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by Larry Ness - 12/10/2010
The final regular season game of the 2010 college football season is set for 2:30 ET from Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. It's the 111th meeting between Army and Navy, a series which began in 1890 (wasn't there for that one). Army has lost eight straight contests to Navy, getting outscored 291-74 (36.4-to-9.3 PPG). However, the 2010 season has been a unique one for the service academies.
The Black Knights have qualified for a bowl game with their 6-5 record and will play SMU in the Armed Forces Bowl on December 30th, Army's first bowl trip since 1996. Navy is heading to the Poinsettia Bowl to take on San Diego State on December 23rd (Navy's EIGHTH consecutive bowl trip) and Air Force, which beat both of its rivals this year and ended Navy's run of seven straight Commander-in-Chief's Trophies, will play Georgia Tech on December 27 in the Independence Bowl.
This marks the first time-ever, all three service academies will go 'bowling' in the same season. Air Force has been the busiest bowl team of the three schools, as this year's trip will be the its 21st. As mentioned, this will be Navy's eighth bowl trip in a row and the school's 17th overall. Although Army is only one of the service academies to win a national championship (the Cadets won back-to-back titles in 1944 and 1945,as well as producing Heisman winners Doc Blanchard in 1945 and Glenn Davis in 1946), this year's bowl trip will be only Army's fifth. I'm not sure why, but in it's heydey, Army always snubbed bowl invitations.
Air Force may be the 'youngest' of the three service academies (began playing football in 1955) but the Falcons have now won 17 of the 39 Commander-in-Chief's Trophies (series was first instituted in 1972). However, Army and Navy have combined to produce five Heisman winners while the Falcons haven't come close to producing one.
There was a time when Army/Navy was a huge deal. In 2010, it will settle for being the final game of a memorable season. However, if you are not too young, you may remember that in a seven-year span from 1958 through 1963, three Heisman winners participated in the Army/Navy game. Pete Dawkins of Army won in 1958 while Joe Bellino (1960) and Roger Staubach (1963) took home the award for Navy.
That leads me to the 2010 Heisman. The four finalists invited to New York for the 2010 Heisman Trophy ceremony Saturday night are Auburn QB Cam Newton, Boise State QB Kellen Moore, Oregon RB LaMichael James and Stanford QB Andrew Luck. Anyone want to take a wild guess which player is going to win? I typically do a detailed "final Heisman ballot" but frankly, recent events have left me rather apathetic.
Clearly, Newton deserves the award for his truly outstanding season, but who knows how "his saga" will play out over the next few months or beyond? The Heisman got off to a bad start this year when Reggie Bush voluntarily returned his 2004 award ("he jumped before getting pushed!") and the last thing this "most recognizable of all sports awards" needs now, is another "return to sender!"
Let me make a case for a player not invited to New York, Michigan QB Denard Robinson. No 'star' shone 'brighter' than this sophomore during the month of September. Robinson, an unknown prior to the season, 'exploded' with 197 yards rushing and 186 passing in Michigan's 30-10 season-opening win over UConn. He followed that game by running for 258 yards, the fifth-best rushing total in Michigan history (the best by a QB at Michigan and the best-ever by any QB in Big 10 history, as well) in Michigan's 28-24 win at South Bend. He had two rushing TDs (one an 87-yarder which was the longest scoring run in Notre Dame Stadium history) plus threw for 244 yards and another TD, giving him a school-record 502 yards of total offense.
Robinson finished the season with nine, 100-yard games (two of 200-plus yards) in 12 contests and 1,643 yards rushing on the season (6.7 YPC with 14 TDs), ranking him fourth in the nation with an average of 136.9 YPG. While not a great passer, he completed 62.0 percent for 2,316 yards with 16 TDs and 10 interceptions. He's currently third in the nation in total offense, averaging 329.9 YPG.
Robinson set the all-time record for most rushing yards by a QB this year (1,643), easily surpassing the previous record of Beau Morgan (Air Force), who ran for 1,494 yards in 1996. Robinson also became the first player in NCAA history (not just FBS) with 1,500 passing yards and 1,500 rushing yards in the same season, although Newton can join him by rushing for 91 yards or more in the BCS championship game against Oregon.
I'm not arguing for Robinson over Newton (I'd vote for Newton if I had one) but I do think this guy is getting a little short-changed in the "also-rans" department. James, Luck and Moore played for teams which combined to lose just two games while Robinson toiled for a 7-5 Michigan team and was "done in" by a defense which allowed 406 points on the season (33.8 per game). Let me put that number in historical perspective for some of you Michigan fans.
Bo Schembechler took over at Michigan in 1969, leading the Wolverines to an 8-3 season, ending in a 10-3 loss in the Rose Bowl to USC. Bo's defense gave up a whopping 148 points that season, an average of 13.5 per game. Bo would have none of that foolishness. Over the next five years (1970-74), Michigan would go 50-4-1 while allowing a total of just 373 points, an average of just 6.8 per game. That's 33 points less than the Wolverines have allowed in 12 games this year (with one to play)! And how many bowl games did the Wolverines participate in during that five-year span? The answer is O-N-E!
That leads me into my next CFB Notes (coming mid-week), when I make a strong case that the BCS can't "mess up" something which has been badly 'broken' for years, well before the BCS was ever introduced.