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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How Close Is Florida To Perfecting Meyer’s System?

It’s almost like the mystery behind North Korea and the bomb.

The Orlando Sentinel reports that Urban Meyer is optimistic about Chris Leak’s progress in his system.

“Close, man, he’s close,” Meyer said about Leak. “Obviously the word perfection is used a lot when you try to run this offense. We’re not there yet, but we’re darn close.”

From our point of view, this will be one of the three most important issues in college football this year. If Florida doesn’t get that system down this season, then the SEC will get a one-year reprieve from the onslaught coming its way. However, we’re betting that by Game 3, this system will kick into gear and start to fly. Then all hell will break loose in college football.

Though Herbstreit will still stick with his Buckeyes.

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Bigger, Stronger, Faster? Hmmmm.

One of our favorite college football cliches is ‘bigger, stronger, faster.’

You hear it all the time, like in this story about Adrian Peterson.

Here’s how it usually goes: Player A was a phenom last year playing at 188. He’s now put on 15 pounds of muscle and is even faster.

Unfortunately, it’s just not true. With a few rare exceptions, players get slower when they get bigger, not faster. What’s more, the older and more beat up they get, the more speed they lose. There’s only so much pounding the knees can take.

Recently I read how Marshawn Lynch has gained 22 pounds and is now faster. Well, I think it’s a bunch of hooey and it will be readily apparent when he plays this year (if he indeed has gained 22 pounds). In fact, I predict that this time next year, we will read about how Lynch shed pounds to get faster.

The same applies to Reggie Bush. He will never be faster than he was as a true freshman, zipping through the ether at 180 pounds or so. Now, he is 205 and is not nearly the wil ‘o the wisp he was back then. This is not to say that he isn’t fast in absolute terms and doesn’t still have breakaway speed, just that he has declined in relative terms to his former self.

Sadly, the same decline will apply even faster to Peterson, who is such a physical back. The more of a beating he takes, the more speed he will lose (while still being faster than other mortals his size). It’s all just a matter of degree.

In the meantime, strength and conditioning coaches will continue to talk up ‘bigger, faster, stronger’, since it is in their interest to convince people that their methods achieve those ends.

But if you believe your own eyes instead of someone else’s, you’ll see the real truth.

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Game Day Stuck In The Twilight Zone

I happened upon ESPN Gameday’s season preview show last Thursday and it reminded me of that Twilight Zone episode where the kid falls into a hole in his bedroom wall that is some kind of portal into a lost dimension.

These ESPN analysts are definitely lost these days. In their first chance to perform a mea culpa after a bevy of dreadful predictions prior to the Orange Bowl, only Mark May had the honor to hint that he didn’t know what the hell he was talking about last season.

The rest of them? Moving right along towards the usual stuff.

Of the group of ‘experts’, including Trev Alberts, Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit and Mark May, two of them, yes TWO, pick Ohio State to win the national title. Ohio State! What’s more, former Buckeye quarterback Herbstreit picks OSU to beat USC in the Rose Bowl. Trev Alberts picked Va. Tech over USC in the Rose Bowl.

The last time they picked against USC, they were about 50 points from getting it right. And here they go again.

I’m sorry. There is certainly a chance that USC slips up this year. But if it happens, it is going to happen in the Pac-10 or to a team in the bowl that actually has a dynamic offense (a Florida, for instance). Herbstreit certainly didn’t explain how Ohio State–a team currently without a decent running back or proven quarterback–would win (most likely because it’s such an inplausible scenario), but he still picked them nonetheless. Of course, he also picked Oklahoma over USC, citing how ‘similar’ the two teams’ schemes were.

Apparently, getting a well-thought-out analysis from Gameday, like the one here by MSNBC is next to impossible.

Update: Gunslingers has a recap of what each pundit said here.

Among Trev Alberts’ gems:

USC wasn’t “exactly dominating” last year.

Wow. It’s true that there were some close games. But the Trojans also won 8 games by 30 or more points, including the title game.

You know, the one that Alberts said Oklahoma would win ‘going away.’

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Keep An Eye On Drew

There’s another tailback in Los Angeles, one who compares favorably to Reggie Bush and that’s Maurice Drew of UCLA, as talked about by the OC Register here.

For those who haven’t seen much of the junior tailback, he can basically do everything that Reggie Bush can do. Return punts? Yup. Return kickoffs? Check. Catch passes? You bet. Break long runs? Oh yeah.

And last year, he outrushed Bush despite missing a few games.

If healthy, he has a good chance to have better all-purpose yardage numbers than Bush.

Yet, he won’t get the Heisman love he deserves because he plays for a team that, frankly, hasn’t played up to its potential the last few years.

But, if UCLA were to rebound this season, and perhaps beat Oklahoma along the way, look for Drew to be mentioned as a Heisman candidate.

Oh, and he’ll have a huge spotlight game on Decenber 3 to really make his case.

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Sooners Make Right Choice

It appears that the Oklahoma quarterback derby is over, with junior Paul Thompson the winner.

After seeing Thompson play in a backup role in 2003–and coming away quite impressed–I think this is the best option for the Sooners. Thompson is very athletic and has good running ability–just what the Sooners may need from their quarterback since they’ve got to break in a new offensive line.

