About Heismanpundit

Chris Huston, A.K.A. ‘The Heisman Pundit‘, is a Heisman voter and the creator and publisher of Heismanpundit.com, 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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The 2005 Heismanpundit Preseason Top 10 Candidate List

Here’s a look at who we think has the best shot of actually winning the Heisman this season. This is NOT the predicted order of the voting at season’s end. Some players may go to New York or get significant amounts of votes who never appear on this list. We will provide quick blurbs on each player here, but go into greater detail on their Heisman chances later.

THE BIG THREE: The first three on this list are, in our opinion, head and shoulders ahead of the rest in terms of all that is required to win the Heisman.

1. Reggie Bush, All-Purpose Tailback, USC

Advantages: He’s a junior tailback on the No. 1 team in the country, which happens to be a traditional power. The USC tailback position carries a lot of weight in Heisman voting–the last Trojan tailback to win was Marcus Allen in 1981, so voters may feel it’s time to bring back the old-time mystique. Bush has incredible name recognition, has been on the covers of several magazines this past summer (including Sports Illustrated) and was considered by many to be the best player in the country last year. He is the only returning Heisman finalist from last season whose candidacy can’t potentially be derailed by a Heismandment–unlike Adrian Peterson, he is an upperclassman; unlike Matt Leinart, he’s not going for a second award. He will get plenty of chances to put up big numbers in big games on TV and is a likeable young man to boot. He excels at several positions, so the understanding is that he is an all-purpose player, thus absolving him of some statistical benchmarks. Of all the candidates out there, he has the best chance to make the highlight shows, since he gets the ball in so many ways. Lastly, quarterbacks have won the last five trophies–is it a running back’s turn?

Disadvantages: He is not a full-time player at tailback and so may not get as many opportunities as he needs. He shares the limelight with Matt Leinart and may share some votes. Will the voters get USC fatigue? Can they give it to three Trojans in four years? History suggests it’s not likely to happen.

2. Chris Leak, Quarterback, Florida

Advantages: He’s a junior quarterback on a high-profile team that could very well be in national title contention. He’ll get plenty of chances to put up big numbers in big games on TV. He has excellent name recognition and has put up impressive numbers to date. He will be playing in a system that produced last year’s top NFL draft pick, so it could very well make for a very successful season for him. If the Gators win the SEC and go undefeated (which we expect), then he will be considered the prime reason for it. He is also very likeable and will do well with the media.

Disadvantages: His Heisman hopes are especially captive to how well his team performs. If the Gators disappoint, he has no shot. But if they look impressive while he puts up big numbers, he will be right in there at the end. It all depends on how soon the Gators digest Urban Meyer’s system.

3. Vince Young, Quarterback, Texas

Advantages: He’s a junior quarterback on a traditional power that is considered a national title contender. He’ll have a couple huge games early to establish his Heisman credentials. There’s even a chance that he can wrap up the trophy early with big games in wins over Ohio State and Oklahoma. He’s coming off a huge Rose Bowl game last season and so his name recognition has really skyrocketed over the summer. He appears to be a likeable guy and his recent story in Sports Illustrated shed a lot of light on his personal history. He’ll get 1,000 yards both rushing and passing. He is not perceived as a great passer, so any improvement there will be overmagnified and be to his benefit.

Disadvantages: If the Longhorns don’t beat both Ohio State and Oklahoma, Young will get the blame. That means that while he could conceivably clinch the Heisman early, he could also be out of the race very early as well. Will the voters be reticent about voting for another Big 12 quarterback after getting burned by Eric Crouch and Jason White?

We feel that the Heisman is very likely to go to one of the above three. Nonetheless, there is another group of players who will, should all of the Big Three falter, get serious consideration. They are:

THE DARKHORSES

4. Reggie McNeal, Quarterback, Texas A&M
5. Drew Tate, Quarterback, Iowa
6. Brady Quinn, Quarterback, Notre Dame
7. Maurice Drew, Running Back, UCLA
8. Lawrence Maroney, Running Back, Minnesota

It would take something magical and amazing for someone from the above group to break into serious consideration for the top spot. There is another group–an elite group, if you will–that has its own shot. We’re talking about two players who may well have a rendezvous with destiny. They are:

THOSE AIMING TO MAKE HISTORY

9. Adrian Peterson, Running Back, Oklahoma
10. Matt Leinart, Quarterback, USC

Just to be clear, both of these great players have Heismandments that apply to them. In Peterson’s case, he is an underclassman. Heismandment No. 2 states very clearly that the winner must be a junior or senior. Certainly, there is still that chance that History can be made, which is why we go against our own rules and put Peterson here. The same applies to Leinart. Heismandment No. 9 says there will be no more two-time Heisman winners. Granted, many are calling him the preseason favorite, but we think he’s more likely to finish in the top 3 or so and not actually win it. Nonetheless, we put him here because we do not deny the possibility that History may intrude and call for a realignment of the Heismandments.

