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Heisman Trophy Top-10

   by Larry Ness - 11/15/2005

(Monday, November 14)

Texas may be No. 2 two in all the polls as well as being No.2 in the BCS standings but it seems as if its QB, Vince Young, is 'stealing' the hearts of many Heisman experts. I think there is little argument the Reggie Bush's candidacy has lost a lot of momentum since the Notre Dame game plus I get the feeling that too many people are taking for granted the incredible accomplishments of Matt Leinart. Add it all up and Young looks like the favorite. Behind the "Big Three", Brady Quinn of Notre Dame and Drew Olson of UCLA are having Heisman-worthy seasons but unfortunately for both of them, its a case of wrong time, wrong place. My latest Heisman update follows.

1) MATT LEINART (USC) Last Week: 1. I'm not ready to drop Leinart from the top spot just yet, although I admit Young is making a very significant challenge. However, Leinart is playing this season under an incredible 'microscope' and with tremendous pressure. He turned down countless millions to stay at USC for an opportunity to lead the school to an unprecedented third straight national title. So far, he's done everything one could ask, and MORE! USC won at Berkeley this past Saturday, beating Cal 35-10. Of course everyone knows it was the Cal Bears who last beat the Trojans, 34-31 in triple-OT (back in 2003). However, USC had little trouble this time around, as Leinart ran for two second-quarter scores, giving USC a 21-3 halftime lead. Leinart didn't have a great game, failing to throw a TD pass for the third time this year and just the fourth time in his career. He finished the game 20-of-32 for 246 yards with one interception and those two rushing TDs (five on the year). He's now led USC to 32 straight wins (tied for the 6th-best streak of all-time) and a record-tying 22 straight Pac-10 wins. He's 35-1 as starter, tossing a Pac-10 record 94 career TD passes (just 22 INTs), while topping 300 yards passing in six games this year. In comparison, he had just five 300-yard games in his first two seasons at USC and Vince Young has just ONE 300-yard game in his entire career! I'll leave further comparisons for future use (if needed). Leinart has two big games left, both versus quality opponents. USC hosts No. 16 Fresno State this Saturday and then No. 12 UCLA on December 3. His season stats are: 211-of-318 3017 yards 66.4 23 TDs 7 INTs / 5 rush TDs.

2) VINCE YOUNG (Texas) Last Week: 3. Young has passed Bush in my poll and I'm getting the strong impression that he's the current favorite. Texas beat Kansas just 27-23 last year, in a game which featured some heavy controversy regarding the officiating. The Longhorns left little in the hands of the officials this past Saturday, running up a 52-0 halftime lead. Young misfired on his first three passes but then completed his next eight, including TD throws of 45, 64 and 29 yards. He added a fourth TD pass before the half, giving him a career-high in TD passes for a game and was on the bench with five minutes remaining in the third quarter of a 66-14 Texas win. Young finished 19-of-27 for 281 yards and didn't throw an interception. Only a head-scratching six rushing attempts for minus four yards, kept him from topping 300 yards in total offense for the FIFTH time in his last seven games. After opening the season by averaging 181.3 YPG passing with five TD passes, four interceptions and one rushing TD in his first three games, Young has averaged 267.2 YPG passing while throwing for 17 TDs (just four INTs) and running for seven more over his last seven games. In that stretch, he's averaged 348.9 YPG in total offense. He passed Major Applewhite on Saturday and is now the school-leader in total offense with 8,269 career yards. He's led Texas to 17 straight wins and is 27-2 in his career as a starter. Texas plays Texas A&M on November 25 and then will play in the Big-12 title game on December 3. His season stats are: 155-of-244 63.5 2414 yards 22 TDs 8 INTs / 117 carries 774 yards 6.6 YPC 8 TDs.