It also takes away the problem of playing Rhett Bomar too early. A young quarterback can lose confidence in a hurry if he struggles too much. Now, the highly-touted Bomar can be eased into games as needed.

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Glenlivet On The Rocks….And Some Feldman, Please

HP favorite Bruce Feldman of ESPN has just put in his say regarding the style-of-play argument we’ve made for a while here at Heismanpundit (for what it’s worth, this is the third plug we’ve gotten from Bruce, who of course is the best college football writer in the Universe).

Feldman remains skeptical of the whole thing, though he certainly appears to be open to arguments explaining either outcome. The nice thing is that he, and others in the mainstream media, are finally talking about these subjects which, at the very least, make better fodder for discussion than the usual focus on personalities and controversy. Nothing wrong with a little Philosophy 101 once in a while, right?

One thing to clarify, though. I’ve been very careful in my talk about style of play to not refer to ‘West Coast Offenses’. To me, this debate is not about geography, though it can’t be denied that many of the beneficiaries of my argument come from out West since they happen to run variations of the style I am talking about. However, a team like Louisville is not from the West, yet still garners tremendous respect from this site. I also try to avoid the term ‘spread’ offense, since I don’t think that what I am referring to can exactly be pigeonholed as that type of offense–Cal doesn’t run a spread yet they are in my Gang of Six. Maybe in referring to these types of offenses, the term ‘multi-dimensional’ would be more suitable. Or maybe there isn’t yet a word to describe it.

All I know is that there appears to be a few distinct styles of play out there in college football right now that are tearing things up. Perhaps I can’t quite place my finger on how to adequately describe it, but sooner or later, we’ll get it nailed down.

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Blogpoll Roundtable, HP-Style

Brian from MGOblog started a poll made up entirely of input from college football bloggers. The result of the first poll can be found here

Brian also instituted the Blogger’s Roundtable, with different sites hosting discussions in varying weeks. This week, Heismanpundit is the host. Here are my questions. Bloggers, please respond with a link in the comments section.

What criteria do you use to determine if a team and its players are good?

I focus on four things: Game-day coaching, talent level, scheme and how they win. The first thing that jumps out is the talent. I look at whether players have quick feet, whether they move well in space. Do the running backs have breakaway speed? Can the receivers separate after the catch? Can the corners jump the outs? On the flip side, I look at the opponent the team in question is playing to determine what talent disparity (if any) exists between the two teams. This is where the scheme of the team in question usually comes in to play. If Team A has a huge talent advantage, yet still plays the game close, then Team A probably has a poor scheme. I then look for tendencies in the scheme to see how easy it would be to break down, look for use of personnel and formations. If they appear predictable after a few series, I downgrade their system in my mind. Finally, I note how the coach makes decisions during the game. Does he know when to make a gutsy call? Does he manage his time outs correctly? Does he appear to be in control on the sideline? What’s his demeanor? Ideally, a team would have a ton of talent, a great scheme on both sides of the ball and a coach who knew how to orchestrate it on Saturday. I view teams as good or bad based on how they fill that criteria. A team that currently has all three is USC. A team with a ton of talent, good gameday coaching and a poor scheme is Oklahoma. A team with a ton of talent, bad gameday coaching and a poor scheme is Tennessee. And so on…until you get to the Indiana’s and the Baylors. Clearly, significant levels of success can still be achieved with a poor scheme or bad coaching, since it is all relative to your opponent. Finally, how does a team win a game? Do they do it mostly in dominating fashion? Do they exhibit balance? How often do they look sluggish? Do they rise to the occasion when necessary? I look for all those things, since all wins are not the really equal when it comes down to it (at least in my book).

If you could choose one coach to build an offensive system for your school, who would it be? Conversly, who would you choose to devise the defense? Why?

Right now, I’d go with Urban Meyer on offense and Pete Carroll on defense. Meyer’s system has it all: running, passing, option, motion, you name it. He forces opposing teams to defend the ENTIRE field. It’s also a fun system to watch: It puts points on the scoreboard and fans in the stands. Carroll’s defenses have been the best in the nation the last few years. Yeah, I know, the stats say otherwise. But in a given game, where it MATTERED, his defenses have been the best. USC has led the nation in sacks and rushing defense each of the last two years and his units get force more turnovers than practically anyone.

Describe your typical college fotoball Saturday.

I wake up at 7:30 a.m. PT to watch ESPN Gameday. If my team is on the road, I then head over to the local sports bar, one that has ALL the games on. I harangue the waitress until every game I want to watch is on a screen and then proceed to sit there into the night, usually only leaving in time to sprint back for the start of the Hawaii game. If I am going to a game, I am outside the stadium tailgating starting at 6 a.m. My buddy has a satellite dish out there with four TVs. We watch as many games as possible until our game starts and then we watch that. After the game, we head back home to catch the games and highlights we tivoed. On occasion, we head to Vegas and get to the Sports Book at 6 a.m. (to get a good seat) and stay until 9 p.m. By the end of the day, we’re tired, but it’s a good tired.

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