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by Larry Ness - 11/29/2004
Monday, November 29
Usually the QB of the No. 1 ranked team, especially one with the two-year statistics of Matt Leinart, would be the odds-on favorite to win the Heisman. However, that hasn't been the case in 2004 as Kyle Orton was considered the early-favorite and then Oklahoma freshman RB became the media 'darling'! Last year's winner Jason White's late-season run has brought back mention of the award's only two-time winner (Archie Griffin) and even Leinart's do-everything teammate Reggie Bush, has more than a few supporters. However, this poll has had Leinart on top since the beginning of the season and I ask, "did anyone happen to see Leinart's game Saturday night vs USC"?....
1) MATT LEINART (USC) Last Week 1: Legend has it that in 2002, Carson Palmer of USC clinched the Heisman with his performance in USC's season-ending win over Notre Dame. If that's really true, Leinart may have just seen history repeating itself! It may never rain in Southern California but IN THE RAIN last Saturday night, Matt Leinart passed for a career-high 400 yards while completing 24-of-34 passes with five TDs and no interceptions. USC trailed 10-3 mid-way through the second quarter but scored the game's final 38 points in beating Notre Dame 41-10. As he has ALL season, Leinart never got flustered and surgically dissected the Notre Dame defense. USC has now won 20 straight games and a school-record 21 straight at the Coliseum. Leinart has thrown for 58 TDs and just eight interceptions in the Trojans' winning streak and has 66 TDs and just 14 interceptions while going 23-1 in his 24 starts as USC's QB! USC plays cross-town rival UCLA on Saturday in the Rose Bowl. A win by USC will send the Trojans to the Orange Bowl (site of the BCS title game) and should give the school its SIXTH Heisman winner! Leinart's season stats are: 227-of-343 66.2 percent 2748 yards 28 TDs 5 INTs / 3 Rush TDs.
2) JASON WHITE (Oklahoma) Last Week: 2. White opened the game at Baylor (11/20) with EIGHT incompletions in his first nine attempts. However, that one completion went for a 19-yard TD. With Oklahoma leading just 7-0, White directed an 87-yard TD drive right before the half that put Oklahoma up 14-0. White completed 11-of-13 passes in that drive and capped it with a 10-yard TD pass. While it was Peterson who dominated for most of the second half in Oklahoma's 35-0 win, White completed 18 of his final 23 attempts to finish the day, 19-of-32 for 194 yards with two TDs and no interceptions. He has now led the Sooners to 23 consecutive regular season wins the last two years! Since the Texas game, White has 21 TD passes and just one interception while averaging 289.2 YPG passing (over six games). he has thrown 183 passes since his last interception while throwing for 17 TDs! Winning the award last year and losing votes to his dynamic freshman teammate Adrian Peterson, are the two-biggest liabilities in White getting 're-elected'! Oklahoma plays Colorado on Saturday in the Big-12 Championship game. His season stats are: 209-of-325 64.3 percent 2707 yards 30 TDs 4 INTs.
3) CEDRIC BENSON (Texas) Last Week: 3. The Longhorns found themselves down 13-6 at the half rather than up 13-6 vs A&M last Friday because they DIDN'T give Benson the ball at the goal line. Despite rushing for 105 first-half yards in 18 carries, the Longhorns decided NOT to call Benson's number and Young's subsequent fumble was returned 98 yards for an A&M score. Leading 19-13 in the fourth quarter and again at the A&M one-yard line, the Longhorns didn't make the same mistake again. Benson's one-yard TD run gave Texas a 26-13 lead (also the game's final score) and extended his NCAA record to 37 games with at least one TD. Benson finished with 165 yards on 33 carries, giving him his 10th 100-yard game this year and the 25th of his career (Texas is 25-0 in those games). Benson is tied for 4th all-time with 63 rushing TDs and while currently 6th on the NCAA's all-time rushing list, will need 'only' 129 yards in Texas' bowl game (a BCS Bowl?) to move into 4th all-time! One of just FIVE players to have topped 1000 yards in all four of his years, Benson will visit New York for the Heisman ceremonies but like his teams' chances for a BCS Bowl, will fall short of the 'prize'! His season stats are: 303 carries 1764 yards 5.8 YPC 19 TDs / 22 catches 1 TD.
