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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X’s and O’s From BlueGraySky

Here’s an interesting look at some of the concepts behind offensive playcalling and diagramming courtesy of Notre Dame blogger Michael of bluegraysky.blogspot.com.

His focus is trying to figure out what kind of offense Charlie Weis will run at Notre Dame. Michael believes that Weis will be in the mold of what we at Heismanpundit like to call the ‘Gang of Six’–our reference to the six teams (USC, Cal, Boise State, Louisville, Utah and Florida) whose offenses are currently setting the college football world on fire.

We are still skeptical that Weis is heading in that direction. Our doubts may be misplaced. Obviously, only time will tell. But here’s the best quote from a piece linked in the story, a telling line from Norm Chow:

With that in mind at USC on the dropback passing game, we will have nine passes… Everyone has to remember the pass routes. We have nine basic patterns. We teach four one day and five the next day. That is all we have. We feel very strongly about this. We are going to keep it as simple as we can, so our kids will go out on the field confident that we are going to make the play, and we are going to know what we are doing… We have one strongside vertical route, one middle vertical, and one weakside vertical. We have two horizontal-stretch routes, a man route, four verticals, and a cover 2 beater. That is all we do. We attack everyone we play with these plays. Our kids know these plays by the second day of practice.

Ah, so simple to learn, yet so hard to defend. It begs the question: Why would anyone try to install the clunky, complex, verbose West Coast Offense in college football?

Are you listenting Karl Dorrell, Bill Callahan, et al?

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A List Courtesy Of Collegefootballstars.com

While we wouldn’t pay 25 bucks to hear what they have to say, College Football Stars.com has put together a decent preseason Heisman list.

Like us here at Heismanpundit, CFS.com lists the guys based on who they think has the best shot at actually winning, rather than putting together a projected order in the voting.

Obviously, there are some major issues we have with their list, namely having a sophomore as the favorite.

But this last note is the strangest:

CollegeFootballStars.com acknowledges, but does not heed, other factors such as how much media attention a player receives, BCS conference favoritism, ad campaigns, or marketing from a player’s sports information department. CollegeFootballStars.com feels strongly that a player’s on-field performance is what should ultimately decide who wins the award intended for the nation’s top college football player.

Why would you not heed outside factors when figuring out who’s going to win? We agree that, ideally, it should go to the best player, but that’s not always the case, partially because the term ‘best player’ means different things to different people.

A Heisman list that doesn’t take into account how much media attention a player receives or things like BCS or regional favoritism will probably end up sorely lacking in accuracy. After all, it’s a MEDIA award, right? Otherwise, why not put a guy like Omar Jacobs at the top? After all, he was ‘the most productive player in Div. 1 last season.’

So close, yet so far….

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Leinart’s Chances

We don’t like Matt Leinart’s chances to become the second guy ever to win two Heismans….after all, Heismandment No. 9 says it can’t happen again.

Here, Jonathan Lehman of CSTV.com touches upon many of the obstacles that Leinart faces in his quest for a second-straight Heisman.

Money Quote:

Although there are standards of objective judgment and impartiality maintained in the selection process, it is hard to avoid a sense of the Heisman voters wanting to spread the wealth between worthy candidates, rather than continuing to reward a singular talent.

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Five Burning Questions

Courtesy of Atlanta Journal columnist Tony Barnhart.

Here’s our answers to those same questions:

How serious a Heisman candidate is Tennessee tailback Gerald Riggs Jr.?

Not at all in our book. Not with the Heisman field as stacked as it is this year. Unless other great backs get injured, he’s a Top 10 guy at best, not a finalist.

Which new SEC coach is in position to have the best rookie season?

Barnhart says Les Miles, but we say Urban Meyer. There’s no doubt that the former Utah coach has one of the best offensive schemes in college football. When you combine his system–with which the SEC (and the rest of college football) is unfamiliar–to the talent already in place in Florida, you have the makings of a supercharged offense. Until the SEC defenses catch up, he’ll have the upper hand. Note: Barnhart says that LSU was 9-3 but two plays away from being 11-1. Well, you could also say the Tigers could have lost to Oregon State and Florida, too, with even Troy State and Ole Miss nipping at their heels. So that supposed 11-1 mark is not that cut and dry.

What’s the one ACC battle worth watching the most?

How about the battle the Bowdens will wage to hang on in Tallahassee at season’s end?

Does Kyle Wright look like the next great one at Miami?

