Some thoughts on this past weekend’s games and how it all affects the Heisman race…
– It’s a shame about LaMichael James dislocating his elbow against California. That certainly was a nasty image to see. I don’t think anyone watching didn’t jump out of their skin for a split second in response. Here’s to a quick recovery. As for James’ Heisman hopes, they are even more buried now than they were before since he’ll miss two or three games due to that injury. And, yes, despite his recent production, he has definitely lost a step, as shown by Cal linebacker Mychal Kendricks running him down in the open field. Two years ago, that doesn’t happen.
— Quick aside on the Ducks: I think I have them figured out. They are a team that does well when the sun is shining. By that, I mean that when everything is going according to plan and the pressure is off, they perform at a higher level than almost any other team in the country. But knock them off kilter a bit…and things get messy fast. Look at quarterback Darron Thomas as an example. When Oregon is winning by eight or more points–when things are going good, in other words–he completes 63 percent of his passes and has 10 touchdown tosses with no picks with an efficiency rating of 242. Close to half his yardage this season has come in this scenario. But when the Ducks are up by between 1 and 7 points–or when other teams are breathing down Oregon’s neck, in other words–he completes just 50 percent of his passes and his rating plunges to 164. When Oregon is tied or losing by 1-7 points, his efficiency rating takes a nose dive to 113. In fact, his overall passer rating when tied or behind is just 96.5. Good for the NFL, bad for college football.
The point is that the Ducks are a team that can be quite ordinary when knocked off rhythm (though unstoppable when in the groove). I don’t think Oregon will become an elite program–or beat an elite program–until it can solve this problem.
— You can tuck away Marcus Lattimore’s Heisman hopes for another year, too. To win the trophy as a running back from a school like South Carolina, you have to have either excellent career numbers capped by a brilliant senior season (a la George Rogers) or a remarkable single season that blows the competition away. While Lattimore is on his way to a fine year, I doubt it will be good enough to overcome the kind of seasons about to be had by the front runners in this race.
— Tyrann Mathieu will not win the Heisman. He won’t. But, he can get to New York. And for a defensive player, that’s quite an accomplishment. In the meantime, it’s seems remarkable that he’s not actually leading the nation in forced fumbles.
— There are several scenarios that grab the attention of Heisman voters. There is the ‘redemption/comeback’ scenario, where a player finally makes good after a rough start to his career (Troy Smith, Jason White, Carson Palmer). There is the ‘rock star’ scenario, where a player who is highly touted from the beginning completely fulfills his destiny to everyone’s wonderment (Herschel Walker, Ricky Williams, Reggie Bush, Tim Tebow). Then there is the ‘Return to Glory’ scenario whereby a player, through his performance, helps to bring about the revival of a once-great program (John Huarte, Palmer, Mark Ingram). It’s this last scenario that fits Denard Robinson pretty well. He hasn’t been as sharp as last season, but his numbers are still pretty good and, more importantly, his team is winning again. Get by Michigan State this weekend and the return to glory scenario might not be that preposterous. Looking at the remaining six games on the schedule, they are all winnable. But what if the Wolverines go 11-1, win the Big Ten and Robinson has 1,500 rushing yards, 2,000 passing yards and 40 total touchdowns? Robinson would be on his way to NYC at a bare minimum.
— The Twitterati were complaining last week about how Andrew Luck. Why, they asked, is he the front runner in the Heisman race when he is, like, ninth in passing efficiency? He sucks! Well, don’t look now, but he’s up to third this week, just behind Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III. It’s a marathon, folks, not a sprint.
— Let’s look at where the top five candidates project out, stat-wise, at this moment:
Andrew Luck (assuming 13 regular-season games): 3,588 passing yards, 36 TDs, 5 INTs, 156 rushing yards, 2 TDs
Russell Wilson (assuming 13 regular-season games): 3,614 passing yards, 34 TDs, 3 INTs, 364 rushing yards, 5 TDs
Trent Richardson (assuming 13 regular-season games): 1,586 rushing yards, 24 TDs, 28 receptions, 2 TDs
Robert Griffin III (assuming 12 regular-season games): 3,648 passing yards, 46 TDs, 2 INTs, 672 rushing yards, 5 TDs
Kellen Moore: 3,336 passing yards, 41 TDs, 10 INTs
Assuming Stanford, Wisconsin and Alabama make their conference title games (and assuming Baylor does not), we have five pretty good seasons to choose from if everyone stays on pace. All these seasons could arguably be considered Heisman worthy, although the performances of their teams will certainly render these numbers more (or less) meaningful.
Games to watch this weekend: Michigan at Michigan State; Baylor at Texas A&M. Potentially critical moments for two great quarterbacks.
Four names to think about in 2012: Lamar Miller, Michael Dyer, Nathan Scheelhaase, Keith Price