By Chris Le
After six weeks of collegiate football, it seems as if no one wants to win the Heisman. Expected excellence has given way to inconsistency, and for the preseason favorites, Tim Tebow and Sam Bradford, injuries have been the highest hurdle.
All of it has made for a schizophrenic season, with its fluctuations mirroring the volatile stock market. Up one day, down the next. And this capriciousness begins with the players. Colt McCoy, perhaps feeling the weight of so many preseason selections, has committed nearly as many interceptions, this year, (6 in five games) as he did in all of last (8). And former front-runner Jahvid Best had all the pundits raving after scoring five touchdowns one week, but then goose egged it the next two in losing efforts, all but eliminating his candidacy.
The yearly race for the Heisman has turned into a battle of attrition. But it shouldn’t be this way. In the average fan’s ideal situation, someone steps up, differentiating themselves with plays, and takes the trophy by the legs. It shouldn’t have to be handed to the least of five evils. But with the way this season is shaping up, it’ll be awarded to the last man standing, and not the man on top. Whether it’s a bum shoulder or the heaviness of hype, no one has strung together consecutive vote-worthy showings.
And, coincidentally, this year’s Heisman race, an individual contest, has been reflective of the overall landscape of team football. Top squads, much like the top players, are faltering every week, and are plummeting in both the Heisman and AP polls. Houston quarterback, Case Keenum, was once a dark horse contender, but a single bad performance compounded by a loss, and now he, like his Houston team, will never reach a top five ranking. And with the aforementioned Jahvid Best, as he goes, so do the Cal Bears, and they’re both currently headed toward the undesirable recesses of the underachieving, which isn’t too far from the harsh habitat of the overrated.
But it’s not that these players are ill-equipped or unworthy of the Heisman. They’ve just been victims of this football season’s overriding theme — defense — which explains the mercurial performances of so many leading contenders. That’s why I find this erratic offensive play so fitting.
The Heisman race historically has been the providence of quarterbacks and halfbacks — football’s offensive stars. But in the college game, this year, the headlines have been stolen by the collective defenses. Scoring 50 points is so yesterday’s news. Holding teams under 15 is what’s en vogue.
To better understand just gander at the polls. The alpha programs — Florida, Alabama, Texas, Virginia Tech, USC — and even this year’s cinderella, TCU, are all in the top ten because of defense. You could go as far as to say those teams are ranked where they are in spite of their quarterbacks. Colt McCoy, Tyrod Taylor and Matt Barkley, all of whom are mistake prone this year, have all been put in favorable situations, if not outright saved, by their defenses. Even my top Heisman candidate, Tim Tebow, has been overshadowed by his defense.
It just hasn’t been a Heisman-y type of year. And in keeping with season’s theme, it’d be nice to see a defensive player hoist the trophy. But that won’t happen.
1. Tim Tebow, QB, Florida
2. Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame
3. Colt McCoy, QB, Texas
4. Jacoby Harris, QB, Miami
5. Tony Pike, QB, Cincinatti
1. Alabama – The Crimson Tide’s recipe for success: One part bulldozing rushing game, two parts immovable defense, and a pinch of competent quarterbacking. Mmm. Tastes like a BCS championship.
2. Florida – Beat LSU in Baton Rouge, at night, with a conservative Tim Tebow. That sounds like a hallmark victory. And yet questions remain, particularly of their receivers. Can the Gators compete in a shoot-out if needed? But at any rate, the Tebow legend continues to burgeon forth (despite an average yet intangible-filled performance) and Florida’s path toward the SEC championship is now as smooth as the greens of Augusta.
3. Virginia Tech – The Hokies defense is legit perennially, and we’ve all heard the praises of “Beamer Ball” with that ball-sniffing special teams. But Tyrod Taylor is beginning to connect the dots as a passer, adding to the Hokies game plan a years long missing component. He doesn’t throw much, because freshman running back Ryan Williams is bearing the load, but Taylor’s improved arm has made the Hokies the top one-loss team.
4. Texas – The Longhorns enter the toughest stretch of their schedule (Oklahoma, at Missouri, at Oklahoma State). High stakes games. Dominant victories and they could leapfrog Virginia Tech. Good numbers and Colt McCoy jumps in the Heisman polls.
5. USC – The offense receives a much needed shot of adrenaline with the return of wideout Ronald Johnson, the Trojan’s biggest downfield threat. They’ll need more than the 22.0 points they’ve averaged the past four games if they want to beat Notre Dame’s prolific passing game.
6. Iowa – The Hawkeyes just find ways to win. All their games have been close, sometimes ugly, but resolve and perseverance can carry a team a long way — especially with a defense like that.
7. Miami – In preseason, I looked at their schedule and feared the worst. Another dreadful season, I thought. But winning three of their first four games, all of which against ranked teams, is proof that the Hurricanes’ production is catching up to its immense talent. Their potential is no longer latent; it’s realized.
8. Ohio State – The Navy game, in which the Buckeyes gave up 27 points, was an aberration. Opponents quickly realize that it’s really, really hard to score against this defense. Ohio States’ weakness? Terrelle Pryor. Dude is sucking balls. Against Wisconsin the preseason Big Ten player of the year threw for one touchdown, one INT, and 87 yards on 5 of 13. And he’s only ran for three touchdowns so far, light years behind pace of my projected 15. Still, I love the D-line and they’re still my pick to win the conference.
9. Boise State – Lesson #3435 in polls: It’s possible to drop without losing. The football season is a marathon not a sprint, and though Boise State’s inaugural win over Oregon was cute, subsequent performances against UC Davis and Bowling Green weren’t enough to fend off the major conference hounds.
10. Cincinnati – “Tony Pike to Mardy Gilyard for a touchdown” has been an oft repeated phrase, seven times in five games to be exact. In case you didn’t know, that leads the nation in touchdown receptions. But I’m still not completely sold. Thursday night’s meeting against (21) South Florida should erase or justify my skepticism.