We think he will be. But it won’t look apparent until the last half of the season. He certainly has the talent in place to succeed. But the Canes need a tailback who is more than a plodder.

Who has the tougher opener–Georgia (vs. Boise State) or Georgia Tech (at Auburn)?

Barnhart agrees with HP that Boise is going to be a tough challenge for Georgia. Maybe he’s a West Coast honk!

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More SEC Scheduling News

Every time the letters ‘S’ ‘E’ and ‘C’ get typed on my keyboard, an avalanche of comments tends to follow. I’m sure it will be no different now, as I talk about Tennessee’s recent foray into legitimate scheduling.

The Volunteers will play California in 2006 and 2007 and also Air Force in 2006. Tennessee has been the dominant program in the SEC since the early 1990s and, not coincidentally in my book, has also been the program in that league with the most cojones as well, actually deigning to venture out of its time zone for a couple home-and-homes during the last 15 years.

However, I can’t give the Vols complete credit this time. I mean, playing Cal is nice and all, but when they travel out to Berkeley in 2007, Jeff Tedford probably won’t be there. So it’s a safe gamble to schedule that game now in the hopes that Cal will have faded by then. Also, Tennessee plays SEVEN home games in both 2006 and 2007. One of the road games in 2006 will be to Memphis and the other at Vandy, which means that the Vols will play all of three games outside of its home state in 2006. What a stunning case of gerrymandering!

In 2007, the Volunteers will face Southern Mississippi, Northern Illinois and UCF in addition to Cal. So during those two seasons, Tennessee will face exactly ONE out-of-conference BCS opponent.

In other news, Georgia has scheduled a home-and-home with Colorado, with the first game being in Athens in 2006. But the Dawgs will not travel to Boulder until–get this–2010!!!! (alert Arthur Clarke!) UGA will tune up for that trip by playing ASU in Tempe in 2008. Of course, that will be the first time since 1965 that Georgia has played a regular season road game outside of the geographic South. So I can understand the trepidation. Baby steps, baby steps.

And LSU is not to be ignored in this discussion, either. The Tigers will host Arizona State this season, but won’t play the Sun Devils in Tempe until 2008! Why the gap in between, we wonder?

Of course, these games are all tentative and pending potential contract buy outs and weaseling. One can never count out those possibilities.

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The Best Teams To Never Win A National Championship

Tommy Tuberville recently taped an appearance on Fox’s Best Damn Sports Show and he talked about what Auburn’s chances would have been against USC.

That got us to thinking about college football history and which teams were the best never to win a title. Our main criteria: Would they have beaten the national title contender in their year? Otherwise, just how good were they? For authenticity’s sake, we’ll stick to the last 30 years, too. It’s hard to have much conviction about a team I wasn’t around to see (so, sorry to the 1966 Alabama team).

1. USC, 1979–This Trojan team went 11-0-1 and finished second in the polls to a 12-0 Alabama team. John Robinson’s squad was perhaps the most talented in college football history with names like Anthony Munoz, Charles White, Marcus Allen, Keith Van Horne, Roy Foster, Ronnie Lott, Dennis Smith, Chip Banks, Riki Ellison, Joey Browner and more all headed to future NFL greatness. Their only blemish: a tie to Stanford. Otherwise, they swept through the schedule, with the closest games being a 17-12 win in Baton Rouge over LSU and a 17-16 win over No. 1 Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. There is no doubt in our minds that this team would have beaten Alabama straight up.

2. Penn State, 1994–This is the most recent egregious example of the unfairness of college football. This Penn State team was a dominant team that was No. 1 for a good part of the season, but was dropped from the top spot after beating Indiana 35-29, a game in which the Hoosiers tacked on a couple meaningless, late touchdowns. Otherwise, no one was close to this team, which was an offensive juggernaut with two Heisman finalists in KiJana Carter and Kerry Collins, plus great players in Kyle Brady and Bobby Engram. Would this team have beaten national champion Nebraska? We say yes.

3. Miami, 2000–This team was arguably as good as the 2001 Miami team that went undefeated on its way to the national title. It’s only blemish was a road loss to a Washington team that went 11-1 and won the Rose Bowl. It also beat FSU, which was chosen to play Oklahoma in the BCS title game. Of course, the Seminoles lost, something the Hurricanes likely would NOT have done. The amount of big-time players on that Canes team is too many to mention, but include Dan Morgan and Nate Webster on defense and Santana Moss and Ken Dorsey on offense.

