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Heisman Top 10

   by Larry Ness - 11/10/2008

1) GRAHAM HARRELL (Texas Tech) Last Week: 2. Harrell threw for five TDs and 646 yards in Stillwater last year (the fourth-best passing game in major college football history) but the Red Raiders lost to the Cowboys, 49-45. However, losing hasn't been an option for Mike Leach's Red Raiders in '08 and Tech followed its dramatic 39-33 win over Texas on November 1 with a convincing 56-20 win over Oklahoma State last Saturday night in Lubbock. 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 if there remained any doubters after the Texas game, there can be none left after Harrell picked apart the Cowboys. Harrell fumbled on Tech's first possession and OSU took a 7-0 lead but he then led the Red Raiders to TDs on their next seven possessions. Harrell finished 40-of-50 for 456 yards with six TDs (three to Crabtree) and no interceptions. That followed his 474-yard effort against the Longhorns (by the way, that makes 103 attempts the last two games vs Texas and OSU, without an interception), giving him his 30th game of 300 yards passing, with 20 of those having topped 400 yards. The 456-effort gives Harrell 14,759 career passing yards, just behind Ty Detmer of BYU, who ranks second with 15,031 yards (Timmy Chang of Hawaii is the all-time leader with 17,072 yards),. The six TD passes give him 125 for his career, as he passed Ty Detmer (121) , leaving only Colt Brennan (131) ahead of him on the all-time list. The win over Texas was 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. However, the OSU win solidified Tech's No. 2 ranking in the BCS standings and sets up another "biggest game in school history" on November 22 in Norman against Oklahoma. Tech owns the nation's longest active winning streak with 12 straight wins and the Red Raiders, who are averaging 47.9 PPG (3rd in the nation), have now scored at least 30 points in 26 of their last 28 games, including 14 in a row, a streak which also leads the nation. Tech gets a much-deserved week off (as do the Sooners), before heading to Norman where Oklahoma has won 23 straight and 43 of its last 44. So who's worried? Surely not Harrell, who takes over the top spot in my poll. His season stats are: 332-of-449 (71.7 percent) for 4,077 yards with 36 TDs and 5 INTs / QB rating of 165.2 ranks 7th / 6 rush TDs.

2) SAM BRADFORD (Oklahoma) Last Week: 1. Talk about 'splitting hairs.' It's difficult to chose between Harrell, Bradford and McCoy. In the end it may come down to personal preference for the voters. Does one prefer blondes, brunettes or red-heads. Bradford 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 current QB rating of 188.9, which is higher than last year's mark, currently puts him second in the nation. On top of that, he's already topped last years TD pass (38) and passing yards ( 3,406) totals with at least three games left to his 2008 season. The Sooners jumped out to a 38-14 halftime lead at College Station (they are averaging 47.3 points in the first half in their last three games!) and finished with a season-high 66 points, which is the most-ever for an opponent at Kyle Field (Sooners won 66-28). Oklahoma has now scored 50-plus points in six games this season and the only Oklahoma team with more 50-point games was the 2003 squad, with seven 50-point games. The Sooners rank second in the nation in scoring (51.4 PPG), after scoring 58, 62 and 66 points the last three Saturdays. Bradford completed 22-of-33 passes for 320 yards and four TDs (to four different receivers!) without an interception, plus added a rushing TD as the Sooners cruised to their sixth straight win over the Aggies. Bradford now has eight 300-yard passing games this season, tying the single-season school record set by Josh Heupel in 1999 and 10 in his career (two have been 400-plus games). His 22 completions now give him an Oklahoma-record 461 for his career. Oklahoma and Bradford lost their showdown on October 11 to Texas and McCoy but get a 'second chance' on November 22 when Texas Tech visits Norman. Oklahoma has won 23 straight home games (14-7-1 ATS), which is the longest active home winning streak in CFB. The Sooners have also won 43 of their last 44 home games and are 59-2 SU at home under Bob Stoops. Neither Oklahoma nor Bradford can afford a loss to Texas Tech if the Sooners are to have a chance at the BCS title game and Bradford at the Heisman. More to come. Bradford's season stats are: 224-of-330 (67.9 percent) for 3,406 yards with 38 TDs and 6 INTs / QB rating of 188.9 ranks him No. 2 / 4 rush TDs.

