The home stretch…
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 some support, just not enough to win.
So, here is the HP Heisman Watch after 12 weeks of football. The list remains stuck at 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 a good week for Newton, even though he didn’t play. That’s because the previous week’s din over the allegations against him seemed to die down a bit. The whiff of scandal still exists, but it’s not dominating the coverage like it was before. Some voters–maybe as much as 20 percent–have dropped him from their ballots, but the vast majority appear to be giving him the benefit of the doubt. He has two games left in which to leave an impression. The big tilt against Alabama on Thanksgiving Friday will be watched by much of the country. Obviously, a poor performance in a loss to the Tide would complicate things. It might give those voters who were reluctantly behind Newton enough cover to pick another candidate. But if Auburn wins, Newton will remain the favorite regardless of how he plays. At this point, voters already know he’s an exceptional player and if he can merely lead his team to a win–which would after all give Auburn an undefeated regular season–he’ll get a lot of the credit. Should he muster up an amazing performance against Alabama, we’ll be able to pretty much declare this race for Newton. Barring any action by Auburn or the NCAA, or a disastrous game against the Tide, he appears to be a shoo-in for the Heisman.
Current Stats: 135/198 (68.2%), 2,038 yds, 21 TDs, 6 INTs, 183.58 rtg; 206 att, 1,297 rush yds (6.3 ypc), 17 TDs
Projected Season Stats*: 2,408 passing yds, 25 TDs, 8 INTs; 1,534 rush yds, 21 TDs
2. Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State–I don’t think Moore’s candidacy could have gone much better than it has. He opened the season with a dramatic game-winning drive over Virginia Tech. His team tore through its schedule with ease–just as it was supposed to. Moore leads the nation in passing efficiency and has excellent numbers. He has completed at least 70 percent of his passes in eight straight games. He’s been showcased on national television almost every week and his Broncos are undefeated and still have a shot at a BCS title game berth. Oh, and the seemingly unbeatable front runner has NCAA issues that could yet fester and sink his candidacy. All in all, things are going swimmingly. This past week, Moore continued his impressive play by hitting 27 of 38 passes for 333 yards and four touchdowns with one pick. But the ultimate dream scenario has a chance to come about on Friday. That’s because the nation will be treated to a back-to-back-to-back smorgasbord of Heisman candidates. After Alabama-Auburn comes Oregon-Arizona and then Boise State versus a ranked Nevada team. What if either Auburn or Oregon go down, leaving the door open for Boise State to possibly move into position for a BCS title game berth with an impressive win over the Wolfpack? The whole college football world will stay up to watch and that could give Moore the stage he needs to show he’s the best pick for the Heisman (especially if Auburn loses). I have a feeling it will be a momentous day, regardless of the outcome.
Current Stats: 201/280 (71.8%), 2,921 yds, 28 TDs, 5 INTs, 188.85 rtg
Projected Season Stats*: 3,504 passing yards, 34 TDs, 6 INTs
3. LaMichael James, RB, Oregon–The byproduct of all the hype over the Newton allegations as well as the focus on Boise State’s upstart BCS aspirations is that not many people are talking up James for the Heisman right now. He still leads the nation in rushing and he’s likely to finish in that spot, but he hasn’t been that impressive in his last two games, averaging just 106 rushing yards and 3.9 yards per carry. However, there is still some time to make a late surge. The Ducks take on a ranked Arizona team on Friday, with their matchup coming not long after the Alabama-Auburn game concludes. It will be a great opportunity for Heisman voters to compare the candidates side-by-side, with all the performances still fresh in their minds. If Newton lays an egg against Bama, James can really make up a lot of ground in the race by going off against the Wildcats shortly after. I think that James needs to crack the 200 yard barrier one more time this season in order to have a shot at winning and there’s no better time to do it than against Arizona.
Current Stats: 225 att, 1,422yards, 17 TDs, 6.32 ypc; 10 catches, 149 yards, 1 TD
Projected Season Stats*: 1,738 yards, 22 TDs; 13 catches, 200 yards, 2 TDs
*–Denotes projected stats at time of the Heisman vote
If the vote were held today
1. Cameron Newton
2. Kellen Moore
3. LaMichael James
4. Andrew Luck
5. Denard Robinson
6. Terrelle Pryor
7. Justin Blackmon
8. Andy Dalton
9. Ryan Mallett
10. Tyrod Taylor