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Heisman Trophy Rankings

   by Larry Ness - 10/19/2009

The 2009 season began with all three of last year's Heisman top vote-getters active. Sam Bradford (Oklahoma) was the '08 winner, Colt McCoy (Texas) was the runner-up and Tim Tebow (Florida) finished third but garnered the most first-place votes (not to mention being the '07 Heisman winner). This year's Heisman 'race' seemed certain to be limited to a three-man field. So much for "best laid plans."

Bradford threw for a school-record 4,720 yards and led the nation with 50 TD passes in 2008 but sprained an AC joint in his throwing shoulder at the end of the first half in a game vs BYU on September 5. He would miss the next three games but return vs Baylor on October 10, passing for 389 yards on 49 attempts, which matched the second-most he'd thrown for in his career.

However, Bradford's college career at Oklahoma may be over after absorbing another setback on Saturday against the Longhorns. Texas CB Aaron Williams was unblocked on a blitz, grabbing Bradford by the waist and jerking him down while Bradford was running backwards. He landed on his shoulder and began writhing in pain right away.

As for Colt McCoy, he banged his thumb on his passing hand against the helmet of an Oklahoma player during the first quarter but insisted that had nothing to do with throws that at times were wildly inaccurate. He was only 21-of-39 for 127 yards with a pair of turnovers within 10 yards of the end zone. He also got away with two passes that could have been intercepted (and perhaps returned for TDs) late in the first half.

That leaves Tebow, whose No. 1 Gators escaped with a 23-20 win over unranked Arkansas in "The Swamp." The Gators had three turnovers on consecutive possessions in the first half, including two fumbles by Tebow. Just about everything that could go wrong for the Gators did. The offense had four turnovers, missed a FG and scored just once in its first four trips inside the 20-yard line against an Arkansas D which entered the game with the SEC's worst-rated defense.

So where does the Heisman 'chase' stand now? My latest Heisman Watch follows.

1) TIM TEBOW (Florida) Last Week: 1. I touched on the Florida negatives in the introduction but one could argue that Tebow had a "Heisman moment" in Florida's game-winning drive at the end of the game. Tebow directed that 69-yard drive beautifully in the final minutes, setting up Caleb Sturgis' 27-yard FG with nine seconds remaining, giving Florida the 23-20 win. He threw for 30 yards and ran for 22 on the drive with three plays standing out, his 12-yard pass to Riley Cooper on third down (Cooper fell down, then caught the ball on one knee) plus consecutive runs that gained 16 yards and put Sturgis well within his comfort zone for the game-winning FG. Tebow finished 17-of-26 for a season-high 255 yards with one TD and zero INTs in the game. He added 69 yards rushing on 27 carries. The lone TD pass covered 77 yards and represents his career-long. The TD pass also gave him 123 TDs accounted for (rushing and passing combined) all-time, breaking Danny Wuerffel's SEC record. He's just one career rushing TD away (with 48) from tying Herschel for the all-time lead in the SEC (Herschel had 49). He's now thrown a TD pass in 33 of his last 34 games, as Florida won its 16th in a row (longest active winning streak). The Gators have outscored their opponents 687-to-180 in that span with Tebow throwing 30 TDs and just four INTs during that stretch (24-2 ratio the last 12 games), while adding 15 rushing TDs. The Gators lost their No. 1 ranking in the AP on Sunday ('Bama is now No. 1) but in the all-important first BCS standings of the 2009 season, edged the Tide with Texas getting the third-place spot. A Florida/Alabama showdown in the SEC championship game almost seems like a foregone conclusion and if Texas can remain unbeaten, the Longhorns would likely play the SEC winner in the BCS title game (I'm getting ahead of myself). The Gators visit Starkville this Saturday to take on Miss St, as Tebow faces the Bulldogs for the first time in his career (schools haven't played since 2005). Tebow's season stats are: 72-of-110 (65.5 percent) 1,032 yards 8 TDs 2 INTs / 99 carries 378 yards (3.8 YPC) 5 TDs.

