Get the best handicapping articles and gambling advice throughout the football, basketball and baseball seasons from the world's top sports handicappers, as well as from Bovada (Bodog) Sportsbook and Casino.
by Larry Ness - 10/27/2009
When I woke up Monday morning at 6:00 AM my DSL was out and it didn't come back up until 2:00 PM. About an hour later, my power went out for two hours. By that time I was into my third glass of wine, so I decided to postpone my Heisman Watch until Tuesday. I only bring this up because "my Monday" reminds me of the way this year's Heisman 'race' has gone. Not much has gone as expected and all in all, it's been a major disappointment.
The 2009 season opened with the last two Heisman winners (Tebow in 2007 and Bradford in 2008) both active, the first time that had ever happened. Colt McCoy, who finished second to Bradford in last year's voting, was also back for his senior year and many felt we were in for one of the most compelling Heisman Trophy 'races' in history. This trio of QBs were expected to jockey for position on voters' Heisman Trophy ballots, while their individual teams would be competing alll season long for the No. 1 ranking in the BCS standings.
However, Sam Bradford sprained the AC joint in his throwing shoulder back on September 5 and after sitting out a month, was done for the year after re-injuring his shoulder in 2009's version of the Red River Rivalry. As for McCoy and Tebow, Florida is the nation's consensus No. 1 team after eight weeks while Texas comes in No. 3, but neither QB has performed "up to snuff."
While my internet was out on Monday (and before my power went out), I was reading USA Today and checked Kelly Whiteside's Heisman Trophy contenders article. He listed eight contenders and said about Tebow's chances this year, "It's the 2007 winner's trophy if he doesn't continue to try to do too much and make costly mistakes as a result." I'm not knocking Kelly, as his is the conventional wisdom but shouldn't Tebow have to play at least ONE outstanding game in 2009 to become just the second player in CFB history to win two Heismans?
My latest Heisman watch (a day late but not a buck short) follows.
1) JIMMY CLAUSEN (Notre Dame) Last week: 2. I've been saying all season that Tebow was not 'locked in' to the No. 1 spot in my poll every week and this is the week I prove it. The knock against Clausen early this season as he was piling up his impressive numbers was the quality of his competition. Clausen played an excellent game against USC two weeks ago (see my Oct 19th Heisman Watch) and this past Saturday helped Notre Dame end a six-game losing streak to Boston College. Clasuen threw an 11-yard TD pass to Golden Tate in the last minute of the first half to give Notre Dame a 13-9 lead and his second TD pass of the game to Tate came in the mid-fourth quarter, giving the Irish a 20-16 lead (it would be the final score). Clausen finished 26-of-39 for 246 yards with two TDs and zero INTs. Let's look at what he's done the last two weeks vs USC and Boston College, teams which beat Notre Dame by a combined score of 55-3 in 2008. After going 37-of-68 for just 267 yards with zero TDs and six INTs vs those two schools in 2008, Clausen's stats vs those two teams in 2009 are, 50-of-82 for 506 yards with four TDs, zero INTs and a rushing TD. The maturation of Clausen has been dramatic considering he had just two 300-yard games in his 22 games prior to last year's Hawaii Bowl. While last year’s Hawaii Bowl shouldn't be factored into this year's Heisman 'race,' it was the ‘launching pad’ for Clausen’s 2009 season. Clausen topped 300 yards passing in five of six games from the Hawaii Bowl and this year's first five games (prior to his games vs USC and BC), averaging 324.2 YPG with 17 TDs and only two INTs! Notre Dame opened the 2009 season with a 35-0 win over Nevada but each game since has been highly competitive. Clausen has come through time after time in 2009 (although he did fail to get the Irish into the end zone in the final 30 seconds vs USC) and in what should now be a "wide open" Heisman race, is as reasonable a pick at No. 1 as anyone (at least for this week). The Irish get a 'breather' this week, playing pathetic Washington State in San Antone. Expect Clausen to get back on that "300-yard express" on Saturday. His season stats are: 150-of-230 (65.2) 2,050 yards 16 TDs 2 INTs (QB rating of 161.3 is No. 2 in the nation) / 1 Rush TD.
