 has "turned up the heat" in Oklahoma's last two games. In leading the Sooners to their 20th consecutive home win (longest active home winning streak), a 52-26 win over Cincinnati on September 6, 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'd done it twice before). As impressive as that game was, Bradford was just as good in Oklahoma's September 13th visit to Washington. The Sooners beat the Huskies 55-14, handing Washington its largest margin of defeat at home since 1929, when it lost 48-0 to Southern California. It marked Bob Stoops' 100th career win in 123 games. The only active coach to reach the milestone more quickly was Penn State's Joe Paterno. However, this is about Bradford, who completed 18-of-21 passes for 304 yards (4th career 300-yard game) while matching his career high with five TDs (zero INTs). He also ran for a sixth score. No. 2 Oklahoma hosts TCU this coming Saturday and the Sooners may just remember the Horned Frogs' last visit to Norman. It was in 2005 and TCU won 17-10. The loss is one of just two home defeats in the Stoops era (the other came in 2001, when Oklahoma State beat them 16-13). The Sooners haven't lost at home since that 2005 season-opener, winning 20 straight (12-6-1 ATS), having scored 30-plus points in their last 15 home contests. OU is 56-2 SU in Norman under Bob Stoops. Bradford's season stats are: 64-of-81 (79.0 percent) for 882 yards with 12 TDs and two INTs.

3) KNOWSHON MORENO (Georgia) Last Week: 6. 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, dropping to No. 2 (behind USC) after the season's first regular season weekend. The Bulldogs handily dispatched Central Michigan on September 6, 56-17, holding on to the No. 2 spot behind idle USC. Sophomore RB Knowshon Moreno carried just eight times (59 yards) in the opener but did score three rushing TDs. He was much better in the win over CMU, rushing for 168 yards on 18 carries, as he tied his career high with three TDs for the second straight week (it was his 7th career 100-yard game). However, the Bulldogs struggled on 9/13 in Columbia against the Gamecocks and the team's 14-7 win resulted in the Bulldogs falling to No. 3 in last week's AP poll (becoming the first preseason No. 1 to fall to No. 3 after a 3-0 start since Oklahoma did the same thing back in 1985). Moreno finished with just 79 yards on 20 carries against South Carolina and as I stated last week, "those are not the kind of numbers he'll need to make a run at the Heisman." Georgia made its first regular-season trip to the West Coast since 1960 (when it played USC in Los Angeles) this past Saturday in Tempe. Georgia QB Matthew Stafford threw for a career-high 285 yards and Moreno rushed for 149 yards and two TDs on 23 carries. It marked his eighth career 100-yard game and he now has nine TDs on the season, which ranks him tied for third nationally in scoring at 13.5 PPG. The Bulldogs were 5-5 in the red zone and are now a perfect 15-15 for the season. Georgia coach Mark Richt improved to 33-2 vs non-conference opponents, with both losses coming in bowl games. Saturday's win was Georgia's 11th straight win (its longest streak since 1982) and left them behind only BYU (Cougars have won 14 straight) for the most consecutive wins among Division I-A schools. Moreno turned into a star in the first five games of Georgia's season-ending seven-game winning run at the end of '07. He gained 766 yards or 153.2 YPG during that five-game stretch and finished his freshman season with 1,334 yards rushing (5.4 YPC) and 14 TDs. Moreno has not begun quite as well as Michigan State's Jevon Ringer (see below) but he and the Bulldogs have a much higher profile than Ringer and the Spartans, plus will play a much more difficult schedule. The Bulldogs' win over ASU was a dominating one but it shouldn't go unmentioned that ASU is now just 3-26 against top-25 opponents since 2000. Georgia's 'murderous' schedule continues this Saturday, when No. Alabama visits Athens. Georgia beat Alabama 26-23 in OT last year, the first meeting between the two schools since 2003. Moreno had just 74 yards on 14 carries with one TD. His season stats are: 69 carries for 455 yards (6.6 YPC) with nine TDs / seven catches for 96 yards (13.7 YPC) with 0 TDs.

4) TIM TEBOW (Florida) Last Week: 3. The Gators took advantage of three turnovers by the Vols (Tennessee fumbled at the two-yard line and had a pass intercepted in the end zone in the first half) and Brandon James had his fourth career punt return for a TD as Florida beat rival Tennessee for the fourth straight time. However, last year's Heisman winner was held to a total of just 122 yards. I wondered aloud in last week's column if Tebow was ready for a "breakout" game? I guess the answer came back, N-O! 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, but he'll be hard pressed to remain in my top-five unless his numbers improve dramatically. 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). The Gators finished third in the nation in both scoring (42.5 PPG) and total offense (457.2 YPG) in '07. However, after opening with a 56-point effort vs Hawaii, the Gators have totaled just 56 points the last two games vs Miami-Fla and Tennessee plus are averaging only 331.3 YPG (86th in the nation). Tebow completed one of his patented "jump passes" for a TD but finished only 8-of-15 passing, for 96 yards (two TDs / 0 INTs). He ran 12 times for 26 yards (2.2 per) and failed to score a rushing TD for the third consecutive game (had 23 last year). Tebow was not expected to run the ball as much this year but through three games, his "fall-off" has been quite significant. Florida hosts Ole Miss this Saturday. Tebow had 261 passing yards (two TDs) and 166 rushing yards (two more TDs) in Oxford last year, when the Gators beat the Rebels, 30-24. Let's see what happens this year. His season stats are: 38-of-64 (59.4 percent) for 489 yards with five TDs and 0 INTs / 34 carries for 118 yards (3.5 YPC) 0 TDs.

