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Heisman Trophy Top-10 (final)

   by Larry Ness - 12/08/2005

USC's Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush plus Texas' Vince Young, were the three players invited to attend Saturday's Heisman ceremonies. Typically (since the 1999 award), four or five players have been invited as finalists, but is there really any reason to invite anyone else this year? My final Heisman top-10 follows.

1)REGGIE BUSH (USC). I'd be SHOCKED if Reggie Bush isn't this year's winner. I'm a big Matt Leinart fan (shouldn't everyone be?) but Reggie's final two games should have clinched the award for the nation's most electrifying player. He followed his incredible game versus Fresno State (a school-record 513 all-purpose yards, including a career-high 294 rushing yards) by rushing for 260 yards (228 in the first half) against UCLA in USC's season-ending 66-19 win. Bush ran for a total of 1,429 yards in his first two seasons at USC, gaining more than 100 yards in a game just twice. In 2005, Bush rushed for better than 200 yards more than he had in his first two seasons combined, topping the 100-yard mark in EIGHT of his 12 games, including surpassing 200 yards in each of his final two games. Bush had 160 yards rushing and three TDs in the Trojans' classic 34-31 win at Notre Dame on October 15 and of course it was his not-so-subtle "push", which gave Matt Leinart the momentum he needed on his game-winning QB sneak. That game, coupled with his final two performances against Fresno State and UCLA, are the main reasons Bush will be introduced as USC's record-tying SEVENTH Heisman Trophy winner on Saturday (Notre Dame also has had seven winners). Bush led the nation in all-purpose yards in 2005 and has been college football's most spectacular player for two years. Hail to the Chief! His season stats are: 187 carries 1658 yards 8.9 YPC 15 TDs / 31 catches 383 yards 12.4 YPC 2 TDs.

2) MATT LEINART (USC). I've got a feeling that Leinart will finish third in the actual voting but he's my second choice. I wonder if Pete Carroll had to play this year's Rose Bowl without either Bush or Leinart, just who he would choose to leave on the bench? Can anyone imagine USC beating Texas with John David Booty at QB? Leinart did not play a great game in his final regular season game against UCLA but what hasn't this guy accomplished? He's led USC to 34 straight wins, tied for the fourth-longest streak in NCAA history (since 1900) and with one more win, would lead the team to an unprecedented third straight national title (in the poll era). He's 37-1 as USC's starting QB and a Rose Bowl victory would tie him with Ken Dorsey (Miami-Fla) and Rick Leach (Michigan) for third on the all-time list wins list. In his 38-game college career, he's thrown for 98 TDs (a Pac-10 record) and just 22 interceptions. Three times this season (12 games) he failed to throw a TD pass in a game, after throwing for at least one TD in 25 of his 26 games the last two years. However, he did top 300 yards passing in six games this year, after throwing for 300 yards or more just five times the previous two seasons combined (26 games). Bush may have been the best player on the field versus Notre Dame but it was Leinart who led the team on the game-winning drive and scored the winning TD. I doubt anyone would argue that USC's most important play of the entire year was Leinart's perfectly thrown 61-yard completion to Jarrett facing a fourth-and-nine situation, in which he called an audible at the line of scrimmage. If USC beats Texas on January 4, there would be few, if any, college football players who would have left as big a legacy as Matt Leinart. His season stats are: 254-of-391 65.0 3450 yards 27 TDs 7 INTs / 6 rush TDs.

3) VINCE YOUNG (Texas). Young's career-defining game was last year's Rose Bowl when he rushed for 192 yards and four TDs, as well as threw for 180 yards with another TD, in Texas' 38-37 win over Michigan. Young is back in the Rose Bowl for the second straight year but the stakes are much higher this time around. Young is more polished this year, as after throwing for a combined 18 TDs and 18 interceptions in 2003 and 2004, Young wound up leading the nation with a QB rating of 168.6 in 2005. I'll list all of his season's stats at the end but note that he threw for 26 TDs this year with just 10 interceptions, while also leading the team in rushing. His most spectacular game of the year came against Oklahoma State, when he set a Texas record with 506 yards of total offense, which included a career-high 267 yards rushing. He led Texas back from a 28-9 deficit in that game, to win 47-28! In the process, he became just the second major college player in history to have ever topped 230 yards both rushing and passing in the same game. While the OSU game was his most prolific, his most important game was against Ohio State on September 10. Young and the Longhorns trailed 22-16 when Young led the Longhorns on a six-play 67-yard TD drive. He culminated the drive with a perfectly thrown 24-yard TD pass to Sweed and after a last-second safety, Texas won 25-22. Young has led Texas to a 12-0 season in 2005, 19 straight overall wins and is 29-2 as a starting QB. However, I do not rate him over Leinart. His season stats are: 182-of-285 63.8 2769 yards 26 TDs 10 INTs / 136 carries 850 yards 6.3 YPC 9 TDs.

