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Heisman Trophy Top-10

   by Larry Ness - 09/26/2005

Monday, September 26

USC trailed Oregon 13-0 in the second quarter on Saturday but led by Leinart's three TD passes and 315 yards passing, as well as Reggie Bush's 267 all-purpose yards, the Trojans scored the game's final 45 points en route to the team's 25th consecutive win. My Heisman surprise this week does not involve USC's dynamic duo but rather it's that I've down-graded Texas' Vince Young due to the great performances of Minnesota's Laurence Maroney, Florida's Chris Leak and Michigan State's Drew Stanton. Don't look back Vince, ASU's Sam Keller and Wisconsin's Brian Calhoun are nipping at your heels as well. My latest Heisman top-10 is as follows.

1) MATT LEINART (USC) Last Week:1. It's scary how good this Trojan team is. Down 13-0 to Oregon (Autzen stadium is a tough venue!), Leinart directed an important 10-play 70-yard drive that ended with a 19-yard TD toss to Reggie Bush. USC added a FG right before the half and trailed just 13-10. The Trojans then opened the second half with consecutive TD drives of 76, 61, 64 and 84 yards, eventually winning 45-13. Leinart was 11-of-14 in the second half and finished 23-of-39 for 315 yards with three TDs and one interception. He's now topped 300 yards in all three games this season, after having just five 300-yard games in his first two seasons. He's actually getting BETTER! So much for the loss of Norm Chow! Leinart is now 28-1 as a starter (81 TDP / 17 INT) and in the team's 25 straight wins, has a ratio of 73-11. His season stats are: 59-of-87 67.8 percent 1028 yards 10 TDs 2 INTs / 1 rush TD.

2) REGGIE BUSH (USC) Last Week: 2. Bush must feel somewhat like he's playing the role of Lou Gehrig to Leinart's Babe Ruth! Bush had a game full of highlight reel plays against Oregon but so what else is new? Bush had his second straight 100-yard game with 122 yards and a TD on 20 carries (had just two 100-yard games LY). He added 43 yards on three receptions plus another TD and just for good measure, threw in 102 yards on kick returns. That's 267 all-purpose yards! Like Leinart, Bush is even BETTER this year but he's still number two. His season stats are: 40 carries 333 yards 8.3 YPC 4 TDs / 10 catches 171 yards 17.1 YPC 2 TDs.

3) LAURENCE MARONEY (Minnesota) Last Week: 4. Maroney was on the sidelines when Minnesota pulled out a thrilling 42-35 double-overtime win over Purdue but it was HIS play that carried Minnesota for most of the game. He had 147 of his career-high 217 yards (46 carries) in the first half and has topped 100 yards in all four of Minnesota's games this year (he leads the nation in rushing with an average of 174.5 YPG). The Gophers are 4-0 for the fourth straight year (a school record) and the win over Purdue ended a seven-game losing streak to the Boilermakers. Maroney has also been contributing to the team's passing game. Here's a guy who had just FOUR career catches entering the season but followed last week's three-catch effort (including his first career TD catch!) with five more catches for 59 yards versus Purdue. Maroney, like Leinart and Bush, looks to be getting BETTER as well! His 217-yard effort tops his season-opening 203-yard game against Tulsa and it came versus a team many felt had one of the nation's best defenses. Maroney now has 17 career 100-yard games with the Gophers going an impressive 15-2 in those contests. His season stats are: 113 carries 698 yards 6.2 YPC 6 TDs / 9 catches 128 yards 14.2 YPC 1 TD.

4) CHRIS LEAK (Florida) Last Week: 5. Against Tennessee two weeks ago, Chris Leak was held without a TD pass for the first time in his career. However, he didn't wait long to get on the board against Kentucky, leading the Gators to TDs on SEVEN consecutive possessions after the Wildcats had taken a 7-0 lead. Florida racked up 437 total yards in the first half in taking a 49-7 lead, as Leak threw four TDs passes. Leak went to the sidelines with the rest of the starters early in the third quarter, but was forced to return after Kentucky closed the margin to 49-28. That was the final though, as Leak finished 25-of-32 for 319 yards with four TDs and no interceptions (has yet to throw an interception this year in 114 attempts). His only weakness this year is partly the fault of the OL, as he's been sacked 11 times. The 300-yard game was the sixth of his career, with the Gators winning all of those six games. His season stats are: 81-of-114 71.1 percent 1037 yards 9 TDs 0 INTs / 2 rush TDs
5) DREW STANTON (Michigan State) Last Week: 6. Michigan State had beaten seven top-10 opponents since 1997 and followed each of those wins by LOSING its very next game. Drew Stanton ended any worries John L Smith may have had concerning a let-down by his team early versus Illinois. The Spartans scored 31 unanswered points after a 7-7 tie and led 38-7 at the half. Stanton had four TD passes by halftime and threw a school-record FIFTH TD pass in the third quarter. He led MSU to scores on SIX of its first eight possessions. Michigan State gained 705 yards of total offense in the 61-14 win and has now averaged 49 PPG and 594 YPG in its 4-0 start. Stanton has NINE TD passes the last two weeks and has come out almost nowhere to throw himself right in the middle of the Heisman race, as long as you don't include Leinart and Bush. His season stats are: 79-of-108 73.1 percent 1184 yards 13 TDs 2 INTs / 34 carries 123 yards 3.6 YPC 1 TD.

