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Heisman Pundit’s 2010 Preseason Heisman Watch

August is upon us, camp is right around the corner and the games are a month away, which means it’s time for my annual preseason list of the players with the best chance of actually winning the Heisman.

This is not–repeat, not!–how I think the vote will fall.  The players listed here are the ones who I think can win and therefore they are listed in the order of their odds of doing so (if all things, including stats, are equal).  This means that there may be several players not listed here who will indeed finish in the top 10 of the voting but can’t actually win.  Conversely, some of the players listed below may not end up sniffing any Heisman votes, but could win if certain things go right .  

This list takes into account the strengths of the candidates and the traditional power of the teams involved, their level of name recognition entering the season, their statistical past, their statistical potential for 2010, their talent, their schedule and all the intangibles that could possibly come into play.   As the season goes on, we will whittle the list down.

I will say that 2010 does not feature a slam dunk preseason favorite.  There is not a whole lot separating the top 10 or so candidates.  But, if they were all perceived to have the same type of year, this is how it would go:

1. Terrelle Pryor, QB, Jr., Ohio State–Pryor gets the top spot on this list thanks to his superior name recognition, his rapidly blossoming talent and the fact that he is a junior quarterback for a traditional power expected to vie for the national title.  He helped the Buckeyes finish strong last year, culminating in an MVP performance in a win over Oregon in the Rose Bowl [note: always helps to be a bowl MVP].  He threw for 2,087 yards, 18 TDs and 11 interceptions while rushing for 779 yards and another seven scores.      If, as expected, he improves upon those numbers and Ohio State is in the thick of the national title hunt, he’s got a great shot at winning the Heisman.  An early showdown with Miami gives him the platform to launch his campaign.  A trio of games with Penn State, Iowa and Michigan is there at the end for him to seal the deal.  I think he’ll need minimum 2,500 passing yards with 25 TDs and at least 800 additional rushing yards in order to be deemed Heisman worthy.  If the Rose Bowl is any indication of his future potential, then it shouldn’t be a problem.      

2. Jacory Harris, QB, Jr., Miami–This could be the year of the ACC Heisman contender and in my eyes Harris leads the pack.  He’s a junior quarterback on a traditional power that has a chance to contend for the national title.  He’s got decent name recognition and is coming off a sophomore season where he threw for 3,352 yards and 24 touchdowns (plus 17 interceptions).  Obviously, he needs to cut down on his picks, but I think he’ll do that as he now has a full year in Mark Whipple’s system.  The compelling narrative in Harris’ favor is that he could be the guy who leads Miami back to prominence after about half-a-decade of mediocrity or worse.  He’ll have the showdown against Ohio State early to state his case, then tough road games at Pitt and Clemson to punctuate it.  And he’s got Florida State and Virginia Tech at home, which makes things easier.  If he can keep his rather rail-like body intact, he should have a big season and lead Miami to the ACC title.  That could mean a trip to New York.    

3. Christian Ponder, QB, Sr. Florida State–As with Miami’s Harris, Ponder’s appeal is that he could be the quarterback to lead his program back to national relevance.  He’s the senior quarterback for a traditional power that has a chance to have a really good season.  While he doesn’t have a huge amount of name recognition heading into the year, the FSU sports information office has done a masterful job getting the word out about Ponder in the offseason.  Last year, he threw for 2,717 yards, with 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions while completing nearly 69 percent of his passes.  However, he missed the last four games due to injury and wasn’t able to put up the kind of numbers you usually see from a Heisman candidate.  If healthy, he should do just that in 2010.  Early games at Oklahoma and versus BYU will help show he is back, while slaying the Gators at the end could be the key to his whole Heisman rationale.

4. Ryan Williams, RB, So., Virginia Tech–Yet another ACC contender.  The last three winners have been sophomores, so maybe Williams will keep the trend alive in 2010.  He was an absolute stud as a freshman, rushing for 1,655 yards and 21 touchdowns while averaging 5.7 yards per carry.  He played well against good teams, rushing for 71 yards and two scores on 13 carries against Alabama (in his debut), 107 yards and a score on 21 carries against Nebraska and 117 yards and two touchdowns in the bowl thrashing of Tennessee.  Due to his youth, Williams doesn’t have a whole lot of name recognition, but I expect that to change quickly in 2010.  He starts out with a Monday night prime time matchup against what will be a top three Boise State team, then hits a fairly soft schedule for the next seven games.  By the time the Hokies host Georgia Tech in a Thursday night game in early November, he may well be leading the nation in rushing and perhaps the Heisman race as well.  Late games against a tough North Carolina defense and a very good Miami team will make or break his final Heisman case.  If Virginia Tech is winning the ACC and Williams is racking up the yards, look out.

