The penultimate Heismanpundit Straw Poll will be released early on Tuesday, or as soon as I receive a couple votes that are still straggling. I wanted everyone to make note of a couple things before we take the results and run with it:
1. Three candidates still have big games left to play. Robert Griffin III and Baylor host Texas, Montee Ball and Wisconsin take on Michigan State in the Big Ten championship tilt and Case Keenum and Houston will face Southern Mississippi in the C-USA title game. With about 90% of voters expected to vote after the final game, things could still shift one last time. As it is, this week’s poll is shaping up to be extremely close, making it unwise to call the race before these games are played.
2. Remember, while my final poll has been the most accurate Heisman poll in the last three years, it also tends to be more volatile than the Heisman electorate as a whole. This is why I add my own personal analysis to the mix, which takes into account the historical trends and traits of the 925 voters (as articulated in The 10 Heismandments), as well as my gut feel on which players are winning the PR battle across the six voting regions. This is why my own analysis is sometimes at odds with the poll results (though they usually converge at the end). That said, my panel of 13 voters is uniquely qualified to give us an accurate snapshot of what the electorate as a whole is thinking. It is comprised of beatwriters, regional columnists, national commentators and magazine editors from every region. Some have been voters for just a few years, while others have been voting for decades. They all take their vote seriously. In other words, it’s a pretty good microcosm of the larger pool of voters out there. I hope they can produce an accurate result once again when we poll for the final time next week (knock on wood).
3. I am especially curious about how the results will shake down this year because it is the third race of the Twitter Era and the events of the 2009 campaign are still fresh in my mind. That year, I picked Colt McCoy to win the Heisman in my final Heisman Watch, but my final poll picked Mark Ingram (with almost eerie accuracy). Where was my own analysis faulty? Well, I under-estimated the extent of Ndamukong Suh’s late-breaking support. I failed to gauge just how much his performance against Texas in the Big 12 title game ignited his once-dormant campaign on Twitter and (to a lesser extent) Facebook. It was all anyone and everyone was talking about. As it turned out, he surged enough to knock off McCoy in the Southwest Region–a defensive tackle beating the Texas QB, and in his home region of all things!–a feat that cost McCoy the Heisman in what turned out to be the closest race ever (people forget that, while Gerhart lost to Ingram by 28 points, McCoy was just 159 points behind Ingram in third. So a lot of Suh’s 815 points came at the expense of McCoy).
I think we are headed for a similarly dramatic and close race, with as many as three players having a legitimate shot at being named the winner when that nice gentleman from the Heisman Trust opens the envelope from Deloitte and Touche.
There’s a good chance the winner may not have the most first-place votes, which happened most recently in 2008 when Sam Bradford won and, before that, in 1978 when Billy Sims won.
Rest assured, there are a few more twists and turns to go. I am encouraged by the enthusiasm in the comments section and I hope everyone keeps it up. I’ll do my best to illuminate what’s actually happening in the race and, of course, this will be the place get all the best Heisman-on-the-spot coverage beginning next week when I’m in New York with my staff to cover the ceremony.
Now back to our regularly scheduled programming…