4) ADRIAN PETERSON (Oklahoma) Last Week: 5. Peterson was his old-self two weeks ago in Oklahoma's 35-0 win over Baylor. The freshman topped the 200-yard mark for the third time in 2004 with 240 yards and a career-high three TDs in 32 carries. Only a separated shoulder has been able to slow the phenom down this year. His effort vs Baylor tied Anthony Davis' record of 10 games of 100 yards or more in a freshman season. Peterson will likely break that mark in the Big-12 title game vs Colorado. If not, he'll have to wait for Oklahoma's bowl game, hopefully (for Sooner fans) the Orange Bowl. With Oklahoma leading just 14-0 at the half vs Baylor, Peterson broke off a 49-yard run on Oklahoma's first play of the second half and he scored all three of his TDs in the game's second half. His presence gives Oklahoma a much better chance at winning this year's national title but it seems hard to believe that he and White won't take votes away from each other. Peterson's season stats are: 286 carries 1671 yards 5.8 YPC 12 TDs.
5) ALEX SMITH (Utah) Last Week: 4. it was a GREAT Saturday for Utah football as the Utes completed their best-ever season by taking care of BYU 52-21 back on December 20. Interestingly enough, the team's best player and its MVP Alex Smith, had his worst game of the year. For the first time in quite a while, Utah was still in a tight game (14-14) nearing half time. However, Smith led the Utes on a 12-play 80-yard scoring drive, capping it with a two-yard TD run. Utah steadily pulled away from there to win its 15th consecutive game and cap its first undefeated season since 1930! Smith finished 16-of-24 for 184 yards with one TD and two interceptions (matching his total from the previous 10 games!). He also ran for 34 yards and one TD in 14 attempts. Utah still maintains its sixth place ranking in the latest BCS standings and with its season complete is almost assuredly going to a BCS Bowl. Smith is now 20-1 as Utah's starting QB, throwing for 41 TDs with just seven interceptions during the streak, as well as rushing for 15 TDs. He won't win this year's Heisman but like his team, he should get invited to the party! his season stats are: 185-of-280 66.1 percent 2624 yards 28 TDs 4 INTs / 120 carries 563 yards 4.7 YPC 10 TDs.
6) JJ ARRINGTON (California) Last Week: 6. Despite freshman RB Marshawn Lynch running for over 100 yards in each of Cal's last two games, including a show-stopping change-of-direction 55-yard scoring run on December 20 vs Stanford, Arrington just keeps plugging along! Actually, he does much more than that. For the 10th time in Cal's 10 games in 2004 Arrington topped 100 yards. He is now the ONLY player in the nation that has topped the 100-yard mark in each one of his team's games! He finished with 169 yards and one TD on 27 carries in Cal's 41-6 win over Stanford and in the process broke Chuck Muncie's school single-season rushing record, set back in 1975. Arrington will become the first Cal player to lead the conference in rushing since 1958 and with two more 100-yard games, can break Marcus Allen's Pac-10 record of 11 100-yard games, set in 1981. Arrington's average of 158.4 YPG places him third in the nation this year and I believe he not Rodgers, has been the Bears' best player in 2004. A trip to Hattiesburg awaits Cal this Saturday. A win over Southern Miss could mean a trip to the Rose Bowl for the Bears for the first time since 1959. Arrington's season stats are: 233 carries 1584 yards 6.8 YPC 14 TDs.
7) AARON RODGERS (California) Last Week: 7. Rodgers followed his 12-of-23 161-yard game vs Washington with an 11-for-14 120 yard performance against Stanford, as the Bears beat the Cardinal (41-6). One could argue that Rodgers let Cal's running game dominate (51-307) but his performance vs Washington was uninspired at best and one doesn't win the Heisman with back-to-back games in which you average 140.5 YPG passing with a combined three TDs and two interceptions. Let's also not forget, Rodgers' "signature" game came against USC, a game his team LOST! It looks as if a Cal win over Southern Miss will seal a Rose Bowl trip for the Bears but they CAN'T afford for USC to lose to UCLA! Rodgers' season stats are: 170-of-246 69.1 percent 2097 yards 21 TDs 6 INTs / 2 Rush TDs.
