Get the best handicapping articles and gambling advice throughout the football, basketball and baseball seasons from the world's top sports handicappers, as well as from Bovada (Bodog) Sportsbook and Casino.
by Larry Ness - 09/27/2010
The first month of the season closed with the AP's preseason top-three in the rankings unchanged. Alabama remains No. 1, followed by Ohio State and Boise State. Those three schools are all led by legitimate Heisman contenders, Alabama RB Mark Ingram (last year's winner), Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor (my preseason favorite) and Boise State QB Kellen Moore (a modest 29-1 as a starting QB along with a 46-4 TD-to-INT ratio since '09). Houston QB Case Keenum had a chance at any number of all-time NCAA passing, total offense and scoring records but I guess 2010 just "wasn't meant to be" for Keenum. He sustained a concussion on September 10 trying to make a tackle after an interception against UTEP and then tore his anterior cruciate ligament while trying to make a tackle after another interception in the second quarter of the Cougars' game at UCLA the very next weekend. The month of September's Most Outstanding Player award goes to Michigan sophomore QB Denard "Shoelace" Robinson but we almost lost him this past Saturday, as he went down (and stayed down) after a 47-yard run on the first play of Michigan's third drive this past Saturday vs Bowling Green. "I wish he would've stepped out before he got hit," coach Rich Rodriguez said (you think?). However, it looks as if it's nothing more than a strained knee and reports are he's fine. Let's get to my latest Heisman update.
Heisman Watch (Monday, September 27)
1) TERRELLE PRYOR (Ohio State) Last Week: 1. The Buckeyes made short work of Eastern Michigan (now losers of of 16 straight overall and 13 in a row on the road) this past Saturday. Pryor opened the scoring with a 53-yard run and finished with four TD passes, all to Dane Sanzenbacher (31, 9, 7 and 8 yards). For good measure, Pryor even caught caught a 20-yard scoring pass from his former high school teammate (Jordan Hall) late in the third quarter (not exactly reminiscent of Crouch's TD catch vs Oklahoma in his Heisman-winning season of 2001). The Buckeyes would score on their first six drives and the 73-20 final was the most points the school has scored since 1950 when it beat Iowa 83-21. Pryor completed 20-of-26 passes for 224 yards and the four TDs (zero INTs), ran seven times for 104 yards and a TD (5th career 100-yard game) plus also caught that TD pass. Pryor is now 23-4 as Ohio State's starting QB and I believe, the front-runner for this year's Heisman. Ohio State leaves the friendly confines of Ohio Stadium for the first time in 2010 this coming Saturday but considering the Buckeyes are nearly a three-TD favorite at Champaign, a struggle is not anticipated. His season stats are: 71-of-109 for 939 yards (66.4 percent) 10 TDs 2 INTs / 43 carries for 269 yards (6.3 YPC) 3 TDs / one TD catch.
2) MARK INGRAM (Alabama) Last Week: 4. Do I owe Ingram an apology? I said the following this year when he missed Alabama's first two games; "While Ingram is a very good RB, it's becoming very obvious that Alabama would be just fine if Trent Richardson and freshman Lacy shared the RB duties." I won't retract that statement, as Richardson is a 'stud' (356 yards rushing on 7.6 YPC with four TDs plus 10 catches with one TD) but I will amend it. Ingram's proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Tide are a better team with him and that they sure wouldn't want to attempt and replicate last year's perfect season without him. Ingram made his 2010 debut in Alabama's 62-13 rout of Duke on 9/18, breaking off a 48-yard run in his first carry (he would run only nine times but gain 151 yards while scoring two TDs). He became the first running back from a BCS conference to gain over 150 yards on fewer than 10 carries in the last five seasons. However, it was this past Saturday's performance at Fayetteville, that has me moving Ingram up to No. 2 on my list, despite him missing the first two games of the 2010 season (will be a tough hill to climb). Trailing on the road against one of the best QBs in the nation, No. 1 Alabama escaped by doing what it does best. The defense made big plays and the offense gave the ball to Ingram. The Heisman Trophy winner ran for 157 yards (24 carries) and scored on a 1-yard run with 3:18 to play, which put Alabama ahead to stay, competing its rally from a 13-point deficit in beating No. 10 Arkansas 24-20. Ingram had a 54-yard TD in the first quarter (his third run of over 45 yards this season after having two all of last year) and finished with his finished with his 12th career 100-yard game. There is no rest for the weary in the SEC though, as Alabama returns home this Saturday to face No. 7 Florida, the same school it's faced in the last two SEC title games (although it's no small note that Tebow is now sitting on the bench in Denver, instead of quarterbacking the Gators). Ingram ran for 113 yards (three TDs) and caught two passes for 76 yards as Alabama crushed the Gators 32-13 in LY's SEC title game. A similar effort this Saturday in Tuscaloosa and I may have to retract that previous statement, after all. His season stats are: 33 carries for 308 yards (9.3 YPC) 4 TDs (154.0 YPG in two games is topped by just four players) / 2 catches for 27 yards (13.5 YPC) 0 TDs.
