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Heisman Trophy Top-10

   by Larry Ness - 11/29/2005

(Monday, November 28)

Reggie Bush had a career-defining game two weeks ago against Fresno State, when he 'ripped' the Bulldogs for 513 all-purpose yards. Vince Young had his national stage this past Saturday against Texas A&M but things did not go as well. Young had one of his worst games of the year against a Texas A&M defense that entered the game ranked 109th in the nation, as Texas struggled to a 40-29 win. It seems as if this year's Heisman race will come down to where it all began, a choice between USC teammates Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart. My latest Heisman update follows.


1) REGGIE BUSH (USC) Last Week: 1. I wrote two weeks ago 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." It 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 will try to put an exclamation point on his season against UCLA this Saturday (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: 2. 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 against Fresno State. 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 32 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 3. Vince Young had a national showcase on Friday afternoon at College Station, but played a very poor game and pretty much left the Heisman race to Bush and Leinart. Playing against a defense that entered the game ranked 109th in the nation in Texas A&M, Young completed 13-of--24 for 162 yards with one TD and one interception. The 162 passing yards was his second-worst performance of the season and his 11 carries for just 19 yards, extended his rushing slump to 68 yards (25 carries / 2.7 YPC) in the three games since his 267-yard effort versus Oklahoma State. Texas won 40-29 for its 18th straight win and Young moved to 28-2 in his career as Texas' starting QB. He's had a great season but in my view, I'm not completely convinced he deserves to be ranked ahead of Quinn and Olson. I just don't understand the logic of people who have him ranked ahead of Bush and Leinart. Young will lead Texas against an undeserving Colorado team in Saturday's Big-12 title game and I doubt he can to much to improve his Heisman hopes against the Buffs. His season stats are: 168-of-268 62.7 2576 yards 23 TDs 9 INTs / 128 carries 793 yards 6.2 YPC 8 TDs.

4) BRADY QUINN (Notre Dame) Last Week: 4. Quinn continues to be a record-breaking 'machine' this year for Notre Dame. However, those records would not have meant as much if Quinn had been unable to lead Notre Dame on that final drive last Saturday night at Stanford. The Irish, better than two-TD favorites, found themselves down 31-30 to the Cardinal with 1:46 remaining in the game. Starting at his own 20, Quinn led the Irish on a six-play 80-yard TD drive that took just 51 seconds. He was three-for-three for 67 yards and ran once for three yards. Walker's short TD run gave Notre Dame a 38-31 win and likely assured the school of a HUGE BCS payday. Quinn, who opened the game with an 80-yard TD pass on Notre Dame's first play of the game, finished 25-of-38 for 432 yards with three TDs and two interceptions. It marked his fourth 400-yard game this year and fifth of his career. 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. He now has nine straight games of more than 250 yards passing, giving him a school-record 16 in his career. Two weeks ago, he went over 3,000 passing yards for the season, a first by an Irish QB. He passed Ron Powlus as the school's all-time leader in passing yards in the game versus Syracuse (has 8,050 career yards) and his three TD passes against Stanford gives him 32 on the year, extending the Notre Dame single-season record. His school-record streak of games with at least one TD pass is up to 16 and in the five games since the USC loss, Quinn has averaged 349.6 YPG passing and thrown 18 TDs with just three interceptions. His season stats are: 263-of-405 64.9 3633 yards 32 TDs 7 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 and 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 third, Quinn fourth and Leinart fifth. Olson, idle since 11/12, will get his showdown with Los Angeles' "other" QB on Saturday. 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. Monday's column will deal with the final BCS standings and the bowl matchups.

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