5. John Clay, RB, Jr., Wisconsin–The more I looked at Clay, the more I liked his viability as a Heisman candidate.  He’s coming off a 1,517-yard, 18-touchdown sophomore season and the Badgers return 10 starters on offense, including all five linemen.  Good yardage is an almost certain guarantee for backs in the Wisconsin system, but Clay has the kind of talent that reminds one more of Ron Dayne than P.J. Hill–he’s a powerful bruiser with a fair bit of nimbleness in his step.  Noteworthy in looking at his stats last year is that he did not pad his numbers against Northern Illinois or Wofford, though his two worst games were against Iowa and Ohio State–both Badger losses.  But he finished strong with 801 yards and 11 scores in his last six, with 121 and a couple scores against Miami in the bowl.  To me, the likely path for Clay to win the Heisman is a 2,000-yard season as I don’t think the Badgers will get out of the Big Ten unscathed.  But considering the history of Badger backs, I don’t think 2,000 is out of the question and it may even be a decent possibility if he can stay healthy. 

6. Ryan Mallett, QB, Jr., Arkansas–As I wrote earlier, there is very little separating the top 10 or so candidates on this list.  Mallett could very easily be in the top three here, but one has to take into account how his team will finish in the SEC.  The Razorbacks could very well make a run at the conference crown [I actually have them in my top 10 preseason list nationally], but that is not a given.  This is where Mr. Mallett comes in, as his play must elevate the Hogs into that upper echelon in order for his Heisman hopes to take sail.  I don’t think we need worry about his numbers.  He is coming off a 3,624 yard season with 30 scores and seven picks.  He’s a major talent with a howitzer for an arm and he plays in one of the best offensive systems in college football.  So, he’s going to have an outstanding season individually.  But how Arkansas does in a four game stretch against Georgia, Alabama, Texas A&M and Auburn will determine the resiliency of his candidacy.  The regular season finale against LSU and a possible SEC title game appearance would help a possible late run at the trophy.  He’s the SEC’s No. 1 Heisman candidate.     

7. John Brantley, QB, Jr., Florida–To understand why a player who has never started a game could be seen to have a shot at the Heisman, you have to look at a few underlying factors.  Namely, Brantley is taking over at quarterback for a college football legend and therefore many eyes will be surveying his progress.  Given the past success of Urban Meyer quarterbacks in their first years starting and the obvious talent that Brantley possesses, it is not far-fetched to assume he will do quite well.  And if Brantley has a very good season, he will be widely perceived as the guy who kept a good thing going, the next in line, etc., and he could emerge as a legitimate Heisman contender.  As a sophomore in mop-up duty for Tim Tebow in 2009, Brantley threw for 410 yards and seven scores with no picks.  Obviously, he’ll blow those numbers away in 2010.  There’s the usual high-profile SEC slate that includes a game at Alabama, which could be a boon…or it could sink him fast. 

8. Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Jr., Oregon State–Rodgers is one of the most versatile backs in college football and has been a well-known commodity since the fourth game of his freshman season.  He’s coming off a sophomore season where he rushed for 1,440 yards and 21 touchdowns, while also catching 78 passes and another score.  He’s on pace to break a slew of school and Pac-10 records.  The key for Rodgers is going to be how his team fares.  If the Beavers can once again challenge for the conference crown and he has another huge season, he’ll be in the Heisman conversation.  An opener against TCU will help make an early case, as will playing at Boise State.  As always, marquee matchups with USC and Oregon later on in the year will be critical.  I think Rodgers needs 1,800-plus yards to really contend.

8. Case Keenum, QB, Sr., Houston–Keenum is on track to become the NCAA’s all-time leader in passing yards.  He finished eighth in the Heisman vote last year after a brilliant season in which he had 5,671 yards and 44 touchdowns while completing 70 percent of his passes.  There will be much well-deserved consternation this year about why Keenum is not in the thick of the race and unfortunately this issue will not be resolved as long as there is a two-tiered system called the BCS in place.  As it stands, it is very difficult for a player from a non-BCS team to win the Heisman.  The last player to do so from a non-power conference was BYU’s Ty Detmer in 1990.  Keenum just won’t get many chance to showcase his abilities against top level teams.  I think Keenum’s best chance to win is for the rest of the contenders to have lackluster years, while he sets the NCAA single-season AND career marks for yards and touchdowns.  I think that’s what it will take and I don’t rule it out, but it’s a longshot.