3) KELLEN MOORE (Boise State) Last Week: 2. Have the Broncos proved enough in 33-30 wins vs Va Tech and this past Saturday's win at home over Oregon State? You'll get strong opinions on both sides of that debate. The Broncos outgained Oregon State 469-237 but some uncharacteristic miscues kept the score closer than Broncos would have liked, as Boise State prevailed, 37-24. Boise State is now 6-1 vs BCS conference teams over the last four seasons, including BCS bowl wins over Oklahoma and TCU. While the debate will rage all season about whether the Broncos are worthy of a spot in the BCS title game (that's assuming the Broncos remain unbeaten), there is no debate regarding the quality of the play by the team's QB. Kellen Moore threw for 288 yards (19-of-27) and three TDs (zero INTs) as Boise State won its 17th straight game overall ('Bama's won 18 straight), while improving to 64-2 at home since 2000. Moore's only been at Boise since the beginning of the 2008 season but is now 29-1 as a starter and since the beginning of 2009, has thrown 46 TDs and just four INTs in 526 passing attempts. He owns seven, 300-yard games in his career (has two 400-yards games, including a career high 414 at Nevada as freshman in '08) and this Saturday will look to lead the Broncos to a 14th straight road win (13 in a row is the longest active road winning streak in the nation). Considering Boise St is playing an 0-3 New Mexico State team which has allowed 41, 42 and 42 points to open the 2010 season, a 14th straight road win is almost a guarantee, as Moore ups his career mark to 30-1 as astarter. His season stats are: 62-of-95 for 873 yards (65.3 percent) 8 TDs 1 INT.
4) DENARD ROBINSON (Michigan) Last Week: 3. Robinson remains the unquestioned star of the 2010 CFB season to-date but we almost lost him last Saturday. Robinson, who beat out last year's starter (Tate Forcier) plus highly touted freshman Devin Gardner, began the 2010 season with spectacular "breakout performances" against Utah, Notre Dame and U Mass. He followed up those first three games by completing all four of his passes for 60 yards and running five times for 129 yards and two TDs in what would eventually became a 65-21 Michigan win over Bowling Green. However, the 'scare' came when Robinson went down and stayed on the turf near the sideline after a 47-yard run on the first play of Michigan's third drive. Reports were it's just a sprained knee (no ligament damage) and while Robinson didn't return, he was seen being very animated on the sidelines. "Denard seems to be fine, talking to him and the trainers," head coach Rodriguez said. "He tweaked his knee a little bit. If he had to come back in, he could've. He'll get some treatment and get ready to go. We'll be fine for next week. He should be OK." Michigan used three QBs and they combined to complete 23 of 26 passes (88.5 percent), the second-highest completion percentage in school history (minimum 10 attempts). Michigan finished with 721 yards of total offense (466 rushing) and will visit Indiana this coming Saturday. The Hoosiers are 3-0 but haven't been tested. Robinson seemed to handle things quite well in South Bend, so playing in Memorial Stadium in Bloomington shouldn't be much of a challenge. Just a reminder regarding that game vs Notre Dame. He ran for 258 yards, 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. Robinson still leads the nation in rushing (172.0 YPG / 8.7 YPC) but fell to No. 2 in total yardage (354.8 YPC) and one has to love that he's got just one turnover in 159 touches! His season stats are: 57-of-80 for 731 yards (71.3 percent) 4 TDs and 1 INT / 79 carries for 688 yards (8.7 YPC) 6 TDs.
