In looking at some of the comments on this site and elsewhere, many seem to think it is a fait accompli that Tim Tebow merely has to show up for games in order to be awarded the Heisman.
I do grant that he is a larger-than-life presence on the college football landscape and that he has, in many ways, transcended some of the normal statistical requirements of a Heisman winner.
But let’s not forget what got him to this point. It’s not just that he is a great leader and a clutch player.
What won him the Heisman as a 2007 sophomore was one of the great statistical seasons of all time.
In 2007, Tebow passed for 3,286 yards, completed 67 percent of his passes, threw 32 TD passes versus just 6 interceptions, and also rushed for 895 yards and 23 TDs.
No matter how you cut it, running and passing for 55 touchdowns means you are probably going to win the Heisman.
Tebow had another very good year in 2008, but the decline in his output was significant. He passed for fewer yards and touchdowns, his completion percentage went down, as did his rushing yards, per carry average and rushing touchdowns.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford also rushed and (mostly) passed for 55 touchdowns.
If you run and pass for 55 touchdowns, you are most likely going to win the Heisman. Plain and simple, that’s why Bradford beat out Tebow last year.
(note: the only sophomores to win the Heisman both accounted for 55 touchdowns in their winning seasons. Coincidence?)
And so we come to 2009. To date, Tebow’s stats look like they may, once again, decline from the previous season. Currently, he is on pace to throw for just 1,929 yards with 18 touchdowns and just 3 picks. His rushing yardage looks to be back on the uptick, as he projects to 813 yards and 15 TDs.
These passing numbers are unlikely to hold pace, but there remains a good chance that they will still end up well below his 2008 production, especially given his health questions and the recent unreliability of Florida’s receivers.
In 2006, Troy Smith won the Heisman while passing for 2,507 yards, which was the lowest yardage total by a Heisman-winning quarterback since 1971. Like Tebow, Smith was the unquestioned leader of the No. 1 team and stats weren’t the be-all and end-all to his candidacy. But he had a better year than almost every other candidate and won all his big games and that’s why he won the Heisman.
Stats aren’t everything when it comes to the Heisman. I don’t want readers to think that only raw numbers determine the winner. But voters require that players cross a certain (somewhat undefined) statistical threshhold before being considered Heisman worthy. Once that threshhold is met, then other factors such as team success, performance in big games and a bunch of other intangibles are added to the mix. Tebow’s stats must first pass that Heisman smell-test before voters will consider granting him that second trophy. We just don’t know what that smell test entails at this moment, though it should become more clear as the season goes on.
At this point, it looks like the only way for Tebow to win is if he increases his output while every other candidate implodes. I believe this to be an unlikely scenario.
Can Tebow throw for 2,500 yards and rush for 600 and win the Heisman? I don’t think it is likely if Texas is undefeated and Colt McCoy throws for 3,500 yards and 30-plus touchdowns while keeping his interceptions to a reasonable level.
However, I think he can do it if Florida is the only undefeated team and Tebow is seen as the guy who willed them to the BCS title game.
The game versus LSU on Oct. 10 will be the first piece of the puzzle. I think that, right now, the burden of proof is on Tebow to show that he deserves that second Heisman for reasons other than the statistical brilliance that won him his first trophy.
Archie Griffin scored four touchdowns in 1975 and repeated as Heisman winner, so maybe it’s not out of the question.