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Heisman Watch

   by Larry Ness - 10/09/2009

The 2009 Heisman race opened with Bradford, McCoy and Tebow all alone in a three-man contest. However, Bradford went down with an injury on September 5 (has yet to return). McCoy has been less than spectacular (although he's been very good) and while Tebow's been Tebow, he suffered that concussion against Kentucky on September 26. RB Jahvid Best of Cal was the most likely 'party-crasher' heading into the season but he's no longer a serious candidate (see below).

The good news is, that over the next two weekends, the Heisman 'picture' will take shape, as Flordia visits No. 4 LSU this Saturday, Texas takes on Oklahoma in Dallas on October 17 and Notre Dame hosts USC the same day. My latest Heisman Watch appears below.

1) TIM TEBOW (Florida) Last Week: 1. Tebow is reading, watching television, attending class, studying film and doing just about everything else he was before his concussion.However, he isn't yet practicing as of Monday. Florida coach Urban Meyer said Monday that Tebow is no longer dealing with post-concussion symptoms but that his star player has not been cleared to return to the field or play against No. 4 LSU on Saturday night. Assuming Tebow is all right and ready to return for Saturday's date in Baton Rogue, the concussion he suffered will just "add to his legend." Tebow's a unique talent, an inspirational leader, a great kid and is on pace to be the most-honored player in college football history (could be a three-time national champion and a two-time Heisman winner). He only completed 5-of-10 passes for 103 yards (one TD / 0 INTs) in Florida's 41-7 win at Kentucky on September 26 but he did add 123 yards rushing (16 carries) and two TDs before his injury. He only topped 100 yards rushing once last year (with 122 yards in the BCS title game vs Oklahoma) but did top 100 yards rushing twice in his Heisman-winning season of 2007 (had 895 YR and 23 TDs that year). The Gators will enter Saturday's game with the nation's longest active winning streak with 14 consecutive victories (11-1 ATS). They have outscored their opponents 651-to-157 in that span with Tebow throwing 28 TDs and just three INTs during that stretch (22-1 ratio the last 10 games), while adding 15 rushing TDs. His two rushing TDs against Kentucky gave him 48 in his career, second all-time in the SEC (Herschel leads with 49). As long as the Gators continue to win, Tebow will be hard to unseat as the Heisman-favorite. I’m not “locked-in” to placing him first every week in my Heisman Watch but just who else would you place No. 1? The Gators beat the Tigers 51-21 last year in Gainesville but in 2007, lost at LSU 28-24 (Tebow was 12-of-26 for 158 yards with two TDs and one INT / 67 rush yards and one TD). Tebow's season stats are: 44-of-68 (64.7 percent) 643 yards 6 TDs 1 INT / 55 carries 271 yards (4.9 YPC) 5 TDs.

2) COLT MCCOY (Texas) Last Week: 2. Two weekends ago, Colt McCoy saw the Heisman front-runner get hurt (Tebow) and the top RB in the Heisman field (Cal's Jahvid Best) have a horrible game at Oregon. Like Tebow's Gators, McCoy's Longhorns were idle this past Saturday but Best is OUT of the Heisman running for good, as his Bears were manhandled for the second consecutive Saturday, this time at home by USC. The Trojans embarrassed the Bears 30-3 at Berkeley with Best being held to 47 yards (14 carries) after gaining just 55 yards (16 carries) at Oregon. Bye-bye Jahvid. As for McCoy, he threw three first-half TD passes and the Longhorns rolled to a 40-point lead by halftime on September 26 against UTEP. The Longhorns would cruise to a 64-7 win over the Miners. McCoy finished with 286 yards on 28-of-35 for 286 yards with three TDs and one INT (had 15 yards rushing on four carries, as well). McCoy will have little trouble topping Tebow in the statistical 'war' but it's the public perception 'battle' which he must win. McCoy began his senior season with an impressive “body of work.” He completed an NCAA single-season record 76.7 percent of his passes last year for 3,859 yards (34 TDs / 8 INTs). He also led the Longhorns in rushing (561 yards / 4.1 YPC / 11 TDs) in 2008. He owns countless single-season and career marks at Texas, which I’ll document (and update) throughout the year. Here goes. McCoy has thrown a TD pass in a school-record 21 straight games and his three TD passes gives him 94 in his career, a school record he already owned. The win vs UTEP was his 36th as a starting QB (Vince Young won 31). McCoy also continues to extend his career record of TDs responsible for (passing, rushing, receiving) at Texas, as his total is now up 113 (Young had 81 and former Heisman-winner Ricky Williams had 76). The Longhorns host a struggling Colorado team this Saturday, one they beat 38-14 at Boulder last year (McCoy was 23-of-30 for 262 yards with two TDs and two INTs). McCoy could use some big numbers this Saturday, setting up the team's Red River Shootout vs Oklahoma on October 17. McCoy's season stats are: 103-of-145 (71.0 percent) 1,145 yards 9 TDs 5 INTs / 28 carries for 61 yards (2.2 YPC) 1 TD.