2) JIMMY CLAUSEN (Notre Dame) Last week: 3. The only knock against Clausen this year was "quality of competition." Saturday's showdown with USC was Clausen's chance to prove his outstanding start in 2009 was no fluke. Clausen was just 3-of-10 in the first half and when Joe McKnight scored with 13 1/2 minutes to go in the game, the Trojans led the Irish, 34-14 (bye-bye Heisman hopes). However, Clausen came alive after that, quickly taking Notre Dame on a 68-yard TD drive, capping it with his first rushing TD of the season. USC freshman QB Barkley then threw an INT and on a 3rd-and-12 play, Clausen connected on a 15-yard TD pass (34-27 USC). The Irish got the ball back on their own 22 and Clausen led them to a 1st-and-goal at the USC four-yard line but threw three incompletions to end the game. All-in-all, Clausen deserves an A-minus, completing 24-of-43 for 260 yards with two TDs, zero INTs and a rush TD, despite his poor start and suffering five sacks. Clausen had topped 300 yards in four of his five games in 2009 and five of his previous six if one were to include his 401-yard, five-TD performance in last year's Hawaii Bowl. The maturation of Clausen has been dramatic, considering he had just two 300-yard games in his first 22 games. Note that last year he was 11-of-22 for 41 yards with two INTs in Notre Dame's 38-0 loss at USC. Clausen proved to be a "real Heisman candidate" against USC and we'll see how the rest of the season plays out. The Irish host Boston College on Saturday, a school which has beaten them the last six meetings. Clausen has a lot to prove, as in last year's 17-0 loss at Chestnut Hill, he completed 26-of-46 passes for 226 yards but threw four INTs! His season stats are: 124-of-191 (64.9 percent) 1,804 yards 14 TDs and 2 INTs / 1 Rush TD.

3) CASE KEENUM (Houston) Last Week: 4. I noted earlier that Tebow had a season-high 255 yards passing this past Saturday. In comparison, Case Keenum had a season-low 334 yerds passing in Saturday's 44-16 win at Tulane. The Cougars led just 9-6 at the half but continued to extend the lead in the second half with both of Keenum's TD passes coming in the fourth quarter. He would finish 30-of-43 for 334 yards with two TDs and not a single interception (he had averaged 468.3 YPG in the air the previous three games). While Keenum's 334 passing yards were his lowest of the season, he extended his run of 300-yard games to 18 straight in the regular season (he’s topped 300 yards in 19 of his last 20 games) and has thrown a TD pass in a school-record 22 consecutive games (1989 Heisman-winner Andre Ware owned the previous record with 18). Speaking of Ware, Keenum's two TD passes give him 77 in his career, moving out of a tie with Ware and leaving him third on Houston's all-time list. The UTEP loss back on October 3 'killed' any chance the Cougars had of being this year's "BCS buster" but they can still win C-USA's West division this season. A home game with SMU is up next (Oct 24), a school the Cougars beat 44-38 last year in Dallas. However, this is a "new year" for the Mustangs, as they enter 3-3 overall (2-0 in C-USA) in June Jones' second season, after going 1-11 in each of the two previous seasons (0-16 in C-USA). Houston trailed 35-23 in last year's game heading into the fourth quarter before Keenum engineered the comeback. Trailing 38-36, the Cougars got the ball at their own 15 with 1:58 left but Keenum was 5-of-6 on an eight-play drive, capping it with a TD pass with 24 seconds remaining. He finished 28-of-36 for 404 yards with two TDs, one INT and a rushing TD. Keenum's stats are: 213-of-305 (69.8 percent) 2,464 yards 19 TDs 4 INTs / 3 rush TDs.

