That’s what it’s going to be like this Saturday, possibly the most important day on this season’s Heisman schedule.
Between Texas-Oklahoma, USC-Notre Dame and Florida-Arkansas, the action will include TWO current Heisman winners, THREE major candidates for the 2009 Heisman, an undetermined number of future Heisman challengers (among the various underclassmen on the rosters), and FIVE traditional Heisman powers with a combined 24 bronze statues to their credit (nearly 1/3 of all the winners).
I’m a West Coast guy, so after a hearty breakfast, I’ll get the Sooners and Longhorns at 9 a.m. I’m keeping a close eye on this one, because if Colt McCoy plays lights out, he could take control of the race.
What does he need to do for that to happen?
My gut tells me that to have his Heisman moment, he will need to be his usual accurate self (that means completing over 66 percent of his passes) while throwing for minimum 280 yards, with at least 3 touchdown strikes (or a combined 3 TDs running and passing) and no more than one interception. Some tough scrambles to convert some third downs would help, too.
I think if he sort of muddles along, playing unimpressively in a Texas victory, he won’t be completely out of the running, but he will have missed an opportunity to jump past Tim Tebow into the lead. He would have to make up a lot of ground against less-prestigious competition the rest of the way. Not an easy task.
If the Sooners win despite his playing well, McCoy’s candidacy will be on life support, entirely dependent on the misfortunes of others. And if his poor play costs his team the victory, his Heisman hopes will fade.
What about Jimmy Clausen?
His task on Saturday is tough. While Oklahoma and Texas are pretty evenly matched in the talent department, that is not the case with the Irish and the Trojans. Charlie Weiss is recruiting some studs to South Bend, but there is still a significant gap between the two programs, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
Clausen must go up against an extremely athletic USC defense that leads the nation in sacks and is second in tackles for loss . And he won’t have his best wide receiver (Michael Floyd) to go up against one of the best (and most physical) secondaries in college football.
In other words, if he can pull off this win over the Trojans, it will be quite the accomplishment. A Heisman-worthy accomplishment, to be exact.
Stranger things have happened, but I can’t foresee a scenario in which Notre Dame wins and Clausen does not play a great game. So, it’s simple. If the Irish win, Clausen becomes the leading Heisman candidate–regardless of what happens with McCoy earlier in the day.
If the Irish lose–regardless of how he plays–his Heisman quest will quietly peter out. The remaining schedule just won’t give him enough credibility to overcome the doubts that will linger on about his team. Even if the Irish win out, they might be considered the worst 10-2 team in recent memory. Is it possible that every other candidate slips up later in the schedule and Clausen somehow stays in contention with his stellar play? I suppose it’s possible, but highly unlikely.
Meanwhile, Tim Tebow must pick up the pace with his production. He’s got a shot to do that against a suspect Arkansas defense that is nonetheless coming off a better-than-expected performance against Auburn. He won’t be in the spotlight this week–Saturday belongs to McCoy and Clausen–but winning the Heisman requires that you quietly take care of business while voter eyes are mostly elsewhere.
I think throwing for a season-high in yards (237 is his current high) and touchdown passes (4) would be a good way to stay within striking distance in the Heisman race, even if one of the other candidates makes a major move. People need to look at his stat line after the game and say “Oh, Tebow is back!”
And, of course, he has to stay healthy and keep his Gators undefeated. I think he’ll have no problem doing that.
By this time next week, I think the Heisman race will make a lot more sense.