9. Noel Devine, RB, Sr., West Virginia–Devine has excellent name recognition and is a human highlight reel.  Voters love exciting highlights.  He had a good junior year, rushing for 1,465 yards and 13 touchdowns, but he’ll need to light it up as a senior to have a chance at the Heisman.  Unless West Virginia captures the Big East and lands itself in the top 10, that means approaching the 2,000-yard mark in spectacular fashion.  Coming up big at LSU in late September would help, as would production against Cincy and Pitt, but the schedule isn’t highly conducive to a serious Heisman run.  However, this could be overcome by pure numbers and Devine is the kind of back who would do it with style.

10. Jake Locker, QB, Sr., Washington–Locker has come a long way, both as a quarterback and as a potential Heisman candidate.  The last year has seen him transform from a fantastic athlete who happened to be playing behind center into a consensus high NFL draft pick…which in turn has propelled his Heisman talk.  For those Heisman voters who place a high premium on NFL talent, he will be very attractive.  There’s no doubting his value to his team as Washington went from 0-12 when he was hurt in 2008 to 5-7 when he was healthy in 2009.  But for Locker to have a real shot at the Heisman, he’s got to push Washington to heights not seen in a decade.  Last year, he threw for 2,800 yards, with 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, while rushing for 388 and another seven scores.  He needs to do all that and much more while leading the Huskies to at least nine wins–and hope that other candidates screw up–in order to be in serious consideration for the Heisman.  Early games against BYU, Nebraska and USC will test his campaign.  A late season run will be difficult unless Washington has a chance at the conference crown.  In short, Locker will need to pull off a miracle to take home the trophy. 

The Rest:

11. Kellen Moore, QB, Jr., Boise State

12. Garrett Gilbert, QB, So., Texas-

14. LaMichael James, RB, So., Oregon

14. Andrew Luck, QB, So., Stanford

15. Dion Lewis, RB, So., Pittsburgh

16. Jerrod Johnson, QB, Sr., Texas A&M

Waaaaait a second.  Where’s Mark Ingram?

Nothing personal Tide fans.  Ingram is merely a victim of Heismandment No. 9, which states there will never be another two-time Heisman winner.  Since starting this site, here are the returning Heisman winners who have failed to make my preseason list the following season:  Jason White, Matt Leinart, Tim Tebow and Sam Bradford.  So Ingram will end up being the latest player to fall prey to the repeat curse.  Can he finish 2nd?  Sure.  But he won’t win and the list above is about who is most likely to win.

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The HP Heisman Watch

This has not been the Heisman race everyone thought it would be.  Thus far, the peformances by the top preseason contenders have been a bit underwhelming.  I believe that October will reveal the eventual winner, but there is also a chance the race will be re-set (a concept I discuss here) and that some new candidates will emerge.  Until that happens, though, there still appears–at this point–to be only four candidates with a chance to actually win the Heisman.

1. Colt McCoy, Texas–He threw for 265 yards on 32 of 39 passing, with a touchdown and one interception in the Longhorns’ win over Colorado.  These are solid numbers, though not spectacular.  On the year, he has 1,410 passing yards (73.4%), with 10 touchdowns and six picks.   His rushing numbers are down considerably from last year, as he has just 58 yards and one touchdown on the season.  He is on pace to have around 3,500 passing yards with 26 touchdowns and 14 interceptions by the time of the Heisman vote.

McCoy’s Heisman run, if it comes, begins this week versus Oklahoma.  Given the paucity of marquee matchups on the Texas schedule–a byproduct of the Big 12’s drop in quality relative to 2008–losing to the Sooners would probably be fatal to McCoy’s Heisman hopes, unless the other candidates in the running also slip up.  He should have the full attention of Heisman voters, as Texas-OU kicks off at noon ET, while Tim Tebow and Jimmy Clausen will be playing at the same time in the 3:30 ET time slot.  Simply put, this is McCoy’s chance to put his stamp on the race.

If McCoy gets past OU, then keeps putting up the kind of passing yardage he has so far, while adding a few four or five-touchdown games and keeping his interception rate low (and his team undefeated), he’ll win the Heisman.

2. Tim Tebow, Florida–Tebow’s Heisman hopes improved considerably thanks to his gutty performance in Florida’s win over LSU.  While he didn’t dominate statistically, he showed why he is so valuable to the nation’s No. 1 team.  Does Florida lose without Tebow?  Given the way the Gators played defensively, I’m not so sure, but having No. 15 in charge surely gave Florida a lot of confidence in such a hostile environment.