6) VINCE YOUNG (Texas) Last Week: 3. Young's the 'sexy' pick among many for this year's award but I'm not quite as sold as others.If you look at the numbers being put up by Leak, Stanton and Keller, Young isn't in the same ballpark. Also, RBs Maroney and Calhoun have made bigger 'splashes' in the season's first month.Young is 20-2 as a starter but is coming off a 'quiet' game two weeks ago as Texas beat Rice 51-10, for the 38th time in the last 39 meetings. True freshman RB Jamaal Charles stole the spotlight, rushing for 189 yards and three TDs in a game the Longhorns led at the half, 40-0. Young completed just 8-of-14 for 101 yards (zero TDs and one interception), while rushing eight times for 77 yards with 51 of those yards coming on a scramble out of his own end zone that jump-started a 99-yard TD drive. Texas plays at Missouri this week and let's see who has the better game, Young or Missouri's Brad Smith? His season stats are: 39-of-60 65.0 percent 544 yards 5 TDs 4 INTs / 35 carries 202 yards 5.8 YPC 1 TD.

7) SAM KELLER (Arizona State) Last Week: 8 The first of Keller's five career starts came in last year's Sun Bowl against Purdue. Andrew Walter, currently the Pac-10's leader with 85 career TD passes (Leinart has 81), was hurt and Keller led the Sun Devils to a 27-23 win, throwing for 370 yards and three TDs. Arizona State led Oregon State 14-3 at the half last Saturday night but broke the game open with 28 third quarter points (Keller had three TD passes), on the way to 42-24 win. Keller finished the game 19-of-36 for 365 yards with four TDs and no interceptions. He's now thrown for over 1800 yards and 19 TDs in just FIVE career starts. Now if only Leinart wasn't around. Incidentally, the Sun Devils host USC Saturday! Keller lit up the LSU defense for 461 yards and four TDs on 9/10, so who knows? His season stats are: 88-of-147 59.9 percent 1443 yards 16 TDs 2 INTs.

8) BRIAN CALHOUN (Wisconsin) Last Week: NR. Calhoun, who sat out last year after transferring from Colorado, exploded with a 258-yard five-TD effort (tied the school record) in Wisconsin's season-opening 56-42 win over Bowling Green. He had just 42 yards in the team's 65-0 whitewash of Temple but then had 171 yards against North Carolina and had 155 yards on 35 carries (one TD) in Wisconsin's 23-20 win over Michigan this past Saturday. He also added seven catches (the most-ever by a RB in Alvarez's 16 years at Madison!) for 59 yards, as Wisconsin ended Michigan's streak of 23 straight Big-10 season-opening wins! Calhoun is third in the nation averaging 156.5 YPG rushing and could very easily stay in my top-10 all year. His season stats are: 127 carries 626 yards 4.9 YPC 9 TDs / 13 catches 144 yards 11.1 YPC 0 TDs.

9) ADRIAN PETERSON (Oklahoma) Last Week: 9. Oklahoma didn't play last week and probably needed the week off. After playing in the last two BCS title games, the Sooners are just 1-2 and out of the AP's top-25 for the first time since 1999. Last year's Freshman of the Year is certainly suffering from a "sophomore slump." He did rush for 220 yards against Tulsa on 9/10 but opened the year with a lackluster 63-yard effort in the TCU loss (9/3) and then in the Rose Bowl versus UCLA on 9/17, Peterson was held to a career-low 58 yards (on 23 carries) with one TD in UCLA's 41-24 win. Despite the fact that Oklahoma QB Bomar completed 20-of-29 for 241 yards, Peterson's longest run was just 11 yards. His Heisman chances have dropped as quickly as Kyle Orton's did last year, when Purdue fell back-to-back weeks against Wisconsin and Michigan. His season stats are: 77 carries 341 yards 4.4 YPC 5 TDs / 8 catches 42 yards 5.3 YPC 0 TDs.

10) JAY CUTLER (Vanderbilt) Last week: NR. This last spot is usually reserved for a good 'story'. It's hard to top what's happening in Nashville these days, as Vanderbilt is off to a 4-0 start as the 'Dores try to attain their first winning season since 1982 (also the school's last bowl appearance)! They are 4-0 after Saturday's 37-13 win over Richmond and are 2-0 in the SEC for just the second time since 1956! While Richmond is just a Division I-AA school, Vandy did score on five straight possessions (three TD drives were at least 80 yards!), after opening the game with a punt. Vanderbilt gained a season-high 513 yards, as the Commodores have topped 400 yards in all four games this year, which includes wins over Wake Forest, Arkansas and Ole Miss. QB Jay Cutler is the team's star and reportedly goes to class, so he gets the nod for the final spot in my top-10. He finished the game 28-of-40 for 263 yards with three TDs and no interceptions. He now owns the school records with 6769 total yards and 44 TDs. His season stats are: 100-of-162 61.7 percent 1131 yards 6 TDs 2 INTs / 38 carries 160 yards 4.2 YPC 1 TD.


7) OMAR JACOBS (Bowling Green) An "ugly" performance in Bowling Green's 48-20 loss at Boise State last Wednesday took this Heisman long-shot to no-shot status.

10) KELLEN CLEMENS (Oregon) The good news is that Clemens still has yet to throw an interception this year in 155 attempts. The bad news is he (and his teammates) are still looking for the 'bus' that ran over them last Saturday in Eugene.

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