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.