4) BRADY QUINN (Notre Dame). Quinn was a record-breaking 'machine' at Notre Dame in 2005. The countless school records he set this year are too numerous to mention but suffice it to say that after two years under Willingham, Quinn had competed just 50.8 percent of his passes with 26 TDs and 25 interceptions. Running Charlie Weis' offense in 2005, Quinn completed 64.9 percent of his passes for 3,633 yards with 32 TDs and just seven interceptions. Most importantly, he 'saved' Notre Dame's season by directing a six-play 80-yard TD drive which took a total of just 51 seconds, as the Irish edged Stanford on November 26 38-31, clinching a BCS bowl bid. After losing to USC, Quinn led Notre Dame to five straight wins, averaging 349.6 YPG passing with 18 TDs and just three interceptions. If Quinn returns next year, he'll be the early front-runner for the 2006 Heisman (I'm assuming of course, that Bush is leaving for the NFL).

5) DREW OLSON (UCLA). Don't hold Olson's poor performance versus USC on December 3 against him. The Bruins were overwhelmed by the highly-motivated Trojans that day but that doesn't take away from Olson's incredible achievements in 2005. Olson, like Quinn, was just mediocre prior to this year, as UCLA was a combined 12-13 in 2003 and 2004. Olson threw for 32 TDs and 25 interceptions in his first three years at the school but finished the 2005 season with a TD-to-interception ratio of 31-3, completing 65.5 percent of his passes for 3,055 yards. In the month of October alone, Olson led UCLA to FOUR fourth-quarter comeback wins, despite double-digit deficits. Over his final seven games of the year, Olson threw 232 passes, getting intercepted just ONCE while throwing 23 TDs!

6) MICHAEL ROBINSON (Penn State). Robinson had just six TD passes in his first three years at Penn State as a part-time QB. However, he was this year's team-leader, throwing for 2,097 yards with 16 TDs and nine interceptions. Robinson was also the team's second-leading rusher, gaining 785 yards (5.4 YPC) and 11 TDs. Most importantly, he was the team-MVP in a 10-1 season which landed Penn State its first-ever BCS bowl bid.

7) DJ SHOCKLEY (Georgia) After waiting patiently behind David Greene, the NCAA's all-time winningest QB with a 42-10 record, it was Shockley's turn in 2005. He opened the year with five TD passes and a TD run in a 48-13 win over Boise State, threw four TD passes in a 45-13 win over Kentucky in clinching the SEC East title and then threw two first-quarter TD passes in Georgia's 34-14 win over LSU in the SEC title game. Georgia lost just twice this year, against Florida in a game Shockley did not play in and 31-30 to Auburn. In the Auburn game, lost on a FG with six seconds remaining, Shockley passed for 304 yards with two TDs and no interceptions. He finished the year with 2,311 yards passing, 21 TD passes, five interceptions and four rushing TDs.

8) DeANGELO WILLIAMS (Memphis). Memphis lost its starting QB three offensive plays into the season and started four different QBs in 2005. However, Williams finished the year ranked third in the nation averaging 172.6 YPG rushing. He averaged 6.2 YPC and scored 15 rushing TDs, adding a 16th TD on one of his 11 receptions. It marks his third straight year of over 1,000 yards (had 1,948 in 2004) and his 10 100-yard games in 2005 (four of which were over 200 yards giving him eight 200-yard games in his career) gives him 33 in his career. That ties the all-time record held by Archie Griffin and Tony Dorsett. Williams can get his 34th career 100-yard game when Memphis meets Akron in the Motor City Bowl on December 26.

9) TROY SMITH (Ohio State). What if Jim Tressell had opened and stayed the entire year with Smith at QB for Ohio State? After all, Smith directed FIVE of Ohio State's six scoring-drives in the Buckeyes' 25-22 loss to Texas. Anyway, after the team's 17-10 loss at Penn State, Smith led Ohio State to six straight wins, as the Buckeyes averaged 39 PPG. Smith averaged 230.5 YPG passing with 11 TD passes and just two interceptions plus 48.2 YPG rushing (4.9 YPC) with six rushing TDs in that streak. He culminated the year with his second consecutive great performance in a season-ending win over hated-Michigan.

10) JEROME HARRISON (Washington State). The Cougars were just 4-7 in 2005 but Harrison never let the team's poor play get him down. He topped 100 yards in all 11 of his team's games this year (four times topping 200 yards) and going back to the end of 2004, set a new Pac-10 record with 14 consecutive 100-yard efforts. No RB had more rushing yards than Harrison's 1.900 yards in 2005 but he did finish second with 172.7 YPG to Northern Illinois' Garrett Wolfe (175.6 YPG).

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