Tag Archives | Heisman

Heismanpundit’s Pre-Spring 2012 Heisman Watch

We now know who’s leaving early for the NFL, so it’s time to cobble together our list of the players who currently have the best shot of winning the 2012 Heisman Trophy.

Too early? Too bad. We’ve got another seven-and-a-half months to go until the season starts and we know you all can’t get by on recruiting and spring football alone.

This is just the first rollout of a series of lists. We’ll have revisions after spring ball and then a final Watch List heading into the season.

1. Matt Barkley, USC — Barkley returns for his senior year as the front runner for the 2012 Heisman. He’s got perhaps the best receiving corps in the history of college football catching his passes, so you know his numbers will be stellar. However, he must beat the expectations game or voters could eventually turn on him like they did Andrew Luck.

2. Denard Robinson, Michigan — Four of the last six Heisman winners have been dual-threat quarterbacks and it is this style that has the most potential to wow the voters. The story with Robinson will be how he turned around a storied program. If the Wolverines challenge for national honors, he’ll be a strong Heisman candidate.

3. Montee Ball, Wisconsin — Ball is the leading returning vote getter from last season, when he took fourth in the Heisman balloting. Because of this, it is very tempting to just make him the front runner, but one has to take into account the tremendous standard he set for himself last season by scoring 39 touchdowns. He’s bound to have a drop off of sorts and just how much he drops off will determine his eventual standing in the race.

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Russell Wilson To Wisconsin: The Impact On The 2011 Heisman Race

Former North Carolina State quarterback Russell Wilson is headed to Wisconsin to play for the Badgers his senior year.

What impact will this move have on the Heisman race?

Well, for starters, the Badgers should be much better than everyone thought they’d be after losing the highly-efficient Scott Tolzien to graduation.

My next inclination, however, is to surmise that the ultimate beneficiaries of this move vis à vis the Heisman will be tailbacks James White and Montee Ball.

Before Wilson’s transfer, Ball and White faced the prospects of spending the year plowing into 8-man fronts as Wisconsin’s new quarterback–most likely sophomore Joe Budmayr–got his feet wet.  Surely, defenses would challenge Budmayr (or whoever ultimately won the job) to beat them.  Until Budmayr morphed into the type of Wisconsin quarterback we’ve all come to know–tough, efficient, and bland–things were bound to be a bit rough for the Badger offense.

Now it looks like one of the Wisconsin backs has a chance for a special season.  With John Clay gone, there are 1,012 yards and 14 touchdowns up for reapportionment.  It’s quite possible that Ball and White split the difference, or that a new third back emerges, but there’s also a chance one or the other comes to the forefront and, before all is said and done, ends up in the pantheon of elite Badger runners. And if a Big Ten title follows, surely the Heisman would be in the conversation as well.

What of Wilson’s chances?  He is likely to have a smooth transition.  Keep in mind that Wilson is not stepping into a situation where he has to learn a difficult offense.  Wisconsin has one of the simpler passing schemes in the country.  He also brings an added element of mobility and, without a doubt, a stronger arm than the spectators at Camp Randall are used to seeing.  But I don’t envision him producing Heisman-type numbers as a Badger quarterback unless Brett Bielama tells offensive coordinator Paul Chryst to go crazy with his new toy (fat chance).

I do think we’ll see a much more efficient Wilson, one who won’t be asked to do as much as at oft-beleaguered NC State. In the end, that means a better Wisconsin in 2011 and, quite possibly, another legitimate Heisman candidate to add to the mix.

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LaMichael James Builds His Case

Even though Cameron Newton remains the Heisman front runner, there’s no doubt that LaMichael James made up a considerable amount of ground with his 239-yard, 3-touchdown performance against USC on Saturday.

Beating the Trojans or playing for the Trojans always helps in the Heisman race and James is sure to reap some immediate benefit with voters.  There should be significant movement toward James this week, which is likely to come at the expense of Kellen Moore’s candidacy.

That’s because voters have been presented with a clear choice between a rare athlete playing the quarterback position who appears to be able to do it all (pass, run…and catch!) and a diminutive speedster at tailback who leads the nation in rushing and scoring and is the main cog in the nation’s most fearsome offensive machine.  While Moore’s numbers are sterling all around, he lacks the pizzazz of the other two.  At this point, he’s probably a distant third (though almost assuredly heading to New York).

I think it is noteworthy that all three players have their teams undefeated at this point in the season.  The last time the top three players in the Heisman vote played for three different undefeated teams was…never (research pending)?  What more could Heisman voters wish for?

But does James really have a chance to overtake Newton?

I think so.  It looks to me like the gap has been narrowed enough to where Newton will probably have to lead Auburn to a win over Alabama in order to be able to hold off the surging James, who has come through with extraordinary efforts against the two ranked teams he has faced (248 yards per game).

