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Heisman Trophy Top-10

   by Larry Ness - 11/22/2005

(Monday, November 21)

Vince Young of Texas had the weekend off and I'm sure he had better things to do late last Saturday night in Austin but if he took the time to watch USC play Fresno State, he probably saw more than he wanted to. Young, like everyone else in the nation, wants to see a Texas-USC showdown in this year's Rose Bowl, so he may have found it hard not to root for the Trojans. However, I'm sure Young would love to win the Heisman (who wouldn't?), so I doubt he enjoyed Reggie Bush's Gale Sayers imitation. My latest Heisman update follows.

1) REGGIE BUSH (USC) Last Week: 3. I wrote last week that "I can't imagine that even Bush's most ardent supporters don't feel as if the Heisman is slipping from Reggie's grasp." I seemed a fair statement at the time. After all, Bush had failed to top 100 yards in three of his previous four games (averaged 85.8 YPG), scoring just two TDs. How quickly things can change. Bush's game against Fresno State was "one for the ages" and his performance likely won him the Heisman. His 50-yard TD run late in the third quarter, not only capped a 28-point outburst by USC, but left anyone watching believing that Gale Sayers had been reincarnated! Reggie's performance defies description and is likely his Heisman-defining moment, much like Carson Palmer (2002) and Matt Leinart (2004) had in their games versus Notre Dame. Bush ran for a career-high 294 yards with two TDs. He caught three passes for 68 yards and added 151 yards in kick returns. That adds up to 513 all-purpose yards, a total that shattered the previous USC record of 368 held by Anthony Davis in 1972! The game vaulted him from No. 3 in all-purpose yards this year to No. 1, averaging 212.6 YPG. He now has more yards rushing this year than he's had in his two previous years combined and after entering the season with just two career 100-yard games, has had seven in 2005. Reggie gets a well-deserved rest this week and will try to put an exclamation point on his season against UCLA on December 3 (had 204 yards against the Bruins last year). His season stats are: 163 carries 1398 yards 8.6 YPC 13 TDs / 31 catches 383 yards 12.4 YPC 2 TDs.

2) MATT LEINART (USC) Last Week: 1. I'm a huge supporter of Leinart and give him extra-credit for all his career accomplishments but like everyone else, I was blown away by Bush's performance Saturday night. Leinart had a relatively quiet game, although as always, he calmly directed USC in its comeback win. He finished 22-of-33 for 200 yards with one TD and no interceptions (also ran for one score). Leinart is the unquestioned leader of this team and if he can lead the Trojans to two more wins (UCLA on Dec 3 and then in the Rose Bowl on January 4), there will few if any players in college football history, that will be able to match his career accomplishments. As of today, Leinart has led USC to 33 straight wins, the fifth-longest streak since 1900. He's had USC atop the AP rankings for 31 straight polls, an all-time record. The team has tied a Pac-10 record with 26 straight home wins and its 23 straight conference wins, is also a new Pac-10 record. Leinart is now 36-1 as a starter at USC with a TD-to-interception ratio of 95-23! His season stats are: 233-of-351 66.4 3217 yards 24 TDs 7 INTs / 6 rush TDs.

3) VINCE YOUNG (Texas) Last Week 2. Vince Young had the week off and I don't know if he took the time to stay up late and watch the Fresno State-USC game. If he did, he may have seen what the rest of the nation saw, a Heisman-winning performance by Reggie Bush. Young has made great gains on both USC players over the last month but he falls back to No. 3 in my rankings. While many still have him ahead of Leinart (I disagree), I doubt many have him ahead of Bush after Reggie's incredible performance last Saturday night. In Young's last game, a 66-14 win over Kansas on 11/12, he threw for a career-high four TD passes. 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. Young opened the season by averaging 181.3 YPG passing with five TD passes, four interceptions and one rushing TD in his first three games. Over his last seven games, he's averaged 267.2 YPG passing while throwing for 17 TDs (just four INTs) and running for seven more. In that stretch, he's averaged 348.9 YPG in total offense. He is now the school-leader in total offense with 8,269 career yards, passing Major Applewhite. 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.

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. Notre Dame was held scoreless in the first quarter against Syracuse this past Saturday but Quinn remedied that with two second-quarter TD passes. The Irish went on to a fairly comfortable 34-10 win and are now just one win away (at Stanford this Saturday night), from securing a BCS bid. Quinn completed 21-of-27 passes for 270 yards (eighth straight game of more than 250 / has a school-record 15 in his career) with two TDs and no interceptions. The 270 passing yards gives him over 3,000 yards this year (first-ever by an Irish QB) and a career total of 7,618, passing Ron Powlus as the school's all-time leader. He extends his single-season record of TD passes to 29 and his school-record streak of games with at least one TD pass to 15. In the four games since the USC loss, Quinn has completed 66.9 percent of his passes, averaged 329 YPG passing and thrown 15 TDs with just one interception. His season stats are: 238-of-367 64.9 3201 yards 29 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 back on 11/12. 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. In my final Heisman update, available on Wednesday, December 7, I will list my final top-10.

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