2) CASE KEENUM (Houston) Last Week: 3. A QB from Houston can't win the Heisman you say? Don't tell Andre Ware that. He became the first black QB to win the Heisman back in 1989, playing for a Houston team which was then part of the Southwest Conference. Keenum's Houston team plays in C-USA (a tougher 'hill' to climb) but let me remind everyone that Ware won the Heisman in a season in which his Houston team was on probation, meaning the Cougars of 1989 never once played on TV. Now that's climbing a big hill. Getting back to 2009, Keenum entered last Saturday's game averaging a nation's best 417 YPG passing but had a season-low 233 yards and just one TD pass. However, it was more than enough for Houston to win 38-15 over SMU. The Cougars are currently ranked No. 15 in the AP poll and 18th in the latest BCS standings and will host Southern Miss this coming Saturday, facing the Golden Eagles for the first time since they beat them 34-20 in the 2006 C-USA title game (pre-Keenum). Keenum saw his run of 18 consecutive 300-yard passing games in the regular season end last Saturday (he’s topped 300 yards in 19 of his last 21 games) but he did extend his school record to 23 straight games with a TD pass (1989 Heisman-winner Andre Ware owned the previous record with 18). Keenum's 78 career TD passes ranks third on Houston's all-time list. The UTEP loss back on October 3 'killed' any chance the Cougars had of being this year's "BCS buster" but they can still win C-USA's West division this season and Keenum's making a strong case of at least being invited to New York in December. His season stats are: 241-of-344 (70.1 percent) 2,734 yards 20 TDs 4 INTs / 3 Rush TDs
3) TIM TEBOW (Florida) Last Week: 1. Tebow won't come close to matching his 2007 numbers (his Heisman-winning season) or even the stats he put up last season when finishing third in the overall balloting (remember, Tebow garnered the most first-place votes of any contender last year). I mentioned in last week's poll that Tebow had a "Heisman moment" in Florida's game-winning drive at the end of its game with Arkansas. However, there were no Heisman moments in this past Saturday's unimpressive 29-19 win at Mississippi St. His 26-yard TD in the first half did tie him with Herschel Walker for the most rushing TDs in SEC history (49) and ironically he'll have a chance to break that record this coming Saturday in Jacksonville, against the Bulldogs (more on that later). While Tebow and the Gators had little trouble moving the ball outside the 20-yard line, when the Gators got close to the goal line, Tebow was pressured by MSU's pass rushers and confused by its pass coverage. Tebow was picked off twice, marking the second time in his career he's thrown two interceptions in a game. Worse yet, his first INT was returned 100 yards for a score in the late first half, turning what could have been a 20-3 Florida lead into a 13-10 game. His second interception, with Florida leading 29-13 in the fourth quarter, was also returned for a score, giving Miss St its final points. He finished 12-of-22 for 127 yards without a TD and those two INTs (also had 88 yards on 22 carries with one rushing TD). Florida won its 17th straight game (longest active winning streak in the nation) and its ninth straight on the road. The defense did its job (13 FDs and 237 yards allowed with zero offensive TDs) but Tebow has not been sharp since returning from the concussion he suffered against Kentucky. As already mentioned, Tebow's 2009 numbers are underwhelming and his 'before and after numbers" show six TD passes and just one INT through the Kentucky game but just two TDs and three INTs in the three games since. Tebow's place in CFB history is secure and a third national title (he was a part-time player when Florida won in 2006) and a second Heisman would likely give him the unofficial title of "CFB's best-ever player." His 124 TDs accounted for (rushing and passing combined) is an SEC record and Saturday he will likely pass Herschel for the most TDs rushing in SEC history. He failed to throw a TD pass vs Miss St but has thrown one in 33 of his last 35 games. Florida has won 17 consecutive games with the Gators outscoring their opponents 716-to-199 in that span and Tebow throwing 30 TDs and just six INTs during that stretch (24-4 ratio the last 13 games), while adding 16 rushing TDs. The Gators lost their No. 1 ranking in the AP on October 18 but returned to No. 1 on the 25th. Florida never left the No. 1 spot in the Coaches' and Harris polls and for the second straight week, top the all-important BCS standings. The Gators take on Georgia this Saturday in what's billed as "the world's largest outdoor cocktail party," knowing they've beaten the Bulldogs in nine of the last 11 meetings and 16 of the last 19. Tebow's beaten the Bulldogs 42-30 and 49-10 the last two years as Florida's starting QB, throwing for 390 yards with three TDs and zero INTs plus also adding five rushing TDs. I doubt Tebow is interested in anything but a W in this game and of course, for a chance at that third national title. However, one would think he will need a few "big games" along the way to win a second Heisman but then again, maybe he won't. For this week, I have him third. Tebow's season stats are: 84-of-132 (63.6 percent) 1,159 yards 8 TDs 4 INTs / 121 carries 466 yards (3.9 YPC) 6 TDs.