3) COLT MCCOY (Texas) Last Week: 3. McCoy bested Bradford in the Texas/Oklahoma game on October and 11 and if he and the Longhorns came within a dropped interception by Texas freshman safety Blake Gideon of besting Tech and Harrell on November 1. However, Gideon did drop what would have been a game-ending interception on a tipped ball and one play later, Harrell threw that famous TD pass to Crabtree. Remember my line about splitting hairs? I'll keep McCoy at the No. 3 spot but the final four weekends promise plenty of drama. McCoy overcame two first-half interceptions last Saturday in Austin, as the Longhorns beat Baylor, 45-21. He finished the game 26-of-37 for 300 yards (he now owns eight career 300-yard games) with five TDs and added 21 yards on the ground. His five passing TDs are the second-most in a single game for his career, behind his six-TD effort in October of 2006, also against Baylor (also a Texas school-record). McCoy passed Vince Young for first place on Texas' all-time list of TDs responsible for (passing, rushing, receiving) three weeks ago and with his five TD throws vs Baylor, his career mark is now up to 92 (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). The win over Baylor ups Texas to 9-1 on the season, giving the Longhorns at least nine wins for 11 straight seasons, the longest active streak in the nation. McCoy's completing nearly 80 percent of his passes on the year (78.0), his QB rating of 180.3 ranks 4th and he is still the team's leader in rushing yards for the season with 449. That's a pretty good resume for the QB of the nation's 4th-ranked team in the AP and 3rd in the current BCS standings. While fellow Big 12 schools Texas Tech and Oklahoma get the week off, the Longhorns travel to Lawrence, Kansas to take on the Jayhawks. It's just the second time this year that the Longhorns have had to leave the state (played at Colorado on October 4). Texas hasn't played Kansas since 2005, when the Longhorns beat the Jayhawks 66-14, in a game they led at half, 52-0. Texas should be reminded that the Jayhwaks has won 14 of their last 15 home games but that loss did come to Texas Tech on October 25, by the score of 63-21. McCoy and Texas will have a tough time topping that one. His season stats are: 244-of-313(78.0 percent) for 2,879 yards with 28 TDs and 7 INTs / QB rating of 180.3 is 4th in the nation / 101 carries for 4449 yards (4.4 YPC) and 7 TDs.

4) TIM TEBOW (Florida) Last Week: 4. I'll repeat what I said last week, that 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. No one expected Tebow to match his terrific numbers from last year (3,286 yards passing with 32 TDs / 895 yards rushing with 23 TDs) but he really put himself in a pretty big 'hole' the first four games of '08. The Gators suffered a devastating 31-30 loss at home to Ole Miss (Florida missed an extra-point) on September 27 and while Tebow had a season-high 319 yards passing in that game plus two rushing TDs, he had thrown for just six TDs and rushed for only 125 yards (2.6 YPC) over Florida's first four games. With this year's great contingent of prolific Big 12 QBs, those kind of numbers were not going to cut it. Tebow is a terrific talent and he's proven just that since the Ole Miss loss, leading the Gators to five straight wins, while outscoring their opponents 243-57. The streak includes a 51-21 win over LSU (last year's national champs) and 49-10 over Georgia (the nation's preseason No. 1 team). Tebow led the Gators to a 45-12 win at Vandy last Saturday, completing 12-of-17 passes for 171 yards with three TDs and no INTs. He added a season-high 88 yards on the ground (11 attempts) and two more TDs. He broke Emmitt Smith's school record of 36 rushing TDs against Georgia and his two vs Vandy ups his career total to 41. The win gives Florida a guaranteed spot in the SEC title game, where the Gators will meet current No. 1, Alabama. Florida is currently No. 3 in the AP poll and 4th in the BCS standings. If both Alabama and Florida can stay perfect the rest of the way, it's likely that SEC championship game on December 6, will give the winner a spot in the BCS title game. Tebow 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. Up next for the Gators are Steve Spurrier and South Carolina. Two years ago, the Gamecocks (and their lovable coach) nearly beat the Gators in "The Swamp" (lost 17-16) but last year in Columbia, the Gators won 51-31. All Tebow did in that game was throw for 304 yards with two TDs plus run for 120 yards with five more TDs. A repeat performance could just get me (and others) re-thinking Tebow's chances at a second straight Heisman. His season stats are: 126-of-194 (64.9 percent) for 1,740 yards with 17 TDs and 2 INTs / QB rating of 167.1 ranks 8th / 105 carries for 354 yards (3.4 YPC) 10 TDs.

