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by Larry Ness - 11/16/2009
The 2008 Heisman was won by Oklahoma's Sam Bradford with Colt McCoy (Texas ) of Texas finishing second and Florida's Tim Tebow (the 2007 winner) finishing third, despite garnering more first-place votes than either Bradford or McCoy. Never before has a college football season opened a year in which two Heisman winners were active. With all three players back for the 2009 season, the Heisman 'race' was a clear-cut three-man contest. So much for conventional wisdom.
Bradford got hurt in Oklahoma's first game, sat out until Oct 10 and then was done for the season after re-injuring his shoulder against Texas on October. As for Tebow and McCoy, their respective teams seem likely to meet in the BCS championship game on January 7 in Pasadena, but neither record-setting QB is having a great season. Jimmy Clausen (Notre Dame) and Case Keenum (Houston) have had their names prominently mentioned this season but it was a "Black Saturday" for both candidates this past weekend.
Notre Dame entered November with BCS at-large aspirations but followed up a 23-21 home loss to Navy with its eighth consecutive loss to a top-10 team (the longest streak in school history) this past Saturday at Pittsburgh (27-22). Weis is now 1-10 against ranked teams since 2006 and has the same record (35-25) as former coach Bob Davie and the same winning percentage (.583) as former coach Tyrone Willingham, both of whom were fired. Clausen can't get fired but he is OUT of the Heisman race.
Case Keenum threw for 377 yards and three TDs on Saturday but his Cougars lost 37-32 at UCF. Throw in Houston's embarrassing 58-41 loss at UTEP back on October 3 and then try to think of how many players have won a Heisman in the same year in which their team lost to both UCF and UTEP, or like-schools. I doubt you'll find any.
QBs have dominated the Heisman award this decade, as every winner since 2000 has played that position save Reggie Bush of USC, who won in 2005. However, more RBs have won the Heisman than any other position. So where does this leave my current Heisman Watch? Read on.
1) MARK INGRAM (Alabama) and TOBY GERHART (STANFORD) Last Week: 5. Ingram's on most lists (some have him No. 1) but Gerhart is still under the radar, which I don't understand. I'm not sure right now, that I wouldn't vote Gerhart No. 1. For this week, I'll leave them co-No. 1s and unlike many lists, won't include Clemson's CJ Spiller. Neither Ingram nor Gerhart were on anyone's preseason Heisman lists. I mentioned this a few weeks back when writing about Ingram but will include it again, for those who didn't see it the first time around. How much of a long shot were both Ingram and Gerhart 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 or Toby Gerhart. Ingram gets "extra-credit" for playing at Alabama, just like Tebow does at Florida and McCoy at Texas. Alabama improved to 10-0 for the 17th time in school history with a 31-3 win at Miss St. Ingram ran 19 times for 149 yards and scored two TDs. He's topped 100 yards six times in Alabama's 10 games this year, including going over 100 in five of his last six (had 99 yards the game he missed). He had just one, 100-yard game last year, running for 728 yards in support of Glen Coffee (1,383 yards). Alabama improved to 10-0 for the second straight year, something that hasn't happened since the 1973-74 seasons. This marks the 30th time in Alabama's 115 years of football that the Tide have reached 10 wins, second only to Oklahoma's 31. However, while Oklahoma has produced five Heisman winners, Alabama is still waiting for its first Heisman winner. With wins against Tennessee-Chattanooga and Auburn, the Tide would take a 12-0 record into the SEC title game against Florida for the second straight year. Could it also be the year Alabama breaks its Heisman jinx with of all players, Mark Ingram. His season stats are: 194 carries 1,297 yards 6.7 YPC 10 TDs (ranks 5th with 129.7 YPG) / 25 catches 225 yards 9.0 YPC 3 TDs.
While Alabama owns multiple national championships (with so many split championships over the years, who knows the exact number), we know Stanford has zero. The Cardinal do however, own a Heisman winner. Jim Plunkett won the award in 1970, before winning two Super Bowl titles with the Raiders. Gerhart has been quite remarkable the last two weeks, as has his team. Stanford won 51-42 over Oregon on November 7 and then beat the Trojans 55-21 at the Coliseum this past Saturday (most points USC has ever allowed in one game!). The Trojans are 47-3 over their last 50 home games and incredibly, the Cardinal are responsible for all three losses (now you can't make that up!). Gerhart rushed for a school-record 223 yards (38 carries) and three TDs in the win against Oregon and followed that by rushing for 178 yards and three TDs against USC. He surpassed his single-season rushing record set last year (1,136 yards) against Oregon and that total is now up to 1,395 with two regular season contests and the school's first bowl game since 2001 still remaining. He's topped 100 yards in eight of 10 games in 2009 (had 82 and 96 yards in his two other games), giving him 17 career 100-yard games (two of more than 200 yards). He ranks third in the nation with an average of 139.5 YPG on the ground and second in TDs scored and PPG (19 TDs / 10.8 PPG) to Navy's Ricky Dobbs (22 TDs / 13.2 PPG). Stanford finishes the regular season with two high-profile games, hosting Cal this Saturday in the "Big Game" and then looks to break a seven-game losing streak against Notre Dame on November 28. Is it possible there could be a second Heisman trophy destined for Palo Alto? Gerhart's season stats are: 262 carries 1,395 yards 5.3 YPC 19 TDs / 8 catches 87 yards (10.9 YPC) 0 TDs.
