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 - 10/25/2010
Alabama entered the 2010 season as the defending national champs and the consensus No. 1 team in the country. The Tide extended its winning streak to 19 games but lost at South Carolina 35-21 back on October 9. Ohio State, winners of 12 in a row, took over the No. 1 spot when the new polls came out the following day, earning the AP's top spot for the first time since the final regular season poll of the 2007 season. That No. 1 rankling didn't last long, as the Buckeyes were manhandled 31-18 at Wisconsin on October 16. That meant a third consecutive new No. 1 team for the major polls, as the Oregon Ducks were a consensus No. 1 in the "human" polls on October 17. However, it was Oklahoma which claimed the top spot in the first BCS standings of the 2010 season, later that night. The latest CFB weekend opened Thursday night and the Ducks established pretty quickly that the AP's No. 1 team was not going to lose for a third straight weekend. The last time the AP No. 1 team had lost in three consecutive weekends was way back in November 1960, when Iowa, Minnesota and Missouri all fell.
Oregon routed UCLA 60-13 on Thursday night, as QB Darron Thomas threw for a career-high 308 yards and three TDs and RB LaMichael James, the nation's top rusher at 169.6 YPG, finished with 123 yards and two TDs, even after spending part of the first quarter on the sideline with an apparent injury. After Saturday's play, the Ducks remained No. 1 in all three major polls but the Auburn Tigers, on the strength of their 24-17 win over then-No. 6 LSU, jumped from No. 4 in the first BCS standings to become the new No. 1. Oregon remained No. 2 for the second straight week and Boise State (idle on Saturday but back in action Tuesday night vs Las Tech) kept its No. 3 ranking. It should come as no surprise that the leaders of these three teams are also the top-three in my latest Heisman poll, which follows below
Heisman Watch (Monday, October 25)
1) CAMERON NEWTON (Auburn) Last Week: 2. How Newton arrived at Auburn has been well-documented and if you haven't heard the story, search the archives of my last few Heisman reports for the details. Michigan QB Denard Robinosn may have won CFB's player-of-the-month award in September but Newton has not only been October's player-of-the-month, but his performance has catapulted him into being the clear-cut Heisman favorite. Here's what he added to his ever-growing resume on Saturday, when he faced-off vs the SEC's best rush defense (LSU). Auburn's 440 yards rushing was the most the school has ever rung up against an opposing SEC defense. Newton had a modest passing day (10-of-16 for 86 yards with no TDs or INTs) but rushed for a career-high 217 yards (on 28 carries) while scoring two more TDs. With the score tied at 17-17 and time running out, the LSU defense was so concerned with Newton that his perfectly-time pitch to McCalebb on an option, allowed the RB to sprint 70 yards for the go-ahead TD with 5:05 left. Newton's 217 yards gave him 1,077 for the season, the most in a single-season by a QB in SEC history. He passed Tim Tebow's 910 yards in 2009 and Jimmy Sidle's record (another Auburn QB) of 1,006 yards set in 1963. The 'scary' thing is, Newton has a minimum of five games remaining. He could play six more, if Auburn qualifies for the SEC championship game. Auburn owns wins over these four schools, all of which are currently ranked in the latest BCS standings. The list includes, No. 21 Miss St, No. 20 South Carolina, No. 19 Arkansas and No. 12 LSU. The Tigers also own wins over Clemson and Kentucky. Five of those six games have been decided by no more than one score and undoubtedly, Newton has been the "difference-maker" in each win. He's the clear-cut Heisman favorite and would be a unanimous choice for MVP, if CFB had such an award. Newton's topped 100 yards rushing five times in 2010 and his 134.6 YPG average on the ground ranks him 6th in rushing, nationally (he's carried 157 times without a fumble!). His QB rating of 172.1 is third in the nation behind Iowa's Ricky Stanzi (174.9) and Boise State's Moore (190.3). Auburn has opened 8-0 for the first time since 2004, a year in which the Tigers went undefeated and finished No. 2 in the AP poll. The Tigers have produced two previous Heisman winners, Pat Sullivan in 1971 and Bo Jackson in 1985. The school's lone AP national title came in 1957, when the Tigers finished 10-0 but were prohibited from going to a bowl game because of recruiting violations. Is this the year Newton and his Tigers pull off a 'daily double' (Heisman winner and national champs)? There is no rest for the weary in the SEC, as Auburn will play at Ole Miss on Saturday. Newton's season stats are: 90-of-138 for 1,364 yards (65.2 percent) 13 TDs 5 INTs / 157 carries for 1,077 yards (6.9 YPC) 14 TDs.