4) COLT MCCOY (Texas) Last Week: 2. While Tebow and the Gators were edging the Razorbacks 23-20, McCoy and the Longhorns edged the Sooners, 16-13. It was sloppy game by both teams and of course Bradford went out early in the first quarter. McCoy banged his thumb on his passing hand against the helmet of an Oklahoma player during the first quarter as well, but insisted that it didn't affect his performance. He was only 21-of-39 for 127 yards with a pair of turnovers within 10 yards of the end zone. He also got away with two passes that could have been intercepted (and perhaps returned for TDs) late in the first half. The 127 yards passing were a season-low and the second-fewest of his college career, next to him going 7-of-8 for 124 yards in the third game of his freshman season in a 52-7 in over Rice ((I'm no counting the game at Kansas St in late 2006 when he was KO'd in the first quarter after going 4-of-4 for 51 yards with a rushing TD). McCoy is not coming close to matching his stats from last year, in particular his TD-to-INT ratio (34-8 LY but just 11-7 so far in '09) and his rushing yards. McCoy topped 500 yards rushing in both '07 and '08, leading Texas in rushing in 2008 with 561 yards while scoring 11 TDs (has yet to reach 100 YR after six games in '09 and is averaging just 1.9 YPC with one TD!). McCoy's "biggest play" vs Oklahoma came defensively. With the Longhorns leading 16-13 and facing a third-and-2 at the Oklahoma, McCoy was intercepted at the Oklahoma nine-yard line but made a game-saving tackle on the pickoff return at the Oklahoma 31. After his defense got him the ball back, McCoy managed to grind out the final 3:31, giving Texas the win and making McCoy just the third Longhorn QB to own three career wins over Oklahoma (Bobby Layne and Peter Gardere are the others). McCoy drops to No. 4 in my poll this week but could easily move back up. He owns countless single-season and career marks at Texas, which I’ll document (and update) throughout the year. McCoy has thrown a TD pass in a school-record 23 straight games and the win vs Oklahoma was his 38th as a starting QB (Vince Young won 31, which was previous school-high). McCoy also continues to extend his career record of TDs responsible for (passing, rushing, receiving) at Texas, as his total is now up 115 (Young had 81 and former Heisman-winner Ricky Williams had 76). I would imagine that McCoy would gladly give up any Heisman hopes for a chance to play in the BCS title game. To ensure that, the Longhorns need to win-out. They play the next two games on the road, this Saturday at Missouri and then October 31 at Stillwater. Texas crushed the Tigers last year 56-31 in Austin (led 35-3 at the half) with McCoy completely outplaying Missouri QB Chase Daniel in that game. He completed 29-of-32 passes for 337 yards with two TDs and zero INTs (also added two rushing TDs). McCoy could use a similar effort here, to regain some Heisman momentum. His season stats are: 156-of-223 (70.0 percent) 1,537 yards 11 TDs 7 INTs / 48 carries for 91 yards (1.9 YPC) 1 TD.

5) MARK INGRAM (Alabama) Last Week: NR. I had Cincy's Tony Pike in this spot two weeks ago and Todd Reesing last week. Pike injured his wrist in Cincy's 34-17 win at USF (Bearcats were still waiting for word Monday on whether he will be able to play with his forearm injury) and while Reesing had an excellent game at Colorado (30-of-51 for 401 yards with two TDs and one INT), his then-No. 17 Jayhawks (now No. 24) were upset by the Buffs, 34-30. That left me searching for a new No. 5 and why not Alabama RB Mark Ingram? How much of a long shot was Ingram at the beginning of the year? Well consider that in Phil Steele's CFB annual (page 328), he listed nine Heisman favorites, 11 more "contenders," 28 "possibilities" and 19 "darkhorses." None of those 66 players were named Mark Ingram! Alabama 'jumped' over Florida in the AP poll on Sunday but the coaches' poll, Harris poll and computers all had Florida No. 1, giving the Gators the No. 1 spot in this year's first BCS standings (Alabama was No. 2). Ingram had a modest 728 yards rushing last year (just one 100-yard game), as Glen Coffee led Alabama's rushing attack in 2008 with 1,383 yards (5.9 YPC / 10 TDs). However, Ingram opened the 2009 season with an outstanding game vs Va Tech, rushing for 150 yards and a TD in Alabama's 34-24 win. After three so-so games, the sophomore has run for 140 vs Kentucky, 172 at Ole Miss and last Saturday vs South Carolina ran for a career-high 246 yards. Since dropping Jahvid Best after his and Cal's back-to-back awful performances against Oregon and USC, I welcome a RB back into the Heisman-field. Here's something to note regarding Ingram that surely makes him worthy of being on the list. He's run for at least one TD in all seven games this year, in 10 of his last 11 games and in 16 of his 21 career games. He's handled the ball 304 times in his 21-game career at Alabama (rushing and receiving) and has yet to lose a fumble. Alabama hosts Tennessee this coming Saturday and wanna bet that Ingram improves on his performance in last year's game at Knoxville? This may help your decision. Ingram ran just four times for one yard in the 29-9 win. His season stats are: 135 carries 905 yards (6.7 YPC 8 TDs / 19 catches 186 yards (9.8 YPC) 3 TDs.

Good luck, Larry

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