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HP on Dan Patrick

Here’s the the clip of my appearance on The Dan Patrick Show this morning.

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Week 1 Heisman Preview


At look at the games from week one that will play a part (however small) in determining the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner….


North Carolina at South Carolina (6 p.m. ET, ESPN)

A lot of fans who know Jadeveon Clowney primarily from the hit he made in last year’s Outback Bowl will finally get a chance to see him up close. I expect the announcing crew will fawn over the All-American defensive end more than anyone has ever been fawned over before. For Clowney’s Heisman hopes to take root, though, he needs to come up big in a game that everyone will be watching. I’m talking multiple sacks and a play or two that clearly affects the game’s outcome. Barring that, we’re likely to get more raving about triple teams and the like, which never turns out well for pure defenders trying to win the Heisman. Of course, a loss would be devastating to his already-dim chances.

Utah State at Utah (8 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1)

After the battle of the Carolinas, be sure to check out the Chuckie Keeton Show. The matchup with in-state rival Utah is the first of two early-season opportunities for the Aggies quarterback to show he is a worthwhile Heisman candidate (the other being a game at USC). Keeton needs to have the kind of outing he had last season in a victory over the Utes — 216 passing yards, 86 rushing yards — and of course come away with another win to make his mark in the race.

USC at Hawaii (11 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

Marqise Lee, last year’s fourth-place Heisman finisher, starts up his campaign against Hawaii. This game could serve to let us know how much (or if) USC’s quarterback issues will affect Lee’s Heisman chances down the road. If Lee has a huge game, it might point to another productive season for the junior dynamo. If not, it could portend some trouble.


FAU at Miami (8 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

Exciting Hurricane all-purpose running back Duke Johnson is front and center in this one. If he puts up big yardage against FAU he could establish himself as one of the running back candidates we need to keep a close eye on. A ho-hum game, however, will make it that much harder for him to put up the kind of stats he’ll eventually need to become a legitimate contender.


Buffalo at Ohio State (Noon ET, ESPN 2)

Braxton Miller starts out with a patsy, but he needs to be productive in these kinds of games if he is to end up with Heisman-worthy numbers at season’s end. If he has a 200/100 game with four touchdowns or more, then he’ll put himself on that kind of pace. If he isn’t very productive purely because Ohio State doesn’t really need him to be against a team like Buffalo, he’ll have to make up those numbers later against more difficult competition.

Texas A&M vs. Rice (1 p.m. ET, ESPN)

The wild ride continues. Despite the non-marquee matchup, this will be one of the most watched games of the day, at least to start out. The reigning Heisman winner’s every move in this game will be analyzed to see if, just maybe, it was affected by something he did or didn’t do in the offseason. Yet another Johnny Football-style statistical day will probably serve to put everything back into perspective, while a subpar outing will be grist for the hater mill.

Northern Illinois at Iowa (3:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)

If Jordan Lynch is going to make a real run at the Heisman, he has to lead his team to a victory over Iowa. It’s one of the few opportunities he’ll have all season to play a BCS-level school and he must make the most of it. It’s hard to see him getting to New York without good production in a win over the Hawkeyes.

Nicholls State at Oregon (4 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1)

Marcus Mariota and De’Anthony Thomas probably won’t play more than a couple quarters in this one, which means they’ll need to produce what they can when they can. As with other major candidates taking on lower level opponents, this game will mostly affect how their overall stat sheet looks once Heisman votes are due.

Virginia Tech vs. Alabama (5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

I expect this to be a romp for the Tide and it should give AJ McCarron an opportunity to display his mastery of Bama’s efficient and powerful offense. Since McCarron isn’t a numbers guy, leading his team to a win in impressive fashion is paramount. All he’ll have to do afterwards, then, is bask in the praise that’s sure to come his way.

Wofford at Baylor (7:30 .m. ET, FSN)

This game will mostly serve to give us a peak at the Bears’ new quarterback, Bryce Petty. Is he ready to live up to expectations? Can Lache Seastrunk pick up where he left off last season? I expect both answers to be ‘yes’, but these two won’t truly be tested until October.

New Mexico State at Texas (8 p.m. ET, Longhorn Network)

Texas unveils an uptempo offense this year and this game will give us a good sense as to whether David Ash is ready to use that new style to jump into the upper echelon of college quarterbacks.

Wyoming at Nebraska (8 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)

Taylor Martinez begins his senior season as a dark horse Heisman candidate. He needs to be productive running and passing against the Cowboys.

Nevada at UCLA (10 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network)

This should be a shootout and give Brett Hundley a good chance to get a statistical jump on a lot of his Heisman competitors.


