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Heisman Top 10

   by Larry Ness - 09/29/2008

1) CHASE DANIEL (Missouri) Last Week: 1. I moved Daniel into my No. 1 spot two weeks and he remains at the top again this week, although the Tigers didn't play. Daniel completed 36-of-43 passes for a career-high 439 yards and two TDs (no INTs) on September 20, 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 the Tigers are currently ranked No. 4 (up from sixth) 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 against Buffalo but is second in the nation in both PPG (53.8) and total offense (595.5 YPG). Daniel and his fellow Tigers travel to Lincoln for their first road game of '08 against the Cornhuskers this Saturday. His season stats are: 101-of 133 (75.9 percent) for 1,412 yards with 12 TDs and one INT / QB rating of 193.4 ranks 4th / 14 carries for 74 yards (5.3 YPC) 0 TDs.

2) SAM BRADFORD (Oklahoma) Last Week: 2. The Sooners are the nation's new No. 1 team with USC (1), Georgia (3) and Florida (4) all losing this past weekend, while Oklahoma beat TCU, 35-10. Oklahoma is back at No. 1 for the first time since it lost to Kansas State in the 2003 Big 12 championship game and claims the AP's top spot for a record 96th time. 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 three games. He completed 29-of-38 passes for 395 yards in a 52-26 win over Cincinnati on September 6, throwing five TDs (tied a single-game career high) plus his first two INTs of the year (only the second multiple-interception game of his career). 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. 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 while matching his career high with five TDs (zero INTs). He also ran for a sixth score. Oklahoma put its 20-game home winning streak on the line this past Saturday against No. 24 TCU. The Horned Frogs were the last team to beat the Sooners in Norman, winning 17-10 in 2005's season opener. Bradford threw for a career-best 411 yards, including three long TDs to WR Manuel Johnson (76, 55 and 63 yards). The final one came in the late third quarter, giving OU a 35-3 lead and the Sooners held on for the 35-10 win. It was Oklahoma's 21st consecutive home win (13-6-1 ATS), the longest active streak in the nation. Oklahoma has now won 41 of its last 42 in Norman, moving to 57-2 at home under Bob Stoops. Bradford completed 19-of-34 passes with four TDs and no INTs against TCU. His 411-yard effort was the fifth 300-yard game of his career. The Sooners visit Waco this Saturday to take on Baylor. Oklahoma is 17-0 all-time vs Baylor, including 9-0 under Stoops while outscoring the Bears by an average of 42-12. Bradford's season stats are: 83-of-115 (72.2 percent) for 1,293 yards with 16 TDs and two INTs / QB rating of 209.1 ranks him 3rd).

3) JEVON RINGER (Michigan State) Last Week: 8. There was a major shake-up in the polls after the weekend's results and I've had some big moves in my Heisman rankings as well. I jumped Ringer from No. 8 last week to the No. 3 spot this week. The Spartans opened the '08 season with a 38-31 loss at Cal, as Ringer was pretty much held in check (had 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. MSU has beaten Eastern Michigan (42-10), Florida Atlantic (17-0) and Notre Dame (23-7) in consecutive home games plus then won 42-29 at Indiana this past Saturday, as Ringer rushed for 198 yards and scored one TD. The strangest and most important play of the game came late in the third quarter when Indiana connected on a 97-yard TD pass that appeared to give Indiana the lead. Instead, an OL was called for holding in the end zone, giving Michigan State a safety and a 36-29 lead. Indiana never recovered from the nine-point swing. Ringer had rushed for 200 yards in two straight games (282 vs FAU and 201 vs ND) but just missed that 'magic' number against the Hoosiers, despite 44 carries. Ringer was a 'workhorse' for the Spartans down the stretch, who were protecting a fourth-quarter lead. He had carried the ball 143 times in MSU's first four games, making him the busiest running back through four games since Iowa State's Troy Davis had six more carries in 1996 (according to STATS). His 198-yard effort marked his 16th career 100-yard game (three have been of more than 200 yards) and Ringer is now No.2 in the nation in rushing with an average of 179.4 per game and No. 1 in all-purpose yards (he's got 57 receiving yards plus 224 yards on KO returns) with 235.6 per game. His 12 rushing TDs leads the nation, giving him an average of 14.4 PPG through five games, making him the nation's leading scorer as well. MSU's Homecoming game is up this coming Saturday with Iowa. The home team has won the last eight games in this series. Ringer's season stats are: 187 carries for 897 yards (4.8 YPC) 12 TDs / six catches 57 yards (9.5 YPC) / 224 KOR yards.

