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by Larry Ness - 11/03/2009
Tim Tebow played like a Heisman Trophy contender this past Saturday in Florida's annual "World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party" vs Georgia, arguably for the first time this season (save his game-winning drive vs Arkansas). Colt McCoy of Texas, last year's Heisman runner-up to Oklahoma's Sam Bradford (out for the season after shoulder surgery), led a Texas offense which was held to under 300 yards for the second time in its last three games this season in a game at Stillwater with Oklahoma State.
However, as well as the Texas defense is playing these days, McCoy only needs to be efficient for the Longhorns to dominate. That's exactly what happened, as the Longhorns won 41-14 over the Cowboys and the win moved Texas past idle Alabama into the No. 2 spot in both the latest AP poll and the most recent BCS standings. Bradford, McCoy and Tebow were expected to be in a three-man race all season for the 2009 Heisman with few other legitimate contenders.
That hasn't been the case. Bradford's injury dropped him out of the picture on the season's opening weekend while seniors McCoy and Tebow (playing for the nation's top-two ranked teams) have found themselves falling short in matching their stats from their earlier seasons. My Heisman Watch last week consisted of five QBs and I made no changes in this week's five names or for that matter, the order in which I placed them.
My latest Heisman Watch follows with updated results from this past weekend and a peek ahead to this weekend's games.
1) JIMMY CLAUSEN (Notre Dame) Last week: 1. I moved Clausen into the No. 1 spot on my Heisman Watch last week and I'll leave him there this week. However, Keenum is closing in fast and of course, "the 400-pound gorilla in the race," Tim Tebow, had his best game of the season last Saturday. Notre Dame had an opportunity to relax in the 4th quarter this past Saturday, for the first time since the Irish opened with a 35-0 win over Nevada on September 5. Notre Dame piled up 592 yards of offense in a 40-14 'rocking chair' win over Washington State in San Antonio. Clausen was 22-of-27 for 268 yards with two TDs and no INTs. His second TD pass of the game came on a desperation heave that Golden Tate spectacularly pulled down between three defenders for a 50-yard TD to end the first half. Clausen strongly kept his name in the Heisman Trophy conversation and sat out the fourth quarter after one of his most accurate games of 2009. The maturation of Clausen has been dramatic in 2009 and last week I compared his two games vs USC and BC from last year to this year. I'll repeat it here, as it's the reason I currently have him at No. 1. USC and Boston College beat Notre Dame by a combined score of 55-3 in 2008 with Clausen going 37-of-68 for just 267 yards with zero TDs and six INTs. Clausen's stats vs those two teams in 2009 were, 50-of-82 for 506 yards with four TDs, zero INTs and a rushing TD. Last year’s Hawaii Bowl shouldn't be factored into this year's Heisman 'race,' but 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, averaging 324.2 YPG with 17 TDs and only two INTs! He's averaged 258.0 YPG over his last three games with six TDs and not a single INT in 109 attempts. The Irish host Navy this coming Saturday and most know this series' history. Notre Dame had beaten Navy 43 consecutive times before the 2007 Midshipmen were able to win 46-44 at South Bend in three OTs. That was Clausen's freshman year, although he did not play in the game. Notre Dame bounced back last year with a 27-21 win over Navy in Baltimore. Clausen completed 15-of-18 passes in that game, although he was hardly a factor with just 110 yards passing, as two of his three incompletions were intercepted. His season stats are: 172-of-257 (66.9) 2,318 yards 18 TDs 2 INTs (QB rating of 164.2 is No. 2 in the nation) / 1 Rush TD.