3) COLT MCCOY (Texas) Last Week: 3. Colt McCoy of Texas passed for a career-high 470 yards with two TDs and an interception (33-of-42) vs UCF two weeks ago but threw for a much more modest 181 yards (23-of-34) and two more TDs as Texas beat Baylor 47-14 last Saturday. Texas has now reached 10 wins for the ninth straight season, second only to Florida State's run of 14 consecutive 10-win seasons from 1987-2000. Texas is No. 3 in the lastest AP poll and owns the nation's longest active streak, appearing in the oldest of all the polls (began in 1936) for the last 153 weeks. McCoy's win against Baylor makes him 42-7 as a starting QB at Texas and he's now tied with former Georgia QB David Greene for the most all-time wins in NCAA history. 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 164 yards through 10 games. McCoy posted a 34-8 ratio last year but it's just 19-9 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 72.4 percent mark in 2009 is "chopped liver!" His two TD passes against the Bears extended his school record to 27 straight games with at least one TD pass (has at least one TD pass in 36 of his last 37 games), giving him 104 TD passes in his career, the most of any active QB. He continues to extend his career record of TDs responsible for (passing, rushing, receiving) at Texas, as his total is now up 123 (in comparison, Young had 81 and former Heisman-winner Ricky Williams had 76). 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). He has 13 career 300-yard passing games, which includes two 400-yard passing performances, vs UCF two weeks ago and a 414-yard effort in last year's Fiesta Bowl win over Ohio State. Both McCoy and Tebow get extra-credit for their four-year careers and will surely be invited to New York. By the time of the Heisman ceremony, it's very likely the two will be slated to meet January 7 in Pasadena for the national championship. There's little doubt in my mind that both players would choose a win in that game over a Heisman. McCoy's season stats are: 254-of-351 (72.4 percent) 2,628 yards 19 TDs 9 INTs / 81 carries for 164 yards (2.0 YPC) 1 TD.
4) TIM TEBOW (Florida) Last Week: 4. I mentioned in last week's column that Tebow had led blowouts of Spurrier's Gamecocks the past two years. Tebow may have clinched the 2007 Heisman Trophy when he accounted for 424 yards and seven touchdowns (2 passing / five rushing) in Florida's 51-31 win at Williams-Brice Stadium. Then last year, the Tebow-led Gators handed Spurrier the most-lopsided loss of his sure to be Hall of Fame career, 56-6. It looked like deja vu all over again last Saturday in Columbia, as Gators scored on their first three series, including Tebow's 68-yard TD pass. However, the Gators only led 17-14 in the early fourth quarter when Tebow scored on a one-yard TD, giving Florida its final margin of 24-14. Tebow surpassed Georgia great Herschel Walker to set the SEC mark for rushing TDs with 50 in a victory over the Bulldogs on October 31 and his fourth-quarter TD last Saturday gave him 53 for his career, tying former LSU running back Kevin Faulk for the most all-time TDs in SEC history. 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 South Carolina, extended his total TDs to 132 (also an SEC record). Tebow finished 14-of-25 for 199 yards with one TD and zero INTs, adding 26 yards rushing on 16 carries with one TD. That's been a pretty typical game for him in 2009. No. 1 Florida finished a perfect regular season in the SEC (8-0), going undefeated in the league for the first time since Steve Spurrier's 1996 national champions. Florida now owns 20 straight wins (longest active streak in CFB), the third-longest streak by a SEC team since 1960. Florida has outscored its opponents 808-to-233 in that streak and Tebow has thrown 34 TDs with just six INTs during that stretch (28-4 ratio the last 16 games), while adding 20 rushing TDs. He has thrown a TD pass in 36 of his last 38 games and as I say each week, his legend continues to grow. Florida has been No. 1 in all five 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. The Gators host FIU on Saturday and then FSU on November 28. I don't think Tebow can do much in those last two games to change any minds. Voters are either going to give it to him or they are not. His season stats follow. They are not those of a Heisman winner. 128-of-198 (64.6 percent) 1,730 yards 12 TDs 4 INTs / 171 carries 604 yards 3.5 YPC 10 TDs.
5) CASE KEENUM (Houston) Last Week: 1. By this time, you should have been able to answer the question I asked in the intro. Were you able to think of any players who have won a Heisman in the same year in which their team lost to both UCF and UTEP, or like-schools? Don't feel bad, it was a rhetorical question. Keenum had more than 500 yards passing in each of his two previous games (Southern Mississippi and Tulsa) with Houston winning both times by scoring in the final minute. Keenum threw for two TDs in the closing minutes last Saturday in Orlando cutting into a 37-20 deficit but the Cougars lost, 37-32. Houston now needs help (Marshall must beat SMU this coming Saturday) to just have a chance at representing the West in C-USA's title game. Keenum will finish this season with the most prolific numbers but I believe his Heisman hopes 'died' this past Saturday in of all places, the home of "the Happiest Place on Earth." If you don't get that reference, then you are watching too much football. Keenum finished 33-of-56 for 377 yards with three TDs and one INT. Keenum saw his run of 18 consecutive 300-yard passing games in the regular season end vs SMU back on October 24 but he’s topped 300 yards in 22 of his last 24 games and he's thrown for at least 359 yards in nine of his 10 games in 2009. He has 10 career games of 400-plus yards passing, one behind the school record of 11 held by David Klinger. His three-TD game extended his school record to 26 straight games with a TD pass (1989 Heisman-winner Andre Ware owned the previous record with 18) and now has 89 career TD passes at Houston. He also now owns 108 TDs accounted for (rushing, passing and receiving), making him the all-time leader in Houston history. Houston leads the nation in total offense (562.6 YPG) and is third in scoring (41.1 PPG) with Keenum leading the nation in total offense (429.7 YPG), which is 107.9 YPG ahead of the player ranked second! Keenum's season stats are: 358-of-514 (69.7 percent) 4,192 yards 31 TDs 6 INTs / 3 Rush TDs.
On the radar: Kellen Moore (Boise St), Jimmy Clausen (Notre Dame) and CJ Spiller (Clemson).