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by Larry Ness - 11/15/2010
The nation's top-4 schools in the BCS standings were the lone remaining unbeaten teams in CFB 2010. No. 4 Boise State was the first to play on Friday night and the Broncos won handily, 52-14. Saturday's results saw No. 1 Oregon get a real scare at Cal (won 15-13), No. 2 Auburn shake off an early 21-7 deficit to win 49-28 vs Georgia and No. 3 TCU play the strangest game of all. The Horned Frogs quickly fell behind 14-0 at home vs San Diego State but then scored the next 37 points. However, SDSU fought back and lost just 40-35. Oregon held its No. 1 spot and Auburn stayed No. 2. TCU was able to hold on to the No. 3 spot but Boise St got close enough to make the final three weeks on action very interesting.
How did these results influence the Heisman race? Newton's performance (see below for details) under the intense media glare of possible NCAA infractions surrounding him, his father and Auburn University, were quite remarkable. There can be little doubt now that only thing standing between Newton and the 2010 Heisman are the allegations surrounding his coming to Auburn being proved true. Coming on the heels of Reggie Bush returning his 2005 Heisman due to sanctions handed down against USC this summer, that would be the very LAST thing CFB would need.
Neither Newton nor James will play this coming week, meaning only Boise State's Kellen Moore will be in action (vs Fresno State at home on Friday). This trio may be the only ones even invited to New York in December but in next week's report, I'll take a closer look at the other dark horse contenders, including Ohio State QB Pryor (Buckeyes are at Iowa) and Michigan QB Denard Robinson (wasn't he already handed this award in September?). Stanford QB Andrew Luck has also made some 'noise' lately and if the Cardinal can beat the Golden Bears in this week's "Big Game," maybe he can play his way into an invite to New York. Finally, there is Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon to comment on.
As to this week, here's may latest Heisman report.
Heisman Watch (November 15)
1) CAMERON NEWTON (Auburn) Last Week: 1. Michigan QB Denard Robinson may have won CFB's player-of-the-month award in September but Newton is now head-and-shoulders above all the competition. His performance this past Saturday vs Georgia was "typical," which is why he seems destined to become Auburn's third-ever Heisman winner (Pat Sullivan won in 1971 and Bo Jackson in 1985). He scored Auburn's first TD on a 31-yard run (on the game's first possession) but then Georgia took 21-7 lead. One couldn't help but see how 'tight' the Tigers were and It was hard not to think that entire Newton 'saga' and the pressure of securing a spot in the SEC championship may just be to much for these Tigers. I won't recap the game but as we all know now, that was hardly the case. Auburn rallied to tie the game by the half and the Tigers kept the momentum going with an onside kick to start the third quarter, recovering the ball and driving for the go-ahead TD. While Georgia would tie the game at 28-all, Auburn went ahead for good on Onterio McCalebb's 4-yard TD but it would be Newton who was left to finish off the Bulldogs with his second TD pass of the game plus cap the scoring with a one-yard leap into the end zone in the closing minutes, which wasn't really a score. Newton rushed for 151 yards on 30 carries plus completed 12-of-15 passes, as Auburn moved to 11-0 (12th straight win) with only the Iron Bowl at rival Alabama remaining on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Newton's accomplishments are pretty awesome. He's topped 150 yards rushing in five of his seven SEC games this year (has six, 100-yard games on the season) and continues to add to the best-ever, single-season rushing performance by a QB in SEC history (he's at 1,297 yards, closing in on more than 300 yards better than the previous record, with THREE games still left). I read one post-game recap which stated that Newton had 30 'bruising' carries vs Georgia. I couldn't agree more with that sentiment, making the fact that Newton has yet to fumble in 206 carries in 2010 quite special. Newton's two TDs give him 18 on the season, breaking Auburn's single-season record of 17, which had been shared by Cadillac Williams (2003), Stephen Davis (1995), and Bo Jackson (1985). Newton has been responsible for 39 TDs (rushing, receiving and passing) in 11 games. Newton became the eighth player to throw for 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in a season on Saturday. However, a man you will not find among Heisman hopefuls in 2010, Nevada QB Colin Kaepernick, is a mere 53 rushing yards away from being the only player to accomplish the feat three times. Newton's season stats are: 135-of-198 for 2,038 yards (68.2 percent) 21 TDs 6 INTs / 206 carries for 1,297 yards (6.3 YPC) 17 TDs / 1 TD catch.