We’ll go into greater detail on all of these great players in the next week or so.

In the meantime, stap on your seatbelts. Once again, it should be an amazing race for the most prestigious award in sports.

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One Last Aside Before Taking The Plunge

The HP top 10 candidate list is on deck, but before I put it up, I thought it valuable to recap some things happening in a great commentary thread down below in the post titled more EDSBS.

The best arguments come from someone named John Q. Public, and here are some of them:

I never said that the SEC utterly refuses to test itself in OOC play, only that they don’t do so nearly as much as some other conferences. Look at it this way, if the Pac-10 teams played BCS opponents at the same rate as the SEC, they would have played approx. 48 BCS teams over that timespan. That’s 20 less than they actually did. That’s a HUGE difference. I don’t why bowl games would matter here as we are talking about scheduling practices.

Teams generate revenue by playing home games, not away games. The exception to this is when a big wealthy program pays for a smaller one to come play a game at their home with no return trip (again, see Oregon State and LSU). If Pac-10 teams were only interested in generating revenue with their schedules, then the bigger programs would adopt an SEC mentality and try to play more home games than away games each season, and the smaller programs would seek paydays to come play elsewher and likely not play home games OOC. As it is, every Pac-10 team tries to play 6 games at home, and 6 on the road. As for the SEC, if their interest lied primarily in making money and not in avoiding tough teams, then why would they not seek to buy out more teams like Oregon State, average but dangerous BCS teams that would accept cash instead of a return trip? The answer is that their primary concern is the win, not the money.

Regardless, the reason why the SEC schedules softer teams than the Pac-10’s is mostly irrelevant. The only important fact is that they do, and that this should be taken into consideration when rating the conferences’ teams.

Conference play always adds up to a zero sum. It is impossible to judge the strength of conferences by comparing how their respective teams fared in conference play. That should be obvious. Besides, to justify such a claim the SEC would have to be absolutely dominant against the other BCS conferences, and it isn’t.

The following entries came in response to SEC honk I’m a Realist:

The only exception would be, IMO, the BCS bowls. They are an effective measure because only the very top teams from each conference are invited. Of course, they are only of measure of the best teams of a given conference, and not of the conference as a whole.

Any conference analysis should include EVERY member of that conference. Now, you seem to be talking about head-to-head matchups between conferences, and I would agree that when a top team from one conference beats a bottom team from another it skews statistics. However, you are rarely going to get matchups against teams of equal stature within their conferences facing off, unless they’re two top teams. Therein lies the difficulty and inaccuracy when trying to compare conferences objectively. Besides, at some point you would have to subjectively determine which games be counted, and that leaves room for bias to enter into the equation.

The point of this discussion is not to elevate other conferences above the SEC, only to bring the SEC back down to earth. The SEC may very well be the best conference, however I am of the belief that if it is then the distance between it and every other BCS conference is minimal. Similarly, the Pac-10 may well be the worst BCS conference other than the Big East, but again, the distance between it and the others is minimal at best. Again, I think the facts support this assertion.

I recognize that schedules do not determine the strength of any team or conference, and people in every other sport realize this. However, in college football the vast majority of teams do not play one another in any given year, and so we get these terrible attempts to compare teams and conferences based on very little evidence. Without any actual results to rely on, many fans and pundits base their opinions on ‘conventional wisdom’. Thus, an SEC team with a good record is generally considered to be better than a Pac-10 team of equal record, no matter who they’ve played. With their scheduling practices, more SEC teams have inflated records, which leads to seemingly more impressive wins, which leads to more rankings, which leads to even more impressive wins, et cetera. It’s circular logic, and before you know it the SEC has built a reputation as a strong conference based entirely on what its teams have done in conference. This does not make it better or worse, just unproven. However, the media always seems to give the SEC the benefit of the doubt where it won’t give it to other conferences.