Prior to the USC game, I felt Newton could probably play well in a loss to the Tide and still win the Heisman.  But now that James has his own signature win as a counterbalance, I believe the deciding factor between the two could be which team makes it to the BCS title game.  If both players keep playing well and Oregon makes it and Auburn does not, then I think James wins the Heisman.  If both teams make it, or just Auburn, then Newton wins.

Voters will have a tough choice ahead of them.  James could very well kick it into high gear in his remaining four games and end up topping the magical 2,000-yard mark despite missing the opener.  Meanwhile, Newton is on pace to throw for over 2,000 yards and rush for 1,500.  You don’t see that every day…because it’s never happened. 

Newton also has the mega-matchup with the Tide to help put him over the top, but there’s a chance the Bama defense slows him down, too.  James won’t draw the same level of hype as he closes out his schedule, but he will take on what could be a top 10 Arizona team (if the Wildcats beat Stanford) and then pesky rival Oregon State.  So the opportunities are there for James to make up some ground.

Last week at this time it looked like Cam Newton had a chance to run away with the Heisman.  Throw that thought out the window for the time being.

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The Heisman Pundit Heisman Poll, Week 6

As I tried to explain earlier this week, Denard Robinson is still the leader for the time being…

Total Points (with first place votes in parentheses)

1. Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan — 18 (5)

2. (tie) Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State — 16 (4)

2. (tie) LaMichael James, RB, Oregon — 16 (2)

4. Terrelle Pryor, QB, Ohio State — 14 (2)

5. Cameron Newton, QB, Auburn–9

6. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford–4

7. Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska–1

About the poll
The HeismanPundit.com Heisman Poll is made up of 13 Heisman voters from across the country. They vote for three players each week. Tabulations are made on a 3-2-1 basis, with three points awarded for a first-place vote, two points for a second-place vote and one point for a third-place vote.  The last two years the Heismanpundit poll was the most accurate in the country, picking five of the top six finishers in the Heisman vote in 2008 and the top four in 2009.

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
Denard Robinson didn’t vault to the top of the Heisman race in just one week and he wasn’t going to fall from the top in just one week, either.  Despite a three-interception game against Michigan State, Robinson still put up solid overall numbers and maintained the faith of Heisman voters…for now.  Lurking close by in the race is Kellen Moore (who is unlikely to fall very low or rise very high for a while), LaMichael James and Terrelle Pryor.  If Robinson falters against Iowa this week, there will be a free-for-all for the top spot.  If Robinson comes through with, well, another Robinson-like performance, then look for his margin to (once again) increase.

From a Voter
“Denard Robinson may very well lose his frontrunner status in the coming weeks with Michigan’s schedule, but he’s been the best player in the nation so far this season. Even in the Wolverines’ loss to Michigan State last Saturday he put up 301 yards of total offense. LaMichael James has been the nation’s best back as Oregon has rolled, and Terrelle Pryor has a chance to make a statement with a big performance against Wisconsin on Saturday. Watch out for Nebraska freshman Taylor Martinez; he’s quickly moving up the list.” — B.J. Schecter, Sports Illustrated.

Heisman Game of the Week
No. 15 Iowa at Michigan
 — This game could go a long way toward determining the Heisman winner.  If Robinson bounces back from a sub-par (for him) game last week, then he’s likely to retain his front runner status until the Wolverines play Wisconsin on Nov. 20.  If Iowa shuts him down, then it will break the race wide open and give Pryor, Moore and James a chance to move into the top spot. 

Player to Watch
Terrelle Pryor — Pryor gets his second real test of the season this Saturday as Ohio State travels to Madison to take on Wisconsin.  Pryor was just 5 of 13 for 87 yards against the Badgers last year, but all indications are that his passing has improved markedly.  It will be a boon to his Heisman hopes if he can put together a complete game here and lead the Buckeyes to a win.

This Week in Heisman History
Pat Sullivan threw for 281 yards and three touchdowns–at one point completing an SEC-record 13-straight passes–as Auburn beat Georgia Tech, 31-14, in 1971. The Tigers trailed Tech, 7-6, entering the fourth quarter before exploding for 25 points.  Sullivan would go on to win the 1971 Heisman Trophy, beating out Ed Marinaro of Cornell and Greg Pruitt of Oklahoma.

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What we Learned About Denard Robinson Today

It’s quite simple: What we learned today is that he is still leader in the Heisman race, despite those who say that a three-interception game counts as some sort of automatic disqualification.

