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Heisman Top 10
by Larry Ness - 11/03/2008
1) SAM BRADFORD (Oklahoma) Last Week: 2. Remember when the Nebraska/Oklahoma game meant something special? A week after Oklahoma 'exploded' for 55 points in the first half of its game against Kansas State in a 58-35 win, the Sooners intercepted Nebraska's first pass attempt and returned it 18 yards for a TD on Saturday night. The Huskers also had turnovers on each of their next two passes, as the Sooners jumped to a 28-0 lead in the first 5 1/2 minutes and led 35-0 after the first quarter of a 62-28 win. After losing seven straight, the Sooners have now won five of their six games against the Cornhuskers (all this decade). Sam Bradford threw for 311 yards and five TD passes, completing 19-of-27 passes with one interception. It was a nice "bounce-back" for the sophomore who had completed just 40.6 percent (13-of-32) against KSU, the lowest percentage in any game of his career. He topped 300 yards for the seventh time in nine games this season, giving him nine career 300-yard games, two of which have been 400-plus. It also marked the fourth time this season he had five TD passes in a contest (his single-game career high), giving him six career five-TD games. Let's remember he had a terrific freshman year in 2007, throwing for 3,121 yards (69.5 percent completions) 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. His QB rating of 189.0, which is higher than last year's mark, currently puts him third in the nation. Oklahoma has won 23 straight home games (14-7-1 ATS), which is the longest active home winning streak in CFB. The Sooners have won 43 of their last 44 home games and are 59-2 SU at home under Bob Stoops. The Sooners have scored at least 35 points in every game this year and their 49.8 PPG average ranks second in the nation. I see the Heisman as a three-way race between Big 12 QBs and for now, I'll place Bradford at "the head of the class." He lost his showdown game with Colt McCoy of Texas but will get a shot at Graham Harrell and Texas Tech in Norman on November 22. The Sooners also must visit Stillwater on November 29, so lots can still happen. However, before those two huge matchups, the Sooners travel to College Station on Saturday to take on the Aggies. Bradford had one of his six, five-TD games in last year's 42-14 win over A&M. A similar effort would set him up perfectly for his final two games against Texas Tech (currently No. 2 in the BCS) and Oklahoma St (currently No. 9 in the BCS but let's remember that last year's game was in Norman. Stoops has had his problems in College Station this decade. The Sooners won 35-31 in '00, lost 30-26 in '02, won 42-35 in '04 and won 17-16 in '06. Neither the Sooners (No. 6 in the BCS) nor Bradford can afford a loss or even a "close win" this weekend in College Station. Bradford's season stats are: 202-of-297 (68.0 percent) for 3,086 yards with 34 TDs and 6 INTs / QB rating of 189.0 ranks him No. 3 / 3 rush TDs.
2) GRAHAM HARRELL (Texas Tech) Last Week: 3. Like his predecessors at Texas Tech, Harrell has lived with the claim that's it's Mike Leach's "system" not the QB, which is the star of the Texas Tech offense. Graham has worked hard to overcome that stigma and he may have answered any remaining critics this past Saturday night. In a game in which the Red Raiders had 'owned' from the first play (Tech led 19-0 with just under six minutes to go in the second quarter), the Longhorns took their first lead of the game (33-32) on a four-yard TD run with 1:29 to play. Unfortunately, Texas left Graham and Texas Tech too much time. Harrell drove the Red Raiders 62 yards to the TD in six plays, connecting on a 28-yard TD pass to Crabtree with one second remaining on the clock. Harrell was brilliant and lucky on the final drive. He hit on four straight passes to get the ball in Texas territory but got a break when Texas freshman safety Blake Gideon dropped what would have been a game-ending interception on a tipped ball, one play before the TD throw. Given that second chance, Harrell made the big play to Crabtree. He completed 36-of-53 passes on the game for 474 yards with two TDs and not a single interception. It marks his 29th game of 300 yards passing, with 19 of those having topped 400 yards. The 474-effort moved Harrell into third place on the career passing yardage list with 14,303 yards. He won't be able to catch Timmy Chang of Hawaii, the all-time leader with 17,072 yards, but he will pass Ty Detmer of BYU, who ranks second with 15,031 yards. The two TD passes give him 119 for his career, leaving him behind only Ty Detmer (121) and Colt Brennan (131) on the all-time list. Watch out boys, here comes Graham. The win is arguably the biggest in school history, as it marked Tech's 500th career win and was the school's first-ever against a school ranked No. 1. Tech had entered the game tied with Penn State (idle) for the longest active winning streak at 10 straight. Tech now stands alone with 11 straight wins and the Red Raiders, who are averaging 47.0 PPG (3rd in the nation), have now scored at least 30 points in 25 of their last 27 games, including 13 in a row, a streak which also leads the nation. Texas Tech is now No. 2 in both the latest AP poll and the current BCS standings (school's highest-ever ranking in both!). Harrell and Tech will now try to do what McCoy and Texas were not able to do. That is, beat four consecutive ranked teams. Tech will host No. 8 Oklahoma State (No. 9 in the BCS) this coming Saturday and as all bettors are aware, the Cowboys remain the only team in the nation which is perfect ATS, going 9-0! Last year's game in Stillwater saw the Cowboys win 49-45 and for the only time in school history, OSU had three 100-yard rushers in the same game. As for Harrell, all he did was throw for five TDs and 646 yards, the fourth-best passing game in major college football history! Harrell's season stats are: 292-of-413 (70.7 percent) for 3,621 yards with 30 TDs and 5 INTs / QB rating of 165.9 ranks 8th / 6 rush TDs.