8) JASON CAMPBELL (Auburn) Last Week: 8. Auburn was held to 90 total yards in the first half of its game last at Alabama (11/20) and trailed 6-0. Campbell had just 61 yards passing in that first half plus had thrown a costly interception. So when Auburn took the field in the second half, it was safe to say that Campbell's and the team's season was on the line. On Auburn's first possession, Campbell connected on a 51-yard pass play that set up Williams' six-yard TD run. Then his 32-yard TD pass on a third-and-17 play, but Auburn up 14-6. After an Alabama turnover, Campbell drove the Tigers to their third consecutive TD and Auburn was on its way to completing an undefeated regular season. Campbell was 8-of-9 for 143 yards in the third quarter and finished the 21-13 win 18-of-24 for 224 yards with one TD and one interception. At 11-0 (8-0 in the SEC) Auburn will face Tennessee in the SEC title game on Saturday, a team it beat 34-10 earlier this year in Knoxville. Campbell had two TD passes with one interception in that game while throwing for 252 yards. After throwing for just 25 TDs (and 17 interceptions) in his first three years at Auburn, Campbell's season stats this year are: 150-of-219 68.5 percent 2137 yards 16 TDs 5 INTs / 3 Rush TDs.
9) KYLE ORTON (Purdue) Last Week: NR. No one started the 2004 season any hotter than Purdue QB Kyle Orton. Orton had 17 TD passes and no interceptions through the team's first four games. He ran into trouble at Penn State in Game 5 with two interceptions but Purdue won 20-13 and at 5-0 were ranked as high as 5th in the AP. The season all unraveled for both Orton and Purdue over the next three weeks as the team suffered back-to-back home losses to Wisconsin and Michigan plus a road loss at Northwestern. Orton completed just 50 percent of his passes for an average of 197 YPG game with three TDs and three interceptions in those games and his fourth quarter fumble against Wisconsin (while diving for a first down) would unfortunately become his "signature" play of the year. Orton found himself on the sidelines against Iowa and Ohio State, leaving everyone to wonder if he was really hurt or maybe 'benched'? He returned late vs Ohio State and led Purdue to the game-winning score. Against Indiana on 11/20, he had 401 yards passing and five TD passes by the half. He finished 33-of-54 for 522 yards with six TDs and no interceptions in the Boilermakers' 63-24 win while setting a school record for total offense with 530 yards. His season stats are: 213-of-342 62.3 percent 2809 yards 28 TDs 5 INTs / 3 Rush TDs.
10) BROCK BERLIN (Miami) Last Week: NR. I should have known this was going to be a different year for Brock Berlin after Miami's first game of the season. The Hurricanes trailed FSU 10-3 (back on September 10) with just 1:22 remaining when Berlin drove his team 80 yards in just five plays, capping the drive with a 30-yard TD pass. Miami won that game 16-10 in OT and Berlin, off a season in which he threw for just 12 TDs and 17 interceptions in 2003, enters Saturday's game with Va Tech with 21 TD passes and just FOUR interceptions! While Miami's defense was allowing 100 points over a three-game span a while back, Berlin kept the Hurricanes season 'alive' by averaging 303.7 YPG passing in those games with 10 TDs and just two interceptions. Miami has won two straight to set up Saturday's title showdown with Va Tech and Berlin again has led the way with six TD passes and no interceptions. Miami lost at Va Tech last year 31-7, as Berlin was intercepted twice and sacked three times without throwing a TD pass. As I already said, this is a DIFFERENT year! Berlin's season stats are: 166-of-293 56.7 percent 2370 yards 21 TDs 4 INTs.
No. 9 Andrew Walter (Arizona St) Losing at USC and Cal is acceptable. Losing at Arizona IS NOT!