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The Latest HP Heisman Poll

The Heismanpundit Heisman Poll, Sept. 22

1. Tim Tebow, QB, Florida–55 (7)
2. Jahvid Best, RB, California–53 (5)
3. Colt McCoy, QB, Texas–43 (1)
4. Jacory Harris, QB, Miami–17
5. Case Keenum, QB, Houston–8
6. Eric Berry, DB, Tennessee–5
7. Daryll Clark, QB, Penn State–4
Jake Locker, QB, Washington–4
Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State–4
10. Jevan Snead, QB, Mississippi–2
About the Poll
The HeismanPundit.com Heisman Poll is made up of 13 Heisman voters from across the country. They vote for five players each week. Tabulations are made on a 5-4-3-2-1 basis, with five points awarded for a first-place vote, four points for a second-place vote and so on.  Last year’s final Heismanpundit poll was the most accurate in the country, picking five of the top six finishers in the Heisman vote.

Members of the panel include: Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel, Teddy Greenstein and Brian Hamilton of the Chicago Tribune, Olin Buchanan and Tom Dienhart of Rivals.com, Jenni Carlson of The Oklahoman, Bruce Feldman of ESPN.com, J.B. Morris of ESPN the Magazine, Austin Murphy, B.J. Schecter and Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated, plus Dick Weiss of the New York Daily News.

Chris Huston, owner of Heismanpundit.com, coordinates and also votes in the weekly poll.
HP’s Thoughts
Cal running back Jahvid Best is surging in this race now and it’s no wonder after scoring five touchdowns against Minnesota.  While Tebow and McCoy are obviously great players, Best provides a lot of the razzle dazzle that the voters crave and that has perhaps been lacking from the venerable quarterback duo in the early going.  If Best can keep it up these next two weeks against Oregon and USC, he might take over this race.  Keep an eye on Miami’s Jacory Harris, the latest dark horse to emerge.

From a Voter

“For me, this was the week preseason preconceptions gave way to what’s actually happening on the field. In the wake of an inspiring but workmanlike afternoon from Tebow; and another halting first half from McCoy, it was a no-brainer  to elevate the sensational Jahvid Best to the top of my ballot after his five-TD performance on the road against much-improved Minnesota.”– Austin Murphy, Sports Illustrated
Heisman Game of the Week
No. 6 Cal at Oregon.  This game would have a higher profile if the Ducks hadn’t flopped against Boise State in week one, but it is a possible trap game for the Bears, who could be looking ahead to USC the following week.  The good news for Best: No rain in the forecast and a chance to fly on field turf against a suspect defense.  Fun note: Best has scored more touchdowns this season than 40 teams in the FBS.
Player to Watch

Jacory Harris, Miami.  Harris and the Hurricanes head to Blacksburg to take on Virginia Tech this Saturday.  He’s one of the hottest players in the country right now, but playing in this venue will be a challenge.  Voters will be keeping a close eye on this game and Harris has a chance to make a big impression by leading Miami to a win.  If that happens, he’ll have no time to rest on his laurels as Oklahoma is up next.
This Week in Heisman History

Eddie George rushed for 207 yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries to lead No. 7 Ohio State to a 45-26 win over Notre Dame in 1995.  “All I know is I played a game against Notre Dame to the best of my ability,” said George afterward.  “If I’m up for Heisman consideration, that’s great.”  He went on to win the trophy that year, beating out Nebraska’s Tommy Frazier and Florida’s Danny Wuerffel.

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The HP Heisman Watch

Here is my latest list of players with the best shot of actually winning the Heisman.

1. Colt McCoy, Texas–McCoy didn’t have the greatest game against Texas Tech in front of a national television audience, but it’s going to take more than a couple early season interceptions to derail his Heisman run.  He was 24 of 34 for just 205 yards and one touchdown pass (with two interceptions) on Saturday.   On the season, he is 75 for 110 (68.2%) for 859 yards, with 6 touchdowns and 4 interceptions.  He is on pace to throw for 3,436 yards and 24 touchdowns with 16 interceptions.  While his yardage numbers are good, he needs to pick up the pace with the touchdown passes and start cutting back on his picks.   

2. Jahvid Best, California–Best has very good momentum right now and his odds have gotten better as it looks like Cal could be the Pac-10 favorite .  Doesn’t hurt that he scored five touchdowns against Minnesota, either.  He rushed 26 times for 131 yards against the Gophers.  The one issue he has is his health, which reared its head against Minnesota as he was hobbled in the second half.  On the year, he has 412 rushing yards on 53 carries (7.8 ypc), 8 rushing touchdowns, plus 7 catches for 59 yards and another score.    He currently leads the nation in scoring.  He is on pace to rush for 1,648 yards and 32 touchdowns.  He needs to increase his rushing totals a bit, but obviously his scoring pace is astronomical right now.

