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by Larry Ness - 11/09/2009
TCU is No. 4 in the latest BCS standings, the highest-ever ranking for a non-BCS school but likely has no chance at making the BCS title game, even if it were to stay unbeaten. In fact, the Horned Frogs are not even guaranteed a BCS bowl bid if they remain unbeaten, as the Boise State Broncos (currently ranked No. 6) are still in the 'hunt' for that lone at-large bid available to schools outside of the six BCS conferences.
That's the "state of the union" in CFB circa 2009 regarding entrance to the BCS and one wonders if the same rule applies in the Heisman voting, 'outsiders' need not apply?
Will Tim Tebow of Florida win a second Heisman based on his "body of work" and legendary image, despite less than Heisman-worthy numbers in 2009? How about Alabama's Mark Ingram, a virtual unknown coming into the season? Will he become Alabama's first-ever Heisman winner? Can Jimmy Clausen's terrific stats overcome Notre Dame's three losses (and counting), including the school's second loss to Navy in the last three years, after 43 consecutive wins over the Midshipmen?
How about last year's runner-up, Colt McCoy? Texas seems to be a virtual 'lock' for the BCS title game (playing the winner of Alabama/Florida) and McCoy is off a career-high 470 passing yards last week. How about Case Keenum of Houston? Isn't he having the most spectacular season of all the contenders? Then there are his numerous "wild finishes," the latest of which was last Saturday night in Tulsa. My latest Heisman Watch follows.
1) CASE KEENUM (Houston) Last Week: 2. Houston's last visit to Tulsa (in 2007) resulted in a 56-7 loss with Keenum being held to 81 yards passing (zero TDs and one INTs). However, the Cougars crushed the Golden Hurricane 70-30 last year in Houston, as Keenum had 402 yards passing and six TD passes. Considering the fact that since C-USA split into two divisions in 2005, the winner of the Houston/Tulsa game has represented the West in all four league championships (Tulsa in 2005, '07 and '08 plus Houston in 2006), it was fair to call last Saturday night's game a "big one!" It turned out to not only be 'big,' but featured a remarkable ending, as well. The game was a back-and-forth affair all game and Tulsa went up 45-37 with 3:28 remaining in the contest. However, Keenum drove the Cougars 61 yards on 13 plays, capping the drive with a one-yard TD pas with just 21 seconds remaining. Houston needed a two-point conversion but Keenum was sacked on the tying 2-point try. However, Houston was able to come up with the onsides kick after a Tulsa player mishandled the ball. Set up on his own 39, Keenum completed passes of a 14 and 13 yards to set up Matt Hogan's 51-yard FG try. The freshman hadn't made a FG of longer than 34 yards this season but drilled the game-winner! Keenum finished 40-of-60 for 522 yards with three TDs and not a single INT in those 60 attempts. It was the second straight game with more than 500 yards passing for the nation's most prolific passer, giving him 10 career games of 400-plus yards passing (one behind the school record of 11 held by David Klinger). Keenum saw his run of 18 consecutive 300-yard passing games in the regular season end vs SMU back on October 24 but with back-to-back 500-yard efforts, he’s topped 300 yards in 21 of his last 23 games and he's thrown for at least 360 yards in eight of his nine games in 2009. His three-TD game extended his school record to 25 straight games with a TD pass (1989 Heisman-winner Andre Ware owned the previous record with 18) and now has 86 career TD passes at Houston. Houston leads the nation in scoring (42.1 PPG) and total offense (577.9 YPG) with Keenum leading the nation in total offense (434.4 YPG), which is 109.1 YPG ahead of the player ranked second! Maybe he won't win the 2009 Heisman but for now, I'm placing him No. 1, as he's been the most spectacular performer of the 2009 season so far. Houston visits Orlando on Saturday to play UCF. These schools have met just twice, the last coming in 2006, pre-Keenum. I want to keep reminding critics that it would be a mistake to think that a QB from Houston can't win the Heisman. Andre Ware became the first black QB to win the Heisman back in 1989 playing for a Houston team which was then part of the Southwest Conference AND was on probation, meaning the Cougars of 1989 never once played on TV. Keenum's season stats are: 325-of-458 (71.0 percent) 3,815 yards 28 TDs 5 INTs / 3 Rush TDs.