Ohio at Louisville (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Teddy Bridgewater gets a great time slot all to himself to show off his skills against an overmatched opponent. He needs to be extra sharp in this one to keep his name alive in the early going of this year’s race.


Georgia at Clemson (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, ABC)

This is a bonafide showdown between at least two legitimate Heisman candidates (Aaron Murray, Tajh Boyd) with the possibility that two others (Todd Gurley, Sammie Watkins) could also emerge. If Murray has a huge game and leads the Bulldogs to an impressive win, he immediately jumps into the top three of the race with a chance to become the front runner the following week after playing South Carolina. If Boyd plays well in a win, he becomes a top five candidate and sets himself and his team up for a possible dream season. But maybe Gurley goes for 200 yards and upends the whole equation, or Watkins breaks the game open with a kick return. There’s lots of ways this game could influence the Heisman race, which is why it is our game of the week.

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The annual ‘Heisman campaigns aren’t needed anymore’ article

Every year, there is an article written about how we don’t need Heisman campaigns anymore.

This year, it comes courtesy of the Wall Street Journal.

As usual, it quotes the wrong people, asks the wrong questions and comes to the wrong conclusions.

Let’s just look at this one graph, as an example:

The downfall of Heisman campaigns is often credited to social media. But another reason, school officials say, is Manziel. As a redshirt freshman, Manziel wasn’t a preseason Heisman candidate last year, yet he easily won.

Yeah, he easily won after putting up 5,116 yards of total offense. Minor detail there.

So the author and his sources are right — you don’t need a campaign for someone who puts up 5,116 yards of total offense. Barry Sanders also didn’t need a Heisman campaign when he ran for an NCAA-record 2,628 yards and 39 touchdowns.

But the other mortals in college football probably aren’t going to produce once-in-a-lifetime seasons so, in general, some kind of campaign on their behalf makes sense.

The straw man argument against campaigns is that gimmicks and trinkets aren’t needed. This ignores the real purpose of a Heisman campaign, which is to control the narrative about a player.

The method a school uses to deliver that narrative is mostly irrelevant. But it needs to be delivered lest someone else forms their own narrative and the player loses out as a result.

AJ McCarron is on television every week. So is Braxton Miller. If both McCarron and Miller have exemplary seasons, how do I choose between the two if I am your standard Heisman voter? Barring any type of narrative offered on their behalf by their schools, I might look at what other people are saying about these players.

If it turns out that the rap out there on McCarron is that he’s a game manager who isn’t that vital to his team’s success, I’m probably going to choose Miller. That’s what happens when you don’t control the narrative, Alabama.

If the meme out there is that the Buckeyes played a weak schedule, I might pick McCarron. That’s what happens when you let other people define your player’s accomplishments, Ohio State.

I’ve said it a million times and I’ll say it a million more: The reason corporations and politicians spend billions of dollars on commercials and other brand campaigns is because they work.

Everyone has heard of Coca-Cola. But does Coke say “Well, everyone knows what we are, we don’t really need to advertise anymore?”

No. Coke works continuously to define itself through marketing and branding. If it stopped doing so, Pepsi would win out and gain market share. Heck, we saw that in the late 1970s when Pepsi called itself ‘the choice of a new generation,’ which made Coke so sensitive to its stodgy image that it came out with the reprehensible ‘New Coke’.

Coke lost control of its narrative and it suffered as a result.

It’s no different when it comes to the race for the Heisman Trophy. Anyone who says differently doesn’t know anything about marketing.

That doesn’t mean a Times Square billboard should be de rigueur when it comes to Heisman campaigns (although one can trace the ascendancy of the modern Oregon football program to that brash move).

But it does mean that sports information and media relations departments around the country should stop coming up with excuses for why they’re not pushing their players for national honors.

These guys are communicators. They should be communicating.

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The Dri Archer Campaign

I’m not sure how this slipped by me, but Kent State is doing a nifty Heisman campaign on behalf of running back Dri Archer.

It’s a comic strip drawn by Chuck Ayers, a Kent State alum known for illustrating the “Funky Winkerbean” and “Crankshaft” cartoons.

Definitely one of the more creative campaigns to come around in a while.


Note: I’ve added Dri Archer’s Heisman web site to our list of candidate sites.

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The 2013 HeismanPundit preseason Heisman Watch

The 2013 preseason is finally upon us.

Training camps are underway. The first top 25 poll has been released. Every outlet imaginable has put out a preseason All-American team.

All that’s left to speculate on is the race for the most prestigious award in sports.