Tebow threw for 134 yards on 11 of 16 passing with one touchdown and one interception.  He also added 38 yards on 17 carries.   On the season, he has 777 passing yards, with seven touchdowns and two interceptions, plus 309 rushing yards and five touchdowns.  He is on pace to have about 2,000 passing yards, with 17 touchdown passes and five interceptions by the time of the Heisman vote (plus another 800 yards and 13 TDs on the ground). 

The main question with Tebow:  Can he win that elusive second Heisman while producing a season that is not clearly superior to the rest of the field?  Excluding option QB Eric Crouch, the last signal caller to win the Heisman without throwing at least 30 touchdown passes was Charlie Ward in 1993.  The last quarterback to win the Heisman while throwing  fewer than 20 touchdown passes (again excluding Crouch) was Geno Torretta in 1992.  Both Ward and Torretta won their Heismans absent serious challenges from players on traditional Heisman powers.  Tebow must contend with rivals from Texas (McCoy) and Notre Dame (Clausen), both of whom have a shot at hitting that 30-TD level (with both probably guaranteed of surpassing 20).  Both schools have the institutional power to siphon away Heisman votes from Tebow, which is why despite his superior name recognition and unrivaled reputation in the world of college football, his success in the race may depend less on what he does and more on what those other candidates don’t do.  If neither McCoy or Clausen come through, Tebow’s lack of numbers won’t matter as much.

3. Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame–Clausen and Notre Dame had a bye this past weekend, so he heads into the game against USC still leading the nation in passing efficiency.  Clausen has 1,544 passing yards with 12 touchdowns and two interceptions on the season.  He is on pace to have 3,706 passing yards with 29 touchdowns and five interceptions by the time of the Heisman vote.  In any other year, this would be a good season, but probably not enough to win the Heisman. 

However, the 2009 season has seen a marked decline in output by quarterbacks.  While seven passers topped the 35-touchdown pass mark in 2008 (with Sam Bradford having 48 when he won the Heisman), only one (Case Keenum) is on pace to surpass that in 2009.  So if Clausen keeps up his pace, his numbers could look very good relative to the competition.

Clausen is set up perfectly for a Heisman run.  Beat USC and then finish strong against five unranked teams and then Stanford (which could be ranked) and he’s got a great shot to win.  I think going 11-1 with a win over the Trojans will give Clausen a valid case to present to the voters.  But I don’t think a loss to USC will be forgiven, as the one knock on the Irish is that they haven’t beaten a good team in recent memory.  Clausen has that cross to bear and the burden won’t get any easier unless he leads Notre Dame to a win this Saturday. 

4. Jacory Harris, Miami–Harris threw for 217 yards with two touchdowns and two picks against Florida A&M this past Saturday.  On the season, he has 1,225 passing yards, with 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions.  He is on pace to have 2,940 yards, 24 touchdown passes and 17 interceptions by the time of the Heisman vote.

Harris’ game against Florida A&M was a missed opportunity to pile up the kind of numbers he needs to outshine his foes in the Heisman race.  Given his sophomore status, his case for the Heisman must be crystal clear.  That means Miami has to win out and Harris must have a season that is statistically head and shoulders above the other candidates.  At this point, I believe he needs to average 280 yards and 3 touchdowns per game (while keeping his interceptions at 10 or below) in his last seven games (all of which Miami must win) to have a shot at doing that.  Upping his pace to that level would give him about 3,300 yards and 33 touchdowns by the time of the Heisman vote.  Those numbers would contrast nicely with the other candidates and he’ll be able to say he brought Miami back.  Is it likely?  Probably not.  But I’d like to see how he does against UCF on Saturday before completely eliminating him from consideration. 

If the vote were held today:

1. Tim Tebow

2. Colt McCoy

3. Jimmy Clausen

4. Case Keenum

5. Tony Pike

6. Eric Berry

7. Jacquizz Rodgers

8. Jacory Harris

9. Ndamkong Suh

10. Mark Ingram

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The Heismanpundit Heisman Poll, 10/6

This Week’s Poll Results, 10/6
(points, plus first-place votes in parantheses)
1. Tim Tebow, QB, Florida–52 (7)
2. Colt McCoy, QB, Texas–48 (3)
3. Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame–31 (2)

4. Tony Pike, QB, Cincinnati–24

5. Case Keenum, QB, Houston–11

6. Jacory Harris, QB, Miami–8

7. A.J. Green, WR, Georgia–7 (1)

8. Tate Forcier, QB, Michigan–4

9. Toby Gerhart, RB, Stanford–3

10. Golden Tate, WR, Notre Dame–3

11. Eric Decker, WR, Minnesota–2
Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State–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, including the winner.

