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by Larry Ness - 10/22/2010
The nation's top-ranked team lost for the second straight Saturday (Alabama on Oct 10 and Ohio State on Oct 17), sending more than few 'shockwaves' through the polls. The 2010 Heisman 'race' has felt a few 'rattles' as well and my latest Heisman report follows.
Heisman Watch (Monday, October 18)
1) KELLEN MOORE (Boise State) Last Week: 2. Boise State scored TDs on its first three drives Saturday night at San Jose State. It was 41-0 at the half, as Kellen Moore completed 14 of 16 passes for 231 yards and two TDs. He spent the second half on the sidelines (signaling in plays), as the Broncos won their 20th straight game (outgained San Jose State, 537-80 in yards). That represents the longest active winning streak in the nation, as is the team's 15th straight road win (again, the Va Tech game was at a NEUTRAL site!). With Ohio State's loss, the Broncos moved to No. 2 in all the major polls. The Broncos were 'teased' over the past week with rumors that they may be No. 1 in the first BCS standings but when the initial standing were released Sunday night on ESPN (all that telecast was missing was Jim Gray, LeBron and the Greenwich Boys Club!), the Broncos found themselves at No. 3. While Boise St may be disappointed, it is the highest-ever ranking for a non-BCS school. Moore only 'worked' the first half on Saturday but he was again flawless. Cam Newton can make a strong case for being the Heisman front-runner and is unquestionably CFB's MVP to-date but I'm going to put Moore in my No. 1 spot, giving him some "extra-credit" for career accomplishments (a time-honored Heisman tradition). Moore moves to 32-1 as a starter and during the team's current 20-game winning streak, has thrown 54 TDs compared to only four interceptions in 582 pass attempts. His QB rating of 190.3 leads the nation. Boise State will fight the polls (Harris and Coaches') plus the computers all season but there is no way that Moore is not in the Heisman 'hunt' the entire way. Last year's winner Mark Ingram is a Heisman 'afterthought' at this point and Pryor (my preseason choice) took a huge 'hit' in Ohio State's loss to Wisconsin. Michigan's Robinson was the season's brightest star in September but his star is fading somewhat (plus Iowa knocked him out of last Saturday's game). Now it's Auburn's Newton who is the new "toast of the town." However, for at least this week, I'm voting Boise State's QB the No. 1 ranking. The Broncos don't play this coming Saturday but start early the next week when they host Louisiana Tech on a Tuesday night (10/26). Moore's season stats are: 105-of-151 for 1,567 yards (69.5 percent) 16 TDs 1 INT.
2) CAMERON NEWTON (Auburn) Last Week: 4. Here's how I began my comments on Newton last week. "Before the season is through, it may be Auburn's Cam Newton and not Michigan's Denard Robinson, who will turn out be 2010's biggest "breakout" star. Where did this guy come from? Newton began as a freshman in 2007 backing up Tim Tebow in his Heisman-winning season. Newton played in Florida's season opener against Hawaii in 2008 but then agreed to take a redshirt season. Later that season he was arrested for stealing a laptop and tossing it out of a dorm room window to hide the crime from the police. Newton transferred to Blinn College in Texas in January 2009 and that fall led his team to the 2009 NJCAA National Football Championship. He was ranked the No. 1 QB from either high school or junior college by Rivals.com, and he committed to Auburn in December of 2009." Newton made it official this past Saturday. He is CFB's brightest star at the moment but like with Robinson, we all know fame can be fleeting. Then-No. 7 Auburn hosted then-No. 12 Arkansas Saturday night in the first meeting between the schools with both teams ranked. All the schools did was combined for over 1,000 yards with Auburn winning 65-43. It's a record for points in a SEC game which didn't go to overtime. Arkansas' own Heisman hopeful, QB Ryan Mallett, went out in the first half after taking a blow to the head but backup Tyler Wilson (four TDs and 332 yards) took over and led the Razorbacks to a 43-37 fourth-quarter lead before Auburn scored the game's final 28 points in a dizzying display which saw the Tigers score four TDs in a little over five minutes. Newton left little doubt he deserves to be at the top of the Heisman 'chase,' running 25 times for 188 yards (three TDs) plus completing 10-of-14 passes for 140 yards with one TD (no INTs). Just last week, Newton accounted for 74 yards on Auburn's 19-play (longest scoring drive in school history), 93-yard, clock-chewing final drive which was capped by a 24-yard FG as time expired, allowing Auburn to escaped with a 37-34 win at Kentucky (the 'Ol Ball Coach couldn't win in Lexington). Newton's now topped 100 yards four times in 2010 and his 122.9 YPG average on the ground ranks him 11th in rushing, nationally (he's carried 129 times without a fumble!). His QB rating of 180.5 is topped by only Boise State's Moore. Auburn has opened 7-0 for the first time since 2004, a year in which the Tigers went undefeated and finished No. 2 in the AP poll. Auburn is No. 5 in the latest AP poll and ranked 4th in the initial BCS standings on Sunday. There is no rest for the weary in the SEC, as Auburn will host LSU (No. 6 in both the AP and BCS) on Saturday, in a Tigers vs Tigers showdown. Newton's season stats are: 80-of-122 for 1,278 yards (65.6 percent) 13 TDs 5 INTs / 129 carries for 860 yards (6.7 YPC) 12 TDs.
