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Heisman Trophy Report
by Larry Ness - 10/12/2010
Alabama received a season-high 58 first-place votes (of 60) in the October 3 AP poll but those same pollsters showed the Tide very little 'love' after their 35-21 loss on Saturday at South Carolina. The defending national champs faced a brutal three-game stretch which saw them win 24-20 at then-No. 10 Arkansas and crush then-No. 7 Florida 31-6 in Tuscaloosa before losing to the Gamecocks. Alabama dropped all the way to 8th in Sunday's latest AP poll, after seeing its 19-game overall win streak and 18-game SEC regular season win streak end. Alabama was held to 36 yards rushing (3rd-fewest in Nick Saban era), as last year's Heisman winner Mark Ingram 11 times for 41 yards. Alabama's chances at winning back-to-to back national titles took a huge hit with the loss but Ingram's lackluster 41-yard effort (had a career-high 246 yards rushing vs South Carolina last year, the third-best single game mark in school history) all but ended his slim chances as joining Archie Griffin as only player to have won two Heismans (Griffin won in 1974 and '75). How does the Heisman 'picture' look now? My latest update follows.
Heisman Watch (Monday, October 11)
1) TERRELLE PRYOR (Ohio State) Last Week: 1. I've been catching some 'heat' for ranking Pryor No. 1 (ahead of "Shoelace") as of late but last Saturday's results seem to have "justified" my ranking order (to each his own). Ohio State left the friendly confines of Ohio Stadium for the first time in 2010 on October 2 and Illinois gave the Buckeyes all they wanted. Ohio State escaped Memorial Stadium with a 24-13 win but not before getting a real scare when Terrelle Pryor left for a series and a-half in the third quarter with what turned out to nothing more than a minor injury. He returned and directed the game-clinching drive in the late fourth quarter, although it was RB Dan Herron who accounted for every yard (except for Illinois penalty yards) on the drive that put Ohio State up by 11 points with 1:49 left in the game. Pryor rushed for 104 yards on just 11 carries (including a career-long 66-yard run), the sixth 100-yard rushing game of his career (3rd of 2010). However, Illinois held him to 76 yards through the air (9-of-16 with two TDs and one INT), marking the third straight game that the Illini have held the Buckeyes to under 100 passing yards. Ohio State returned to Columbus this past Saturday and Pryor had his best game of 2010 to-date. His strained left thigh muscle was never an issue, as he threw for a career-best 334 yards (24-of-30) and three TDs (covering 22, 60 and 17 yards). Pryor's passing yardage easily surpassed his previous high of 266 (in OSU's 26-17 recent Rose Bowl win over Oregon) and although he lost 19 yards on three rushing attempts (sacks), he moved into fourth-place in total offense at Ohio State with 6,518 yards. Pryor improves to 25-4 as Ohio State's starting QB and I continue to consider him to be the Heisman front-runner. Ohio State (and Pryor), back at No. 1 in the AP poll for the first time since the final regular season poll of 2007, will be tested this week as they visit Camp Randall week to face No. 18 Wisconsin, the only Big 10 school to have beaten the Buckeyes three times over the past decade (2001, '03 and '04). Pryor's season stats are: 104-of-153 for 1,349 yards (68.0 percent) 15 TDs 3 INTs / 57 carries for 354 yards (6.2 YPC) 3 TDs / one TD catch.
2) KELLEN MOORE (Boise State) Last Week: 3. Boise State won its 18th straight game (14th straight on the road) 59-0 at New Mexico State on October 2. However, when the latest AP poll came out the next day, the Broncos found themselves 'leap-frogged' by the Ducks, who had beaten Stanford 52-31 (Oregon moved to No. 3 and Boise St to No. 4). This past weekend's results were much more favorable to the Bronocs, after another easy win, 57-14 over Toledo. Alabama's loss allowed "everyone to move up," and the Broncos are back at No. 3 in the latest poll (behind No. 1 Ohio St and No. 2 Oregon). The Broncos needed five plays and a little more than two minutes to score their first TD, their quickest opening score this season. With the help of an opportunistic defense, Moore directed Boise State to TDs on four of its next six first-half possessions and cruised to another easy win. Moore threw for 267 yards and three touchdowns without an INT, completing 16-of-22 passes. The win extended Boise State's home winning streak to 29 straight (only Oklahoma owns a longer active one with 33) and its overall unbeaten streak to 19 games, which is now the longest active in college football, thanks to South Carolina's upset over Alabama (next closest team is Ohio State, which has now won 12 in a row). Kellen Moore moves to 31-1 as a starter and during the team's current 19-game winning streak, has thrown 52 TDs compared to only four interceptions in 566 pass attempts. He's thrown three TDs in four of his five games this season, throwing just two TDs vs Wyoming in a 56-6 win in which he also threw his lone INT this season. His QB rating of 183.3 leads the nation. Boise State may not get an invite to participate in the BCS championship game but I don't see how Moore isn't invited to New York in early December as one of the Heisman finalists. However, just before I posted this article, I read that ESPN's Brad Edwards has projected what the BCS standings would look like if they were released today. According to his projections, Boise State would be on top and Ohio State would be fifth (Edwards had Oregon, TCU and Oklahoma in between the two schools). A trip to San Jose State is on tap for next Saturday (Broncos have won all 10 meetings with the Spartans, average score of 45-16) and this year's San Jose St team has already lost 48-3 to Alabama and 56-3 to Utah. Moore's season stats are: 91-of-135 for 1,336 yards (67.4 percent) 14 TDs 1 INT.
