Eight weeks into the season, Auburn’s Cameron Newton is the front runner to win the 2010 Heisman Trophy.
Playing well in big games in front of big audiences is the key to winning the Heisman and his performance against LSU has lifted his candidacy above the others in the race. Now, the trophy is his to lose.
Newton is a unique figure in college football: He combines Vince Young’s size and escapability with Tim Tebow’s power running and toughness. He’s not particularly refined as a passer, but he doesn’t need to be. But when he does pass, he’s efficient, as his 172.08 passer rating attests.
At this rate, he would be the first quarterback since Eric Crouch of Nebraska in 2001 to win the Heisman primarily because of his running ability. Here’s a look at his O.J.-like run through the LSU defense:
It’s this kind of run that is quickly cementing his status as a legend at Auburn, even if he is (essentially) eight games into his college career.
There are two other candidates in this race: Oregon’s LaMichael James and Boise State’s Kellen Moore. Barring a late-season surge by another candidate (or an unforeseen drop by the current ones), Newton, James and Moore look to be the three finalists heading to New York.
Newton’s path to the Heisman is somewhat favorable. The Tigers play Ole Miss, Chattanooga and Georgia in the next three weeks. I don’t think these teams will have much success in stopping him or Auburn, which means there could be an end-of-season showdown for all the marbles against Alabama on Nov. 26, a Thanksgiving Friday, with the whole country watching.
By then, it’s possible that Newton will have built up such a body of work, that a good performance in a loss might still snag him the Heisman. Obviously, a win over the Tide would clinch it, not only because of the accolades and glory that would arise from beating a respected rival, but also because it would send Auburn to the SEC title game and give Newton another game to add to an already-impressive season resume.
Besides injury or a dropoff in performance, who or what can stop Newton from winning the Heisman?
The answer to that is James and Alabama. The nation’s leading rusher has a marquee matchup at USC next Saturday. If he comes up big in that game, he’ll be able to keep pace with Newton. The race and the ensuing debate the rest of the season would probably boil down to: Newton or James?
As for Alabama, if the Tide defense completely shuts down Newton in that final game, sending the Tide to the SEC title game, then that opens the door for James or possibly Moore to win.
But given his most recent performance and the hype that has come out of it, Newton holds all the cards in this race. It would take a major stumble on his part or an unexpected Auburn loss for him to be knocked from his perch before that final matchup with ‘Bama.