3) LAMICHAEL JAMES (Oregon) Last Week: 5. Oregon was idle this past Saturday but the Ducks to over the No. 1 spot in all the major polls on Sunday, after the nation's No. 1-ranked team (this time Ohio State), lost for the second consecutive Saturday. It marks the first No. 1 ranking in school history (Oregon becomes the 43rd school to earn the AP's No. 1 ranking, in a poll which began back in 1936). I had Oregon RB LaMichael James No. 5 in last week's poll but move him to No. 3 this week, as both Pryor and Robinson drop down. I'll repeat my comments on James from last week and note that the Ducks get to defend their first-ever No. 1 ranking (note: Oregon placed second to Oklahoma in the initial BCS standings) with a Thursday night home game vs UCLA. The Ducks are three-TD favorites but just may remember UCLA won at Texas 34-12 on September 25, as two-TD underdogs. James ran for a career-high 257 yards (on 31 carries) and scored three TDs in Oregon's October 2 win over Stanford (52-31). It marked the second-most rushing yards in Oregon history (Onterrio Smith ran for 285 yards in 2001 vs Washington St) and clearly placed James in the Heisman 'discussion.' He ran for 1,546 yards last season (6.7 YPC / 14 rush TDs) to set a new Pac-10 freshman record. However, he was kept out of this season's opener against New Mexico while he served a one-game suspension for offseason misconduct. James returned on September 11 in Oregon's 48-13 victory at Tennessee, rushing for 134 yards and a score. He made that effort look pedestrian the following Saturday, rushing for a then career-high 227 yards on 14 carries with two TDs in No. 5 Oregon's easy 69-0 win over Portland State. Only one other Pac 10 player has run for 200 or more yards on as few attempts (as James did on 9/18) since 2004 and that was Jahvid Best of Cal in '08. Some may remember that James carried just 11 times in his first two games of his freshman season (2009) but then topped 100 yards in NINE of Oregon's final 10 regular season games (high of 183 vs USC). James had a 'quiet' 114 yards on 28 carries (one TD) in Oregon's 42-31 win at Arizona State (9/26) but then had that huge game vs Stanford. James got off to a slow start at Washington State on October 9 and along with the rest of the team, was 'shook up' when Kenjon Barner was flattened on a kickoff return, crumpled to the turf and was worked on for more than 10 minutes. Turner seems to be OK and the Ducks finally got going but the team's 43-23 win over pathetic Washington State was hardly impressive. QB Darron Thomas left in the second quarter with a right shoulder injury that he said afterward he could have come back from, but was held out for precautionary reasons. Nate Costa played well in his place, leading three scoring drives (ran for 84 yards and threw for another 151 on 13-of-15 passing. James finished with 136 yards rushing on 25 carries and scored twice. He also caught two passes, one which went for an 84-yard TD. He leads the nation in rushing with an average of 169.6 YPG and since becoming Oregon's "featured" back, has topped 100-yards in 14 of 16 games, including two of 200-plus yards (both this year). James' season stats are: 114 carries for 848 yards (7.4 YPC) 9 TDs / 3 catches 96 for 96 yards (32.0 YPC) 1 TD.
4) DENARD ROBINSON (Michigan) Last Week: 3. I've been cautious about overreacting to Denard Robinson's 'explosion' onto the CFB 'landscape' to open the 2010 season. The Spartans (on October 9) made Denard Robinson look 'human' for the first time this year, winning 34-17 and giving Michigan State its third straight win over Michigan, something which hadn't happened since 1965-67. Robinson was held to under 100 yards rushing for the first time this season with 21 carries for 86 yards (4.1 YPC) plus one TD, far below his season averages of 181.0 YPG and 9.2 YPC coming in. He completed 17-of-29 passes for 215 yards with one TD and three INTs, one in the end zone and one just outside of it. In the end, Michigan was held to season lows in points and total yards (377). This past Saturday, Iowa came to Ann Arbor and while Michigan outgained the Hawkeyes 522-383, the Wolverines had four turnovers and didn't force one. Robinson left during the third quarter after he was hit hard on a run, aggravating a shoulder injury that Rodriguez said bothered him all week. Robinson was 13-of-18 for just 96 yards before he left and threw another 'bad' interception (an ill-advised heave into coverage). He did run for 105 yards (he's topped 100 yards in six of seven games, twice exceeding 200 yards) but didn't gain more than 12 yards on any of his 18 carries. Tate Forcier, who started every game last year at QB, replaced Robinson and was 17-of-26 for 239 yards with two TDs and two interceptions, as Michigan dropped its second consecutive game, 38-28. Regarding Robinson's injury, coach Rich Rodriquez said, "He landed on it funny." He added that he expects Robinson to play October 30 at Penn State, after resting during a bye week. Rodriguez later scoffed when asked if the QB position was open for competition. "Denard Robinson is our starting quarterback," Rodriguez said. We'll see at Happy Valley in two weeks. For now, I'll place Robinson at No. 4. He's still No. 2 in the nation in rushing (156.6 YPG), No. 2 in total offense (335.0 YPG) and still has made just five turnovers (zero fumbles in 137 carries) in 280 touches on the season. His season stats are: 97-of-143 for 1,319 yards (67.8 percent) 9 TDs and 5 INTs / 137 carries for 1,096 yards (8.0 YPC) 9 TDs.
