Heisman Trophy Race Update
by Trevor Whenham - 10/8/2009
The Heisman race this year was supposed to be so simple. Former winners Tim Tebow and Sam Bradford were supposed to duel with Colt McCoy in a fight for the ages. Like always seems to happen in these cases, though, it hasn't quite worked out like that. Sam Bradford has been out with a shoulder injury, Tim Tebow is questionable for his next start after getting his bell rung, and and Colt McCoy hasn't looked particularly crisp despite continuing to win. Tebow is still probably leading the race, but one big thing has changed since the beginning of the season - it was almost impossible to imagine anyone else winning then, but now it seems very possible. Here's a look at the chief contenders and lively longshots right now:
Tim Tebow, Florida - Tebow leads the race, but not in an emphatic way. His stats are solid, but not good enough to be leading the race if he weren't Tim Tebow. His award chances could be boiled down to this coming weekend, though. Florida plays LSU in a game likely to establish at least regular season SEC dominance. Tebow has yet to be medically cleared to play in this game, so if he were to miss it his award hopes would take a serious blow. A loss in the game, regardless of how Tebow plays, would also be very damaging. Florida's schedule isn't particularly impressive this year - the non-conference portion is a joke, and the SEC isn't as dominant as it has been. That means that Tebow can't afford to falter against the team's biggest opponent. That being said, this is likely Tebow's game to win. If he stays healthy and plays well, and the team keeps wining, then he'll be extremely hard to beat.
Colt McCoy, Texas - McCoy is probably still second in the race, but only because he was up there to start the season. He has had a decent season - the team hasn't lost - but he has been far from what he was last year. His TD/Int. ratio is at less than 2/1, and he has been a total non-factor on the ground. He'll have to improve significantly in both areas if he wants to win the award. He has a big chance to shine in the national eye when he plays Oklahoma. In that game or soon after he really needs to have a defining performance that makes it hard for voters to consider letting other players climb past him.
Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame - Clausen is climbing up Heisman boards, and even sits at second on some. I am not buying it at all. He is playing well, and has impressive numbers. The problem, though, is his team. They have already lost once - to Michigan - and have struggled to win against what should be clearly inferior opponents in Michigan State, Purdue, and Washington. That makes it hard to believe that they will beat USC, and means that games against Boston College and at Pitt and Stanford could be challenging. It's not impossible for a player from a team with a few losses to win the Heisman, but to do so he has to be clearly better than every other player in the country. I don't believe that Clausen will make enough of a statement personally to overcome the burden of having to play for Charlie Weis.
Tony Pike, Cincinnati - This one is interesting. Cincinnati is one of the biggest stories of the young season, and senior QB Tony Pike is a big reason why. He has the impressive numbers and the highlight reel plays that voters like, and he'll get more and more attention if the team can keep winning. They have a tough game against South Florida next, but that will be a good chance for him to make a statement - it's a Thursday night game, so he will have the stage to himself. Pike needs a lot of things to go his way other than his continued strong play if he wants to win. The Bearcats need to go undefeated, Florida and Texas likely need to lose, and Notre Dame needs another loss. It would help if the Big East continues to look better than people expected as well.
Jacory Harris, Miami - Harris has been part of an incredible story at Miami. The Hurricanes have faced by far the hardest schedule in the country to start their season, and they are 3-1 in large part because of the play of Harris. He's been great, but I don't give him much of a chance of winning the Heisman. His numbers aren't quite flashy enough, he didn't come into the season with a base of fans from among the voters, and it is highly unlikely that Miami will be a national championship contender. Harris would need to be virtually flawless down the stretch, and about a million things would have to fall his way.
Toby Gerhart, Stanford - Heisman voters love running backs, so there needs to be one on this list to join all the quarterbacks. Jahvid Best started the season high up on this list, but he has been terrible two weeks in a row as his Bears have been humiliated. That's the end of his hopes. That leaves another Pac-10 back, Gerhart, as perhaps the best in the country right now. He has had four 100-yard games, and he shredded a good UCLA defense last week. Because of where he plays it would be very hard for him to win. The chance he has is if Stanford can continue their hot play and win the Pac-10. That means beating USC, but Stanford is one of the few Pac-10 teams that can lay claim to having done that recently. If that happened, Gerhart was identified as the main reason, and every QB ahead of him stumbles, then it could theoretically happen. More realistically, Gerhart could hope to be invited to New York.
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