2) CASE KEENUM (Houston) Last Week: 2. I mentioned last week that it would be a mistake to think that a QB from Houston can't win the Heisman. Andre Ware 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 AND was on probation, meaning the Cougars of 1989 never once played on TV. Keenum was 417 YPG passing but had a season-low 233 yards and just one TD pass in the Cougars' 38-15 win over SMU on October 24. Keenum bounced back from that 'off' performance this past Saturday. Actually, that's an understatement. The Cougars led Southern Miss 43-29 with under six minutes to go last Saturday but Southern Miss QB Young rallied the Golden Eagles with two TDs, the second coming with just 57 seconds remaining. Houston had to score to avoid overtime and didn't even need all 57 seconds. Keenum went 5-for-5 in the final drive for 77 yards with his final completion being a 28-yard TD to Patrick Edwards with 21 seconds remaining. He finished the game 44-of-54 for a career-high 559 yards with five TDs and one INT (his other TD passes went for 33, 55, 14 and 17 yards). Keenum saw his run of 18 consecutive 300-yard passing games in the regular season end vs SMU but last week's game vs Southern Miss means he’s topped 300 yards in 20 of his last 22 games (he's got nine career 400-yard games) and he's thrown for at least 360 yards in seven of his eight games in 2009. His five-TD game extended his school record to 24 straight games with a TD pass (1989 Heisman-winner Andre Ware owned the previous record with 18) and now has 83 career TD passes at Houston. Houston is 7-1 and off to its best start since 1990 (that team finished 10-1) and is ranked 13th in the AP and 15th in the BCS standings. 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. In order for that to happen, the Cougars will likely have to win this coming Saturday at Tulsa. The Cougars crushed the Golden Hurricane 70-30 last year in Houston (Keenum had 402 yards passing and six TD passes) but in Houston's last visit to Tulsa (in 2007), the Cougars lost 56-7 (Keenum had 81 yards passing, zero TDs and one INT). To say the least, Saturday's game is a HUGE 'test!' Keenum's season stats are: 285-of-398 (71.6 percent) 3,293 yards 25 TDs 5 INTs / 3 Rush TDs.
3) TIM TEBOW (Florida) Last Week: 3. As with all contenders, I'll list Tebow's stats at the end of the write-up but I'll cut to the chase with this factoid. Tebow has attempted 153 passes in 2009, the same number of completions for Boise State's Kellen Moore (ranked 5th). Clausen (No. 1) has 172 completions, McCoy (No. 4) 198 and Keenum (No. 2) 285. Will Tebow win a second Heisman even though his stats will fall far below his fellow competitors? The short answer is, probably yes. However, I'll deal with that in December. For now, I'll keep Tebow at No. 3 but clearly, a few more games like last Saturday and Tebow will be "moving on up," quicker than George Jefferson. Top-ranked Florida beat the Georgia 41-17 last Saturday for its 17th win in the last 20 meetings between the SEC rivals. Tebow broke Herschel Walker's SEC record for rushing TDs when he slipped up the middle and ran mostly untouched for a 23-yard score with 1:32 remaining in the first half. It was the 50th rushing TD of his career (Herschel had 49), as Tebow broke the mark in his hometown and maybe more fittingly, against Walker's Bulldogs. Tebow also finished the first half with 63 yards rushing, breaking the SEC mark for career rushing yards by a QB, previously held by Arkansas' Matt Jones who had 2,535 yards (Tebow now has run for 2,588 and 51 TDs). Tebow finished the game 15-of-21 for 164 yards with two TDs and zero INTs. He ran for 85 yards (18 carries) with two TDs. The 'legend' of Tebow will likely be impossible for Heisman voters to ignore. His 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 128 TDs accounted for (rushing and passing combined) is an SEC record. He has thrown a TD pass in 34 of his last 36 games. Florida is the nation's consensus No. 1 (AP and in all three components of the BCS) and owns the nation's longest active wining streak with 18 consecutive wins. Florida has outscored its opponents 757-to-216 in that streak and Tebow has thrown 32 TDs with just six INTs during that stretch (26-4 ratio the last 14 games), while adding 18 rushing TDs. The Gators host Vanderbilt on Saturday, a school they've beaten 18 straight times. Tebow had five TDs in last year's 42-14 win at Nashville (12-of-17 for 171 yards with three TDs and no INTs / 88 YR with two TDs) and a similar game could move him up in my poll. Tebow's season stats are: 99-of-153 (64.7 percent) 1,323 yards 10 TDs 4 INTs / 139 carries 551 yards (4.0 YPC) 8 TDs.