5) MARK SANCHEZ (USC) Last Week: 4. 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,' so after the season's first weekend, I moved USC's Mark Sanchez into my No. 8 spot after he threw three TD passes in his first game as the Trojans' true No. 1 QB on August 30, as USC won 52-7 at Virginia. He was just a little more than three weeks removed from a dislocated kneecap that kept him out of practice until the season opener, but he completed 26-of-35 for 338 yards with those 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 the following week but on 9/13 faced then-No. 5 Ohio State in one of the '08 season's most highly anticipated games. It was "no contest," as the Trojans routed the Buckeyes, 35-3. Ohio State, a decisive loser in the last two BCS title games, had the ball for more than 20 minutes in the first half and gained 177 yards to USC's 172, but left the field trailing 21-3. Sanchez threw two TD passes to Damian Williams in the third quarter to put Ohio State away and once the Buckeyes fell behind, they were helpless against the USC defense (Ohio State gained only 30 yards in the second half). Sanchez completed 17-of-28 passes for 172 yards with four TDs and one INT. USC's dominating win, solidified the team's No. 1 ranking and made the Trojans the clear favorite to be one of the two teams in this year's BCS title game. If USC "runs the table," Sanchez could wind up in New York as one of the Heisman finalists. USC was off again last week (nice schedule-maker) but start early this week, playing in Corvallis against Oregon State on Thursday night. His season stats are: 43-of-63 (68.3 percent) for 510 yards with seven TDs and two INTs.

6) GRAHAM HARRELL (Texas Tech) Last Week: 5. Texas Tech moved to 4-0 and a No. 10 ranking in the latest AP poll with a 56-14 win over U Mass last Saturday. Tech dominated the Minutemen from the outset, scoring on six of seven possessions in the first half and led 42-7 at the intermission. Harrell completed passes to 10 different receivers, going 27-of-34 with four TDs and no interceptions, not playing at all in the game's second half. Despite only playing the first half, he had 324 passing yards, the 25th 300-yard game of his career (16 of those have been over 400 yards). 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. He now owns 101 career TD passes, expanding the all-time list of players who have thrown at least 100 career TDs to seven. Colt Brennan tops the list with 131 and since the Red Raiders have a minimum of nine games remaining on their 2008 schedule (including a bowl game), getting 30 more TD passes is surely within his reach. Texas Tech won its 11th straight non-conference game with the win over U Mass, improving to 20-1 at home vs non-conference teams under coach Mike Leach. The Red Raiders have scored at least 30 points in 20 of their last 22 games, including eight in a row, which leads the nation. Texas Tech has a week off before beginning its Big 12 season at Kansas State on October 4. Harrell's season stats are: 120-of-186 (64.5 percent) for 1,573 yards with 12 TDs and three INTs / one rush TD.

7) JEREMY MACLIN Maclin (Missouri) Last Week: 8. 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. He played sparingly, catching two passes for 20 yards (one TD) and rushing once for 11 yards. He's returned to "full-speed" in Missouri's last two games and is beginning to make a real case for being among the Heisman favorites! He had a terrific game in Missouri's 69-17 rout of Nevada on September 13, catching six passes for 172 yards with three TDs (covering 80, 14 and 49 yards). He only ran for five yards (two attempts) but added 39 yards on two KO returns and another 23 yards on four punt returns. Maclin was even better last Saturday, as Missouri beat Buffalo, 42-21. He entered Saturday's game with 12 catches on the year but made 14 grabs (a single-game career-high) for 168 yards (his fifth career 100-yard game). Although he didn't catch a TD pass, he did rush for one (16 yards), gaining 25 yards rushing on just two attempts. He added 33 yards on two KO returns and 10 yards on a single punt return, giving him 236 all-purpose yards for the game. The Tigers get next week off before traveling to Lincoln for their first road game of '08 against the Cornhuskers on October 4. His season stats are: 26 catches for 391 yards (15.0 YPC) four TDs / eight carries for 43 yards (5.4 YPC) one TD / 123 punt return yards and 217 KO return yards with one TD / all-purpose 193.5 YPG ranks him 6th in the nation).