3) JIMMY CLAUSEN (Notre Dame) Last week: 4. The Fighting Irish opened the 2009 season with a 35-0 win over Nevada. However, each of their last four games have been decided in the final minute. Michigan's Tate Forcier threw a five-yard TD pass with 11 seconds remaining to beat the Irish 38-34 back on September 12 and Kyle McCarthy had an interception at the 4-yard line with 57 seconds left to seal Notre Dame's 33-30 win over Michigan State on September 19. Jimmy Clausen threw a two-yard TD pass to Kyle Rudolph with 24.8 seconds to play to give Notre Dame a 24-21 win over Purdue two Saturdays ago and then this past Saturday, the Irish beat Washington 37-30 in OT. Clausen told reporters this past Wednesday that his turf toe injury is something that he'll have to deal with the rest of the season but he then went out and completed 23-of-31 for a career-high 422 yards with two TDs and one INT. Notre Dame stayed in the game with a pair of goal-line stands in the second half (allowed three points) and Clausen's 12-yard TD pass to Kyle Rudolph with 80 seconds left gave Notre Dame a 30-27 lead. The Huskies sent the game to OT with a 37-yard FG with six seconds remaining in regulation but after the Irish scored on a one-yard TD in the first OT, safeties Harrison Smith and Kyle McCarthy jarred the ball loose from Washington receiver D'Andre Goodwin near the goal line on fourth-and-19 as Notre Dame came away with its first OT win in the Charlie Weis era (had been 0-3). Clausen has now topped 300 yards in four of five games in 2009 and five of six if one were to include his 401-yard, five-TD performance in last year's Hawaii Bowl. Note the maturation of Clausen, who had just two 300-yard games in his first 22 games. While last year's Hawaii Bowl doesn't count, it was the 'launching pad' for Clausen's 2009 season, as he's averaged 324.2 YPG with 17 TDs and only two INTs since that 49-21 win. Of course the knock on Clausen's stats is that Hawaii finished just 7-7 last year and Notre Dame's four wins in 2009 have come over Nevada, Michigan St, Purdue and Washington (teams with a combined 6-13 record). Notre Dame is idle this coming Saturday but on October 17 will host No. 7 USC, which has beaten the Irish seven straight times. The Trojans won 38-0 last year in the Coliseum with Clausen completing 11-of-22 for 41 yards with two INTs. Is Clausen a "real Heisman candidate?" We'll find out on October 17. His season stats are: 100-of-143 yards (67.6 percent) 1,544 yards 12 TDs and 2 INTs.

