Who’s Gonna Win The Heisman?

The race for the 2009 Heisman took an unpredictable turn on Saturday.

The injury to Tim Tebow could jumble the race in a variety of ways. 

Obviously, it will depend on how much game time Tebow misses, if any. 

Should Tebow’s season be significantly curtailed, you can pretty much count him out of the Heisman race.  The injuries that have struck Tebow and 2008 winner Sam Bradford illustrate why I’ve always felt that winning two Heismans is a practical impossibility in the current college football environment.

The collapse of support for Tebow as a result of his injury will significantly affect the other candidates.  The most obvious effect in the short term is that the pool of Heisman-worthy players will shrink and voters will gravitate toward the safest choice, which at this point is Colt McCoy.

However, if McCoy struggles statistically–he already has five interceptions on the season–then the result will be that the threshhold for 2009 Heisman-worthiness will to be dumbed down a bit, which will have the effect of helping some of the ‘lesser’ candidates in the long run.

As crazy as it sounds, the Heisman candidacies of Jahvid Best and Jacory Harris are not dead yet, though they did take a hit on Saturday.  However, the possible statistical declines (in a relative sense) of the three top names in college football (Tebow, McCoy, Bradford) means that challengers like Best and Harris (and others) may not need to produce amazing individual seasons or play for undefeated teams in order to overcome the advantages these three players possessed. 

Because of the dearth of overwhelming statistical impressiveness, voters may look for other factors in addition to reasonably healthy production, such as:

—Whether a player is the catalyst for a program’s revival, preferably a traditional Heisman power

—Whether he carried his team at crucial junctures

—Whether he got his team over a perceived hump

—Whether he helped his team get to a conference title and/or a BCS bowl

—Whether his team gets on a ‘roll’ to close the season and is considered a top team regardless of overall record.

Of course, if McCoy finishes out the season strong and keeps his interceptions below a reasonable point, then he will win the Heisman handily.  Our preseason frontrunner will merely have done what he was supposed to do and the vote will not be close.  Also, it could well be that Tebow does not miss enough significant time to substantially affect the race (I think he could miss one game and his candidacy will survive, but not two).

However, if McCoy does not get it done, then the door opens up for Best, Harris, Case Keenum or others (Greg McElroyJimmy Clausen?) to make a serious run under the aforementioned scenario.

This is the context in which I think the race needs to be analyzed.  I’ll have more thoughts on this as more information comes to light. 

In the meantime, I think Heisman sentiment is extremely fluid and will remain so until the outcome of the October schedule.

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Chris Huston, A.K.A. ‘The Heisman Pundit‘, is a Heisman voter and the creator and publisher of Heismanpundit.com, a site dedicated to analysis of the Heisman Trophy and college football. Dubbed “the foremost authority on the Heisman” by Sports Illustrated, HP is regularly quoted or cited during football season in newspapers across the country. He is also a regular contributor on sports talk radio and television.

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4 Responses to Who’s Gonna Win The Heisman?

  1. Nevaduck September 27, 2009 at 7:34 pm #

    Masoli doesn’t win, but goes to NY, calling it.

  2. Pete September 28, 2009 at 8:40 am #

    I think there are a few performances worth noting, even if they don’t have a chance to win:

    Berry – CB/Saftey/LB from Tennessee. He looks like an elite player wherever he lines up. I expect he would need a few, big special teams plays to be considered for the unlikely trip.

    AJ Green – He is as dominant a receiver as I can remember seeing. Perhaps if he starts fielding kicks and punts (next year?).

    For the Heisman race, I think it is Tebow and Colt. Colt has been a consistent contender and for those who do not want to vote a 2nd time for Tebow I think McCoy is an easy choice (especially, if he is undefeated). I think Tebow needs to play well against LSU and show that he can throw the ball (as his WR start playing – can the Gators start lining up RB as WR? Maybe play Brandon Spikes as a TE?).

  3. Socraticsilence September 28, 2009 at 11:29 am #

    Tebow could actually gain support if he doesn’t miss more than 1 game (heck if he doesn’t miss the LSU game you might as well pencil him in)- at this point Tebow’s canidacy isn’t about stat’s anyway its about history and myth- and rising from the grave so to speak- especially if he does it in Death Valley would basically cement the whole “folk hero” vibe that Tebow has- say he plays that game and Florida wins ugly- are you telling me every sportswriter in America wouldn’t be annointing Tebow as the greatest thing to happen to sports?

  4. Ed Newman September 29, 2009 at 6:31 am #

    I see a lackluster field as benefiting Tebow. If there are no other worthy candidates, Tebow wins by default. As SocraticSilence says, Tebow probably doesn’t have to wow the voters with stats. They already have accepted that he is really, really good. They might stretch to find a different option because they think a repeat winner is boring but if they really can’t find one, then I think they’ll only stutter for a second before annointing one of the historic figures in CFB history (undeniable) with an award that cements that status. Tebow has to do his part. He has to lead UF to the SEC championship with one loss or less. UF has to win the SEC championship game, or Tebow has to have a Kellen Winslow type performance in a close loss (sorry for the NFL reference). He has dominate in a signature game or two (from the following: Georgia, LSU, FSU, or Alabama) without looking bad in any of them. He has to improve his overall passing yardage a little, but I don’t think this will be an issue.

    Colt McCoy has to continue his current play. If he heats up and puts up numbers close to last year he’ll be tough to beat without comparable stats from Tebow. McCoy had a great junior year and deserved a Heisman as much as Bradford or Tebow. But he has not looked so good this year, despite his good but not great stats. Let’s not forget his underwhelming sophomore year either. His play this year might just be a return to form with his junior year being the true outlier.