8) JEVON RINGER (Michigan State) Last Week: NR. I almost put Ringer in my top-10 last week and after watching him play last Saturday against Notre Dame, I'll admit to being "a week late" with his inclusion. The Spartans opened the '08 season with a 38-31 loss at Cal, as Ringer was pretty much held in check, gaining 81 yards on 27 carries, although he did score two TDs. However, no one has slowed him down since, although Michigan State has not exactly faced any powerhouses (one reason Ringer remains this low on my list). MSU has beaten Eastern Michigan (42-10), Florida Atlantic (17-0) and Notre Dame (23-7) in consecutive home games, with Ringer running for 135, 282 and 201 yards, respectively. That's a three-game total of 618 yards on 116 carries (5.4 YPC), as Ringer has totaled nine rushing TDs (had five vs EMU). His three straight games over 100-yards ups his career total to 15, 100-yard games, of which three have been of more than 200 yards (his 282 yards vs FAU, accounting for a career-best). Ringer's 201 yards against Notre Dame was his second straight 200-yard effort, becoming the first player in MSU history to do so. His 11 rushing TDs leads the nation, giving him an average of 16.5 PPG through four games, making him the nation's leading scorer as well. Ringer has carried the ball 143 times this year, making him the busiest running back through four games since Iowa State's Troy Davis had six more carries in 1996 according to STATS. MSU travels to Indiana this Saturday to play the Hoosiers, who just lost 42-20 in Bloomington last Saturday to Ball State, allowing 224 yards rushing to a team from the MAC. Ringer's season stats are: 143 carries for 699 yards (4.9 YPC) 11 TDs.

9) COLT MCCOY (Texas) Last Week: NR. I had Todd Reesing of Kansas in this spot last week but I'm inserting Colt McCoy of Texas in the 'nine-hole' this week. The SEC has six schools in the AP's top-25 this week, including No. 3 Georgia, No. 4 Florida and No. 5 LSU. However, the Big 12 has nothing to be ashamed about, as Oklahoma is the AP's No. 2 team, Missouri is ranked sixth, Texas No. 7 and Texas Tech comes in at No. 10. That's four top-10 schools plus five players (four QBs) in my Heisman top-10 (Reesing would be No. 11). Reesing did nothing to fall out but I also felt as if McCoy was worthy of mention (let's see how it plays out the next few weeks). McCoy took over for Vince Young in '06 as a red-shirt freshman and led Texas to a 10-3 season, throwing for 2,570 yards (68.2 percent completions) with 29 TDs (then a freshman record) and just seven INTs.The Longhorns went 10-3 again last year but McCoy's numbers 'fell off.' He did throw for more yards (3,303) but his completion percentage dipped slightly (65.1) and his TDs (22) went down and his INTs went way up (18). Texas really hasn't been tested yet, opening with wins over FAU and UTEP, before trouncing Rice last Saturday, 52-10. Texas racked up 600 yards of total offense (341 pass / 259 rush), as the Longhorns won their 10th straight against Rice and 21st straight at home against the Owls. McCoy completed 19-of-23 passes for 329 yards with four TDs (no INTs). He also led Texas in rushing for the second time this season with 83 yards on eight carries and his 194 yards rushing on the season is a team-high through three games. His 329-yard effort was the fifth of his career and his four TD passes give him 62 in his career, passing Major Applewhite (60) as the school's all-time leader. Texas is now 26-3 in its last 29 August/September games but won't play again until October 4th, when the Longhorns visit Colorado. His season stats are: 63-of-81 (77.8 percent) for 833 yards with 11 TDs and one INT / 25 carries for 194 yards (7.8 YPC) and two TDs.

10) MAX HALL (BYU) Last Week: 10. Max Hall re-shirted his freshman year ('04) at Arizona State and then transferred to BYU but left for a mission before joing the football team. When he took over as BYU's starting QB at the beginning of '07, he hadn't played a competitive game in four years. All he did last year was lead BYU to an 11-2 season, ending the season on a 10-game winning streak after its 17-16 Las Vegas Bowl win over UCLA. Hall passed for 3,848 yards in '07, throwing 26 TDs and just 12 INTs (completed 60.1 percent). So what's he been up to in '08? He's helped the Cougars extend the nation's longest active winning streak to 14 straight wins, including that highly controversial 28-27 win at Washington on September 6 (can you say "excessive celebration?"). However, since that game, Hall has led BYU to consecutive shutout wins, beating UCLA 59-0 in Provo on September 13 (UCLA's worst loss since 1929) and Wyoming 44-0 last Saturday (again in Provo). It marked the school's first consecutive shutouts since 1985 and incredibly, BYU won those two games by the exact same scores, 59-0 over Wyoming and then 44-0 over Utah State. You can't make this stuff up! Hall completed 27-of-35 passes for 271 yards and tied a school record with seven TD passes (one INT) against UCLA and last Saturday against Wyoming, Hall completed 16-of-27 passes for 189 yards (three TDs and no INTs). It marked just the second time in 17 career starts that Hall's been held under 200 yards passing in a game (he has seven career 300-yard games). BYU has now won 15 straight home games, outscoring opponents 144-16 in three home games this year, while extending their Mountain West-record conference win streak to 17 games. The Cougars are off this weekend, playing next on October 3 (a Friday), at Utah State. Hall's season stats are: 107-of-144 (74.3 percent) for 1,284 yards with 15 TDs and two INTs

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