Far more important than the fact that Robinson’s team lost and far more important than the three interceptions is the fact that, in a game where he was slowed down considerably, he still had over 300 yards of offense (217 passing, 84 rushing) against a ranked team that was determined to stop him.  It’s become clear that an ‘off’ day for him is still an ‘on’ day for most players.  Furthermore, it has still not been demonstrated that he can be ‘stopped’ the way most players can.

Hearken back to game six of the 2007 season.  Tim Tebow was held to 158 passing yards, 67 rushing yards and two total touchdowns in a loss to LSU (the second-straight for the Gators).  That loss did little to slow down the Tebow train because he was able to maintain his record-setting pace, just as Robinson was able to against Michigan State.  Had Robinson been completely shut down, his Heisman hopes would’ve suffered immensely, but that’s not what happened.

At the halfway point, Robinson now has 1,225 passing yards, 8 TD passes and 4 picks, with 991 rushing yards and 9 TDs.  It doesn’t take a math major to see that this projects to 2,450 passing yards, 16 TDs, 8 ints, 1,982 rushing yards and 18 TDs.  A twist here and there and he’s still the NCAA’s first 2,000/2,000 guy.

I will grant that there are tougher defenses ahead of him.  But even if Robinson averages the yardage he did in his ‘off day’ the rest of the year, he would end up with a 2,500/1,500 season, which would still make him a formidable, really hard-to-beat candidate.

Remember, the Heisman race does not take place inside a vacuum for each player.  Robinson will be measured against what the rest of the field has done.  If Robinson is not the front runner right now, who is?  The other candidates in the race have also had games where they were ‘slowed’ down. 

There are lots of games left to be played and I still think Terrelle Pryor has the best chance to win in the end (see my Heisman Watch), but if there was a vote today, Robinson would win. 

It’s still his trophy to lose.

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Heisman D-Day No. 1: Ryan Mallett and Alabama

Setting the table for today:

There are currently four major candidates for the 2010 Heisman Trophy and several minor candidates behind them trying to gain traction.

As the race now stands, the leader (if the vote were held today) is a sophomore quarterbacking phenom from a traditional power who has burst onto the scene with his passing and running.  He is on pace for a record-breaking season.

Not far behind him–and with more overall advantages in the campaign–is a junior quarterback with elite size and athleticism (and good name recognition) who is in his third year as a starter and is also from a traditional power, though one that is competing for the national title.

Then there is the gutty and diminutive junior from the upstart national title-contending program whose passing numbers and winning percentage as a starter are unmatched and whose Heisman fortunes are, more than anyone else, tied in with those of his team. 

Finally, we get to the mountainous junior quarterback with the rocket arm who may well set all kinds of SEC records before he’s through. 

Denard Robinson and Terrelle Pryor will not see their Heisman hopes change much as a result of what happens in their games today.  And while Kellen Moore’s Heisman aspirations could be dealt a mortal blow if Boise State loses to Oregon State, he’s not going to jump over Robinson and Pryor if the Broncos win.

The one player who has the most to gain from Saturday is Ryan Mallett.

If Mallett plays well and leads the Razorbacks to a win over No. 1 Alabama, I think he’s got a chance to move into the No. 1 spot in the Heisman race or, at the worst, dislodge Pryor for the No. 2 spot.

If the Razorbacks lose a closely-contested game despite Mallett playing well–or if Arkansas wins despite Mallett being ineffective–I think he can stick around in third or fourth place and be in position for a late season Heisman run if the Hogs win out and he puts up some sick numbers.

But if Mallett plays poorly and Alabama wins, then his Heisman hopes will be difficult to revive unless the contenders ahead of him hit similiar road bumps.  One thing in Mallett’s favor is that the remainder of the Arkansas schedule features some ‘name’ teams like Texas A&M, Auburn and LSU, but the Hogs are likely to be favored to beat each of them, depending on what happens today.

What kind of game does Mallet have to have to take control of the race?  I’m thinking he needs over 300 yards and 3 TDs with no costly picks.  That would be impressive against a tough–although untested–‘Bama defense. 

Well, the table is set.  Time to watch the games.

Feel free to comment below as the day goes on…I’d love to get everyone’s thoughts on week four.

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Ingram and the Second Heisman

Here’s a good story by the AP looking at Mark Ingram and the difficulties he’ll have as he tries to win a second Heisman.

“The thing that you face is you’re everyone’s target when line up on Saturday,” said Ware, who left Houston for the NFL after winning the Heisman as a junior in 1989. “Everyone wants to say, ‘I hit the Heisman Trophy winner.’ You become everyone’s claim to fame so to speak. So every weekend, because last year’s Heisman winner plays for Alabama, it’s ammunition enough but when you’ve got the Heisman winner on your team, everyone wants that shot to say that they beat the Heisman winner.”

Check it out.

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