3. Tim Tebow, Florida–To win that second Heisman, it’s going to take a season that is head and shoulders above the other candidates.  Tebow might have a hard time doing that if he keeps having games like he had against Tennessee.  He was 14 of 19 for 115 yards against Tennessee, with no touchdown passes, one interception, plus 76 yards on 24 carries and a touchdown.  On the year, he is 39 of 58 (67.2%) for 540 yards with five touchdowns and one interception.  He has also rushed for 148 yards on 39 carries and three more touchdowns.  He is on pace for 2,160 passing yards, 20 touchdown passes and four interceptions, along with another 600 rushing yards.  Those are nice numbers, but he’ll be hard-pressed to win the Heisman with them.

4. Daryll Clark, Penn State–Clark is humming along in the background in the Heisman race and it would take a major fall by all the other candidates for him to break through.  Last week, he threw for 167 yards on 16 of 26 passing with two touchdowns and one pick against Temple.  On the year, he is 65 of 97 (67%) for 760 yards, eight touchdowns and three interceptions.  He is on pace for 3,040 passing yards, 32 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.  As long as the Nittany Lions remain undefeated, he’ll stick around on this Watch.

5. Jacory Harris, Miami–Harris is the ultimate long shot in this race, as he has very little name recognition amongst rank and file Heisman voters.  He is really just hitting his stride as a starting quarterback and if he can keep it up and Miami keeps winning, he’ll start to get some recognition.  Last week against Georgia Tech, he was 20 of 25 for 270 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.  On the year he is 41 of 59 (69.5%), for 656 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions.  His efficiency rating is a sterling 184.08.  He is on pace to throw for 3,936 yards with 30 touchdowns and 12 picks.  Those are obviously very good numbers and if he does it and Miami goes undefeated, he’s got an outside chance to win. 

Dropped out:  Max Hall, Joe McKnight, Jevan Snead, Dez Bryant

If the vote were held today

1. Colt McCoy

2. Jahvid Best

3. Tim Tebow

4. Daryll Clark

5. Case Keenum

6. Dez Bryant

7. Eric Berry

8. Jevan Snead

9. Tate Forcier

10. Jimmy Clausen

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The 2009 HP Preseason Heisman Watch

Here is my list of the players with the best chance of actually winning the Heisman.  It is not a predicted order of finish, so some players NOT on this list are still going to receive votes and finish somewhere in the top 10, but will in reality have no chance of actually taking home the trophy.

1. Colt McCoy, Texas–Last year’s Heisman runner up has accomplished the impressive feat of keeping up with Tim Tebow’s publicity machine in the offseason.  For instance, while Tebow is on the cover of Sports Illustrated, McCoy is on the cover of ESPN The Magazine.  McCoy is the senior quarterback of a traditional Heisman power and will help his team compete for a national title.  The perception out there is that perhaps he should’ve won the award last year and, as a result, voters will look to him first in 2009.  He had fantastic numbers in 2008, but they weren’t so amazing that they can’t be duplicated or surpassed.  He will have big games on TV against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M (on Thanksgiving) to impress the voters (and also the possibility of the Big 12 title game).  He’s got most of his offensive line returning, plus plenty of weapons at receiver, so his stats should not suffer.  Last year, he finished second to Sam Bradford in the Southwest and Far West regions, so much of Bradford’s support in those areas could go his way in 2009.  He is a likeable guy and so far has not been oversaturated in the media.  All other things being equal, McCoy has the best chance of winning the 2009 Heisman Trophy.

2. Tim Tebow, Florida–In previous years I would not put a player on this list who had already won a Heisman, mainly because I believe there will never be another two-time Heisman winner.  However, Tebow is one of those unique figures in college football history for whom an exception must be made.  He was the first sophomore to win the Heisman, so if anyone can win it a second time, it’s him.  He is helped by the fact that the glow of his Heisman season is two years in the past.  If he wins, he would be the Grover Cleveland of the Heisman (Cleveland being the only U.S. president to win non-consecutive terms).  I think winning two Heismans non-consecutively is a far more likely possibility than back-to-back Heismans.  The advantages Tebow has in this race are legion.  He is of course the quarterback for the No. 1 team and defending national champ.  He is the most famous player in college football right now and his name recognition is off the charts.  He is universally recognized as a great player and many see this season as his chance to establish himself as perhaps the greatest player in college football history.  He will once again put up excellent numbers in his inimitable style.     He’ll have marquee matchups against LSU, Georgia and Florida State (plus the SEC title game) to make his case.  So why isn’t he at the top of this list?  Mainly because History is a tough thing to overcome.  Heisman voters are fickle and will not give out a second trophy very willingly.  The burden of proof for Tebow to win again will be tremendous and it will only happen if there is not a viable alternative.  Plus, Tebow Fatigue will play a real factor (we saw it in last year’s vote as well).  So don’t believe those who think this race is Tebow’s to lose.  It isn’t.   

