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by Larry Ness - 09/13/2010
If one had to vote on the Heisman today, clearly Michigan QB Denard Robinson would be the easy winner. However, were are not voting today and much like with the AP and Coaches' polls, players (like schools in the polls), don't get to jump to the "head of the class" after two weeks. The two biggest developments over the weekend regarding the Heisman came in Alabama's dominating 24-3 win over Penn State and in James Madison's shocking 21-16 upset of obviously overrated Va Tech in Blacksburg.
The Tide played without last year's Heisman winner Mark Ingram for the second straight game and didn't miss him at all. I've mentioned this a couple times already this year. While Ingram is a very good RB, it's becoming very obvious that Alabama would be just fine if Trent Richardson (144 yards vs Penn St and 210 on the season, averaging 6.6 YPC with three TDs) and freshman Lacy (111 yards vs San Jose St) shared the RB duties. You think Ohio State or Boise State would be "just fine" without Pryor or Moore? Speaking of Kellen Moore, he and his teammates took a huge 'hit' with Va Tech's home loss to James Madison. The evidence was immediately obvious, as the Broncos lost seven first-place votes among AP voters on Sunday, despite being idle. It's fair to assume, Moore's Heisman chances took a similar hit.
Heisman Watch (September, 13)
1) TERRELLE PRYOR (Ohio State) Last Week: 1. Eight seasons after the Buckeyes and Hurricanes played a classic game for the 2002 national championship, the rematch wasn't nearly as close this past Saturday. In the 2003 Fiesta Bowl, the Buckeyes earned a dramatic and controversial 31-24 victory in double-overtime against a Miami team trying to repeat as national champs. The Ohio St win ended Miami's 34-game winning streak and gave Ohio St its first national championship in 34 years. The stakes were not as high this past Saturday in Columbus but it was a huge early-season 'test' for both schools. The Buckeyes 'passed' with flying colors while the 'Canes were left wondering if they are "ready for primetime." Ohio St's defense had four INTs and allowed just one TD. The 'Canes scored on an 88 KO return and a 79-yard punt return, marking the first time in 121 years of football that the Buckeyes had surrendered a TD on punt and kickoff returns in the same game. Pryor was 12-of-27 for 233 yards with one TD and no INTs. That's a poor completion percentage but he did average 19.4 per completion. He ran 20 times for 113 yards with one TD and kept drives 'alive' with more than a few of his 20 carries. It's his fourth career 100-yard rushing game (113 yards is a career high). Pryor has been overshadowed inn the season's first two weeks by Michigan QB Robinson but Ohio State is a strong No. 2 in the polls to Alabama and I like what I've seen from Pryor so far. Next up for the Buckeyes is Ohio U. OSU is 6-0 all-time vs the Bobcats but got a scare the last time it hosted the smaller school from Athens, trailing 14-12 in the 4th quarter of the schools' 2008 meeting, before winning 26-14. Forearmed is forewarned. Pryor was backing up senior QB Todd Boeckman back in the early part of 2008 but just two weeks after that Ohio U game, would take over as OSU's starting QB. He's 21-4 since and gets my nod as the early-season Heisman favorite after two weeks. His season stats are: 29-of-52 55.8 percent 480 yards 4 TDs 0 INTs / 28 carries 130 yards 4.6 YPC 1 TD.
2) KELLEN MOORE (Boise State) Last Week: 2. As I mentioned in the opening, Moore's Heisman hopes likely took a similar 'hit' to the one his school took in the most recent AP poll. The Broncos play at Wyoming this coming Saturday and there is little they can do to impress anyone vs the Cowboys. However, they can't afford a mediocre effort. For this week's Heisman update, I'll repeat what I wrote about Moore in last week's report. Here's what I wrote regarding Moore in my Heisman preview. "If the Broncos win Labor Day evening vs Va Tech, they will likely "run the table" in 2010. That would mean they'd be 12-0 after the season's final regular season weekend, as well as be the owners of a 26-game winning streak. Moore would be 38-1 as a starter and assuming he came close to matching last year's stats of 64.3 percent completions, 3,336 passing yards, 39 TD passes (against just three INTs) and a QB rating of 161.7, how couldn't he be a Heisman finalist?" Well, here we are! Moore threw for "only" 215 yards vs Va Tech and completed "just" 60.5 percent of his passes (23-of-38) but he did throw three TDs plus wasn't intercepted. He showed tremendous poise in calmly driving the Broncos to the game-winning TD and his performance, in what the school had dubbed "the most important in its history," was a reflection of what this kid's done since taking over the reigns as a freshman in 2008. Forget about projecting to the end of the year, let's look at what he's done in his 28 games as a starter at Boise State. He's 27-1 (lone loss was 17-16 to TCU in the 2008 Poinsettia Bowl), including winning his last 15 in a row. After throwing for 25 TDs and 10 INTs in his freshman season (which ended with the lone loss of his career to TCU), he's thrown 42 TDs and just three INTs in 469 passing attempts. The Broncos will get some time to enjoy Monday night's win. While the Broncos got to enjoy that win, it didn't last long, as Va Tech's loss to James Madison this past Saturday threw a damper on that 'party.' We've got three months of waiting and much can happen. For now, I'll keep Moore No. 2 behind Pryor.