As with almost everything else in college football, the procedure for determining the Heisman winner can be a bit quirky. Each fall, the Heisman Trust asks 925 voters from six different geographic regions to select the player they deem to be the ‘most outstanding’ for that season.

This subjective criteria has, not surprisingly, produced some rather controversial results over the years, leading some detractors to downplay the validity of the process. Nonetheless, the hunt for the Heisman and the drama surrounding it remains as appealing and enduring (and exasperating) as the race for the team title itself.

That’s because the Heisman is yet another way for college football fans to claim bragging rights. Your team might miss out on a conference title, or squander a national championship, or lose to its rival, but your favorite player can still be called up to that podium at season’s end to take his place alongside an elite group of college football legends. More often than not, the Heisman winner is the player who best captures the zeitgeist of a particular season. He’s the guy we all remember, that grainy, galloping blur on an old highlight reel. In some cases, he can define an era.

This counts for something. The Heisman appeals to our sense of college football history and tradition, which is why most of us still care who takes home the bronze statue.

When it comes to putting together an accurate preseason Heisman list, however, all that matters is what the voters think. I created because I discerned a pattern in past voter behavior that I thought could help determine the players with the best chance of winning the trophy going forward. And so the 10 Heismandments were born. Have a look at them and you’ll see the philosophy that governs our preseason Heisman Watch.

One way to understand how the Heisman race works is to compare it to a Presidential campaign. In politics, if you are a governor or Senator from a big state like California, Texas, New York or Florida, you’ve got a built-in advantage when it comes to running for the White House. Your name recognition is greater, you reside in or near major media markets, you have an easier time fundraising and the act of making decisions on behalf of a large population enhances your experience and overall prestige. You obviously need political talent–and luck–to win the Presidency, but your task is made easier by having all those advantages. Conversely, if you are a politician from a state like South Dakota, or Kansas, you’ve got to work a lot harder to become a viable candidate. In most cases, it will either take extraordinary luck, or skill, to rise to the top of the pack.

It’s the same in the Heisman race. If you are a successful player for one of the elite traditional powers–the USCs, the Ohio States, the Oklahomas–you are more likely to be regarded as a major candidate by the voters. If you play for a non-elite, non-power team, you’ve got to overcome more obstacles to be taken seriously.

Does this mean you must play for a traditional power, or a national-title-contending team to win the Heisman? No. Even one-term governor and former peanut farmer Jimmy Carter became President. Look at Robert Griffin III’s win in 2011 for a prime example of how an upstart candidacy can catch fire. But it’s not a common occurrence. Is it fair? No, but it’s reality.

With all that in mind, here are the 10 players with the best chance of actually winning the Heisman heading into 2013. The most effective way to look at this list is to imagine all of the players having huge statistical seasons while leading their teams to an undefeated season. All those things being equal, who would the voters pick and in what order and why?

This list balances my educated guess of the likelihood of these players performing at a Heisman-worthy level with the built-in advantages they already possess with the Heisman electorate. Can a player not on this list win the Heisman or come close? Sure. But a lot would have to happen that would be impossible to predict with any certainty at this point — like, for instance, a freshman quarterback coming out of nowhere to put up 5,100 yards of total offense — which is why we’ll be adjusting this list as the weeks go on. Players will come and go depending on the circumstances.

So without further ado, here is the 2013 Preseason Heisman Watch: Continue Reading →

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Why can’t we have an honest discussion about defensive players and the Heisman?


I’ve documented for years on this site why pure defensive players can’t win the Heisman.

That’s not the same as not wanting a defender to win, but merely a recognition of the realities of football and the Heisman selection process. I look at the race as it is, not how I wish it would be.

There is potential down the line for a defensive player to mount a legitimate run at the Heisman, but that won’t happen until some type of advanced analytic is developed to properly quantify a defender’s value to a team, or his impact on a game.

Until then, we are stuck with a double standard that actually works in favor of defenders — and other non-skill-players — in the Heisman race, though it is not quite enough to put them over the top.

What do I mean?

Well, let’s look at how we usually treat a Heisman candidate if he is a quarterback or running back.

For quarterbacks, we look at their touchdown passes and interceptions, their total yardage, their passing efficiency, their rushing totals, their clutch plays at crucial moments in games, and so on.

For running backs, we look at their rushing yards and their touchdowns scored, their passes caught and their all-purpose yardage.

If a quarterback has a bad game or two, he is invariably expelled from the race. If the quarterback’s production doesn’t reach a certain threshold, he is not considered Heisman worthy. Same goes with the running back.