3. Jahvid Best, California–In an era dominated by spread quarterbacks, there is still room for a flashy running back.  There has been only one running back Heisman winner in this decade (Reggie Bush) and Best’s style is very similar to that winner.  He is coming off a fantastic sophomore year (1,580 yards, 15 TDs, 8.1 ypc) and has a chance to better those numbers if he stays healthy.  His big advantage is that he could be seen as the top running back alternative to all the quarterbacks in the race.  He also is a dazzling breakaway back who will be a staple of the highlight shows.  His big disadvantage is that he plays for a non-traditional Heisman power.  This means his Heisman run is at the mercy of his team’s success.  It will all boil down to how he does against USC.  If Cal beats the Trojans and he does well, then he becomes a serious Heisman contender.  The other issue is his durability.  A healthy Best likely approaches 2,000 yards and you don’t need accounting college to know he’ll require every one of those yards to have a shot at the Heisman.   

4. Terrelle Pryor, Ohio State–The last two Heisman winners have been sophomores, so maybe the trend continues here.  In order for a sophomore to win, he’s got to play for a traditional power and put up some crazy numbers at the same time.  Pryor has the chance to do just that, but it will depend on how well his passing has improved in the offseason.  Obviously, he’s a brilliant talent and if he comes into his own in 2009, he can make a serious Heisman run.  He’s got a big game in week two against USC in which to establish his Heisman candidacy.  If he leads a Buckeye win over the Trojans, he’ll be in the Heisman race all year.  If Ohio State loses, he’ll crawl his way back into it as the season progresses–big games against Penn State and Michigan could help–but he will not be a serious factor and will actually be setting himself up nicely for a run in 2010. 

5. Daryll Clark, Penn State–Clark had an excellent season as a first-year starter in 2008 and he should improve upon his numbers in 2009.  The Nittany Lions have a chance to run the table and if they do, Clark will get most of the credit.  His schedule isn’t exceptionally conducive to a Heisman run, but he does play Ohio State.  If some of the other candidates mess up or get injured, he could be seen as a viable alternative as long as the Lions are undefeated.

6. Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame–You can never count out a Notre Dame quarterback.  Clausen has name recognition and should put up pretty good numbers in 2009.  The Irish play an easy schedule, so Clausen has a shot at leading his team to a BCS bowl.  Of course, his big chance to make a Heisman statement will come against USC (do you see a trend here?).  If Notre Dame beats the Trojans and the Irish go on to win, say, 10 games, then Clausen will get some Heisman buzz.  His best chance of winning is for the main candidates to screw up and for Clausen to be seen as the reason behind the resurgence of Notre Dame football.  He’s got the receivers to have a huge year, but will he actually do it?  There’s the rub.

7. Max Hall, BYU–Only one school from a non-BCS conference has won the Heisman in the modern era and that’s Brigham Young.  The great tradition of Cougar quarterbacks gives Hall an outside chance at making a Heisman run.  Above all, he’s got the schedule to prove his mettle as BYU plays Oklahoma and Florida State in the early going.  If the Cougars come out of that unscathed, then Hall will be a legitimate candidate.  Whether he’d be able to overcome the McCoys and Tebows is another question, but he’d be seen as a viable alternative if they falter. 

8. Jevan Snead, Mississippi–Ole Miss is the hip choice as this year’s dark horse title contender.  If the Rebels live up to their billing, it will be because of the play of Snead, who is a potential first round pick.  He had a pretty good year in 2008 and if he can improve upon his numbers and keep Ole Miss in the title hunt, he’ll be a Heisman candidate.  But if the Rebels lose a game or two, his Heisman hopes will be finished.

9. Noel Devine, West Virginia–Devine has pretty good name recognition and a solid sophomore season to build upon.  He’d have to shatter the 2,000-yard mark in spectacular fashion to be a real factor in the race.

10. Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State–Bryant is the only multi-purpose athlete in the race.  He is already recognized as a fantastic receiver and return man.  If he can duplicate what he did last year as a sophomore and maybe drive a stake or two in the hearts of some of the elite Big 12 teams (like OU and Texas), then he can pick up a lot of Heisman votes.  Nothing thrills Heisman voters like timely, deadly punt returns and Bryant will have the chance to do just that.

If the vote were held right now

1. Colt McCoy

2. Tim Tebow

3. Sam Bradford

4. Jahvid Best

5. Dez Bryant

6. Eric Berry

7. Daryll Clark

8. Jeremiah Masoli

9. Max Hall

10.Taylor Mays

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