LaMichael James Builds His Case

Even though Cameron Newton remains the Heisman front runner, there’s no doubt that LaMichael James made up a considerable amount of ground with his 239-yard, 3-touchdown performance against USC on Saturday.

Beating the Trojans or playing for the Trojans always helps in the Heisman race and James is sure to reap some immediate benefit with voters.  There should be significant movement toward James this week, which is likely to come at the expense of Kellen Moore’s candidacy.

That’s because voters have been presented with a clear choice between a rare athlete playing the quarterback position who appears to be able to do it all (pass, run…and catch!) and a diminutive speedster at tailback who leads the nation in rushing and scoring and is the main cog in the nation’s most fearsome offensive machine.  While Moore’s numbers are sterling all around, he lacks the pizzazz of the other two.  At this point, he’s probably a distant third (though almost assuredly heading to New York).

I think it is noteworthy that all three players have their teams undefeated at this point in the season.  The last time the top three players in the Heisman vote played for three different undefeated teams was…never (research pending)?  What more could Heisman voters wish for?

But does James really have a chance to overtake Newton?

I think so.  It looks to me like the gap has been narrowed enough to where Newton will probably have to lead Auburn to a win over Alabama in order to be able to hold off the surging James, who has come through with extraordinary efforts against the two ranked teams he has faced (248 yards per game).

Prior to the USC game, I felt Newton could probably play well in a loss to the Tide and still win the Heisman.  But now that James has his own signature win as a counterbalance, I believe the deciding factor between the two could be which team makes it to the BCS title game.  If both players keep playing well and Oregon makes it and Auburn does not, then I think James wins the Heisman.  If both teams make it, or just Auburn, then Newton wins.

Voters will have a tough choice ahead of them.  James could very well kick it into high gear in his remaining four games and end up topping the magical 2,000-yard mark despite missing the opener.  Meanwhile, Newton is on pace to throw for over 2,000 yards and rush for 1,500.  You don’t see that every day…because it’s never happened. 

Newton also has the mega-matchup with the Tide to help put him over the top, but there’s a chance the Bama defense slows him down, too.  James won’t draw the same level of hype as he closes out his schedule, but he will take on what could be a top 10 Arizona team (if the Wildcats beat Stanford) and then pesky rival Oregon State.  So the opportunities are there for James to make up some ground.

Last week at this time it looked like Cam Newton had a chance to run away with the Heisman.  Throw that thought out the window for the time being.

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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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14 Responses to LaMichael James Builds His Case

  1. Smogs November 1, 2010 at 9:43 am #

    Why is Cam Newton gettin all the praise for his potential at 2000 and 1500 yards. The SEC has only 1 other proven team in Alabama. LSU has had a weak scheduale and barley got by alot. D. Robinson from Michigan is lookin 2000 and 2000 right in the eyes. The Big Ten is much tougher and if Robinson was not out there Michigan would be gettin blown out every game. They may lose but at least they are in the game!!!

  2. Sean November 1, 2010 at 10:50 am #

    What about the off the field bit- given how its hurt previous contenders- most notably Peter Warrick in 1999 arguably Warren Sapp his senior year (though as a defensive player it was an uphill struggle for Sapp even prior to the allegations of drug use)- and how much flack teams have gotten for underplaying domestic violence issues (see Florida and Chris Rainey)- what are the chances that James is hurt by his off-the-field behavior? (Something that was quite notably far more serious than what Chris Rainey was accused of)

  3. Sean November 1, 2010 at 10:55 am #

    Smogs- simple really- almost no one would agree with you “Big 10 is much tougher” proposition- and until bowl season such a proposition is unprovable. Between that and the losses Robinson just isn’t going to get much credit- frankly, I’m not sure where you get your “Big 10 is much better” schpiel anyway- by your own standards only Ohio State is a proven team (LSU while shaky would seem to have a resume comparable to any Big 10 team outside of OSU, heck Arkansas might have a resume comparable to any non-OSU or MSU team). Finally, the QB for the #1 team in the country is always going to get more credit than the QB of an unranked team- see Troy Smith in 2006- where his largely pedestrian numbers (notably worse than any QB to win since him- and along with Eric Crouch’s the worse numbers of any winner in recent memory).

