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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What If?

Nestor at Bruinsnation.com rehashes the ol’ ‘What If?’ question in regards to late 1990s UCLA football in his most recent post.

UCLA football has given us nothing but bad memories full of nightmares, heartbreaks, and frustrations since the night of December 5, 1998, when an undefeated 10-0 UCLA football team choked away a 54 year drought in national title against Butch’s crew in Miami.

That clearly was a turning point in the Pac-10 at the time. Nestor touches on a salient issue when he talks about the J.P. Losman affair.

In our view, the loss of J.P. Losman was crucial to the relative decline of UCLA football. Faced with a golden opportunity to snag the fertile LA college football landscape away from USC, the Bruins bungled it. Losman transferred after one spring and UCLA has seen guys like Corey Paus, Ryan McCann, Matt Moore and Drew Olson attempt to replace Cade McNown–to no avail. Had Losman stayed, he would have blossomed by his sophomore or junior year, the Bruins would have been a lot better and would likely still be competing for top recruits with USC. Of course, the national implications are there, too. Without USC’s stranglehold on LA talent in the last few years, no way does it win 34 of 35 and two-straight national titles.

Of course, the pendulum swings back in funny ways, too: USC’s overwhelming success in recruiting is actually starting to pay dividends for schools like Cal and UCLA. As USC continues to bring in top out-of-state talent like Patrick Turner (Tennessee) and Jeff Byers (Colorado), it leaves a bevy of Southern California talent available to other schools, creating a chain reaction in this age of scholarship restrictions.

For instance, USC might pass on a top player from a Long Beach Poly that it would have viewed as a high priority five years ago. Or that player may look at the Trojan roster and conclude that it’s too loaded. If that player wants to stay somewhat local, his next option is UCLA or Cal. This is how top players like DeSean Jackson and Maurice Drew ended up at Berkeley and Westwood. So faced with these new options, UCLA and California then pass up on some players they might normally have taken a chance on. Those players are then gobbled up by Fresno State and Boise State (see Jeremy Childs). And so on down the line.

In sounds funny to say it, but UCLA fans might want to cheer on USC’s out-of-state recruiting efforts. It just might save Karl Dorrell’s ass.

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Athlete Blogs

Here’s a cool story from the Minneapolis Star Tribune on athlete blogs and the impact they are having on the sports world.

Money quote:

(Mark) Cuban said blogs (short for weblogs) provide “a balance against the power of the pen in a voice that can’t be misquoted or referenced out of context.”

“You need a place where you can explain yourself,” Cuban wrote. “You can write as much or as little as you would like, but the words will be all yours. You can create the context. You can make sure that all issues are addressed. You can take issue with individuals or the media as a whole. Your words, your message.”

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The Heart Of Texas

That’s what Vince Young has become, according to this story in the Dallas Morning News. The writer (Chip Brown) talks about Young’s development as a leader.

Asked about his impressions of USC’s rout of the Sooners in the Orange Bowl last season, Young said, “I thought Jason White should have done a better job of leading as a quarterback. He hung his head, and from an Oklahoma perspective, I thought he gave his team a reason to give up a little bit.”

Young has learned another important lesson:

Faced with the same question posed to running back Cedric Benson last year that drew so much attention, Young was asked if he’d rather beat Oklahoma or win the Heisman Trophy. Young said, “I’m ready to do both.”

Good answer.

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The Next Adrian Peterson?

Uh, no. But incoming Oregon freshman Jonathan Stewart–the No. 1-ranked prep running back in the nation–should be a pretty good player when it’s all said and done. Here’s a look at what he’s doing to try to be like A.D. from the Portland Tribune.

We saw tape of Stewart last year and thought he was a nice player, sort of a Jamal Lewis-type of power back at 5-10, 226 pounds. But he’s nowhere near Peterson’s class as a runner.

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Tuesday’s Question

College Football News asks who would be the Heisman favorite if you took away the Heisman finalists from last year (Leinart, Bush, Peterson)?

Pete Fiutak goes with Laurence Maroney and Richard Cirminiello goes with Vince Young, as does Matthew Zmek.