2) KELLEN MOORE (Boise State) Last Week: 1. Boise State scored TDs on its first three drives at San Jose State on October 16. 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 at Wisconsin on October 16, the Broncos moved to No. 2 in all the major polls. The Broncos were 'teased' during the previous week with rumors that they may be No. 1 in the first BCS standings but when the initial standings were released Sunday October 17, the Broncos found themselves at No. 3. While Boise St may be disappointed, it is the highest-ever ranking for a non-BCS school. Despite being idle this past weekend, Boise St held its No. 2 spot in all the major polls on Sunday, while maintaining its No. 3 ranking in the second BCS standings of 2010. Moore only 'worked' the first half vs San Jose St but he was again flawless. I had Moore No. 1 in my poll last week (giving him some "extra-credit" for career accomplishments, which is a time-honored Heisman tradition), but Newton's become an "irresistible force.". Moore is 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, Pryor (my preseason choice) took a huge 'hit' in Ohio State's loss to Wisconsin and while Michigan's Robinson was the season's brightest star in September, his star is fading somewhat. Auburn's Newton is the new "toast of the town," and deservedly so, but don't count out Moore (or Boise) just yet. The Broncos get an early start this 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.
3) LAMICHAEL JAMES (Oregon) Last Week: 3. Oregon claimed the school's first-ever No. 1 ranking in the AP poll on October 10 but then had a bye the following Saturday. The Ducks got back on the field this past Thursday night and quickly established that the AP's No. 1 team was not going to lose for a third straight weekend. Oregon routed UCLA 60-13, as QB Darron Thomas threw for a career-high 308 yards and three TDs and RB LaMichael James finished with 123 yards and two TDs, even after spending part of the first quarter on the sideline with an apparent injury. James' performance was good not great and while his rushing average fell to 161.8 YPG, it still leads the nation (his total of 181.7 YPG in all-purpose yards, ranks 3rd in FBS). James' best game this season was when he 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 but finished with 136 yards rushing on 25 carries and scored twice. He also caught two passes, one which went for an 84-yard TD. Adding in his 123-yard effort vs UCLA, James has now topped 100 yards in 14 of 17 games since becoming Oregon's "featured" back, including two of 200-plus yards (both this year). James' season stats are: 134 carries for 971 yards (7.2 YPC) 11 TDs / 4 catches for 121 yards (30.3 YPC) 1 TD.
4) TERRELLE PRYOR (Ohio State) Last Week: 5. I've been catching some 'heat' for ranking Pryor No. 1 most of this season and his performance at Wisconsin gave my critics plenty of 'ammunition.' I pointed out prior to the contest that the Buckeyes would be tested when they visit Camp Randall to face Wisconsin, as the Badgers were the only Big 10 school to have beaten the Buckeyes three times over the past decade (2001, '03 and '04). That 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. However, Pryor and the Buckeyes responded well this past Saturday, as they steamrolled Purdue 49-0. Pryor threw for three scores and RB Dan Herron ran for two, as Ohio State earned some redemption for a stunning 26-18 upset a year ago at Purdue and for the previous week's 31-18 defeat at Wisconsin. Pryor ran just four times (lost two yards) but completed 16-of-22 for 270 yards (second-highest total this year) with three TDs and two INTs. He's now 26-5 as Ohio State's starting QB and with the win, the Buckeyes improved to 20-2 following a loss in the Jim Tressel era. 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?" Up next, is a visit to 1-7 Minnesota, which will hardly be much of a test. 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: 134-of-203 for 1,775 yards (66.0 percent) 18 TDs 6 INTs / 79 carries for 408 yards (5.2 YPC) 3 TDs / one TD catch.
5) DENARD ROBINSON (Michigan) Last Week: 4. 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). Iowa came to Ann Arbor on October 16 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 this week at Happy Valley vs Penn State. I had Robinson at No. 4 last week but placed Pryor ahead of him this week, after Ohio State's 49-0 rout of Purdue. 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.
KEEP AN EYE ON: I mentioned Oklahoma's Landry Jones and DeMarco Murray in this space last week but Oklahoma's loss at Missouri was a 'killer' for both players. While Oklahoma State also suffered its first loss of the 2010 season to Nebraska (51-41) on Saturday, it's pretty hard to not be impressed by what WR Justin Blackmon has accomplished. WRs rarely figure in the Heisman chase (I'll recap that history if I'm still talking about Blackmon come mid-November) but look what he has accomplished in 2010 after just seven games. Blackmon has 62 catches for 1,112 yards (17.9 YPC) with 14 TDs( has at least one TD catch in every game this season). He has 15 overall TDs and is averaging 12.9 PPG, which leads the nation. He also leads the nation in receiving yards per game with 158.9 YPG, reaching at least 125 yards in every game this season.
My next Heisman update will be Monday, November, 1.