5) TERRELLE PRYOR (Ohio State) Last Week: 1. I've been catching some 'heat' for ranking Pryor No. 1 this season and his performance this past Saturday gives my critics plenty of 'ammunition.' I pointed out last week that "the Buckeyes will be tested this week as they visit Camp Randall week to face No. 18 Wisconsin, as the Badgers are the only Big 10 school to have beaten the Buckeyes three times over the past decade (2001, '03 and '04)." Saturday's game felt like an upset right from the start. Wisconsin's David Gilreath returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a TD and the Badgers proceeded to run over the Buckeyes in the first half, taking a 21-3 lead into the break. The Badgers outgained the Buckeyes 197-93 in the first 30 minutes, punishing a defense that hadn't given up a 100-yard rusher in 29 games. The Buckeyes would claw their way back (closing to 21-18 in the early 4th quarter) but then Wisconsin "ran it right down their throats," opening a 10-point lead with a 10-play, 73-yard TD drive. The final was 31-18, as Clay topped 100 yards (105) and the team ran for 184. Pryor did very little and looked listless for most of the contest, in falling to 25-5 as Ohio State's starting QB. He would finish 14-of-28 for 156 yards in the air (0 TDs / 1 INT) and rush for 56 yards on 18 carries without scoring. The game was Ohio State's toughest 'test' to-date and Pryor 'failed' as did the rest of his teammates. A good portion of Pryor's Heisman 'chops' were him quarterbacking an undefeated team, ranking at or very near the top of the polls. Can Pryor and the Buckeyes "climb back up the hill?" The attempted "come back" starts this Saturday at home vs Purdue, but in reality, Pryor's Heisman 'push' will come over his team's final three games. Ohio State will host Penn State on November 13, play at Iowa the following Saturday and then wrap the season at home vs the Wolverines on November 27. His season stats are: 118-of-181 for 1,505 yards (65.2 percent) 15 TDs 4 INTs / 75 carries for 410 yards (5.5 YPC) 3 TDs / one TD catch.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Oklahoma's "dynamic duo" of RB DeMarco Murray and QB Landry Jones. I listed Jones as my "dark horse" in my Heisman preview but in the Sooners' season-opening game vs Utah State, Jones looked very ordinary. He completed 17-of-36 for 217 yards with two TDs and two INTs, as Oklahoma survived just 31-24, despite being almost five-TD favorites. However, as I'm sure everyone saw last night (or has by now heard), Oklahoma came out No. 1 in the initial BCS standings of the 2010 season. Jones completed his first 13 passes and 30-of-34 passes (88.2 percent) for the game. He threw for 334 yards and three TDs in Oklahoma's 52-0 win over Iowa State, while completing the highest percentage of any Oklahoma QB with at least 25 attempts, for a single game. He's averaged 314.8 YPG through the air over his last five games while throwing 12 TDs and just one INT (in 206 attempts). He's got six career 300-yard games (threw for a career-high 418 in OU's Sun Bowl win over Stanford last year) and is now 13-3 as the Sooners' starting QB. As for Murray, he entered his senior season with 2,471 yards (5.2 YPC with nine career 100-yard games) and 35 rush TDs (eight more TDs on pass receptions). However, he no longer has to share carries as he did in his first three seasons. While Jones struggled vs Utah State back on September 4, Murray rushed for career-highs of 35 carries and 218 yards (with two TDs) in that contest. However, he then failed to top 100 yards in two of his next three games, falling off the Heisman 'radar.' Murray's back now though, running for 115 yards with two TDs vs Texas (Oct 2) and adding 112 yards and two more rushing TDs (plus a third, receiving) in Saturday's whitewash of Iowa State. His three TDs against the Cyclones gives him 58 for his career, one more than 1969 Heisman-winner Steve Owens and five more than 1978 Heisman-winner Billy Sims, for the most in school history. He's topped 100 yards in four of six games this year (13 times in his career) and his 13 TDs in 2010 ties him with Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon for the most in the nation. Like with Jones, it doesn't hurt to be playing for the nation's No. 1 team (at least in the BCS, as Oregon may claim it's No. 1 , as well).
My next Heisman update will be Monday, October 25.