The HP Heisman Watch

We are five weeks in and right now I believe there are only four players left who can actually win the Heisman in the current environment.  I say ‘current’ because there is one circumstance in which the race could be thrown wide open to all comers again.  Namely, if every one of the remaining four candidates mess up.

What kind of scenario would that entail? 

1. Colt McCoy plays horribly in a loss to Oklahoma, or when Texas gets upset elsewhere along the way.

2. Tim Tebow’s weakened state leads either to a loss vs. LSU or he doesn’t play for a couple games, severely curtailing his stats.

3. Notre Dame and Jimmy Clausen get trounced by USC.

4. Miami gets upset and Jacory Harris underperforms or gets hurt.

In this scenario, the race would be ‘reset’ and the usual standards for picking the Heisman winner would be ratcheted down.  Voters would disregard the usual statistical benchmarks and team records in order to determine the winner.  Outside candidates who wouldn’t normally break into the top echelon would then be reconsidered.  Should this happen, look for names like Greg McElroy, Joe McKnight, Tony Pike, Toby Gerhart, Tate Forcier and Noel Devine to emerge as possible contenders, along with the current ones.

That said, here are the four players who currently have the best chance at actually winning the Heisman.  All four are from traditional Heisman powers.  Remember, this is a projection based on how the season is likely to unfold based on what we know now, NOT the way the vote would end up.

1. Colt McCoy, Texas–McCoy is the clear front runner and all he really has to do is beat Oklahoma to put himself in position to cruise to the Heisman.  He has a chance to make this race devoid of any drama.  On the year, he’s got 1,145 passing yards, with 9 TDs and 5 picks and is completing 71 percent of his passes.  Assuming Texas makes the Big 12 title game, he is on pace to have 3,721 passing yards with 29 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.  Now, he obviously needs to tone down the picks, but I don’t think he’ll have a problem doing that.  If he maintains a 3-to-1 ratio, he’ll be fine.  But if the picks keep coming, they could pose a problem for some voters. 

2. Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame–When was the last time a Notre Dame quarterback led the nation in passing efficiency?  Well, that’s what Clausen is doing now.  And he’s doing so in dramatic fashion, leading the Irish to comeback win after comeback win.  I think there is an understanding that Notre Dame isn’t especially good right now, but that it is Clausen who is willing them to victory anyway.  On the year, he has 1,544 passing yards, with 12 TDs and 2 interceptions.  He is completing 68 percent of his passes.  He is on pace to have 3,705 passing yards with 29 TDs and 5 picks by the time of the Heisman vote.  His biggest obstacle is USC in two weeks.  But if he beats the Trojans–and it will most likely be because of him if it happens–he may be unstoppable in this race. 

3. Jacory Harris, Miami–Harris has emerged as a legitimate Heisman contender after a very tough first four games.  If the ‘Canes were 4-0, he might be in great shape in the race.  But they are 3-1 and some things will need to happen for him to have a shot.  Namely, Miami needs to win out.  I actually think this is a good possibility.  If the ‘Canes are 11-1 at the time of the Heisman vote and in contention for a BCS berth of some sort, Harris will be seen as the catalyst for the program’s revival, much like Carson Palmer was seen as the reason for USC’s revival in 2002.  Right now, he has 1,008 passing yards with 8 TDs and 5 interceptions.  He is completing 62 percent of his passes.  He is on pace to have  3,024 passing yards with 24 TDs and 15 picks by the time of the Heisman vote.  However, because Miami’s schedule is considerably easier the rest of the way than it has been so far, I expect his yardage and touchdowns to rise considerably above that pace and for his interceptions to drop.

4. Tim Tebow, Florida–Tebow is the big wild card in the race right now.  We don’t know what his status is and that’s why he is in the four spot.  I have to assume that even if he plays against LSU, he won’t be 100 percent.  If he doesn’t play, it could really hurt his chances at another Heisman since his numbers will have a hard time keeping pace with the others in the race.   On the other hand, a heroic return in a win against LSU could vault him back up there with McCoy.  For the year, he has 643 passing yards with 6 TDs and 1 interception, along with 271 rushing yards and 5 TDs.  Assuming Florida makes the SEC title game, he is on pace for 2,089 passing yards, with 20 TD passes and 3 interceptions, to go with 880 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns.

How The Regions Are Shaping Up

McCoy is in good shape partly because he is now the only legitimate Heisman candidate west of the Mississippi.  He is likely to capture the vast majority of the votes in the Southwest and West regions and will remain strong in the other regions just as he was last year.  Clausen is obviously the Midwest’s main candidate, while Tebow and Harris are the Southern guys.  The race could be decided by the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions.  

