This, that and the other thing…
—I think it’s wonderful that LSU is pushing Patrick Peterson for the Heisman. He’s a great player and he clearly wants the trophy, which is always nice to see. But let’s not pretend he has a chance to actually win this thing. CBSSportsline recently wrote that Peterson is ‘the most dynamic player in college football since Charles Woodson’. My, we have short memories, don’t we? The other thing that people tend to ignore is that Woodson won his Heisman because he played offense in addition to returning punts and playing defense. Furthermore, he starred for a traditional Heisman power that finished undefeated and won the national championship. He also benefited from the media’s fatigue over Peyton Manning. So there were some very unique circmstances that led to Woodson winning. I don’t think the scenarios in place today will do much to boost Peterson’s hopes.
—The media is equally off the mark when it comes to Mark Ingram’s chances of winning. The defending Heisman winner is definitely back in the race, but only to the extent that he can influence the outcome rather than actually win it. How soon people forget how close he came to not even winning the Heisman last year, when a very specific set of circumstances worked in his favor, namely: (1) General sympathy for the idea of an Alabama player finally winning the trophy (2) A general perception that the consensus preseason favorites had been somewhat lackluster in their performances (3) Alabama crushing an undefeated, Tebow-led Florida team in the SEC title game and (4) Ndamukong Suh draining votes from Colt McCoy in his home region, costing the Texas quarterback the Heisman. Even with all that, Ingram won by the closest margin in Heisman history over a running back from an 8-4 school renowned for nerdery. And now he has missed the first two games of this season. Despite how great he is as a player, this goes to my point that there is just so much that has to go right to win the Heisman even once. For it to all fall into place a second time…is wishful thinking.
—I’ve also seen stories that suggest Denard Robinson’s Heisman hopes will falter because Michigan just isn’t that good. But the model for Robinson’s run is Tim Tebow, not Eric Crouch. The Florida Gators of 2007 were hardly a title contender. They had real problems on defense and Tebow was perceived as a one-man show. But when you are a one-man show, you don’t get blamed for woeful displays by your defense. On the contrary, you get more credit because the resulting pressure to produce on offense is even greater and when you win you are seen as having bucked the odds. In the end, Tebow won the Heisman despite not playing for a great team because he put up extraordinary individual numbers that blew away any argument against his candidacy. Provided he stays healthy and keeps producing, this will be the same justification for Robinson’s trophy run. Should he rush for 2,000 yards (or perhaps a bit less, while still leading the nation) and also pass for 2,000, then it will matter little if Michigan is 8-4, or even 7-5.
—Imagine if the team picked in the preseason to finish eighth in the SEC had rolled into Austin, Texas, and beaten a No. 7 Texas team by 22 points. Do you think we would’ve heard anything about how that was indicative of the depth and dominance of the SEC? You bet your grits we would have. But it wasn’t an SEC team that did this, it was a Pac-10 team. And when a lower division Pac-10 team does something like this, it is merely an isolated incident, just a hiccup in the continuum. Or because the team that lost was overrated anyway. Nothing to see here….move along.
—The Wildcat is soooo 2008. The Pistol is the new craze in college football. Every Saturday, I watch upwards of 20 to 22 games, sitting on my bar stool at Barney’s Beanery in Westwood, the best sports bar in the LA area. And the more I watch, the more I see this formation being used. Some teams like Hawaii have certain packages that feature it, while others–like Alabama– tend to primarily run out of it (Mark Ingram is thriving in the formation). Then there are the teams that run it full throttle–Indiana, UCLA and, of course, Nevada. We saw what Nevada, a team with little talent, was able to do to California a couple weeks ago. And the formation helped enable a rag-tag group of UCLA linemen to push around a Texas defensive line that probably has five or six first-day NFL picks in its two deep (obvious note: if you are a defender and you don’t know where the play is going, you tend to be at a crucial disadvantage, no matter how talented you are). The benefits are clear: It provides a shot gun look while still allowing for downhill running without telegraphing the direction of the run, as in a normal shotgun with an offset back. Unlike the Wildcat, the quarterback gets his hands on the ball first, allowing for more passing options. And preparing for the Pistol is difficult–not many teams run it, so most defensive players haven’t absorbed its concepts yet. At some point, there will be a counter to it, but the Pistol is in that ‘sweet spot’ where, when executed correctly with the right players, it is practically unstoppable.