4) COLT MCCOY (Texas) Last Week: 9. I moved Colt McCoy of Texas into the No. 9 spot last week and have him at No. 4 this week, in a another major move. The SEC had six schools in the AP's top-25 last week, including No. 3 Georgia, No. 4 Florida and No. 5 LSU. However, it's the Big 12 getting most of the 'ink' at the top of this week's AP top-25. Oklahoma is the No. 1 team, Missouri is ranked fourth, Texas is No. 5 and Texas Tech comes in at No. 7. That's four top-seven schools plus I have five Big 12 players (four QBs) in the top-six of my Heisman top-10. 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, broken last year by Bradford) 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), while his TDs (22) went down and his INTs went way up (18). Texas is off to a 4-0 start in 2008, after beating Arkansas 52-10 this past Saturday. In the 77th meeting between these two old Southwest Conference rivals, the Longhorns' 42-point win was the most lopsided Texas victory over Arkansas since 1916. The Longhorns seem to like that score, as all three of their home wins this year have been by identical 52-10 scores (also against FAU and Rice). Texas won 42-13 at UTEP in its lone road game this season. McCoy was just terrific against the Razorbacks. He scored five TDs (three passing and two rushing) giving him 75 career total touchdowns, good for third in school history, one behind Ricky Williams. His four TD passes the week before against Rice gave him 62 in his career, which moved him past Major Applewhite (60) as the school's all-time leader. He's now thrown 65 career TDs. He completed 17-of-19 passes for 185 yards (no INTs) and for the third time in four games, led the team in rushing with 84 yards (nine carries) against Arkansas. His 278 yards rushing through four games, leads the team. Texas is now 27-3 in its last 30 August/September games and will open October play with a visit to Colorado this coming Saturday. His season stats are: 80-of-100 (80.0 percent) for 1,018 yards with 14 TDs and one INT / 34 carries for 278 yards (8.2 YPC) and four TDs.

5) GRAHAM HARRELL (Texas Tech) Last Week: 6. Texas Tech moved to 4-0 and a No. 10 ranking in the AP poll with a 56-14 win over U Mass on 9/20. Tech was idle this past weekend but with all the upsets, moved up to No. 7 in the most recent AP rankings. Tech dominated the Minutemen from the outset two weeks ago, 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 opens its Big 12 season at Kansas State this Saturday. Harrell's season stats are: 120-of-186 (64.5 percent) for 1,573 yards with 12 TDs and three INTs / QB rating of 153.6 ranks 20th / one rush TD.

6) JEREMY MACLIN (Missouri) Last Week: 7. 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 on September 20, as Missouri beat Buffalo, 42-21. He entered that 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 were off last week but travel to Lincoln for their first road game of '08 against the Cornhuskers this Saturday. 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 5th in the nation.

7) TIM TEBOW (Florida) Last Week: 4. 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. He 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 totaled just 56 points in their next two games vs Miami-Fla and Tennessee. They entered this past Saturday's game with Ole Miss averaging only 331.3 YPG (86th in the nation), while Tebow was without a TD run in Florida's first three contests (remember, he had 23 last year). Tebow was not expected to run the ball as much this year but his "fall-off" has been quite significant. Tebow had 261 passing yards (two TDs) and 166 rushing yards (two more TDs) in Oxford last year against Ole Miss,when the Gators beat the Rebels, 30-24. So what happened against the Rebels in '08 at "The Swamp?" Tebow was 24-of-38, passing for a season-high 319 yards. He did score his first two rushing TDs of '08 but gained just seven rushing yards on 15 carries. Tebow was sacked three times, all the result of him holding the ball too long in the pocket. He also overthrew four receivers deep, including two on consecutive plays on Florida's final drive. His final run, sealed the Gators' fate. Trailing 31-30 with about 40 seconds to play and facing fourth down and about two feet at the Ole Miss 32, the Gators called on Tebow to pick up the first down. However, he got hit in the backfield and never even got back to the line of scrimmage. The Rebels had lost 14 straight SEC road games entering Saturday as well as nine straight SEC games overall but they beat the Gators 31-30. Based exclusively on his numbers this year (shown below), ranking Tebow in the top-10 at all, could be seen as a stretch. I'll place him at No. 7 this week but I read this on espn.com after the game with Ole Miss. It sure gave me pause, as it should all Heisman voters this year. The Gators are now 0-5 when trailing at any point in the second half with Tim Tebow as the quarterback. That sound like a Heisman-winner to you? Florida (now ranked 12th) and Tebow will try and regroup next week with a game at Arkansas. Tebow's season stats are: 62-of-102 (60.8 percent) for 808 yards with six TDs and 0 INTs / QB rating of 146.7 ranks 30th / 49 carries for 125 yards (2.6 YPC) 2 TDs.

