The HP Heisman Watch

This has not been the Heisman race everyone thought it would be.  Thus far, the peformances by the top preseason contenders have been a bit underwhelming.  I believe that October will reveal the eventual winner, but there is also a chance the race will be re-set (a concept I discuss here) and that some new candidates will emerge.  Until that happens, though, there still appears–at this point–to be only four candidates with a chance to actually win the Heisman.

1. Colt McCoy, Texas–He threw for 265 yards on 32 of 39 passing, with a touchdown and one interception in the Longhorns’ win over Colorado.  These are solid numbers, though not spectacular.  On the year, he has 1,410 passing yards (73.4%), with 10 touchdowns and six picks.   His rushing numbers are down considerably from last year, as he has just 58 yards and one touchdown on the season.  He is on pace to have around 3,500 passing yards with 26 touchdowns and 14 interceptions by the time of the Heisman vote.

McCoy’s Heisman run, if it comes, begins this week versus Oklahoma.  Given the paucity of marquee matchups on the Texas schedule–a byproduct of the Big 12’s drop in quality relative to 2008–losing to the Sooners would probably be fatal to McCoy’s Heisman hopes, unless the other candidates in the running also slip up.  He should have the full attention of Heisman voters, as Texas-OU kicks off at noon ET, while Tim Tebow and Jimmy Clausen will be playing at the same time in the 3:30 ET time slot.  Simply put, this is McCoy’s chance to put his stamp on the race.

If McCoy gets past OU, then keeps putting up the kind of passing yardage he has so far, while adding a few four or five-touchdown games and keeping his interception rate low (and his team undefeated), he’ll win the Heisman.

2. Tim Tebow, Florida–Tebow’s Heisman hopes improved considerably thanks to his gutty performance in Florida’s win over LSU.  While he didn’t dominate statistically, he showed why he is so valuable to the nation’s No. 1 team.  Does Florida lose without Tebow?  Given the way the Gators played defensively, I’m not so sure, but having No. 15 in charge surely gave Florida a lot of confidence in such a hostile environment.

Tebow threw for 134 yards on 11 of 16 passing with one touchdown and one interception.  He also added 38 yards on 17 carries.   On the season, he has 777 passing yards, with seven touchdowns and two interceptions, plus 309 rushing yards and five touchdowns.  He is on pace to have about 2,000 passing yards, with 17 touchdown passes and five interceptions by the time of the Heisman vote (plus another 800 yards and 13 TDs on the ground). 

The main question with Tebow:  Can he win that elusive second Heisman while producing a season that is not clearly superior to the rest of the field?  Excluding option QB Eric Crouch, the last signal caller to win the Heisman without throwing at least 30 touchdown passes was Charlie Ward in 1993.  The last quarterback to win the Heisman while throwing  fewer than 20 touchdown passes (again excluding Crouch) was Geno Torretta in 1992.  Both Ward and Torretta won their Heismans absent serious challenges from players on traditional Heisman powers.  Tebow must contend with rivals from Texas (McCoy) and Notre Dame (Clausen), both of whom have a shot at hitting that 30-TD level (with both probably guaranteed of surpassing 20).  Both schools have the institutional power to siphon away Heisman votes from Tebow, which is why despite his superior name recognition and unrivaled reputation in the world of college football, his success in the race may depend less on what he does and more on what those other candidates don’t do.  If neither McCoy or Clausen come through, Tebow’s lack of numbers won’t matter as much.

3. Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame–Clausen and Notre Dame had a bye this past weekend, so he heads into the game against USC still leading the nation in passing efficiency.  Clausen has 1,544 passing yards with 12 touchdowns and two interceptions on the season.  He is on pace to have 3,706 passing yards with 29 touchdowns and five interceptions by the time of the Heisman vote.  In any other year, this would be a good season, but probably not enough to win the Heisman. 

However, the 2009 season has seen a marked decline in output by quarterbacks.  While seven passers topped the 35-touchdown pass mark in 2008 (with Sam Bradford having 48 when he won the Heisman), only one (Case Keenum) is on pace to surpass that in 2009.  So if Clausen keeps up his pace, his numbers could look very good relative to the competition.

Clausen is set up perfectly for a Heisman run.  Beat USC and then finish strong against five unranked teams and then Stanford (which could be ranked) and he’s got a great shot to win.  I think going 11-1 with a win over the Trojans will give Clausen a valid case to present to the voters.  But I don’t think a loss to USC will be forgiven, as the one knock on the Irish is that they haven’t beaten a good team in recent memory.  Clausen has that cross to bear and the burden won’t get any easier unless he leads Notre Dame to a win this Saturday. 

4. Jacory Harris, Miami–Harris threw for 217 yards with two touchdowns and two picks against Florida A&M this past Saturday.  On the season, he has 1,225 passing yards, with 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions.  He is on pace to have 2,940 yards, 24 touchdown passes and 17 interceptions by the time of the Heisman vote.

