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by Larry Ness - 11/27/2009
The 2009 Heisman race was never expected to include more than three players, 2008 winner Sam Bradford, 2008 runner-up Colt McCoy and 2007 winner Tim Tebow (Tebow also received more first-place votes in 2008 than either Bradford or McCoy). Bradford basically dropped out on the season's first Saturday with an injury while McCoy has not quite matched his spectacular 2008 season with Tebow falling way short of the numbers he posted in winning the Heisman in 2007
As the season winds down to its two two weekends, Alabama's Mark Ingram, a virtual unknown coming into the season, is making a run at becoming the Tide's first-ever Heisman winner (hard to believe this legendary program is Heisman-less). Meanwhile, down in the great state of Texas, secession talk has been put on hold, as Case Keenum tries to become Houston's second Heisman winner (Andre Ware won in 1989). Meanwhile out West, a player even further "under the radar" than Ingram at the beginning of the season (Stanford's Toby Gerhart), may be the most Heisman-worthy candidate but his team could finish the season 7-5.
I hope the voters hold their ballots until after December 5, the day when C-USA, the SEC and the Big 12 all play their respective championship games. My latest Heisman Watch follows.
1) MARK INGRAM (Alabama) Last Week: 1. Neither Ingram nor Gerhart were on anyone's preseason Heisman lists. I mentioned this last week but will include it again. 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. No. 2 Alabama was still celebrating Ingram's second long TD run (25 and 40 yards) last week vs Chattanooga when coach Nick Saban told his star tailback to take the rest of the day off. The Tide would gone on to win 45-0, as Ingram ran for 102 yards on 11 carries in the first 20 minutes. It was the sixth time he had topped 100 yards in his last seven games (had 99 yards vs Tennessee on Oct 24) and was his seventh 100-yard game this year (8th of his career). As I mentioned in the intro, Alabama is still waiting for its first Heisman winner and I have a feeling that could sway some voters in Ingram's favor. His 102-yard effort last Saturday gives him 1,399 yards on the season (ranks 5th in the nation with 127.2 YPG) and he now trails only Bobby Humphrey, who ran for 1,471 yards in 1986, for the single-season rushing record at Alabama. The Tide will play Auburn this Friday and last year's 35-0 win ended a six-year losing streak in the "Iron Bowl," while being the largest margin of victory in this legendary series in 46 years when 'Bama won 38-0. Ingram's season stats are: 205 carries 1,399 yards (6.8 YPC) 12 TDs / 25 catches 225 yards (9.0 YPC) 3 TDs.
2) 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 on November 7 but then threw for a much more modest 181 yards (23-of-34) and two TDs as Texas beat Baylor 47-14 on the 14th. That win saw Texas reach 10 wins for the ninth straight season, second only to Florida State's run of 14 consecutive 10-win seasons from 1987-2000. Playing in his final home game this past Saturday, McCoy passed for 396 yards (32-of-41) and four TDs in a 51-20 win over Kansas. The win wrapped up Texas' first Big 12 South title since 2005. McCoy was a redshirt freshman in 2005 when Vince Young led Texas to the Big 12 title and its first undisputed national championship in 36 years with a victory in the Rose Bowl (BCS championship game). Saturday's win improved McCoy to 43-7 in his career, breaking the record he shared with former Georgia quarterback David Greene (2001-2004) for most-ever wins by an NCAA starting QB. His first win came on September 2, 2006, when he threw a 60-yard TD pass on the second throw of his career. McCoy has now thrown a TD pass in 28 consecutive games (has at least one TD pass in 37 of his last 38 games), which is the longest active streak in the nation. Texas remained No. 3 in the latest AP poll and owns the nation's longest active streak, appearing in the oldest of all the polls (began in 1936) for the last 154 weeks. 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 193 yards through 11 games. McCoy posted a 34-8 ratio last year but it's a more modest 23-9 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 73.0 percent mark in 2009 is "chopped liver!" His 108 TD passes in his career is the most of any active QB and he continues to extend his career record of TDs responsible for (passing, rushing, receiving) at Texas, as his total is now up 127 (in comparison, Young had 81 and former Heisman-winner Ricky Williams had 76). McCoy has 14 career 300-yard passing games, which includes two 400-yard passing performances, vs UCF on November 7 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. Texas plays at College Station on Thanksgiving night and while Texas is a three-TD favorite, let me point out that the Aggies are 5-1 SU at home this year, averaging an impressive 274.8 YPG on the ground (5.7 YPC) in their five wins. Let me also point out that Texas leads the nation in rushing D, allowing 50.1 YPG on 1.7 YPC. McCoy's season stats are: 286-of-392 (73.0 percent) 3,024 yards 23 TDs 9 INTs / 93 carries for 193 yards (2.1 YPC) 1 TD.