8) KNOWSHON MORENO (Georgia) Last Week: 3. The Bulldogs opened the season No. 1 in the AP preseason poll for the first time in school history. Georgia had designs on winning the school's second national title (1980) and Moreno was hopeful of capturing the school's third Heisman (Sinkwich won in '42 and Herschel in '82). 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 the following AP poll. Moreno finished with just 79 yards on 20 carries against South Carolina. Georgia made its first regular-season trip to the West Coast since 1960 on September 20, playing ASU in Tempe. Moreno rushed for 149 yards and two TDs on 23 carries, marking his eighth career 100-yard game and giving him nine TDs on the season. Georgia head coach Mark Richt improved to 33-2 vs non-conference opponents, with both losses coming in bowl games. The 27-10 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 entering this past weekend. The Bulldogs' win over ASU was a dominating one but I mentioned last week that it shouldn't go unmentioned that ASU is now just 3-26 against top-25 opponents since 2000. 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. Georgia hosted Alabama this past Saturday night and found itself down 31-0 at the half, as the Tide scored on their first five possessions. Alabama won 'only' 41-30 (ending Georgia's 11-game winning streak), as the Bulldogs managed a couple of cosmetic TDs in the game's final minutes. Moreno was a total non-factor, gaining 34 yards on nine carries (one TD) and catching three passes for 14 yards. Georgia has now lost five of its last six home games against top-10 opponents, which is not characteristic of a championship team. Georgia's BCS title hopes have taken a huge hit (fell to No. 11 in the latest AP poll), as have Moreno's Heisman chances. Like Tebow, I'm questioning whether he deserves a top-10 ranking. Georgia gets the week off to "lick its wounds," playing next on October 11 at home, vs Tennessee. Moreno's season stats are: 78 carries for 489 yards (6.3 YPC) with 10 TDs / 10 catches for 110 yards (11.0 YPC) with 0 TDs.

9) MAX HALL (BYU) Last Week: 10. Max Hall red-shirted his freshman year ('04) at Arizona State and then transferred to BYU but left for a mission before joining 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 on September 20 (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 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, now ranked No. 8 in the latest AP poll (up from 10th), play this Friday night at Utah State. The Aggies have lost eight straight to BYU, last winning in 1993 by the score of 58-56!. The Aggies ended an eight-game home losing streak with a 42-17 win over Idaho in their last game (9/27). Hall's season stats are: 107-of-144 (74.3 percent) for 1,284 yards with 15 TDs and two INTs / QB rating of 180.8 ranks 6th.

10) MARK SANCHEZ (USC) Last Week: 5. I didn't list USC's Mark Sanchez among my preseason top-10 choices but moved him 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. 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. However, USC's chances for a BCS title-game appearance took a major blow this past Thursday (fell to No. 9 in the most recent AP poll), as the Trojans were beaten in Corvallis by unranked Oregon State, 27-21. Oregon State totally dominated the Trojans in the first half (led 21-0) and USC's second-half comeback fell short. Sanchez threw TD passes of 26 and 29 yards in the third quarter but was intercepted on the 30-yard line with less than three minutes to play. It was returned 28 yards to set up Oregon State on the USC two-yard line, as OSU took a 27-14 lead. Sanchez added a third TD pass with 1:19 left but time ran out on the Trojans. Sanchez finished 18-of-29 for 227 yards with three TDs and one INT. It was hardly his fault that the Trojans lost (offensive and defensive lines were dominated!) but the defeat dealt his long-shot Heisman hopes a severe blow. USC looks to bounce back this coming Saturday when it hosts Oregon. Sanchez started last year's game in Eugene (Booty was hurt) and threw two key fourth-quarter interceptions in the 24-17 loss. His season stats are: 61-of-92 (66.3 percent) for 737 yards with 10 TDs and three INTs / QB rating of 162.9 ranks 14th.

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