3) COLT MCCOY (Texas) Last Week: 1. As I just mentioned in the Harrell write-up, the Longhorns came up one second short of beating their fourth consecutive ranked team, when the Red Raiders beat them 39-33 in Lubbock. McCoy was under tremendous pressure all night by Tech's front-four but despite Texas falling behind 19-0, he brought the Longhorns back. McCoy surely has nothing to be ashamed of, throwing for 294 yards with two TDs and one interception (was 20-of-34). He was sacked four times in the game and had his face bloodied on a hard hit in the third quarter. After Tech returned his lone interception for an 18-yard TD, Texas was down 29-13. However, McCoy responded with TD passes of 37 and 91 yards to Malcolm Williams and after Tech kicked a FG for a six-point lead, he led Texas on a gutty 62-yard TD drive to take a one-point lead with 1:29 left. If Gideon hadn't dropped a sure interception, McCoy would have had his 10th career "comeback" win. More importantly, Texas would still be No. 1 in the AP poll and BCS standings (Texas is now ) and less importantly, McCoy would have remained at the top of my Heisman list. I have McCoy at the No. 3 spot but in actuality, a see the top-three in a 'dead heat,' with four weekends remaining. McCoy passed Vince Young for first place on Texas' all-time list of TDs responsible for (passing, rushing, receiving) two weeks ago and with two more TDs against Texas Tech, his career mark is now up to 87 (Young had 81 and former Heisman-winner Ricky Williams had 76). Let's remember that McCoy took over for Vince Young in '06 as a redshirt 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). McCoy's completing nearly 80 percent of his passes on the year (79.0), his QB rating of 181.4 ranks 4th and he is still the team's leader in rushing yards with 428. The Longhorns (now 5th in the AP and 4th in the latest BCS standings) get a much needed 'breather' this Saturday, as 3-6 Baylor comes to Austin. The Bears nearly upset No. Missouri on Saturday (lost 31-28) but that was in Waco. The Bears are a pathetic 2-48 SU in Big 12 road games since the conference was formed in 1996. Texas beat Baylor 31-10 last year in Waco but in the 2006 game played in Austin, McCoy (in his freshman season) threw for a school-record six TD passes. His season stats are: 218-of-276 (79.0 percent) for 2,579 yards with 23 TDs and 5 INTs / QB rating of 181.4 is 4th in the nation / 93 carries for 428 yards (4.6 YPC) and 7 TDs.