2) JIMMY CLAUSEN (Notre Dame) Last week: 1. I've had Clausen No. 1 the last two weeks but I'm dropping him to No. 2 this week. Clausen finished 37-of-57 yards for 452 yards in Notre Dame's 23-21 loss to Navy, all of which are career highs. The 37 completions are a school record and the yardage is the fourth-best in school history. He threw two TDs but committed two costly turnovers. His reaction after his third-quarter interception resulted in a 15-yard penalty and he fumbled at the Navy one-yard line to end the quarter, missing an opportunity for Notre Dame to close the score to 21-14. With Notre Dame pinned deep in its own territory late in the game and trailing 21-14, Clausen was sacked on consecutive plays. The second one gave Navy its final two points and sealed the victory, although Clausen did lead Notre Dame to one final score). It will be tough for Clausen and the Irish (spelled, W-E-I-S!) to bounce back from its loss to Navy. Everyone knows Notre Dame had beaten Navy 43 consecutive times (average score, 36.0-11.9) but the Irish have now lost two of the last three years to the Midshipmen with both losses in South Bend (oh, the humanity!). Media speculation had Notre Dame chasing a BCS berth prior to last Saturday's game but the loss to Navy effectively ends any hope Notre Dame had for its first BCS appearance since 2006. Last year’s Hawaii Bowl shouldn't be factored into this year's Heisman 'race,' but it was the ‘launching pad’ for Clausen’s 2009 season. Clausen topped 300 yards passing in five of six games from the Hawaii Bowl and this year's first five games, averaging 324.2 YPG with 17 TDs and only two INTs! He then averaged 258.0 YPG over his next three games (USC. BC and WSU) with six TDs and not a single INT in 109 attempts. His career-high 452 vs Navy gives him six, 300-yard games (three of more than 400) in his last 10, after posting just two 300-yard games in his 22 games prior to last year’s Hawaii Bowl. To stay at (near) the top of my poll next week, Clausen needs an outstanding effort in this Saturday's game at No. 8 Pittsburgh. The Panthers beat the Irish 36-33 (in four OTs) in South Bend last year with Clausen throwing for 271 yards (23-of-44, zero TDs and one INT). That kind of game "won't cut it!" Clausen's season stats are: 209-of-308 (67.9) 2,770 yards 20 TDs 3 INTs (QB rating of 162.9 is No. 3 in the nation) / 1 Rush TD.
3) COLT MCCOY (Texas) Last Week: 4. Jimmy Clausen wasn't the only Heisman candidate to pass for a single-game, career-high in yards this past Saturday. Colt McCoy of Texas passed for a career-high 470 yards with two TDs and an interception (33-of-42), as the Longhorns improved to 9-0 this year (13 straight wins is second to only Florida's 19-game streak) with a 35-3 win over Central Florida. The school record is 473 yards and is held by Major Applewhite. McCoy now has 13 career 300-yard passing games and it was just the fifth 400-yard passing performance in school history (McCoy has two, the other being a 414-yard effort in last year's Fiesta Bowl win over Ohio State). For those looking for an omen, Texas is now 9-0 for the first time since 2005, the season Texas went 13-0 and won the school's most recent national championship. I've mentioned almost weekly that while McCoy will finish with outstanding numbers this year, he'll likely fall short of last year's incredible stats. Most notable is the fact that he had rushed for better than 500 yards in each of the last two seasons (McCoy led Texas in rushing LY with 561 yards while scoring 11 TDs on the ground), but has hardly run the ball at all in 2009 with just 151 yards through nine games. McCoy posted a 34-8 ratio last year but it's just 17-9 this year. He completed an NCAA single-season record 76.7 percent of his passes last year and while he won't likely top that in 2009, it's not as if his 72.9 percent mark in 2009 is "chopped liver!" His two TD passes against the Knights extended his school record to 26 straight games with at least one TD pass (has at least one TD pass in 35 of his last 36 games), giving him 102 TD passes in his career, extending a school record he already owned. He continues to extend his career record of TDs responsible for (passing, rushing, receiving) at Texas, as his total is now up 121 (in comparison, Young had 81 and former Heisman-winner Ricky Williams had 76). Texas' 13th straight win makes McCoy 41-7 as a starting QB at Texas (Young owned the previous record of 31 career wins at Texas), just one win behind former Georgia QB David Greene, who finished his college career as the winningest quarterback in NCAA Division I history with 42 wins in four years. Texas' win over Oklahoma back on October 17 made McCoy just the third Longhorn QB to own three career wins over Oklahoma (Bobby Layne and Peter Gardere are the others). Add it all up and this guy has a "Heisman-worthy" resume, including (like Tebow) a bevy of career accomplishments as well. An effort like last week has him moving up in my poll. The Longhorns fell back to No. 3 in the most recent BCS standings (Alabama is now No. 2) but they still almost assuredly control their own destiny. If Texas can win-out, the Longhorns will get the winner of Alabama/Florida in the BCS title game (likely more important to McCoy than the Heisman). Texas plays at Baylor this Saturday. McCoy is 3-0 vs the Bears in his career, completing 69.9 percent of his passes for an average of 289.3 YPG in the air with 12 TDs and five INTs. His season stats are: 231-of-317 (72.9 percent) 1,977 yards 17 TDs 9 INTs / 78 carries for 151 yards (1.9 YPC) 1 TD.