3) REGGIE BUSH (USC) Last Week: 2. I can't imagine that even Bush's most ardent supporters don't feel as if the Heisman is slipping from Reggie's grasp. Bush was a spectacular but complimentary play last year when he finished fifth in the voting. However, he was given a bigger role this year and after opening with an 86-yard effort versus Hawaii, ripped off FIVE consecutive 100-yard games (had just two in his career entering this year), peaking with a 160-yard three-TD effort (not to mention his all-important "push") in USC's thrilling 34-31 win at Notre Dame. Bush has failed to top 100 yards in three of his four games since (scoring just two TDs) and often has been overshadowed in the backfield by teammate LenDale White (three TDs in Saturday's win over Cal). When all the votes are in, both Leinart and Bush may suffer from the fact that there is so much talent around them and unlike last year, may actually take votes away from each other. While Bush remains the nation's most SPECTACULAR player (ranks third with 182.5 YPG in all-purpose yards), his opportunities have been limited recently and unlike last year when he made major contributions with his pass-catching abilities (seven TD catches), he's gone seven games without a TD catch and has just two for the entire season. His season stats are: 140 carries 1104 yards 7.9 YPC 11 TDs / 28 catches 315 yards 11.3 YPC 2 TDs.

4) BRADY QUINN (Notre Dame) Last Week: 4. Quinn continues to be a record-breaking 'machine' this year for Notre Dame. In two years under Willingham, Brady completed just over 50 percent of his passes (50.8), throwing 26 TDs and 25 interceptions. However, under the tutelage of Charlie Weis, Quinn has spent the season re-writing the Notre Dame record book. His latest onslaught came in Notre Dame's all-time NCAA record 42nd straight win over Navy, 42-21. Quinn finished 22-of-31 for 284 yards with four TDs and one interception. That fourth-quarter interception ended a stretch of 130 consecutive passes without a 'pick', setting a another Notre Dame record. He extended to 14, his school record of consecutive games with least one TD pass and by game's end, had passed Ron Powlus as the school's career-leader with 53 TD passes (Powlus had 52). He topped 250 yards passing for the 14th time in his career (extending another record) and now owns the school's single-season record with 2,931 passing yards. Quinn is now just 254 yards shy of passing Powlus as the school's all-time leader in passing yards. His season stats are 217-of-330 65.8 2931 yards 27 TDs 5 INTs / 1 rush TD

5) DREW OLSON (UCLA) Last Week: 5. Bruin fans will argue that Olson is having the best year of any QB in the city! They may just be right. Olson had three TD passes and 295 yards passing by the end of the FIRST quarter, in UCLA's 45-35 win over Arizona State this past Saturday. He opened the game with a 91-yard TD pass on the game's first play from scrimmage and never looked back. He finished the game 22-of-27 for a career-high 510 yards with five TDs and no interceptions. He missed by just FOUR yards, of setting a single-game school record for passing yards (Cade McNown threw for 513 yards in UCLA's infamous 49-45 loss at Miami in 1998). His 30 TD passes this year (just three INTs!), easily breaks McNown's single-season record of 25, set in that 1998 season. Olson was the main QB at UCLA for the last two years when the Bruins went 12-13. Similar to Quinn, Olson entered this year without much fanfare (32 TDs and 25 INTs in his three-year career) but has been BRILLIANT! Olson's 172.5 QB rating ranks him FIRST in the nation. By the way, Young is second, Leinart fourth and Quinn fifth. Olson will have to wait until December 3 but he will get his showdown with Los Angeles' "other" QB. His season stats are: 218-of-322 67.7 2909 yards 30 TDs 3 INTs.

Typically, I list five other players six-through 10 but it hardly seems worth it. Last week's sixth-ranked player (Cody Hodges of Texas Tech), saw his team lose to Oklahoma State, a team that entered the game winless in Big-12 play. No. 7 Maurice Drew of UCLA has fallen so far behind teammate Drew Olson, it's not worth arguing. My No. 8 guy last week, DeAngelo Williams of Memphis, missed last week's game versus Tennessee because of injury and the Tigers fell to 4-5 with a 20-16 loss. Laurence Maroney of Minnesota was ranked No. 9 and like Williams, missed the Gophers' game with an injury but Minnesota hardly missed him, beating Michigan State 41-18. As for Washington State's Jerome Harrison (No.10), he ran for 143 yards and has now run for more than 100 yards in all 10 games this year, as well as topping 100 yards in 13 straight games, setting a new Pac-10 record. That being said, his team has lost SEVEN straight games!

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