2) KELLEN MOORE (Boise State) Last Week: 3. Boise State had a great week. The Broncos beat Idaho 52-14 on Friday night, earning their 23rd straight win and 34th regular season victory to move to 9-0 in 2010. Chris Potter broke three tackles on his way to a 76-yard punt return for a score the first time Boise State touched the ball and Kellen Moore threw two TD passes in the first half. Boise State hasn't trailed since the fourth quarter of its first game against Virginia Tech, back on Labor Day evening. Speaking of Va Tech, the Hokies won their eighth straight game 26-10 at North Carolina on Saturday. Va Tech has climbed to 16th in the latest BCS standings which is helping Boise's computer rankings. Of course, the biggest news for the Broncos was TCU's 40-35 'scare' vs San Diego St plus Utah's 28-3 loss at Notre Dame, which has greatly minimized TCU's 47-7 win at Salt Lake City just two weeks ago. Sunday night, Boise St passed TCU in both 'human" polls used by the BCS standings and while the Broncos were not able to catch TCU in the latest standings, the Broncos closed the points gap and with three games still remaining (including a contest with Fresno St and particularly Nevada, now 18th in the BCS), the Broncos will clearly have a chance to catch the Horned Frogs, something considered unlikely just last week. This HAS a relation to the Heisman race, as Moore's only real chance at the Heisman would be Boise St "running the table" and possibly getting into the national championship[p game. For that to happen, Oregon or Auburn would have to lose but Boise St also needs to catch TCU first, or it would be the Horned frogs not the Broncos, making the big 'splash.' Getting back to Moore, after throwing for a career-high 507 yards in just three quarters last week against Hawaii, he finished 19-of-26 for a modest 216 yards (owns only eight, career 300-yard games) with three TD passes and no interceptions. Moore's now 35-1 as the team's starting QB, with 63 TDs and just seven INTs during the team's 23-game winning streak. His consistency is quite remarkable, as he's now completed at least 70 percent of his passes in each of his last SEVEN games in 2010, with the most incomplete passes he's thrown in any one game during that stretch being just eight. His QB rating of 191.2 remains the top mark in the nation (Newton ranks No. 2 at 183.6) and I'm moving him past James in this week's poll. Boise plays its second of three straight Friday games this week, when the Broncos host Fresno St. All Boise's done has won its last 23 home games and gone 67-2 on the famous "blue turf" since 2000. Moore's season stats are: 174-of-242 for 2,588 yards (71.9 percent) 24 TDs 4 INTs / 1 TD catch.
3) LAMICHAEL JAMES (Oregon) Last Week: 2. Oregon claimed the school's first-ever No. 1 ranking in the AP poll on October 10 and has held the top spot since, in all the "human" polls. Oregon leapfrogged Auburn for No. 1 in the BCS standings on October 31, a day after beating USC in the Coliseum, 53-32. The Ducks kept their spot atop all the major polls and the latest BCS standings but Saturday's 15-13 win at California hardly came with the "oooohs" and "aaaahs" we've come to expect with Oregon. The Ducks' high-powered offense scored just one TD (the other came on a 64-yard punt return) and was held to a season-low 317 yards. Oregon also got more than just a little lucky. Early in the fourth quarter, Cal kicker Giorgio Tavecchio erased his own 24-yard FG, by taking a stutter step forward before the snap. He then missed a 29-yard try on the next play. A 'make' would have put the Bears up 16-15 and who knows how things would have "played out" after that? As it was, QB Darron Thomas led a final drive that chewed up the last 9 1/2 minutes of the contest. RBs Kenjon Barner and LaMichael James took turns with the ball while Thomas milked the play clock on the 18-play, 65-yard drive. Oregon fans have dubbed their star RB, "LaHeisman," but he was held to a season-low 91 yards on 29 carries. James battled through the game's final minutes with an ankle injury which clearly left him less than 100 percent. However, on Oregon's final possession, he was in the game and picked up an important with first down on a third-and-5 with Cal out of time outs, allowing the Ducks run out the clock on Cal's upset bid. "I pulled my hamstring jumping up and down because we won the game," James joked. "At the end of the season, they aren't going to say, 'How many points did Oregon beat Cal by?' They're just going to see we won." James may be right but his Heisman bid took a hit. He entered the game having scored two TDs or more in his previous five games about was held out of the end zone and under 100 yards for just the second time this season. James continues to lead the nation in rushing (158.0 YPG) and is third in all-purpose yards (174.3 YPG). His 18 TDs ties him with Newton and Oklahoma State's WR Blackmon for the most in the nation, with him and Blackmon tied for first in scoring at 12.0 PPG. James has topped 100 yards in 16 of 20 games since becoming Oregon's "featured" back, including three of 200-plus yards (all this year). James ran for 227 yards on 14 carries with two TDs in Oregon's easy 69-0 win over Portland State back on September 18. Only one other Pac 10 player has run for 200 or more yards on as few attempts since 2004 and that was Jahvid Best of Cal in '08. He then ran for a career-high 257 yards (on 31 carries) and scored three TDs in Oregon's October 2 win over Stanford (52-31), marking the second-most rushing yards in Oregon history (Onterrio Smith ran for 285 yards in 2001 vs Washington St). Oregon, like Auburn, controls its own fate. Win out and the Ducks are in the national championship game. James' path to the Heisman is a little more difficult. He'll need a major stumble by Newton (or for Newton's off-field issues to interfere) and even then, he may not beat out Boise State's Moore. Oregon is off until November 26, when the Ducks host Arizona. James' season stats are: 225 carries for 1,422 yards (6.3 YPC) 17 TDs / 10 catches for 149 yards (14.9 YPC) 1 TD.
My next Heisman report will be available on November 22.