5) CAM NEWTON (Auburn) Last Week: NR. Where did this guy come from? Newton began as a freshman in 2007 backing up Tim Tebow in his Heisman-winning season. Newton played in Florida's season opener against Hawaii in 2008 but then agreed to take a redshirt season. Later that season he was arrested for stealing a laptop and tossing it out of a dorm room window to hide the crime from the police. Newton transferred to Blinn College in Texas in January 2009 and that fall led his team to the 2009 NJCAA National Football Championship. He was ranked the No.1 QB from either high school or junior college by Rivals.com, and he committed to Auburn in December of 2009. Good move by both parties and what a turnaround Newton has made. The 6' 6" QB has Auburn off to a 4-0 start and the team's 35-27 over then-No. 12 South Carolina last Saturday night has the Tigers at No. 10 in the latest AP poll. The Gamecocks led 27-21 Saturday night into the fourth quarter but Newton threw two, fourth-quarter TDs for the win. He finished 16-of-21 for 210 yards (two TDs / 0 INTs) plus added 176 yards rushing on 25 carries with three more TDs, including a 54-yard TD after a nice fake handoff in the first quarter. Newton threw three TD passes in Auburn's season-opening win over Arkansas St and has thrown two TDs in each of his last three games, including against Clemson two weeks ago and South Carolina this past Saturday. Auburn gets a 'breather' this coming Saturday, as the Tigers host UL-Monroe. Newton's season stats are: 43-of-68 for 632 yards (68.3 percent) 9 TDs 3 INTs / 75 carries for 485 yards (6.5 YPC) 5 TDs.
KEEP AN EYE ON Stanford at Oregon this coming Saturday. The Ducks are ranked No. 4 in the latest poll and Stanford is off to its first 4-0 start since 1986. The Cardinal climbed to No. 9 in the latest AP poll, the school's highest ranking since finishing the 1992 season at No. 9. Stanford ended a seven-game Oregon winning streak last year, beating the Ducks (ranked No. 8 at the time) 51-42. Toby Gerhart rushed for a school-record 223 yards and three scores while then-freshman QB Andrew Luck completed 12 of 20 passes for 251 yards and two TDs. Gerhart's in the NFL these days but Luck (No. 5 in my poll last week) is the team-leader of this year's squad. Luck passed for 238 yards and a TD but threw his first two interceptions of the season this past Saturday but the easy 37-14 Stanford win over Notre Dame marked the school's first win in South Bend since 1992 (no small deal). Luck's 64-of-102 (62.7 percent) for 912 yards this season, throwing 11 TDs and two INTs. The other player to watch this coming Saturday, is Oregon RB LaMichael James. He ran for 1,546 yards last season (6.7 YPC / 14 rush TDs) to set a new Pac-10 freshman record. However, he was kept out of this season's opener against New Mexico while he served a one-game suspension for offseason misconduct. James returned on September 11 in Oregon's 48-13 victory at Tennessee, rushing for 134 yards and a score. He made that effort look pedestrian the following Saturday, rushing for a career-high 227 yards on 14 carries with two TDs in No. 5 Oregon's easy 69-0 win over Portland State. Only one other Pac 10 player has run for 200 or more yards on as few attempts (as James did on 9/18) since 2004 and that was Jahvid Best of Cal in '08. Some may remember that James carried just 11 times in his first two games of his freshman season (2009) but then topped 100 yards in NINE of Oregon's final 10 regular season games (high of 183 vs USC). James had a 'quiet' 114 yards on 28 carries (one TD) in Oregon's 42-31 win last Saturday night at Arizona State. That gives him 12, 100-yard games in the 14 contests he's played as the team's featured back. He gained 125 yards on just 18 carries (6.9 YPC) with one TD in last year's loss at Stanford. This is huge game and both Luck and James can get themselves in the Heisman 'debate' with a big showing. His season stats are: 58 carries for 475 yards (8.2 YPC) 4 TDs.
My next Heisman report will be available on Monday, October 4.