4) CASE KEENUM (Houston) Last Week: 3. Case Keenum completed 51-of-76 passes (seven shy of the FBS record set by Drew Brees) for a career-high 536 yards (7th, 400-yard game) with five TDs and not a single INT in those 76 attempts. However, UTEP, which entered the game ranked 109th in scoring offense while averaging just under 243 YPG (not to mention coming off a 64-7 loss at Texas in which it had gained just 53 total yards), scored 58 points on the beleaguered Cougars defense, racking up 581 yards of offense (305 rush / 276 pass). The game was tied at halftime but the Miners outscored Houston 20-3 in the third quarter and then hung on. Keenum would throw three TD passes in the fourth quarter but the Miners got three TDs of their own. Can a defense "lose a Heisman" for a QB? Keenum has racked up 359, 366, 435 and now 536 yards passing to open the 2009 season. He topped 300 yards in each of Houston’s 12 regular season games last year (five times topping 400 yards), before throwing for “just” 256 yards (one TD, one INT and two rushing TDs) in the Cougars’ 34-28 Armed Forces Bowl win over Air Force. He’s now extended his run of 300-yard games to 16 straight in the regular season (he's topped 300 yards in 17 of his last 18) and has thrown a TD pass in a school-record 20 consecutive games (1989 Heisman-winner Andre Ware owned the previous record with 18). The loss 'killed' any chance the Cougars had of being this year's "BCS buster" and must now re-focus on winning C-USA's West division (not a given, having lost at UTEP and with a trip to Tulsa on November 7). Houston will have to regroup quickly, as it plays at Mississippi St this Saturday. While the Cougars are just 2-15 SU since 2000 on the road vs BCS conference opponents, one of those wins came at then-No. 5 Oklahoma State this year (September 12) and the other came at Mississippi State in 2005 (28-16). I doubt any QB will match Keenum's passing stats in 2009 (surely not Tebow) but the Heisman won't be awarded on just stats. Keenum's stats are: 144-of-210 (68.6 percent ) 1,696 yards 13 TDs 2 INTs / 3 rush TDs.

5) TONY PIKE (Cincinnati) Last Week: NR. The Bearcats won a school-record 11 games in 2008 and made their first-ever BCS bowl appearance (a 20-7 loss to Va Tech). Tony Pike entered lat season with just 20 pass attempts in his college career but would win the starting QB job and then lose it because on an injury. He returned on October 25 at U Conn but the Bearcats got crushed, 40-16. They didn't lose again, winning the their final six games of the regular season before the Orange Bowl. Pike completed 64.9 percent of his throws in that six-game winning streak, averaging 233.0 YPG with 11 TDs and five INTs. He was then awful with four INTs vs the Hokies. The Bearcats opened the 2009 unranked (no Big East team made any of the preseason top-25 polls) but the 5-0 Bearcats find themselves ranked No. 8 in the latest AP poll, the first time they've been ranked higher than Ohio State (Buckeyes are No. 9) since November 21, 1951. Wow! Pike's topped 300 yards in three of five games this year, including 362 yards with three TDs in a season-opening 47-15 win at preseason Big East favorite Rutgers and 332 yards and two TDs in a 28-18 win at Oregon State (September 18), which ended the Beavers' 26-game non-conference home winning streak. Pike had 273 passing yards and two TDs in last Saturday's 37-14 win at Miami-Ohio. It marked the 114th meeting between the two schools in a series which dates back to 1888, making it the oldest non-conference rivalry in CFB history. Pike has 13 TD passes and just three interceptions in 2009 and has now thrown at least one TD in 15th consecutive starts. The Bearcats are idle this weekend and will get to 'bask in the glory" of the school's first top-10 ranking in history. Cincy better not bask too much though, as up next is a Thursday night visit to Tampa on October 15 where the Bearcats will take on 5-0 South Florida, which just moved into the top-25 this past weekend at No. 23. Pike's season stats are: 116-of-174 (66.7 percent) 1,493 yards 13 TDs 3 INTs / 2 rush TDs.

On the radar: How about Pike's teammate WR Mardy Gilyard? He has 38 receptions, including seven TDs (tied for the most in FBS). He also averages 166.4 all-purpose yards which ranks him 14th in the nation. RB Noel Devine of West Virginia ranks third in the nation with 135.0 YPG on the ground (7.4 YPC / 6 TDs) and is coming off a career-high 220 yards rushing in West Va's 35-24 win over Colorado. His first carry went for a 77-yard score and was his FBS-leading fifth carry of 70 or more yards over the last three seasons. Lastly, why not Darius Marshall of Marshall? He leads the nation in rushing with 159.8 YPG (7.0 YPC / 7 TDs) and all-purpose yards (235.8 per game).

Good luck, Larry

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