3) DENARD ROBINSON (Michigan) Last Week: NR. Robinson is the unquestioned star of the 2010 CFB season to-date. The sophomore beat out last year's starter (Tate Forcier) plus highly touted freshman Devin Gardner and has made "on the hot seat" head coach Rich-Rod look great. He accounted for 383 yards and two TDs in his first game as the Wolverines' starting QB. He led Michigan to a 30-10 win over U Conn on September 4, completing 19-of-22 passes for 186 yards and one TD (zero INTs). He also ran 29 times for 197 yards and another TD. Robinson became the sixth FBS player since 2005 with 185 rushing yards and 185 passing yards in a game. As my Uncle Billy used to say, "that ain't nawthin'!" The player known as "Shoelace" ran for 258 yards this past Saturday at Notre Dame (on 28 carries), the fifth-best rushing total in Michigan history (the best by a QB at Michigan and the best-ever by any QB in Big 10 history, as well). He ran for two TDs, one an 87-yarder which was the longest scoring run in Notre Dame Stadium history. He added 244 yards through the air (24-of-40 with one TD and no INTs) for a total of 502 yards (a Michigan record). Trailing 24-21, Robinson led the Wolverines on a 12-play, 72-yard scoring drive in which he accounted for all 72 yards, as Michigan edged the Irish, 28-24. He becomes the ninth player in NCAA history to run and pass for over 200 yards in the same game. He leads the nation in rushing (227.5 YPG) and in total offense (442.5 YPG) after two weeks. The question now becomes, can he keep it up? Plus, can he survive the 'pounding?' With U Mass (this Saturday) and Bowling Green up next at home plus a road trip to Indiana on tap after that, it's frightening to think what kind of numbers he may put up if he's "turned loose." His season stats are: 43-of-62 69.4 percent 430 yards 2 TDs 0 INTs / 57 carries 435 yards 8.0 YPC 3 TDs. Note, in 119 touches, he doesn't have a single turnover!
4) CASE KEENUM (Houston) Last Week: 3. If you just saw the final of Houston's game last Friday night vs UTEP, a 54-24 Houston win, who could blame you if you expected it was another huge performance by Keenum. After all, Keenum had completed 72.4 percent of his 127 pass attempts vs UTEP for 1,016 with eight TDs and not a single INT the previous two seasons. However that wasn't the case. Houston ran for 308 yards as a team (six rushing TDs) with Beall gaining 195 and scoring three times against the Miners. As for Keenum, he completed 15-of-24 passes for 279 yards without a TD pass (one INT). He was injured late in the third quarter with the Cougars leading 37-17 when he was intercepted and tried to make a tackle on the play. He missed and was slow to get up. He did not return. Keenum completed 17-of-22 passes for 274 yards and five TDs (two INTs) in leading Houston to a 68-28 rout of Texas State September 4, playing only the first half (Cougars led 54-7). That means Keenum has failed to top 300 yards for the second straight game to open 2010, after having topped 300 yards passing in 25 of his previous 28 games entering this season (owns a school-record 12, 400-yard games, four of which he's surpassed 500 yards in). He also saw his school-record streak of at least one TD pass in 31 consecutive games end vs UTEP. which was also the longest active streak in college football, as well. However, Keenum did reach 13,503 passing yards in his career, moving into fifth-place in NCAA history by passing Colt McCoy (13,253) and Philip Rivers (13,484). He stayed at 107 career TD passes, just five behind McCoy, who ranks seventh on the all-time list. Keenum also has 127 TDs accounted for (passing and rushing) but didn't add to that total either last Friday. The all-time leader is Central Michigan's Dan LeFevour's with 150 and as long as Keenum avoids an injury, it's only a matter of time before he 'runs down' LeFevour. Houston did extend its school-record home win streak to 17 in a row by beating UTEP but next Saturday plays at UCLA. The Bruins are 0-2, having lost 31-22 at Kansas State and 35-0 at home vs Stanford. Keenum's season stats are: 32-of-46 69.6 percent 553 yards 5 TDs 3 INTs.
5) KENDALL HUNTER (Oklahoma State) Last Week: 5. Hunter rushed for 1,555 yards two years ago. However, he mustered only 382 yards in 2009 as an ankle injury limited him to eight games. Hunter gained 257 yards on 21 carries while scoring four TDs in Oklahoma State's 65-17 thrashing of Washington State on September 4, letting everyone know "he's back!" He had 208 yards in the first half alone, becoming the first Oklahoma State player to rush for 200 yards in a half since Barry Sanders in 1988. The 257 yards was a career high and his second 200-yard effort of his career. OSU ran up 522 yards vs Troy this past Saturday, as QB Weeden threw for 348 yards and two TDs plus Hunter ran 28 times for 157 yards (two TDs). However, the OSU offense suffered five TOs (leading to 13 points), the defense allowed 371 yards plus the special teams allowed a 100-yard KO return for a score. Fortunately for OSU, Troy lost four fumbles, two inside of OSU's 10-yard line in the second half, which allowed the Cowboys to escape with a 41-38 win. Hunter looks as if he's headed for a huge season and it should also be noted that he had a 100-yard TD (on a KO return) nullified by one of OSU's 12 penalties vs Troy. He now has 13 career 100-yard games and after 414 yards in two games, is the early favorite to lead the nation in rushing. Tulsa is up next at home for the Cowboys on Saturday. These schools haven't met since 2004 but met every year from '81-'96. OSU last lost at home to Tulsa back in 1951. Can Hunter outshine Tulsa QB Kinnie on Saturday? Kinnie has thrown for 755 yards with seven TDs in his team's first two games. Hunter's stats this season are: 49 carries 414 yards 8.5 YPC 6 TDs (207.0 YPG ranks second in the nation in rushing).
IN TROUBLE: Last year's winner Mark Ingram, who has yet to take the field for Alabama and hasn't been missed.
KEEP AN EYE ON: How about these four Pac-10 QBs who have combined for 25 TD passes without a single interception in 219 attempts? The group includes USC's Matt Barkley (7-0 ratio), Cal's Kevin Riley (7-0), Stanford's Andrew Luck (6-0) and Washington's Jake Locker (5-0).
My next Heisman report will be available on Monday, September 20.