  4. Tony November 1, 2010 at 11:45 am #

    Well, although I am an Oregon die-hard, Cam Newton is awesome! I am of course pulling for LaHeisman, but I have to give respect to Newton and would not feel the bit least slighted should he win the Heisman. What a great national championship game that would be, 2 Heisman hopefuls and 2 great teams! I have know idea what Smogs is talking about when it comes to the strength of the big ten? The big ten doesn’t come remotely close to the SEC, outside of OSU. This year the only conference close to the SEC is the PAC 10. Don’t get me wrong Robinson is a great player, but as it already has been proven, put him up against big physical defenses every Saturday he most defiantly couldn’t take it. Cam Newton & LaMicheal James have already proven they can. Sean must be a Michigan fan? No disrespect Smogs and wish you & Michigan the best of luck! PS Sean although I disagree with domestic violence whole halfheartedly and shouldn’t be tolerated, he paid the price with his suspension and should be judged for what he does on the field. You also have to look at his character compared to Sapp & Rainey, he is a good kid that made a mistake and paid the price for it.

  5. Tony November 1, 2010 at 11:47 am #

    oops I meant smogs must be a Michigan fan!

  6. Smogs November 1, 2010 at 12:30 pm #

    I jus think the SEC is way down from what it has been in the past. Florida is nowhere close to where it is. Arkansas with Mallett is tough but all the SEC has is Aurburn and Alabama. LSU will falter later this year mark my word.

  7. Smogs November 1, 2010 at 12:33 pm #

    Also i would say James is very impressive probably the most exciting running back since Bush. The Pac 10 is tough and deep. If the season were to end today my Heisman would go like this
    1. LaMichael James
    2. D. Robinson
    3. Kellen Moore
    4. Cam Newton
    5. Andrew Luck

  8. Chris November 1, 2010 at 12:47 pm #

    HP said: “James could very well kick it into high gear in his remaining four games and end up topping the magical 2,000-yard mark DESPITE MISSING THE OPENER.”

    It’s hilarious to see HP spin LaStrangle’s suspension for assault as an asset to his candidacy. The only asset was the shamefully short length of the suspension.

    Rainey sent an out-of-character text message and served a 5 game suspension. LaStrangle gave his girlfriend an out-of-character beating and only served a 1 game suspension.

  9. Alfonzo S. Tangerine November 1, 2010 at 6:12 pm #

    Typical Pac-10 homerism. Of course, tearing up a really bad Southern Cal team is just the ticket–if you’re a Left Coast yahoo.

    Time to tune this site right back out…

  10. Kirk November 1, 2010 at 8:06 pm #

    Smogs, I’m neither an SEC or Big Ten guy, but your comments come off as pretty crazy to anybody who pays attention to college football. Just for neutrality sake, look at Sagarin’s conference and individual rankings. SEC is ahead of Big 10, and the Sagarin predictor has Arkansas favored over every team in the Big 10 except Ohio State (on a neutral field). Auburn has beaten 3 teams (Arkansas, South Carolina, and LSU) that are better than anyone Michigan has played, with the possible exception of Iowa (and, yes, I have actually watched all of those teams play this season). You could make the case the Big Ten and SEC are about equal. You could make a strong case that the SEC is better. I don’t see how you can possibly make the case that the Big Ten is at all tougher, much less “much tougher.”

  11. Kirk November 1, 2010 at 8:09 pm #

    Correction to my Arkansas comment – Predictor has them over everyone except Ohio State and Iowa.

  12. Ted November 1, 2010 at 10:43 pm #

    it was 2005 when the top 3 candidates were all on undefeated teams. Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart, and Vince Young.

  13. Heismanpundit November 2, 2010 at 2:19 am #

    Good catch Ted.

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