Bravo to John Q. on this one. Interestingly, he seems to have shut up his detractors, who are clearly unable to respond to his logic.

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On Tap….

Just a brief entry today….things to look for in the next couple days:

–We’ve been preparing the rollout for Collegefootballpundit.com, which should be out shortly. It will deal with college football in general, while Heismanpundit will continue its focus on the Heisman.

–The Heismanpundit Preseason Top 10 Heisman Candidate list will debut tomorrow.

–Our Top 10 Teams and All-Americans will be unveiled in the next several days as well.

Looking forward to even more lively debate!

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More EDSBS

Just a few days after putting together some actual insightful entries, Orson Swindle, who puts the BS in EDSBS, managed to resort to his usual name-calling-in-lieu-of-being-able-to-respond-to-an-argument approach in his non-reply to his getting disemboweled by us last week.

Always the creative one, he has taken to referring to us as a Jim Rome wannabe. This is an illustrative reference, since it probably sheds light on the world in which the fellas at EDSBS live in: Message Boards, Sports Talk Radio, X-Box and (undoubtedly) Fantasy Football. You know, all redoubts of the frustrated football fan who gets excited when he sees his team being written about on CollegeFootballNews.com.

We’ve often called EDSBS the court jesters of the college football blogosphere. For the most part, they’re pretty funny guys. But for some reason, they keep wanting to get involved in issues we care about, all while still trying to maintain this air of self-detachment that is, frankly, irritating. They’ll play ball for a quarter or two, but when they start to get tackled, they pack up and call it quits, all the while making fun of those who actually still want to keep playing.

A few weeks ago, we were referred to by EDSBS as (among other things) ‘required reading.’ Now we are Jim Rome wannabes.

And he calls us confused?

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Bush’s Latest Buzz

USC tailback Reggie Bush and Florida quarterback Chris Leak were co-No. 1 on Heismanpundit’s post spring top 10 candidate list.

However, given the bevy of media attention that Bush has received over the summer, it’s likely that our official preseason list will have him all alone at the top.

That’s because Bush has been very visible all summer, as he was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated (while being the subject of a story inside, as well as the magazine’s pick for the Heisman), written about inside Men’s Fitness Magazine and has generally been a constant presence on the covers of most of the major preview magazines.

This story touches on Bush’s rising Heisman buzz and USC’s efforts to promote both him and Matt Leinart.

The USC tailback mystique is a mainstay of Heisman lore. It could push Bush all the way to the trophy.

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A Dark Horse Scenario

Texas A&M quarterback Reggie McNeal is primed for an even bigger year than last year–when he threw for 2,791 yards and rushed for 718–if the Aggie coaches are to be believed.

Franchione was so impressed by the way McNeal dominated on and off the field that coaches named him their most improved player in the spring. With four of the five starters back on the offensive line and running back Courtney Lewis returning, it’s no wonder A&M expects to challenge Oklahoma and Texas in the Big 12 South.

McNeal is an interesting dark horse candidate for the Heisman. While he doesn’t come from a traditional power, he plays for a team that could potentially get a lot of attention if it has the season it is capable of.

What’s more, the Aggie schedule is set up perfectly for a late-season Heisman run by McNeal (should others falter, of course). The Aggies play Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Texas and (if applicable) the Big 12 Title game to close out the year.

Should McNeal outduel Adrian Peterson and Vince Young while leading A&M to wins in those games, he’ll likely be on his way to New York at the least. If Leinart, Bush, Leak, et al, stumble along the way and McNeal’s numbers are good, he could even win it.

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Bring Back The Stiff Arm!

Lately we’ve talked about the evolution of offenses, now here’s a little bit about the evolution of running styles.

Today’s players could learn a thing or two by going back to the stiff arm, as told in this piece in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Lowering the shoulder has become the move of choice for the power running back. The stiff arm has gone the way of the dodo.

“I don’t think the stiff-arm is as sure a move as a little sidestep. A lot of secondary players don’t have good tackling bases. They might get zippered up, so they don’t have a good base. If you have a good running back like the backs we have on this team, all it takes is one sidestep and they are headed back north-south.”

Or, as James said, a lowered shoulder. Which, by the way, is how Heisman runner-up Adrian Peterson of Oklahoma got many of his 1,925 yards last season. Then again, lowering that shoulder is also what got him offseason surgery.

Ironic that the Heisman Trophy itself employs the stiff arm. It’s probable that not a single one of the candidates this season have ever used it in a game.

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