4) TIM TEBOW (Florida) Last Week: 4. The only player remaining who has a chance to challenge the Big 12's "Big Three" of Bradford, Harrell and McCoy is the "defending champ," Florida's Tim Tebow. The Gators wanted to beat the Bulldogs badly this year because the Bulldogs used a full-team, end-zone celebration near the end of last year's 42-30 Georgia win. Florida led 14-3 at the half and a three-TD third quarter broke it open, as the Gators went on to win 49-10. Besting Georgia is nothing new for the Gators, as this was their 16th win in the last 19 meetings between the two schools but the 39-point margin of victory is the second largest by Florida over Georgia in the rivalry's history. It also marked the worst loss in Georgia coach Mark Richt's career, which left the preseason No. 1 team staring directly at being No. 2 in the SEC East for the second straight season (last year the Vols took the East). Georgia QB Matthew Stafford threw three interceptions and Knowshon Moreno had just 65 yards on the ground (17 carries) with a lost fumble, after running for 188 yards with three TDs in the Bulldogs' win last year (Moreno's Heisman chances are now "Gone with the Wind"). Tebow won't come close to matching his numbers from last year (3,286 yards passing with 32 TDs / 895 yards rushing with 23 TDs) but the man did account for five TDs in Saturday's rout. However, he attempted just 13 passes (completed 10 with two going for TDs) for 150 yards and while he ran for three TDs, he gained a modest 39 yards on the ground in 13 carries. His first rushing TD broke Emmitt Smith's school record of 36, as Tebow finished the game with 39 rushing TDs for his career (he scored three rushing TDs in a game for the second time in his career). The win gives Florida the 'inside track' to the SEC East title and a matchup up with new No. 1 Alabama in the SEC championship game. Florida is currently No. 4 in the AP poll and No. 5 in the current BCS standings. One wonders where the Gators would have been ranked if not for their one-point home loss (missed extra-point) to Ole Miss? However, one doesn't have to wonder about how Tebow and the Gators responded to that loss. The Gators are 4-0 since that upset, outscoring their opponents by a margin of 201-43. Tebow has thrown eight TD passes against two INTs in that span, while adding six rushing TDs (had just two TDs in his first five games, both coming in the loss to Ole Miss). Tebow is a terrific player and is well-deservedly respected by all for the way he carries himself and leads his life off the field. That will give him tremendous good-will among many voters (much like Archie Griffin, the award's only two-time winner) but in the end, I just don't see how a voter could place him ahead (as of now) of the three players (forget my order) I have currently placed above him. Florida travels to Nashville this coming Saturday to take on Vanderbilt. The 'Dores opened the 2008 season by winning their first five games but have lost three straight, reminding everyone just why this school hasn't been to a bowl game since 1982. The Gators have won 17 straight games over Vandy, including eight straight wins in Nashville. As for Tebow, he completed 22-of-27 passes for 281 yards with three TDs and one INT in last year's 49-22 Florida win over Vandy in "The Swamp." He also had two rushing TDs in that game. I guess if Tebow duplicates that performance this week, which would give him consecutive five-TD games, I may have to revisit my statement that this year's Heisman race is down to the three Big 12 QBs? Tebow's season stats are: 114-of-177 (64.4 percent) for 1,569 yards with 14 TDs and 2 INTs / QB rating of 162.7 ranks 10th / 94 carries for 266 yards (2.8 YPC) 8 TDs.
5) MICHAEL CRABTREE (Texas Tech) Last Week: NR. As I've made clear in the above write-ups, I feel as if the rest of my top-10 are fairly irrelevant. With that in mind, I'll put Texas Tech WR Michael Crabtree at No. 5, returning him in my top-10 for the first time since I had him No. 9 in my presson poll, along with fellow WRs Percy Harvin (Florida) and Jeremy Maclin (Missouri). Maclin's been a poll-regular for me due to his versatility, as evidenced by the fact that his average of 193.3 YPG leads the nation in all-purpose yards. However, it would be hard to argue against Crabtree being the nation's most talented WR. He caught an amazing 134 passes last year as a freshman, leading the nation in both receiving yards (1,962) and TD receptions (22), as well. In the process, he became the first freshman to win the Biletnikoff award as the nation's best receiver. Crabtree has 70 catches through nine games this year (ranks sixth in receptions/game) with none being more important than his game-winner Saturday night against the Longhorns. I'm sure you've all seen it by now but Crabtree made an outstanding catch, then broke a tackle and kept his balance while managing to stay in bounds, before scooting the last few yards for a score. Crabtree has had a minimum of five catches in every game this year, while scoring at least one TD. That streak reaches 12 games, by going back to the final three games of last year, which is quite a run of consistent excellence. Crabtree has topped 100 yards in 15 of his 22 career games, while catching 37 TDs.As already mentioned, Tech hosts Oklahoma State this Saturday. In last year's 49-45 loss at Stillwater, Crabtree had 14 receptions (a career-high) for 237 yards with three TDs. His season stats are: 70 catches for 921 yards (13.2 YPC) with 15 TDs.
6) CHASE DANIEL (Missouri) Last Week: 7.
7) JEREMY MACLIN (Missouri) Last Week: 8.
8) JAVON RINGER (Michigan State) Last Week: 6.
9) DEZ BRYANT / KENDALL HUNTER / ZAC ROBINSON (Oklahoma State) Last Week: NR.
10) JOHN MCCAIN (Arizona) or BARACK OBAMA (Illinois): Tuesday's winner gets my 10th spot this week.