2010 Spring Preview
- No. 2
The Heisman Favorites
All of you who had Mark Ingram, Toby Gerhart, and Ndamukong Suh on your Heisman radar last year at this time, raise your hand. Yeah, and you’re the one who had Duke beating Butler
in your bracket.
Because of the out-of-left-field aspect to the 2009 Heisman chase that was supposed to be dominated by Tim Tebow, Colt McCoy, and Sam Bradford, and now everyone will be looking for the next Gerhart-type who no one is talking about. But remember, the former Stanford star didn’t win.
It should be easy to figure out who the true Heisman candidates are going to be even in years when the expected signature stars don’t come through. Last season was a strange quirk helped by unexpectedly mediocre years from Tebow and McCoy to go along with Bradford’s injury problems. But even with Suh’s great showing and Gerhart’s near-miss, in the end, the 2010 Heisman Trophy was awarded to the most visible player on the nation’s best team.
Forget about all defensive players. Suh has been described as the best college football defender in more than a decade, and he still finished fourth in the balloting in a down year for offensive options (I did my part, though, voting him first). There’s no defensive player out there with a preseason buzz like Suh was starting to generate last year at this time, and even if there were, he still wouldn’t realistically be in the hunt to actually win.
Forget about anyone from a non-BCS conference who doesn’t put up ungodly, video game-like numbers. Houston’s Case Keenum threw for over 1,400 yards more than anyone the No. 2 overall passer (Troy’s Levi Brown), beat Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, and he didn’t get a sniff. Over the last ten years, just four non-BCS league players finished in the top five, and none of them were close to winning (TCU’s LaDainian Tomlinson finished fourth in 2000, Fresno State’s David Carr finished fifth in 2001, Utah’s Alex Smith finished fourth in 2004, and Colt Brennan finished third in 2007).
Forget about anyone who’s not a quarterback or a running back. Over the last ten years, the only players to crack the top five who played anything other than quarterback or running back were Suh last year, Michael Crabtree in 2008 (fifth), and Larry Fitzgerald in 2003 (second). There isn’t a Heisman-worthy receiver out there at the moment going into this season, and if Crabtree could only get 116 Heisman points in 2008 (Bradford won with 1,726), there’s no chance a Ryan Broyles of Oklahoma or Keith Smith of Purdue will come within 100 miles of consideration.
Forget about anyone playing on a team not in the national title hunt, unless a player comes up with an all-timer of a statistical season at a huge school, like Ricky Williams breaking the all-time rushing record in 1998 and Ron Dayne breaking that record a year later. Only two Heisman winners in the last ten years didn’t play in the national title game in those seasons: Tebow in 2007 (his record-setting 32 passing TD/23 rushing TD year) and Carson Palmer in 2002.
So with all of that in mind, here are the ten top candidates for the 2010 Heisman Trophy. In other words, these are the top running backs and quarterbacks on national title-level teams, or the ones about to do something statistically insane.
10. Ricky Dobbs, QB Navy
Why He Might Win It: Only Toby Gerhart (28) ran for more touchdowns than the record-setting Navy quarterback (27). Everyone would love to put a guy from a service academy on the ballot, and Dobbs has the team around him, and he’ll have the stats, to be a finalist if he has another 1,192-yard rushing season.
Why He Won’t Win It: He and the team must be perfect, and they won’t be. He takes some big shots (making last year’s record for the most touchdowns scored by a quarterback even more impressive considering he missed two games) and he might miss a game or two. The schedule is light and breezy, but shhhhhhhh, Army isn’t going to be a pushover and beating Notre Dame is a must.
9. Noel Devine, RB West Virginia
Why He Might Win It: Call this a just-a-hunch, you-didn’t-see-Gerhart-coming-either pick. While Devine’s not really a returner, he could be seen as this year’s C.J. Spiller and take on the role of being college football’s most dynamic runner. He has one big chance to make a huge name for himself: At LSU on September 25th. If he rocks the Death Valley house and the Mountaineers come up with a win, the great Mountaineer sports information department will ramp up the campaign big-time.
Why He Won’t Win It: Spiller finished sixth in the Heisman balloting and that was partly due to his return skills. Devine, who ran for 1,465 yards and 13 touchdowns, will be overshadowed in his own conference by Pitt’s Dion Lewis.
8. Andy Dalton, QB TCU
Why He Might Win It: TCU will likely go 12-0 in the regular season again and Dalton will be the ultra-efficient, ultra-effective, Mark Ingram-like face to the franchise. The defensive stars (like a banged up Tank Carder) aren’t going to overshadow Dalton, while Jeremy Kerley and the receiving corps are going to be amazing enough to make the passing numbers blow up. Four starters return to the Horned Frog offensive front, the schedule has one road test (at Utah), and Dalton could be mini-Tebow stat-wise. With the talent around him, a 30-touchdown pass, seven-interception, 600-rushing yard, ten-touchdown season is possible.
Why He Won’t Win It: He’s not going to put up those stats. He’ll be good, but it’ll be more of an effective, efficient season than a Heisman-worthy campaign. When the biggest non-conference game is against Oregon State, the exposure just isn’t going to be there.
7. Ryan Williams, RB Virginia Tech
Why He Might Win It: As a true freshman, Williams ripped off 1,655 yards and 21 touchdowns in a dynamic season completed with ten touchdown runs in the final two games. After what Boise State’s run defense did last year, if Williams can put up a 100-yard game in the season opener against the Broncos, he’ll be on every early favorites list.
