The year is 2006. Going into the college football season the Heisman favorite is an Oklahoma Sooner (Adrian Peterson). One of the other favorites is the Senior quarterback for the Florida Gators (Chris Leak). The Sooner gets injured early in the year and is knocked out of the race. The Senior Gator QB never quite lives up to expectations. As a result, the Heisman Trophy goes to the efficient, but not spectacular, QB of the undefeated Ohio State Buckeyes, Troy Smith.
Flash forward to 2009. Going into the college football season the Heisman favorite is an Oklahoma Sooner (Sam Bradford). One of the other favorites is the Senior quarterback for the Florida Gators (Tim Tebow). The Sooner gets injured early in the year and is knocked out of the race. The Senior Gator QB has not quite lived up to expectations. As a result, by the end of the year the Heisman Trophy could wind up going to this year's version of Troy Smith 2006: the efficient, but not spectacular, QB of the undefeated Alabama Crimson Tide, Greg McElroy.
In 2006 Smith benefited from a college football landscape where none of the preseason favorites for the Heisman played up to their hype, and his two biggest competitors at the end of the season (Darren McFadden and Brady Quinn) wound up playing for teams with multiple losses. Because of the field dropping back, Smith was able to win the Heisman with a season that looks a bit odd in hindsight for a Heisman winner:
- One 300 yard game
- Six games with under 200 yards passing
- 2500 passing yards
- Less than 3000 total yards
So how did Smith win it? Other than leading OSU to an unblemished record, only one individual stat stood out for Smith; his sterling touchdown to interception ratio, 30/5. Other than that, Smith was downright pedestrian. He was 38th in the nation in passing yards, and was only only fourth in his own league (behind the likes of Curtis Painter, Brian Cupito, and Drew Tate).
Smith's victory in 2006 is a blueprint for how Heisman voters react to a year without a clear cut winner; they go safe. Starting QB for the #1 team in the country is about as safe as it gets. The same thing happens in other sports as well; no clear cut MVP in baseball? High RBI guy on the best team in the league. No clear cut Cy Young winner? Pitcher with the most wins for a playoff team. No clear cut NFL MVP? Starting QB for the team with the best record. And on and on it goes.
As this year has unfolded, two things are clear in the Heisman race; the presumptive favorites are not playing as expected (Bradford, Tebow, McCoy), and nobody is stepping up to fill their place. Because of this, McElroy is in prime position to follow the Troy Smith blueprint and steal the Heisman.
Think about it; McElroy is averaging roughly 220 yards and two TDs a game, while having only thrown one INT through five games. Stretching that production out over the entire season (including an SEC championship game), McElroy's stats would wind up looking a whole lot like Smith's did in 2006; 2800 total yards, 27 total TDs, and 3 INTs. If the other contenders continue to falter (Bradford, Jacory Harris, Jahvid Best, Max Hall, and Case Keenum have all already been bounced), McElroy could find himself with the Heisman Trophy come December.
Rank Me Please
If the teams below are not ranked come tomorrow, it is about time to call your local AP voter and start lodging complaints:
1. Auburn 5-0: The Mighty Malzahns took down Tennessee Saturday night to earn their second SEC victory of the year. Those two wins coupled with a win against West Virginia and one of the nation's most prolific offenses leaves little excuse for poll voters to leave Auburn off of their ballots this week.
2. South Florida 5-0: When Matt Grothe went down in the Bulls third game of the year, most people wrote off the Bulls in the Big East. Little did they realize, the Bulls had just as dynamic of a QB waiting in the wings in BJ Daniels. The Bulls have two BCS conference wins and three road wins on their resume.
3. Wisconsin 5-0: The Badgers have shown an uncanny ability to reload year after year and keep winning. Case in point; Scott Tolzien is the 4th different starting QB in the last four years for the Badgers. Wisconsin finds themselves at 5-0, with two Big Ten wins plus a victory over Fresno State.
On the Field Heisman Rankings
Excuse me sir, could I interest you in a Heisman? It seems like nobody wants to win the trophy this year, as contender after contender falls by the wayside. Last week it was Jacory Harris and Jahvid Best posting poor performances in losses, and this week Case Keenum and the Houston Cougars lost to a UTEP team that was drilled into the ground the week before. (While Keenum did throw for over 500 yards in the game, one simple fact remains; Heisman winners don't lose to UTEP)
So where does that leave us? As discussed above, it allows Greg McElroy to continue sneaking up the board, while also opening up spots for some big stat guys. Going forward, it also allows for Tebow and McCoy to jump right back into the race, with each having a showcase game coming up in the next two weeks (Tebow vs LSU, and McCoy vs Oklahoma).
1. Tony Pike, Cincy: Seriously, is Pike the only guy that wants the trophy? Pike continued his sterling season with 270 yards and 2 TDs against Miami (OH). His next game should be his national coming out party; a nationally televised Thursday nighter on October 15th pitting his 5-0 Bearcats against BJ Daniels and the 5-0 USF Bulls.
2. Greg McElroy, Alabama: Another game, another win, another two TDs for McElroy. Next week will provide him with his first big test since the opener against Virginia Tech, as he and the Tide travel to Oxford to play Ole Miss.
3. Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame: At some point Clausen and his video game numbers are too hard to ignore on a 4-1 team, averaging over 300 yards and two TDs per game. You do have to worry however, about the fact that Notre Dame has had to pull out dramatics each of the past three weeks to win by one score against three teams with a combined record of 5-10. With USC and Boston College coming up next, Clausen's stay on the Heisman list could be a short one.
4. Toby Gerhart, Stanford: Gerhart led the Cardinal to a big win this week over previously undefeated UCLA with 158 total yards and three TDs. Gerhart now leads the nation with 650 rushing yards to go along with eight TDs.
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