Harris’ game against Florida A&M was a missed opportunity to pile up the kind of numbers he needs to outshine his foes in the Heisman race.  Given his sophomore status, his case for the Heisman must be crystal clear.  That means Miami has to win out and Harris must have a season that is statistically head and shoulders above the other candidates.  At this point, I believe he needs to average 280 yards and 3 touchdowns per game (while keeping his interceptions at 10 or below) in his last seven games (all of which Miami must win) to have a shot at doing that.  Upping his pace to that level would give him about 3,300 yards and 33 touchdowns by the time of the Heisman vote.  Those numbers would contrast nicely with the other candidates and he’ll be able to say he brought Miami back.  Is it likely?  Probably not.  But I’d like to see how he does against UCF on Saturday before completely eliminating him from consideration. 

If the vote were held today:

1. Tim Tebow

2. Colt McCoy

3. Jimmy Clausen

4. Case Keenum

5. Tony Pike

6. Eric Berry

7. Jacquizz Rodgers

8. Jacory Harris

9. Ndamkong Suh

10. Mark Ingram

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About Heismanpundit

Chris Huston, A.K.A. ‘The Heisman Pundit‘, is a Heisman voter and the creator and publisher of, 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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5 Responses to The HP Heisman Watch

  1. tigercpa October 12, 2009 at 10:39 am #


    Tigernet has a good statistical comparison of various multi-threat players…Ismail, Howard, Bush, Brown, Spiller

  2. Choco October 14, 2009 at 7:20 am #

    In another post you asked why Tebow would win this season with low numbers when he didn’t win last season with low numbers. The answer is pretty simple — Tebow won the national championship last season and people realized he should have won the Heisman last season. No, the last season shouldn’t affect this season but it does. Clearly when Tebow won his Heisman in his sophomore year his role in helping the Gators win the championship the year before had a huge impact as well.

  3. Anonymous October 14, 2009 at 6:01 pm #

    I really don’t get this “Heisman race”. Is it not for the best player. I don’t see how it is Tebow. McCoy is not really putting up the numbers either. Please could we talk more about other players that are more important. I mean Pike looks pretty good. I think if anyone needs to be hyped up on the list it’s Suh. If you look at the numbers and what he does. The guy is the best in football right now. I know he’s a Def player. Big deal. Lets get our heads out of our you know what and make the Heisman a respectable award again. Make it available for all players.

  4. sandymex October 15, 2009 at 9:01 am #

    Here’s the case for Tebow (although he’s not at the top of my list right now):

    Tebow has persevered against adversity to keep the Gators on track to win a 3rd national championship in 4 years. Like Archie Griffin, Tebow has been the most marked man in college football. This year his receiving corps has suffered a series of injuries and illnesses leaving 1-3 field-ready receivers for an offense that requires 4-6 to function well. What’s more, the Gators can’t change their offense too much because they only have one experienced tight end.

    When 5’7″ Brandon James is forced to play wide receiver with almost no experience, you know the Gators are struggling. They’ve already dropped 5 TD passes this year (not counting Hernandez’ near catch against LSU). Despite all this the Gators are 6th in the nation in yards/game and Tebow is 3rd in the nation in passer rating. Thanks to Tebow the Gators only punted once against Tennessee and LSU and limited them to 8 and 9 possessions, respectively.

    Tebow has overcome illness and a concussion and is reaffirming his place as one of college football’s greatest leaders. All that being said, I think Tebow needs to win the SEC championship game to earn a 2nd Heisman.

  5. norman conquest October 16, 2009 at 12:06 pm #

    Tebow might be the most well-rounded, influential person in CFB this year/last decade…but his passing numbers leave too much to be desired at this point. His rating (165.9) is almost 15 points lower than Clausen’s (179.3). Tebow has thrown for 777 yards, 7 TD, 2 INT. Clausen has thrown for the same number of INTs but with 5 more TDs and over twice as many yards (also with a higher completion percentage). McCoy has almost twice as many yards as well with much a higher completion percentage at 73.4% (note McCoy’s rating is a mere 149.2% as his TD/INT ratio is a 10/6 (not good for his chances)).

    Argue the SEC is way stronger than anyone ND plays, but counter-argue this is a down year for the SEC as it is likely they will only have 3 teams in the top 25 after this week.

    Tebow can’t continue to put up these numbers and still win the award if Clausen does not level out or if McCoy becomes what he was last year.

    One thing needing to be underlined and highlighted 10 times over: You can’t take into consideration the struggling hands of the Gator WRs in the Heisman conversation. This award is for the best player in the nation, not a really terrific human being with struggling WRs.

    Sidenote: Keep in mind many can argue Harvin won the BCS game for Florida more than Tebow did last year. He probably should have been invited to NYC.