5) MICHAEL CRABTREE (Texas Tech) Last Week: 5. I had Crabtree No. 9 in my preseason poll, along with fellow WRs Percy Harvin (Florida) and Jeremy Maclin (Missouri) but while Maclin's been a poll-regular for me due to his versatility, I didn't put Crabtree into my top-10 until last week (at the No. 5 spot). As the saying goes, better late than never. Crabtree 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 had eight catches with three going for TDs in Tech's romp over OSU last Saturday. That performance extended his streak of recording at least five receptions and a touchdown catch to 13 consecutive games, matching Randy Moss and leaving him one game shy of Pitt's Larry Fitzgerald, who had a 14-game streak for the Panthers from 2002-03. Crabtree had a modest 89 receiving yards in the game but has topped 100 yards in 15 of his 23 career games, while catching an amazing total of 40 TDs. As already mentioned, Tech visits Oklahoma on November 22 in what will be a fairly important game. Crabtree's season stats are: 78 catches for 1,010 yards (12.9 YPC) with 18 TDs.
6)JEREMY MACLIN (Missouri) Last Week: 7. It's hard to argue against the fact that Crabtree is the nation's best receiver but Maclin isn't too far behind and he's a better all-around performer. Maclin has 71 receptions for 949 yards (13.4 YPC) for nine TDs. He's added 190 rushing (7.0 YPC) with two more TDs. Throw in 188 yards on punt returns plus 658 more on kickoff returns and his 198.5 YPG ranks him second in all-purpose yards nationally.

7) CHASE DANIEL (Missouri) Last Week: 6. Daniel was my early favorite for this award but Missouri's back-to-back losses to Oklahoma State and Texas did him (as have the performances of fellow Big 12 QBs Harrell, Bradford and McCoy). Daniel has completed 76.1 percent for 3,264 yards with 28 TDs and 10 INTs but likely will not get an invite to New York this year (he finished fourrth last year). Sweet revenge could still be his however, if Missouri were to upset the Big 12's South champ (Oklahoma, Oklahoma State or Texas) in the Big 12 championship game.

8) JAVON RINGER (Michigan State) Last Week: 8. The lone RB on this list, leads the nation with 20 TDs (No. 1 in scoring 10.9 PPG), ranks second in rushing yards (140.7 YPG) and 4th in all-purpose yards (173.2 YPG). The 20 rushing TDs in a season is the second-most in school history, behind Jehuu Caulcrick's 21 set last season. The Spartans are 9-2 for the first time since 1999 and can win a share of the Big Ten title with a win at Penn State in two weeks (Michigan State is off next week), something they haven't done since 1990.

9) BARACK OBAMA (Illinois) Last Week: 10. I had him in a dead-heat for the No. 10 spot last week with Arizona's John McCain but his 364-173 electoral win moves him up one spot. Watch out boys, this guy has a way of attracting voters.

10) DAVID JOHNSON (Tulsa) Last Week: In a season dominated by QBs, I figured a should find a spot for the nation's top-rated QB from a school ranked 25th in the latest AP poll and 23rd in the BCS standings.

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