Heisman Nirvana

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.

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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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5 Responses to Heisman Nirvana

  1. Roby October 15, 2009 at 7:57 am #

    Reasons why Tebow will win:

    1. Clausen will lose this week. There is really no way around it. He is going to be harassed all day, and double his INT total. USC owns them. And if what HP says is right, that should eliminate Clausen.

    2. Mccoy has had zero success running the ball this season (34-58 1.7ypc). So his total yards and TDs won’t be much higher than Tebow’s (if they are at all). Also, because of Bradford’s injury (and subsequent 2 losses), Oklahoma is not as respected this season. Whether it’s fair or not, McCoy won’t get as much credit for beating a “down” Oklahoma squad.

    3. Voters are determined to give it to either McCoy or Tebow. Clausen, by virtue of being a Domer is the only other player who voters will truly consider, but see #1.

    4. There is no way that UF will steamroll through the whole season without needing Tebow to produce some points. Their defense is good, but it is not perfect. He will get his numbers by December.

    5. In games where the Gators badly overmatch their opponent, the defense is going to start forcing turnovers like last year. Thus, giving many short fields and quick scoring drives.

    6. Tebow came back from a nasty concussion that captivated the sports-watching nation for 2 weeks. In his first game back, he did something that no team has been able to in 32 tries. Say what you want about LSU’s stagnant offense, but winning in Death Valley in primetime is not easy (without completing a full practice, no less).

    7. Although this game (Arkansas) is a trap game, the Gators will be focused. There is no way they let another SEC West team come into the Swamp and do them dirty (for the 3rd straight year. Grrrrrr). Meyer is going to start every film session with clips from last year’s Ole Miss game. Bank on that.

  2. Anonymous October 15, 2009 at 2:52 pm #

    Wow Roby! Gaytor nutswinger much? Teblow is so overrated it’s not even funny. Not even close to Heisman worthy this year.

  3. Jeremy October 15, 2009 at 4:13 pm #

    . Tebow came back from a nasty concussion that captivated the sports-watching nation for 2 weeks. In his first game back, he did something that no team has been able to in 32 tries. Say what you want about LSU’s stagnant offense, but winning in Death Valley in primetime is not easy (without completing a full practice, no less).

    I think Arkansas beat LSU two years ago in Death Valley on primetime the day after Thanksgiving when LSU was #1.

  4. Roby October 15, 2009 at 5:50 pm #

    Whether you think Tebow is overrated or not, that doesn’t change the fact that every day for 13 straight days ESPN was following the “developing story” of Tebow’s concussion. They wouldn’t show it if people didn’t want to see it. And I guarantee you that there are plenty of Heisman voters who do their homework by watching Sportscenter and nothing more. I love the Gators. But, I wasn’t making a case for why Tebow should win (because I don’t think he’s earned it so far), I was laying out why he will. Big difference.

  5. corkdork October 15, 2009 at 7:01 pm #

    How do you think Keenum has to perform in order to raise his stock this weekend, given the marquee matchups?