In other words, quarterbacks and running backs are held accountable for their production. Sometimes that production is parsed in a way that takes wins into account as well, but production is still the underpinning of their candidacies.

But when it comes to defensive players, production is valued only to a certain point. After that point, the media focuses on more nebulous qualities like ‘leadership’ or ‘heart’. Or, they just make stuff up in order to shoehorn the facts to fit the narrative.

Among the things you hear to cover for lack of production:

“He’s being double or even triple teamed on every play.”

“Teams are running away from him.”

“He affects the game in ways you can’t imagine.”

“You can’t measure what he brings to the team.”

“He is the heart and soul of that defense.”

These types of platitudes make it possible for defensive players to never have a ‘bad’ day. A defender can be invisible for most of a game and no one will really notice.

A case in point is Manti Te’o last season against USC. By all accounts, this was a key game in his Heisman Trophy campaign. While he did have an interception on a poorly-thrown ball, the Irish linebacker who some were touting as the best player in college football had all of three solo tackles. But it didn’t matter because he was the ‘heart and soul’ of that defense and so on.

But the media’s penchant for focusing on the ephemeral is not as bad as its general fabrication of events when describing defensive accomplishments.

For instance, South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney was recently named the preseason Heisman leader on ESPN’s Heisman Watch.

The blurb about Clowney had this line: “Few opponents try to block him one-on-one.”

Normally I wouldn’t make too much of a claim like this, but it came in conjunction with some other discussions I’d had with people about Clowney. When I pointed out to those people that he had just 8.5 sacks heading into his final regular season game last year — something they were not aware of — the response was predictable: “Yeah, but that’s because he’s always double and triple teamed.”

The great thing about the internet is that there are actually ways to check these kind of claims. Here’s a cut up of Clowney from nine games from the past two seasons:

If you actually watch the tape, you find that Clowney is rarely, if ever, double or triple teamed. He does get chipped on occasion, but it’s not anything out of the ordinary. In many cases, offensive linemen are quite effective blocking him one on one.

Once you realize that claims such as the one made by ESPN are bunk, you have to ask yourself whether Clowney’s production warrants the type of hype he is getting. Shouldn’t someone being touted as the best defensive prospect in a generation have the numbers to back it up? Terrell Suggs had an NCAA-record 24 sacks in 2002. Shouldn’t we expect the same type of production from someone who, by all accounts, is far more talented?

This is not to say Clowney is not a great player. He is often spectacular. But that still doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be held to the same production standards that we hold quarterbacks and running backs to in a typical Heisman race. If the facts don’t fit the narrative, we shouldn’t make excuses. But a lot of people in the media want Clowney to win the Heisman, so they’ll say anything to justify it.

Instead, we should look at the game with clear eyes. We should acknowledge that some positions in football just aren’t as important as others. As good as Clowney is, he can’t affect the game the same way a quarterback can. Clowney might have six sacks in a game but his team will lose if Connor Shaw has a particularly rough outing. Conversely, Clowney can be bottled up all game but if Shaw goes off, the Gamecocks will win going away. The increase in value from Clowney playing at a high level (compared to a regular player) is marginal compared to the value South Carolina gets when its quarterback plays at a high level. In other words, Clowney’s production could be achieved by someone with far less talent and South Carolina would probably be just as good. But since Clowney hit the genetic lottery and is a freak of nature who makes plays like this on occasion, we pretend that isn’t the case.

So for all the talk about bias against defenders in the Heisman selection process, the reality is that defenders are benefitting from not being judged by the same standards by which we judge offensive players. This year’s race will be the ultimate test case to judge whether nebulous claims and downright fabrications can overcome lack of actual production and carry a player all the way to the Heisman.

It almost did last year.

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The Round Up

It’s been a while since we’ve had a round up of the stories being written on the Heisman out there. So let’s get going with our first one of the preseason:

Here’s a Q & A with 1991 Heisman winner Desmond Howard.

Herschel Walker and Billy Cannon talk about when they first learned about the Heisman.

George Rogers talks about an honor better than winning the Heisman and some other stuff.

Is Johnny Football really Johnny Troublemaker?

A&M has Manziel’s back.

One voter reveals he didn’t vote for Manziel because he was a freshman.

Ricky Williams chimes in on the Manziel situation.

Here’s an unconvincing case for how ASU’s Taylor Kelly can win the Heisman.

Eddie George thinks TJ Yeldon has the ability to eventually win the Heisman.

Kyle Van Noy a Heisman candidate?  Please.

Troy Smith has signed with the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL.

Is Devin Gardner a Heisman candidate? Certainly.

ESPN’s preseason Heisman poll is out.

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