4) COLT MCCOY (Texas) Last Week: 4. Texas head coach Mack Brown told reporters that McCoy had been "off his game" in recent weeks. However, McCoy got it all back together against Missouri this past Saturday. McCoy had just one TD pass in each of the previous two games and was a bit of a question mark earlier in the week due to a bruised right thumb but he completed his first 11 passes and produced TDs on Texas' first three drives. Texas jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter on its way to a 41-7 win. McCoy finished 26-of-31 for 269 yards with three TDs and one INT. "Colt has had a very tough year," coach Mack Brown said. "He's been sick, he's been hurt, but he's tough. We've got the Colt of old back now and ready to make the stretch run." McCoy had a 34-8 ratio last year (just 14-8 in '09) and after topping 500 yards rushing in both of his sophomore and junior seasons (McCoy led Texas in rushing LY with 561 yards while scoring 11 TDs on the ground), has hardly run the ball at all in 2009 (104 yards / 1.8 YPC). Can Colt win this year's Heisman? He can with a strong finish that needs to start with a visit to Stillwater this Saturday. With three TD passes on Saturday, McCoy has now thrown a TD pass in a school-record 24 straight games and 33 of his last 34. He continues to extend his career record of TDs responsible for (passing, rushing, receiving) at Texas, as his total is now up 118 (Young had 81 and former Heisman-winner Ricky Williams had 76). McCoy's "on-target" performance vs the Tigers gave Texas its 11th straight win and makes McCoy 39-7 as a starting QB at Texas (Young owned the previous record of 31 career wins at Texas), tying him with Tennessee's Peyton Manning for second in all-time career NCAA victories. Texas' win two weeks ago over Oklahoma made McCoy just the third Longhorn QB to own three career wins over Oklahoma (Bobby Layne and Peter Gardere are the others). Add it all up and this guy has a "Heisman-worthy" resume, with room to spare. McCoy's beaten the Cowboys in each of his first three tries but the last two have not come easy. The Cowboys "hung tough" with the Longhorns all game in last year's meeting at Austin, with Texas prevailing 28-24 (McCoy passed for 391 yards with two TDs and a rushing TD). In the 2007 season at Stillwater, the Cowboys led the Longhorns 35-14 into the fourth quarter but Texas came back to win 38-35. McCoy had 282 yards with a TD but threw three INTs (ran for 106 yards). As a freshman in 2006, McCoy passed for 346 yards with three TDs (zero INTs) in a 36-10 Texas rout. What's in store this Saturday? We'll see. McCoy's season stats are: 182-of-254 (71.7 percent) 1,806 yards 14 TDs 8 INTs / 59 carries for 104 yards (1.8 YPC) 1 TD.
5) KELLEN MOORE (Boise State) Last Week: NR. I had Cincy's Tony Pike in this spot three weeks ago and Todd Reesing of Kansas two weeks ago and Mark Ingram of Alabama last week. Ingram ran for only 99 yards on 18 carries last week plus fumbled late in the fourth quarter, allowing the Vols back in the game. As most know, the Tide 'escaped' with a 12-10 win when Terrence Cody, Alabama's 350-pound nose guard, blocked a 44-yard FG attempt on the final play of the game. Ingram is still "on the radar" but why not give Boise State's Kellen Moore a week (or more) at the No. 5 spot? Moore threw a career-best five TD passes as Boise State beat Hawaii 54-9 late last Saturday night. Ironically, it did little to help the Broncos, who fell from No. 4 in the first BCS standings to No. 7 in this past Sunday's second edition. More importantly, TCU leap-frogged Boise, going from No. 8 to No. 6. Just one non-BCS school can get a BCS bowl bid and assuming both Boise and TCU win-out, that lone BCS berth will come down to decimal points. Boise State is now 105-17 since 2000, behind only Oklahoma (106-22) for the most wins this decade (Boise owns an .861 win percentage, better than OU's .828). Moore is 19-1 as the Broncos' starter, with that lone loss coming 17-16 in last year's Poinsettia Bowl to TCU (there are those pesky Horned Frogs again). Moore owns five career 300-yard games (had a career high 414 yards last year vs Nevada) and after finishing with 3,486 yards (69.4 percent) last year (25-10 ratio), is well on his way to topping those totals in 2009. The Broncos will host San Jose State on Saturday, looking to extend their home winning streak of 22 in a row. Note that Boise is 59-2 SU at home this decade, losing only to Washington State in 2001 and to Boston College 27-21 in the MPC Computers Bowl following the 2005 season (a game played on the famed "blue turf"). Moore's season stats are: 132-of-195 (67.7 percent) 1,627 yards 21 TDs 2 INTs / QB rating of 171.3 is No. 1 in the nation).
On the radar. Mark Ingram (Alabama), Dan LeFevour (Central Michigan) and Golden Tate (Notre Dame).
Good luck, Larry