Fiutak LOVES Big 10 running backs for his Heisman picks (he chose Anthony Davis from his alma mater Wisconsin for the same question last year). Maroney is going to have to run for at least 2,300 yards to have even a shot at the trophy this year, something Fiutak seems to acknowledge (though it doesn’t stop him from sticking with his pick).

Of course, as we all know, the correct answer to this question is Chris Leak, the preseason second team All-SEC quarterback.

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Blogosphere court jester Every Day Should Be Saturday (EDSBS) has revamped and now looks non-crappy as he blogs from somewhere off of Highway 441, what we in O-Town used to call the ‘Orange Blossom Trail.’

Our view on the re-design? Well, it’s definitely non-crappy, to say the least. Not sure if I like the Wuerffel-Spurrier mid-five since it looks like it came after a touchdown-to-make-the-final-score-62-24-kind of play. But otherwise, the redesign has definite ‘People Magazine’ undertones….which, come to think of it, is about right for a blog that currently has Selma Hayek’s burgeoning breasts on display (I’m sure this last note has guaranteed a click over). If it was Phil Fulmer’s breasts, we’d at least be on topic, right?

But anyway, congrats gentlemen.

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Feldman On The Toughest Conferences

Bruce Feldman of ESPN recently rated his top conferences. Go to this link and you can read it, provided you are an ESPN Insider.

Here’s his rankings and commentary. He breaks the conferences down like he would a group of boxers, with the programs divided into weight classes:

1. ACC: Anyone who thinks FSU is deteriorating into some doormat is crazy. The difference between the ‘Noles and those other fallen-by-the-wayside programs is that FSU still has an armada of game-breakers, while those other places had sawdust. Obviously, the expansion helped boost the ACC, but so did the hires of Ralph Friedgen (Maryland), Jim Grobe (Wake Forest) and Al Groh (Virginia) a few years ago.

Heavyweight: FSU, Virginia Tech and Miami.
Light heavy: Georgia Tech, Boston College and Virginia.
Middleweight: North Carolina, NC State, Clemson, Maryland and Wake Forest.
Welterweight: None.
Flyweight: Duke.

Total: 43. Average: 3.58.

2. Big 12: Texas A&M’s return, coupled with the rise of Texas Tech and Iowa State, offset the decline of Nebraska, K-State and CU.

Heavyweight:Texas, Oklahoma, Texas A&M.
Light heavy: Texas Tech, Oklahoma State.
Middleweight: Iowa State, Missouri, Nebraska, K-State, Colorado.
Welterweight: Kansas.
Flyweight: Baylor.

Total: 41. Average: 3.42.

3. SEC: The good: There’s not another conference with five programs capable of winning a national title. The bad: There are five teams in this league that probably wouldn’t win three games in Big Ten league play.

Heavyweight: Tennessee, Florida, LSU, Auburn, Georgia.
Light heavy: Alabama.
Middleweight: Arkansas.
Welterweight: South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, Mississippi State.
Flyweight: Kentucky

Total: 41. Average: 3.42.

4. Big Ten: It’s a slightly more balanced version of the SEC. But this league seems to have more pretenders than any other conference.

Heavyweight: Ohio State, Michigan, Iowa.
Light heavy: Purdue, Minnesota, Wisconsin.
Middleweight: Penn State, Michigan State.
Welterweight: Northwestern.
Flyweight: Illinois, Indiana.

Total: 37. Average: 3.36.

5. Pac-10: It does have the heaviest of all heavyweights at this point. Trouble is, do you think any other team in the league would be higher than fourth in any of the conferences listed above? (I don’t, now that Aaron Rodgers has bolted for the NFL.)

Heavyweight: USC.
Light heavy: Cal, Arizona State, Oregon.
Middleweight: UCLA, Oregon State, Washington State, Stanford.
Welterweight: Washington, Arizona.
Flyweight: None.

Total: 33. Average: 3.30.

6. Big East: The Cards proved they are a legit top-10 program, and I think Pittsburgh (under new coach Dave Wannstedt) might be in that class soon.

Heavyweight: Louisville.
Light heavy: Pittsburgh, West Virginia.
Middleweight: Syracuse, UConn.
Welterweight: Rutgers, Cincinnati.
Flyweight: South Florida.

Total: 24. Average: 3.00.