4) COLT MCCOY (Texas) Last Week: 4. The Longhorns only gained 275 yards at Stillwater last Saturday but won in dominating fashion, 41-14. Texas returned two INTs for TDs (77 and 31 yards) and Colt McCoy completed 16-of-21 passes for 171 yards with one TD and no INTs. He ran for a modest 34 yards on 11 carries. McCoy had a 34-8 ratio last year (just 15-8 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 with less than 150 yards after eight games (see season stats below). McCoy finished second in last year's Heisman race but he'll need an extremely strong finish to finish that high again in 2009. His lone TD pass at Stillwater extended his school record to 25 straight games with at least one TD pass (has at least one TD pass in 34 of his last 35 games) and marked the 100th of his career. He continues to extend his career record of TDs responsible for (passing, rushing, receiving) at Texas, as his total is now up 119 (Young had 81 and former Heisman-winner Ricky Williams had 76). Texas has won 12 straight games (third-longest streak behind Florida and Iowa) and the win makes McCoy 40-7 as a starting QB at Texas (Young owned the previous record of 31 career wins at Texas). McCoy has passed Tennessee's Peyton Manning (39 wins) and now only Georgia's David Greene, who finished his college career as the winningest quarterback in NCAA Division I history with 42 wins in four years, is ahead of him. Texas' win three 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 but he'll likely fall short. However, the Longhorns control their destiny, as if they win-out, they are all but assured of a spot in the BCS title game (likely more important to Mccoy than the Heisman). Texas hosts Central Florida on Saturday and the Longhorns will not take the Knights lightly, as back in 2007 at Orlando, Texas 'escaped' with a 35-32 win (McCoy passed for 259 yards with one TD and one INT in that game, rushing for 40 yards on 10 carries). His season stats are: 198-of-275 (72.0 percent) 1,977 yards 15 TDs 8 INTs / 70 carries for 138 yards (2.0 YPC) 1 TD.
5) KELLEN MOORE (Boise State) Last Week: 5. Cincy's Tony Pike, Todd Reesing of Kansas and Mark Ingram of Alabama have occupied this spot recently but I moved Moore into the '5-hole' last week and will keep him there again this week. Moore threw a career-best five TD passes as Boise State beat Hawaii 54-9 two Saturdays ago and Moore entered last Saturday's game with San Jose State as the nation's most efficient passer. He maintained his No. 1 status by completing 21-of-33 passes for 278 yards with three TDs (zero INTs) and one rushing TD (Broncos won 45-7), before heading to the sidelines at the start of the fourth quarter. Boise State is now 106-17 since 2000, behind only Oklahoma (107-22) for the most wins this decade (Boise owns an .862 win percentage, better than OU's .829). Moore is 20-1 as the Broncos' starter, with that lone loss coming 17-16 in last year's Poinsettia Bowl to TCU. Speaking of TCU, the Horned Frogs are once again standing in the Broncos' way, as TCU is 6th in the most recent BCS standings while Boise State is 7th (only ONE can get that BCS bowl bid!) 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 visit Ruston, La. on Friday night to take on the La Tech Bulldogs. Last year's 38-3 win in Boise gives them seven straight wins in this series but La Tech is 32-15 SU at home this decade (Moore threw for 325 yards in LY's game with two TDs and one INT). Moore's season stats are: 153-of-227 (67.4 percent) 1,905 yards 24 TDs 2 INTs / QB rating of 171.0 is No. 1 in the nation / 1 Rush TD.
On the radar. Mark Ingram (Alabama) and Golden Tate (Notre Dame).
Good luck, Larry