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.
From a Voter

“They may not have the most eye-popping numbers to date — especially since they’ve played one less game than a lot of the other contenders — but Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy are running the best teams and still performing at a high level.  Tony Pike is in that same category.  The numbers of Jimmy Clausen and Toby Gerhardt are just too significant to ignore, even if the overall team success hasn’t quite validated either Notre Dame or Stanford as among the nation’s elite.  But then, both players will have chances for signature games soon enough, especially when Clausen stares down the USC defense in a couple weeks.” — a Heisman voter.
Heisman Game of the Week
No. 1 Florida at No. 4 LSU.  High stakes here, as always.  The Tigers might be Florida’s biggest obstacle to an undefeated regular season.  So will Tebow play or won’t he?  That is the question.  If he plays and leads Florida to a victory, it will add another chapter to his amazing legacy and his end reward could be that elusive second Heisman.  If he doesn’t play, or performs poorly in a loss, then his Heisman hopes will fade considerably.    
Player to Watch

Toby Gerhart, RB, Stanford.  Who would’ve thought the top running back on the West Coast might end up coming from the other side of the San Francisco Bay?  The 6-1, 240-pound Gerhart is fourth in the nation in rushing and embodies Stanford’s newly-discovered, blue-collar style under head coach Jim Harbaugh.  With no other running backs in the race, Gerhart could make a late-season run at the trophy. 
This Week in Heisman History

Quarterback Jim Plunkett completed 19 of 31 passes for 276 yards and one touchdown (a 50-yarder to tight end Bob Moore) as No. 12 Stanford upset No. 4 USC in 1970, ending the Trojans’ 25-game regular-season unbeaten streak.  Plunkett later beat out Notre Dame’s Joe Theismann for the Heisman and then led the Indians to a stunning 27-17 win over undefeated Ohio State in the 1971 Rose Bowl.

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The HP Heisman Watch

We are five weeks in and right now I believe there are only four players left who can actually win the Heisman in the current environment.  I say ‘current’ because there is one circumstance in which the race could be thrown wide open to all comers again.  Namely, if every one of the remaining four candidates mess up.

What kind of scenario would that entail? 

1. Colt McCoy plays horribly in a loss to Oklahoma, or when Texas gets upset elsewhere along the way.

2. Tim Tebow’s weakened state leads either to a loss vs. LSU or he doesn’t play for a couple games, severely curtailing his stats.

3. Notre Dame and Jimmy Clausen get trounced by USC.

4. Miami gets upset and Jacory Harris underperforms or gets hurt.

In this scenario, the race would be ‘reset’ and the usual standards for picking the Heisman winner would be ratcheted down.  Voters would disregard the usual statistical benchmarks and team records in order to determine the winner.  Outside candidates who wouldn’t normally break into the top echelon would then be reconsidered.  Should this happen, look for names like Greg McElroy, Joe McKnight, Tony Pike, Toby Gerhart, Tate Forcier and Noel Devine to emerge as possible contenders, along with the current ones.

That said, here are the four players who currently have the best chance at actually winning the Heisman.  All four are from traditional Heisman powers.  Remember, this is a projection based on how the season is likely to unfold based on what we know now, NOT the way the vote would end up.

1. Colt McCoy, Texas–McCoy is the clear front runner and all he really has to do is beat Oklahoma to put himself in position to cruise to the Heisman.  He has a chance to make this race devoid of any drama.  On the year, he’s got 1,145 passing yards, with 9 TDs and 5 picks and is completing 71 percent of his passes.  Assuming Texas makes the Big 12 title game, he is on pace to have 3,721 passing yards with 29 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.  Now, he obviously needs to tone down the picks, but I don’t think he’ll have a problem doing that.  If he maintains a 3-to-1 ratio, he’ll be fine.  But if the picks keep coming, they could pose a problem for some voters. 

2. Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame–When was the last time a Notre Dame quarterback led the nation in passing efficiency?  Well, that’s what Clausen is doing now.  And he’s doing so in dramatic fashion, leading the Irish to comeback win after comeback win.  I think there is an understanding that Notre Dame isn’t especially good right now, but that it is Clausen who is willing them to victory anyway.  On the year, he has 1,544 passing yards, with 12 TDs and 2 interceptions.  He is completing 68 percent of his passes.  He is on pace to have 3,705 passing yards with 29 TDs and 5 picks by the time of the Heisman vote.  His biggest obstacle is USC in two weeks.  But if he beats the Trojans–and it will most likely be because of him if it happens–he may be unstoppable in this race. 

3. Jacory Harris, Miami–Harris has emerged as a legitimate Heisman contender after a very tough first four games.  If the ‘Canes were 4-0, he might be in great shape in the race.  But they are 3-1 and some things will need to happen for him to have a shot.  Namely, Miami needs to win out.  I actually think this is a good possibility.  If the ‘Canes are 11-1 at the time of the Heisman vote and in contention for a BCS berth of some sort, Harris will be seen as the catalyst for the program’s revival, much like Carson Palmer was seen as the reason for USC’s revival in 2002.  Right now, he has 1,008 passing yards with 8 TDs and 5 interceptions.  He is completing 62 percent of his passes.  He is on pace to have  3,024 passing yards with 24 TDs and 15 picks by the time of the Heisman vote.  However, because Miami’s schedule is considerably easier the rest of the way than it has been so far, I expect his yardage and touchdowns to rise considerably above that pace and for his interceptions to drop.

4. Tim Tebow, Florida–Tebow is the big wild card in the race right now.  We don’t know what his status is and that’s why he is in the four spot.  I have to assume that even if he plays against LSU, he won’t be 100 percent.  If he doesn’t play, it could really hurt his chances at another Heisman since his numbers will have a hard time keeping pace with the others in the race.   On the other hand, a heroic return in a win against LSU could vault him back up there with McCoy.  For the year, he has 643 passing yards with 6 TDs and 1 interception, along with 271 rushing yards and 5 TDs.  Assuming Florida makes the SEC title game, he is on pace for 2,089 passing yards, with 20 TD passes and 3 interceptions, to go with 880 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns.

How The Regions Are Shaping Up

McCoy is in good shape partly because he is now the only legitimate Heisman candidate west of the Mississippi.  He is likely to capture the vast majority of the votes in the Southwest and West regions and will remain strong in the other regions just as he was last year.  Clausen is obviously the Midwest’s main candidate, while Tebow and Harris are the Southern guys.  The race could be decided by the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions.  

If the vote were held today

1. Tim Tebow

2. Colt McCoy

3. Jimmy Clausen

4. Tony Pike

5. Case Keenum

6. Jacory Harris

7. Eric Berry

8. Jahvid Best

9. Joe McKnight

10. Greg McElroy

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Weekend Heisman Preview

This is a make-or-break weekend for a couple Heisman candidates.  It’s also the beginning of an important month that should eventually determine who wins the trophy.

Tim Tebow–I know he’s not playing due to a bye, but his recuperation over the weekend is key.  Will he be ready to go against LSU?  Rest up, big guy.

Jahvid Best–The last running back in the race could see his candidacy rebound with a big game against USC.  What does he have to do?  Well, first off, the Bears have to win.  That’s a given.  Second, he’s got to gain well over 100 yards and break off a long touchdown run or two.  He needs to dazzle with some highlight reel plays.  Does he have enough gas left in the tank?   Of course, if the Bears lose, his chances at the Heisman are basically zero, though a productive game in a loss could still help him to finish in the top five of the voting.

Jacory Harris–Like Best, Harris has a chance to bounce back and move up in the race.  Playing Oklahoma in front of a national audience is an ideal way to do so.  If Miami wins and Harris plays well, he’ll get a lot of attention and might be set up for a late-season run, as the ‘Canes have a pretty good shot at winning out.  If Miami loses, Harris’ candidacy is done and he’ll spend the rest of the season setting himself up for 2010.

Case Keenum–He’s the only one of the top three in the HP Heisman Poll playing this weekend, so he’ll have a chance to keep his momentum going.  The ideal weekend for Keenum would be for both Cal and Miami to lose while he throws for a ton of yards against UTEP.  With Tebow and McCoy in a bye week, most of the positive Heisman attention would then fall his way.

Jimmy Clausen–The Irish host Washington and Jake Locker.   This game will allow viewers to compare and contrast Clausen with a quarterback many think is headed for first-round draft status.  While beating Washington isn’t that big of a deal, outperforming Locker in a win would be a feather in his cap and set him up nicely for the marquee matchup with USC on Oct. 17.

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