Now for my weekly list of the players who currently stand the best chance of actually winning the Heisman. This is not a predicted order of the final vote, nor the order of how the vote would go if held today. Some players not on this list are likely to receive support, but not enough to win.
So, here is the HP Heisman Watch after 10 weeks of football. We are down to three players. Barring injury, or NCAA issues, all three of them will make it to New York, but just one will win the 2010 Heisman:
1. Cameron Newton, QB, Auburn–It was an interesting week, to say the least, for Newton. As we all know, he’s currently under investigation for an alleged pay-for-play scheme that occurred during his recruitment. At this point, no one outside of the principals involved really know how it is going to turn out. A few days ago, I did a random sampling of Heisman voters and, of the six voters surveyed, one has decided not to vote for Newton due to the investigation, another is showing some wobbliness over it and the other four appear to want to give him the benefit of the doubt until the facts emerge. While this is not the most scientific survey, it may well reflect a weakening of his position relative to the field. The real question remains: If the investigation continues through the voting period, how many ballots will this affect? It’s hard to tell right now, but I think it’s going to have some impact on the vote if it’s not resolved quickly. If more detrimental facts emerge without a final resolution, his candidacy may incur considerable damage. It certainly doesn’t hurt that’s he continues to light it up on the field. Against hapless foe Chattanooga this past Saturday, Newton threw for 317 yards and 4 touchdowns in just one half of play. He also added 24 rushing yards and a score. His ground game has slowed down in recent weeks and he now projects to fall just short of the magical 1,500-yard rushing mark which would make him college football’s first 2,000/1,500 man. But he plays for an undefeated team vying for the national title and he’s got a mega matchup with Alabama on the horizon and, possibly, the SEC title game as well. So, despite his NCAA troubles, Newton still is a solid bet to come through it all and win the Heisman…though the race is looking a LOT closer than it did a week ago.
Current Stats: 123/183 (67.2%), 1,890 yds, 19 TDs, 5 INTs, 182.77 rtg; 176 att, 1,146 rush yds (6.51 ypc), 15 TDs
Projected Season Stats*: 2,457 passing yds, 25 TDs, 7 INTs; 1,490 rush yds, 20 TDs
2. LaMichael James, RB, Oregon–It was the second good week in a row for James, who continues to chip away at Newton’s lead, though this time due more to the fallout from the ongoing NCAA investigation than anything that happened on the field. It only stands to reason that James might benefit if Newton gets hit hard by the scandal, though how much exactly is unclear at the moment. It’s not like James hasn’t proven to be a worthy alternative in this race. He had another strong outing against Washington, rushing for 121 yards and three touchdowns while catching another three balls for 19 yards. James leads the nation in rushing yards per game by a healthy 17 yards over his nearest competitor–only Donald Brown (2008) and LaDanian Tomlinson (2000) achieved larger gaps since 2000, with both gaining an average of 18 yards more than the No. 2 player nationally. Obviously, James still has a chance to top that and three more games to close the remaining gap between him and Newton. If he finishes strong, he’s got a shot.
Current Stats: 196 att, 1,331 yards, 17 TDs, 6.8 ypc; 8 catches, 138 yards, 1 TD
Projected Season Stats*: 1,830 yards, 23 TDs; 11 catches, 190 yards, 2 TDs
3. Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State–Some players know exactly when to turn it on and Moore is one of them. He threw for a career-high 507 yards against Hawaii, while adding three touchdowns on 30 of 37 passing. Surprisingly, he also threw two interceptions and he now has three in the last two games after having just four in his previous 20. He still leads the nation in passing efficiency at 192.38 and is on pace to break the NCAA record in that category. Moore has four games left, but only one of them–a Friday night tilt against Nevada–stands to garner much attention. It will take a lot for Moore to break out of his third-place position, though it certainly helps him that Newton is under investigation. It could be that some voters who drop Newton will lean toward a quarterback rather than a running back. It also might help that, unlike both his competitors, he doesn’t have an arrest record, though this seems unlikely to be highlighted much in the media. His Heisman hopes parallel his team’s BCS title game hopes. Both are longshots at this point, but not out of the question.
Current Stats: 155/216 (71.8%), 2,372 yds, 21 TDs, 4 INTs, 192.38 rtg
Projected Season Stats*: 3,564 passing yards, 32 TDs, 6 INTs
*–Denotes projected stats at time of the Heisman vote
If the vote were held today
1. Cameron Newton
2. LaMichael James
3. Kellen Moore
4. Terrelle Pryor
5. Andrew Luck
6. Denard Robinson
7. Andy Dalton
8. Ricky Stanzi
9. Justin Blackmon
10. Darron Thomas