If the vote were held today

1. Tim Tebow

2. Colt McCoy

3. Jimmy Clausen

4. Tony Pike

5. Case Keenum

6. Jacory Harris

7. Eric Berry

8. Jahvid Best

9. Joe McKnight

10. Greg McElroy

About Heismanpundit

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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12 Responses to The HP Heisman Watch

  1. Adam Nettina October 5, 2009 at 7:46 pm #

    I’m sorry, but what more does Gerhart have to do just to get a MENTION?

  2. Heismanpundit October 5, 2009 at 8:46 pm #

    I actually did mention Gerhart in this piece. But as for what he has to do, I’d say it’d help if he led the nation in rushing.

  3. corkdork October 6, 2009 at 5:54 am #

    It’s interesting watching the race this year; I’m a big Keenum fan (hey, I’m an alum, so I’m expected to root for “our guy”), and it’s interesting watching McCoy get all the glory despite the fact that Keenum’s put up better numbers, and occasionally against the same competition.

    But, a loss to UTEP and being a non-AQ quarterback means it’ll be 2010 or nothing for him. And us UH fans have to deal with Andre Ware as our legacy for another year. At least Kolb is doing good things in the NFL for us to enjoy :)

  4. Chris Abate October 6, 2009 at 8:45 pm #

    What is the entitlement factor with the Heisman? What has Colt McCoy or Tim Tebow done from a quarterback perspective compared to Clausen and Harris? These guys, especially Jimmy, are leading their teams to wins in big time QB fashion. Florida and Texas have played no one. I *GET* that McCoy is the “front runner” but that is clearly entitlement and team ranking and not real numbers (which don’t compare to Clausen statistically) or big time wins (Clausen leads the nation in touchdowns thrown when a team is losing in the last two minutes of the 4th quarter). Harris is also playing above and beyond. Tebow…. can an NFL tight end really win the Heisman twice? Really?

  5. willhclark October 7, 2009 at 2:09 am #

    Clausen would not be getting this attention if he was not the NOTRE DAME QB. WHO HAS NOTRE PLAYED AND BEATEN? THEY ARE 4-1 against unranked teams. Overrated!

  6. Ed Newman October 7, 2009 at 9:19 am #

    I think everyone gets there undies in a bunch about voting “entitlements” enjoyed by the front runners. Vote based on current production, they say. But substitute the word “experience” for entitlement and the poll results are more defensible. It’s true that Tony Pike and Jimmy Clausen have done more this year so far than McCoy or Tebow. If the real vote were held today I would hope the voters would put those two new guys ahead. But the season isn’t half over yet. We don’t know if Pike or Clausen is on a hot streak or if they are really good. We already have 3 years of evidence on McCoy and Tebow. We KNOW they are good, even if they haven’t (yet) got the stats to back that up this year. So I think it is proper to keep looking at them as the front runners until a lot more of the season plays out. Remember, nothing REALLY matters until that last vote. No one gets hardware for leading week 5 polls. As long as your guy is in the discussion at this point, chill out.

  7. JPH October 7, 2009 at 11:58 am #

    Eric Berry.

  8. Elroy Kona October 7, 2009 at 7:49 pm #

    It’s amusing how the ND haters throw “who’s ND played” out there. When ND’s strength of schedule is rated more difficult than Texas’ and Florida’s. ND SOS is 36 accd to Sagarin. Texas is 90 and Florida is 107. So despite ND not having beaten a ranked team, Clausen has faced tougher opponents than Texas and Florida – and McCoy has thrown 5 picks against inferior competition. The pundits should be asking that: why is McCoy off? Why does he look like he did when he went through his sophomore slump? But they’re not. Many of the pundits and Heisman voters keep pumping the candidates they highlighted during the preseason. Which is sad because it means you can’t admit you were wrong. Truth is, McCoy is not playing great, Tebow is not having a Heisman-quality year, so get over it and consider the worthy candidates. Jimmy Clausen is #1 on that list.

  9. Dave October 8, 2009 at 9:06 am #

    Great Point Elroy! Notre Dame has played much tougher competition than Florida and Texas. In my opinion it is his to lose since the Weis Offense is going to allow for him to further distance himself from the competition by putting up much better numbers. Let us not forget Clausen was the #1 Recruit in the country a few years ago. He is now a mature team leader and capable of showing off why he was deemed “the Lebron James of College Football” coming out of High School. Clausen is on pace to throw for more yards, TD’s, and a higher completion percentage than any of the other contenders. Irish vs. Trojans will be a battle when ND prevails I expect a Heisman will follow and possibly if there is a shakeup a shot at the Title if ND wins out. GO Irish! Beat U$C and you ND haters out there you would be lying if you said you wouldn’t like him on your team!!!

  10. Anonymous October 13, 2009 at 2:50 pm #

    uh, where’s suh on this list???? best player in the country hands down.

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