Why He Won’t Win It: Darren Evans is back after suffering a knee injury and he, along with running quarterback Tyrod Taylor, will take away too many yards and carries. Even if Williams rocks against Boise State, he still has to face some tough defenses including the nasty, Heisman-campaign killing North Carolina defense on the road in November. While Williams might be motivated against the Tar Heels after a devastating end in last year’s 20-17 loss, he’ll have to face a jacked up Miami team on the road the week after. The Canes got ripped up for 150 yards and two scores by Williams in last year’s blowout, and they’re good at exacting a measure of revenge (just ask Georgia Tech).
6. Garrett Gilbert, QB Texas
Why He Might Win It: He’s the starting quarterback at Texas … that’s enough to make him a finalist. Gilbert might not put up tremendous numbers, and he’s not going to run like McCoy did, but he should be the leader of yet another talented team that’ll be in the hunt for the national title. If he can come up with a big performance and a win at Nebraska, and, of course, a good game and a victory over Oklahoma the game before, he’ll be in New York.
Why He Won’t Win It: Vince Young didn’t win one. McCoy didn’t get the nod. Since Ricky Williams won it easily, Texas hasn’t been able to get over the Heisman hump with its ultra-talented quarterbacks, and while Gilbert will be another great playmaker, the offense is going to be more balanced and he won’t put up the bulk numbers to get the honor. However, if Texas gets back to the national championship, he’ll be in the race.
5. Kellen Moore, QB Boise State
Why He Might Win It: The nation’s second most efficient passer last season (Mr. Tebow was No. 1), Moore threw for more yards than the Gator star (3,536 yards to 2,895), more touchdown passes (39 to 21), and fewer interceptions (3 to 5). Boise State is finally getting the recognition in the national title hunt, and Moore is the signature star. If he can play well in the season opener against Virginia Tech, he’ll be a lock to be a finalist.
Why He Won’t Win It: Boise State probably won’t beat a fired up Virginia Tech close to its home turf in Landover, Maryland. He’ll put up huge numbers against another easy WAC schedule, but his numbers won’t get much respect if he’s not great against the Hokies.
4. John Brantley, QB Florida
Why He Might Win It: He’s really, really good. A five-star, A-list prospect when he joined the program, he has had time to prepare and be ready for this moment; he’s going to be terrific. Tim Tebow might have been one of the most efficient passers in college football history, but there’s more pop from the Brantley gun and there should be more big things happening down the field. He was great all spring and he’ll quickly become the new star for yet another loaded Florida team.
Why He Won’t Win It: Urban Meyer loves his spread and Brantley isn’t a Tebow-like runner. There’s going to be a little bit of shuffling from time to time to add more of a rushing threat under center which will hurt Brantley’s stats and his reputation. Simply put, you don’t ever take out a Heisman-caliber quarterback if he really is that good. Remember, Tebow never got through a season without a loss, and Brantley will have to go to Alabama and has to deal with a date at Tennessee, Georgia, a tough South Carolina, and a trip to Florida State.
3. Mark Ingram, RB Alabama
Why He Might Win It: The reigning Heisman winner will once again be the signature star on a veteran offense. Already considered a top ten overall NFL prospect, he has the talent, he has the line in front of him, and he has the No. 1 team in the nation going into the season. Always playing big in the big games, he gets a chance to showcase his talent against Penn State, at Arkansas, at hope against Florida, and at LSU in national spotlight games.
Why He Won’t Win It: Besides having a mega-talent in Trent Richardson taking away some of the carries, and with a bit more of an emphasis on the passing game, Ingram has some barriers, but his biggest problem is going to be himself. Heisman voters have a huge bias against former winners and have no interest in voting anyone into the Archie Griffin legendary status (as Tebow, Matt Leinart, and Jason White recently found out).
Unless Ingram is amazing and there are no other viable options, unfairly, there will be a hard ceiling he’ll bump against.
2. Case Keenum, QB Houston
Why He Might Win It: 5,671 passing yards. 44 touchdown passes. 70% passing. Four rushing scores. Keenum had the best statistical season of any quarterback in America last year, and he also happened to lead the team to shocking wins over Oklahoma State and Texas Tech early in the season. This year, if he’s average by his standards, he’ll be the NCAA all-time leader in passing yards, completions, and touchdowns, and once again he’ll have some high profile games to shine in. If he can be great at UCLA, if he can pull off another upset over Texas Tech, and if he can lead the way to the Conference USA title, he and his stats can’t be ignored.
Why He Won’t Win It: The stats might be ignored. Keenum didn’t come close last year to even becoming a finalist, and Heisman voters aren’t going to care a lick about the all-timer numbers if wins over UCLA and Texas Tech don’t follow. Assuming he sets all the records in his sights, he could end up being in New York as the No. 3 pick on everyone’s ballot.
1. Terrelle Pryor, QB Ohio State
Why He’s Going To Win It: As the signature star on the nation’s (most likely) No. 2 team, and considering voters aren’t going to be interested in giving it to Ingram a second year in a row, the Heisman is there for the taking. Pryor is almost stat-proof, needing to come up with a few highlight reel moments and a few great performances in big games to be on top of the leader board. The 266-yard passing day (with 72 rushing yards) in the win over Oregon set the tone for the 2010 season and made him look like another Vince Young. Voters blew it in 2005 by voting for Reggie Bush over Young, and there’s a chance they’re not going to want to make the same mistake again.
Of course, it all comes down to winning. The Buckeyes might not have many household names, but they’re beyond loaded with a few superior recruiting classes about to blossom at just the right time. There’s a date with Miami early and a perfectly timed finishing kick for the Heisman with a trip to Wisconsin in mid-October and with Penn State, at Iowa, and Michigan to finish things up. Assuming they start the season No. 2, the Buckeyes will play for the national title no matter what if they go 12-0. If Pryor is above-average, he’ll bring the school its second Heisman winner in five years (Troy Smith winning it in 2006).