3) TIM TEBOW (Florida) Last Week: 4. Florida extended its win streak to 21 games with a 62-3 home win over Florida International last Saturday, improving to 11-0 for the second time in school history. The Gators scored TDs on eight of 11 offensive possessions. The only scoreless drives came when they missed a 52-yard FG attempt in the first quarter and when Florida ran out the clock in the final seconds of each half. Tim Tebow passed for 215 yards (17-of-25) and two TDs (zero INTs) and also rushed for 102 more on just seven carries and a score (his 2nd 100-yard game this year and the 5th of his career). However, one doesn't win a Heisman by playing well vs FIU. Tebow's 55-yard rushing TD in the first quarter came on a scramble in a third-and-two situation and was a career long. It also marked the 54th rushing touchdown of his career, breaking the SEC touchdown record, previously held by former LSU runningback Kevin Faulk. Like McCoy, Tebow keeps accumulating career records. He became the SEC's all-time leader in rushing yards by a QB vs Georgia back on October 31 and with three more TDs accounted for (rushing and passing combined) vs FIU, extended his total TDs to 135 (also an SEC record). Florida has outscored its opponents 870-to-236 in its 21-game winning streak and Tebow has thrown 36 TDs with just six INTs during that stretch while adding 21 rushing TDs. He has thrown a TD pass in 37 of his last 39 games and as I say each week, his legend continues to grow. Florida has been No. 1 in all six 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 on the field. The Gators host Florida State on Saturday and will take a five-game series winning streak into the contest. Tebow has been the starting QB in each of the last two seasons, winning 45-12 at home in 2007 (262 YP and three TD passes / 89 YR and 2 TDs) and 45-15 last year at FSU (185 YP,and three TDs / 80 YR and 1 TD). Tebow's season stats are: 145-of-223 (65.0 percent) 1,945 yards 14 TDs 4 INTs / 178 carries 706 yards (4.0 YPC) 11 TDs.
4) TOBY GERHART (STANFORD) Last Week: 1. I wrote last week that 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 had been quite remarkable in his two previous games heading into Stanford's contest with Cal this past Saturday, known simply as the "Big Game." Stanford won 51-42 over Oregon on November 7 and then beat the Trojans 55-21 at the Coliseum the following Saturday. 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. Gerhart broke away for a 61-yard TD run and then added a two-yard TD to give Stanford a 14-0 vs the Bears. However, Cal came back behind the play of Shane Vereen, who was filling in for Jahvid Best (an early season Heisman contender). Vereen had career highs in carries (42), rushing yards (193) and tied a career high in touchdowns (three). Down 34-28, Gerhart carried defenders on a 29-yard reception that set up Stanford at the Cal 13 with less than two minutes left. It could have been a "Heisman moment." However, freshman QB Andrew Luck threw an incompletion on first down and was then intercepted with 1:36 to go. Did Gerhart's long-shot chance at the Heisman end with that play? Probably so, as the loss drops the Cardinal to 7-4. Gerhart ran for 136 yards on 20 carries and four TDs in the losing effort. He now leads all FBS players with 23 rushing TDs and trails on Navy's Ricky Dobbs in scoring (12.9 PPG to 13.2 PPG). He surpassed his single-season rushing record set last year (1,136 yards) against Oregon and that total is now up to 1,531 with one regular season contest and the school's first bowl game since 2001 still remaining. He's topped 100 yards in nine of 11 games in 2009 (had 82 and 96 yards in his two other games), giving him 18 career 100-yard games (two of more than 200 yards). He ranks third in the nation with an average of 139.2 YPG on the ground. Stanford finishes the regular season by hosting Notre Dame and its troubled head coach Charlie Weis on Saturday, looking to break a seven-game losing streak against the not-so Fighting Irish. Gerhart's season stats are: 282 carries 1,531 yards (5.4 YPC) 23 TDs / 9 catches 116 yards (12.9 YPC) 0 TDs.
5) CASE KEENUM (Houston) Last Week: 5. As I opined last week, can you think of any player who has won a Heisman in the same year in which their team lost to both UCF and UTEP, or like-schools? Of course not. However, Keenum's Houston Cougars got a huge break last Saturday when SMU lost at Marshall, meaning all the Cougars now need do to reach the C-USA championship game on December 5 is to beat 2-9 Rice at home this coming Saturday. Houston accumulated 689 yards of offense in its 55-14 rout of Memphis last Saturday. Keenum completed 29-of-39 passes vs the Tigers for 405 yards with five TDs and zero INTs. Eleven different Houston players caught passes in the game. What a season it has been for Keenum! He's thrown for at least 359 yards in all but one game, when he was held to 233 yards by SMU in a 38-15 win. 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 23 of his last 25 games and his 405 yards vs Memphis gives him 11, 400-yard games in his career, tying him with David Klingler for the most in Houston history. His five-TD pass game extended his school record to 27 straight games with a TD pass (1989 Heisman-winner Andre Ware owned the previous record with 18) and he now has 94 career TD passes at Houston, breaking Klingler's school record. He also has 113 TDs accounted for (rushing, passing and receiving), extending the school record he already held at Houston. Houston leads the nation in total offense (574.1 YPG) and is third in scoring (42.4 PPG) with Keenum leading the nation in total offense (428.3 YPG), which is 100 YPG ahead of the player ranked second (Levi Brown of Troy, if you can believe that?). Keenum's season stats are: 387-of-553 (70.0 percent) 4,499 yards 36 TDs 6 INTs / 3 Rush TDs.
On the radar: Kellen Moore (Boise St). Boise State won its 14th straight WAC game Friday night, 52-21 at Utah State. That's one behind Florida for the longest active conference win streak in the FBS. Moore threw for a modest 233 yards and one TD, leaving him on "the outside looking in," on this year's Heisman race. He's completed 66.3 percent of his passes this year for 2,791 yards with 33 TDs and just three INTs (QB rating of 168.8 leads the nation). Moore is now 23-1 as a starter and Boise St is the winningest team of the decade at 109-17 (.865). However, even if the Broncos beat red-hot Nevada this week at home (Wolf Pack have won eight straight games while averaging 51.6 PPG, an incredible 445.6 YPG rushing and 8.4 YPC during their streak), they could be left out of the BCS bowl mix (which is a shame).
Off the radar: Jimmy Clausen (Notre Dame) and CJ Spiller (Clemson).