7. Mountain West: The mix here has really been shaken up in the last two years. I suspect it will change almost as much in the next two years. It sits atop the mid-major crop because of Utah’s rise and because of coach Joe Glenn’s work at Wyoming.

Heavyweight: None.
Light heavy: Utah, New Mexico.
Middleweight: Wyoming.
Welterweight: BYU, San Diego State, TCU, Colorado State, Air Force.
Flyweight: UNLV.

Total: 22. Average: 2.44.

8. WAC: In truth, I’d take the WAC’s top two teams over any other teams right now in the non-BCS bunch. Both are on the brink of “heavyweight” status. Too bad the rest of the league’s a mess, although I think New Mexico State will become a bowl team fast now that Hal Mumme is running the show.

Heavyweight: None.
Light heavy: Boise State, Fresno State.
Middleweight: Hawaii.
Welterweight: New Mexico State, Nevada, Louisiana Tech.
Flyweight: Utah State, San Jose State, Idaho.

Total: 20. Average: 2.22.

9. MAC: A batch of very underrated teams, but the MAC sinks below it’s western counterparts because the rest of the conference has dipped too far down.

Heavyweight: None.
Light heavy: Toledo, Miami (Ohio), Bowling Green.
Middleweight: Northern Illinois.
Welterweight: Akron, Kent, Eastern Michigan.
Flyweight: Central Michigan, Western Michigan, Ohio, Buffalo and Ball State.

Total: 26. Average: 2.17

10. Conference USA: The league was really hurt by the Big East defections (the loss of Louisville especially hurts). Some solid programs are still in the mix, but it’s pretty watered down. And while I’m at it, where’s the outcry for former ECU coach Steve Logan?

Heavyweight: None.
Light heavy: None.
Middleweight: UAB, Memphis, Southern Miss, UTEP.
Welterweight: Houston, Tulane, Marshall
Flyweight: SMU, Tulsa, Rice, East Carolina, UCF.

Total: 23. Average: 1.92.

11. Sun Belt: UNT is, pound for pound, the best deal in college football if you consider how much they win in light of those facilities. Each of these three welterweights has promise, but it’s still a long elevator ride to get up to mid-major level.

Heavyweight: None.
Light heavy: None.
Middleweight: North Texas.
Welterweight: Middle Tennessee, Troy, FAU.
Flyweight: Louisiana-Lafayette, FIU, Louisiana-Monroe, Arkansas State.

Total: 13. Average: 1.63.

Our order would differ slightly, looking something like this:

1. ACC–Top to bottom, the toughest group.
2. Pac-10–Best coaching league, combined with superior style of play.
3. Big-10–Very good talent, solid coaching.
4. SEC–Best talent, improved coaching, still behind schematically.
5. Big 12–One half of the league is a joke, the other half filled with paper tigers.
6. Big East–A dying league.
7. MWC–Should be a BCS conference, at least if the Big East continues to be one.
8. WAC–Like the MAC and MWC, the WAC is a proving ground for new offenses and systems.
9. MAC–Great coaches, top teams can play with almost anyone.
10. CUSA–Getting better, but may lose more teams, too.
11. Sunbelt–Algae for the upper food chain of college football.

Other quibbles and bits:

–We wouldn’t put Oklahoma State and Texas Tech in the Light Heavyweight division. Both middleweights in our view. We’d also drop Iowa State and Missouri to welterweight. Nebraska’s spot as a middleweight is mostly on reputation. It can just as easily be a welterweight, considering that’s the denomination for traditionally tough–though currently weak–Washington.

–Although Wake Forest is a fun team to watch and can give teams fits, we’d drop them to welterweight.

–We’d drop Vandy and Mississippi State to flyweight.

–We’d move Cal and ASU up to heavyweight. Feldman doesn’t consider the Bears at that level since Aaron Rodgers departed to the NFL. But, Auburn is a ‘heavyweight’ in the SEC despite losing three first round picks out of its backfield. Will Cal be at least as good as Auburn this year? I would say yes. ASU is coming off a season in which it crushed Big 10 heavyweight Iowa. Also, put UCLA at light heavyweight (again, if Alabama is a light heavyweight, UCLA is, too), drop Stanford to welterweight and Washington to flyweight (yes, they will still be very bad this year).

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