4) TIM TEBOW (Florida) Last Week: 3. Tebow had his most productive game of the season in the Florida/Georgia game but in Florida's 27-3 over Vandy last Saturday he returned to "his typical form" of 2009. Tebow completed 15-of-20 passes for 208 yards and a TD (zero INTs). He ran for a modest 27 yards (16 carries) and added a rushing TD. A closer look at the boxscore shows that 64 of his passing yards came on a run-and-catch by Aaron Hernandez late in the fourth quarter and his lone TD pass (also in the fourth quarter) came on a tipped pass when the ball slipped through the fingers of Riley Cooper near the goal line. No one thinks more highly of Tebow than I but it just doesn't seem right to me that he should be awarded this year's Heisman. He may be CFB's most valuable player (as well as its most influential and inspirational leader) but he surely hasn't been 2009's most outstanding player, which the award claims it honors. The Gators' win over the 'Dores was their 19th straight, the longest active winning streak in the country and tied for the fourth-longest streak by a SEC team since 1960. Florida has outscored its opponents 784-to-219 in that streak and Tebow has thrown 33 TDs with just six INTs during that stretch (27-4 ratio the last 15 games), while adding 19 rushing TDs. Tebow passed Herschel Walker's record of 49 career rushing TDs in the game against Georgia and last Saturday's rushing TD now gives him 52 in his career. He also became the SEC's all-time leader in rushing yards by a QB vs Georgia and with two more TDs accounted for (rushing and passing combined) vs Vandy, extended his total TDs to 130 (also an SEC record). He has thrown a TD pass in 35 of his last 37 games and as I say each week, his legend continues to grow. Florida has been No. 1 in all four of the BCS standings which have been released and No. 1 in the AP in all but one week in 2009. Tebow's place in CFB history is secure and a third national title (he was a part-time player when Florida won in 2006) plus a second Heisman would likely give him the unofficial title of "CFB's best-ever player." While Florida can "earn on the field" a third national championship in four years in 2009, I don't believe Tebow has earned a second Heisman this season, at least not to this point. Florida visits South Carolina on Saturday, a team it beat 56-6 last year in "The Swamp." However, Tebow may want to re-live the Gators' 2007 visit to Columbia, when he passed for 304 yards with two TDs plus ran for 120 yards while adding five more TDs in Florida's 51-31 win. A performance similar to that would give all the "Tebow voters" every reason to place him No. 1 on their 2009 ballots. Tebow's season stats are: 114-of-173 (65.9 percent) 1,531 yards 11 TDs 4 INTs / 155 carries 578 yards (3.7 YPC) 9 TDs.
5) MARK INGRAM (Alabama) and TOBY GERHART (STANFORD) Last Week: NR. I've had Ingram in my poll before but this is a first for Gerhart. I'll begin with Ingram, a player who I've seen ranked higher in other Heisman lists. I don't quite understand why he's ranked that high. Alabama clinched the SEC West title with its 24-15 win over LSU last Saturday, earning an SEC championship game rematch with Florida. The Tide are 9-0 for a second consecutive season, which hasn't happened since 1973-74 under Bear Bryant. With that in mind, maybe it is time for Alabama to have its first-ever Heisman winner. WR Jones supplied the game-breaking play (a 73-yard TD on a 'hitch' pass) but Ingram "did his part." Held to 36 yards rushing in the first half, Ingram finished with 144 yards for the game (22 carries). It marked his fifth 100-yard game in 2009 (sixth of his career). Ingram played behind Coffee (1,383 yards) last season, gaining 728 yards (5.1 YPC) and scoring 12 TDs. However, he ranks sixth in the nation in rushing in 2009, averaging 127.6 YPG. His season stats are: 175 carries 1,148 yards (6.6 YPC) 8 TDs / 24 catches 216 yards (9.0 YPC) 3 TDs. Toby Gerhart rushed for a school-record 223 yards (38 carries) and three TDs this past Saturday, as Stanford beat No. 7 Oregon 51-42, ending Oregon's seven-game win streak. Stanford's previous record of 220 rushing yards was set by Jon Volpe in 1988 and Gerhart also surpassed his single-season rushing record set last year (1,136 yards), upping his season total to 1,217 yards. The win made the Cardinal bowl eligible for the first time since 2001, so Gerhart likely has four more games to extend his single-season school record. He's topped 100 yards in seven of nine games in 2009 (had 82 and 96 yards in his two other games), giving him 16 career 100-yard games (two of more than 200 yards). His average of 135.2 YPG ranks him second in the nation. His season stats are: 233 carries 1,217 yards (5.2 YPC) 16 TDs / 7 catches 78 yards (11.11 YPC) 0 TDs.
On the radar: Kellen Moore (Boise St). Moore finds himself on the outside looking in, just like his Broncos. Boise St ranks 6th in the latest BCS standings but TCU is 4th and only one of the two schools can qualify. Boise State is now 107-17 since 2000, tied with Oklahoma (107-22) for the most wins this decade (Boise owns an .863 win percentage, which is better than OU's .829). Moore is 21-1 as the Broncos' starter, with that lone loss coming 17-16 in last year's Poinsettia Bowl to TCU. Moore's season stats are: 181-of-268 (67.5 percent) 2,259 yards 27 TDs 3 INTs / QB rating of 169.3 is No. 1 in the nation / 1 Rush TD.
Good luck, Larry