Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Heisman Watch (Week 9)

Well, it's that time of the year again. When Mark May and Lou Holtz finally stop pretending to like each other and we see all out warfare on our TV screens, when the air gets cold and 2nd string quarterbacks get colder, when, finally, teams with one loss are allowed to be in the top 5. In short, college football is past the halfway mark, and we're closing in on the game we've all been waiting for, but more on that later. After a week 8 which saw 5 top 10 teams fall, the crowd is thin at the top, and the Heisman race is thinner. However, although it may seem like a 2, maybe a 3 pony race for now, one mediocre performance can see the latest flavor of the week tumble. In short, the fact that this is pretty boring right now does not mean that it will finish that way. Keep that in mind as you read these rankings.

1) Marcus Mariota: A couple of fun facts about the young lad who hails from Honolulu. Well, there's one already. He can only hope his Heisman candidacy (and his draft stock) will fare better than that of another famous Hawaiian born college football player. Anyways, Mariota was offered 2 scholarships coming out of high school (a team on which he did not start as QB until his senior year). He wisely chose Oregon over the University of Memphis, and at Oregon he became the first freshman to start the season opener for the Ducks in 22 years. To cut a long story short, as an athletic 18 year old (what have I done with my life?) he led the Ducks to a 11-1 season and a #2 final season ranking in the AP poll. But the Heisman is, of course, about production during this season. Mariota has improved by leaps and bounds this season. He has scored 403 points in 7 games this season, a tidy 57.6 for those of you keeping score at home. He has thrown for 2051 yards, 19 TD's, and no picks, though he has fumbled the ball twice. He has rushed for 493 yards and 9 TD's, averaging 10.1 yards a carry. These are not stats from a video game, or from the end of the season. He has accounted for 4 TD's a game. Admittedly, he has done this against for the most part cupcake opposition, but 2 big games against #12 UCLA and #6 Stanford should give the guy a chance to prove his mettle on the big stage. I have no doubt that he will, and thus, I proclaim this still his race to lose.

2) I know, bold words, especially after Jameis Winston's 51 points against Clemson, the most ever dropped on the Tigers in Death Valley. If you watch any respectable amount of ESPN, you know this about their college football coverage: Boy, do they love them a "Heisman moment." In fact, it seems at times that all they care about is getting a good "Heisman moment." Well Jimmy boy undoubtedly had his last week; In a top 5 matchup within his conference, as a freshman, he embarrassed a very good football team. But a closer look at the numbers reveals a case for the Heisman way beyond one game. He has a 71.3% completion rate, 1885 yards through the air, and 20 TD's. Notice, as impressive as these statistics are, they fall short of Mariota's, against a schedule with a little more spine.

3) Teddy Bridgewater started the season as a favorite to win this year's Heisman, and his stats have held up remarkably. 2213 yards through the air and 20 TD's through 7 games will never eliminate you from a Heisman race, but when a quarterback candidate has a soft schedule, he absolutely has to run the table to lead the pack. It is unfair to pin last weeks 38-35 loss against UCF on Bridgewater, but that's just how it goes. The tough luck candidate this year, but you sympathize less when you hear that, of every opponent he has played so far, only Rutgers has received a vote in an AP poll this year. 2, in fact.

4) We of course can't forget about last year's winner. No amount of off field shenanigans will permanently taint what Johnny Manziel has going on down in College Station, and despite two losses now (2 losses, by the way, in which he scored a combined 83 points against SEC defenses) Manziel has to be in the race.  Impressively, his "Heisman moment" probably came in a loss to Alabam
a (which may well have been the game of the year). He threw for 5 TD's, and had one 30 yard scramble in which he escaped the clutches of several large, scary Alabama defensive linemen and ended up throwing for the 1st down. If you haven't seen this play yet, do.

5) AJ McCarron: Well here we get to the "if he goes down, he starts tanking, and he gets injured, this guy's a frontrunner" part of the list. AJ has been a great quarterback this season, especially against big bad SEC defenses, but Manziel has been better, and the other two fellas at the top of the list have completely outplayed him. We probably go with the game winning drive against the Aggies for the "Heisman moment" here, and it was impressive. If there was an award for most NFL-ready quarterback (some call it the first overall pick) it may go to McCarron. His sparkling resumé will probably include 3 national championships after this year, but with under 1600 yards so far, only 14 TD's, and no dual threat capability (which the Heisman voters love, for good reason) he seems like a long shot right now.

There you have my top 5, and thanks for reading!

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