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