3) DENARD ROBINSON (Michigan) Last Week: 2. I've been cautious about overreacting to Denard Robinson's 'explosion' onto the CFB 'landscape.' That hasn't been the case with others. Late last week on ESPN's Pardon the Interruption (great show and format), Michael Wilbon gave "the field," a 10 percent chance of winning the Heisman up against Robinson. Now there's a guy who really knows what he's talking about and one who has an excellent understanding of the Heisman's history! I wrote last week that Robinson leads the nation in rushing (181.0 YPG), is second in total offense (382.6 YPG) and one has to love that he's got just one turnover in 194 touches! However, I also noted that Michigan State was allowing a modest 101.2 YPG on the ground plus just 3.2 YPC. Well, the Spartans made Denard Robinson look 'human' for the first time this year, winning 34-17 and giving Michigan State its third straight win over Michigan, something which hadn't happened since 1965-67. Robinson was held to under 100 yards rushing for the first time this season with 21 carries for 86 yards (4.1 YPC) with one TD, far below his season averages of 181.0 YPG and 9.2 YPC coming in. He completed 17-of-29 passes for 215 yards with one TD and three INTs, one in the end zone and one just outside of it. In the end, Michigan was held to season lows in points and total yards (377). One poor game does little to tarnish what he's already accomplished (see past Heisman updates for details) but as I've be cautioning, Michigan plays a very challenging schedule and before placing Robinson at the top of my Heisman list, he'll have to come up big in one or two games vs "the big boys." He gets chance No. 2 in this coming Saturday's Homecoming game vs No. 15 Iowa. Let's note that Robinson is still No. 2 in the nation in rushing (165.2 YPG), No. 2 in total offense (369.0 YPG) and still owns just four turnovers (zero fumbles in 98 carries) in 223 touches. His season stats are: 84-of-125 for 1,223 yards (67.2 percent) 8 TDs and 4 INTs / 98 carries for 991 yards (8.3 YPC) 9 TDs.
4) CAMERON NEWTON (Auburn) Last Week: NR. Before the season is through, it may be Auburn's Cam Newton and not Michigan's Denard Robinson, who will turn out be 2010's biggest "breakout" star. 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. I dropped Newton out of my top-five last week to make room for Oregon's James but he is back in after a simply dazzling performance against Kentucky this past Saturday. Newton ran for four, first-half TDs, as Auburn jumped out to a 17-point lead at Lexington. However, the Wildcats rallied and the game came down to Auburn's final drive. Newton accounted for 74 yards on Auburn's 19-play (longest scoring drive in school history), 93-yard, clock-chewing final drive which was capped by Wes Byrum's 24-yard FG as time expired (Auburn escaped with a 37-34 win). Newton ran for a career-high 198 yards and four TDs (28 carries), his third 100-yard game of the season. He completed 13-of-21 passes for another 210 yards, although he didn't throw for a TD and did have one INT. Auburn has opened 6-0 for the first time since 2004, a year in which the Tigers went undefeated and finished No. 2 in the AP poll. Newton's QB rating of 180.7 is No. 2 in the nation, behind only Boise State's Moore. Like Robinson, he's carried 104 times and has yet to fumble. Like Alabama, there is no rest for the weary in the SEC, as the Tigers will host No. 11 Arkansas this coming Saturday. Newton's season stats are: 57-of-87 for 928 yards (65.5 percent) 12 TDs 4 INTs / 76 carries for 474 yards (6.2 YPC) 5 TDs.
5) LAMICHAEL JAMES (Oregon) Last Week: 5. James ran for a career-high 257 yards (on 31 carries) and scored three TDs in Oregon's October 2 win over Stanford (52-31). It marked the second-most rushing yards in Oregon history (Onterrio Smith ran for 285 yards in 2001 vs Washington St) and clearly placed James in the Heisman 'discussion.' 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 then 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 at Arizona State (9/26) but then had that huge game vs Stanford. James got off to a slow start at Washington State this past Saturday and along with the rest of the team, was 'shook up' when Kenjon Barner was flattened on a kickoff return, crumpled to the turf and was worked on for more than 10 minutes. Turner seems to be OK and the Ducks finally got going but the team's 43-23 win over pathetic Washington State was hardly impressive. QB Darron Thomas left in the second quarter with a right shoulder injury that he said afterward he could have come back from, but was held out for precautionary reasons. Nate Costa played well in his place, leading three scoring drives (ran for 84 yards and threw for another 151 on 13-of-15 passing. James finished with 136 yards rushing on 25 carries and scored twice. He also caught two passes, one which went for an 84-yard TD. He now leads the nation in rushing with an average of 169.6 YPG and since becoming Oregon's "featured" back, has topped 100-yards in 14 of 16 games, including two of 200-plus yards (both this year). The Ducks are up to No. 2 in the latest AP poll and get a bye this coming week (play next at home vs UCLA on a Thursday, October 21). James' season stats are: 114 carries for 848 yards (7.4 YPC) 9 TDs / 3 catches 96 for 96 yards (32.0 YPC) 1 TD.
FADING FAST: Mark Ingram of Alabama (see opening paragraph).
My next Heisman update will be available Monday, October 18.