4. Notre Dame, 1993–This team went 11-1 and finished second in the polls to FSU, which the Irish beat a mere six weeks prior to the bowl game. The only loss was a stunner to Boston College the week after beating Charlie Ward’s Seminoles. How they could not have been given at least a share of the title is beyond me. Stars on that team included Bobby Taylor, Bryant Young, Ray Zellars, Lake Dawson and Lee Becton.

5. Ohio State, 1998–The Buckeyes finished 11-1 and killed everyone on their schedule, with the lone loss coming to Michigan State in a close one at home. This was probably John Cooper’s best team, with studs like Andy Katzenmoyer on defense and David Boston on offense. They would likely have thrashed a questionable Tennessee team that finished 12-0 and won the national title.

6. Washington, 1984–This team finished 11-1 and second to a 12-0 BYU team in the polls. But come on, everyone knew that BYU was a joke and that the Huskies would have killed them had they played. Washington’s only loss was to Rose Bowl champion USC. The Huskies had a dominant defense–nicknamed ‘Purple Reign’–that allowed only one team to reach 20 points all season. They beat a top 5 Oklahoma team in the Orange Bowl, 28-17.

7. USC, 1976–This was John Robinson’s first squad and it got off to a bad start, losing badly at home to Missouri. However, the Trojans won their next 11 in magnificent fashion, beating a top 5 UCLA team and No. 3 Michigan along the way. Pitt’s marquee win came in the season opener against Notre Dame, but the Panthers played a very weak schedule from there on out. Pitt had Tony Dorsett, but USC was loaded on both sides of the ball and would probably have won the head-to-head contest. Instead, USC finished second.

8. Oregon State, 2000–This was a banner year for college football as a ton of great teams emerged. This Beaver team was our favorite to watch that season, as they finished 11-1 and No. 4 in the country. Their only loss was to Washington, which beat Miami, which beat Florida State. This team had a ton of talent and both of its wide receivers are starters for the Cincinnati Bengals. Would they have beaten Oklahoma? Well, we think that by the time the Beavers whipped Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl, they would have beaten just about anyone.

9. SMU, 1982–This Mustang squad was the best team money could buy. It went 11-0-1 and finished second to an 11-1 Penn State team. It had a future horrible-television-analyst-but-great-tailback in Craig James and of course the incomparable Eric Dickerson. In the end, given the corruption going on in the program, No. 2 may have been the best thing for it. But that team could have beaten Penn State that year.

10. Texas, 1981–This is the year Clemson made their magical 12-0 run to win the title. Texas was 10-1-1, finished second and had Jerry Gray as its star. All I know is that Clemson team was bogus and wouldn’t have been able to hang with the Longhorns had they played. Clemson beat Tulane 13-5 that season, for Pete’s sake.

Additions welcome in the comments section.

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Big Early Games

Matt Hayes of The Sporting News looks at some of the big games in September.

Of course, we take issue with the following blurb:

Arizona State at LSU, Sept. 10. I’ve been saying it since signing day: LSU has as much talent as any team in the country–including USC. But did former coach Nick Saban damage quarterback JaMarcus Russell’s confidence so deeply that the former mega-recruit won’t recover? If Russell’s head is clear, he’s Vince Young with 25 more pounds and a fantastic, accurate arm. ASU can score and is surprisingly physical (ask Purdue). If Russell struggles in his first big game, the Tigers won’t escape as they did in last year’s opener against Oregon State.

We agree with Hayes on the possible outcome, but have a few minor quibbles on the details.

While LSU is indeed one of the most talented teams in the country, it can’t compare to USC right now, which has produced three-straight No. 1 recruiting classes. Another issue is what actually happens to the talent. There is no doubt that players like Early Doucet and Xavier Carter are elite athletes, but which system is more conducive to developing receivers: USC’s or LSU’s? I think we all know the answer to that one. So, while LSU undoubtedly has a ton of talent, much of it is not being fully utilized. We also disagree with Matt’s tab on Russell, who in our opinion is nothing like Vince Young and more like a raw version of Daunte Culpepper.

Finally, it’s amazing how a Pac-10 team is always given the back-handed slap of being called ‘surprisingly’ physical. ASU not only beat Purdue last year, but also smashed another stereotypically ‘physical’ Big-10 team in Iowa.

How many butt kickings of the Big 10 and SEC will it take before the Pac-10 gets credit for at least a modicum of physical play?

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