When the college football season began, many (including this very writer) thought Florida quarterback Tim Tebow would be a lock for his second Heisman Trophy in three years. However, merely average play from the signal-caller has buried him in the standings, and allowed for a few unlikely names to step into the stoplight and become arguments as dark horse or runaway candidates.
In addition to the Heisman situation, the BCS is now two weeks into its standings, and just like always, there is a bit of controversy.
Alabama retained their number-two spot in the rankings, despite only winning by a 12-10 margin over a Tennessee squad that has been sluggish all season and fell to 3-4 after their loss to the Crimson Tide. The loss left many positive that Alabama would drop a couple spots, but they remain No. 2.
Also troublesome to many is Virginia Tech’s place in the top 15, despite having two losses on the season and a shocking 28-23 loss to a Georgia Tech squad that was ranked 19th in the nation when the Hokies were fourth in the land.
Finally, many are shocked to see the Boise State Broncos in the Top 10 considering that the other teams in their conference have an average win-loss record of 3-3, and five of the nine teams have losing records. Boise has only played one ranked opponent, Oregon, at the beginning of the season, and won 19-8. Many feel that Boise’s 7-0 record is inflated, and they will be an unfair representative for BCS play when bowl season arrives.
However, the biggest arguments come when returning to the topic of the Heisman candidates.
As mentioned before, Tim Tebow started the 2009 season as a Heisman candidate, but has been relatively unassuming in the first seven games, averaging 165 yards and just over one touchdown a game. They’re decent numbers, but by no means award-winning.
Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford started the season as another strong candidate, but two separate injuries to his throwing shoulder have sidelined last year’s winner for the season, with a disappointing line of 562 yards and two touchdowns in less than three games of action.
Cincinnati also had a quarterback making a strong case for the trophy, averaging just under 300 yards and three touchdowns per game before leaving in the second half of a game two weeks ago after aggravating a break in his left forearm from last season. Sitting out last week’s game against Louisville ended his hopes for the Heisman.
With Bradford and Pike out of the picture, and Tebow a shaky candidate, the top favorites are seen to be Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen, Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, Alabama running back Mark Ingram and Houston quarterback Case Keenum.
Jimmy Clausen has averaged roughly 293 yards and two touchdowns per game, having only thrown two interceptions despite facing tough defenses from USC, Michigan and Michigan State. The Fighting Irish quarterback has only thrown for less than 240 yards in one game, a 24-21 victory against Purdue when he was 15-26 for 171 yards, a touchdown and a pick. He rebounded the next week to throw for an astounding 422 yards and two touchdowns against the Washington Huskies. The two Notre Dame losses have come against tough opponents (Michigan and USC), and in these games, Clausen threw a combined 596 yards, five TD and zero interceptions.
Colt McCoy is another strong candidate, having led the Texas Longhorns to a perfect 7-0 record on the strength of 258 yards and two touchdowns per game. Past tradition has favored big-name, big-school quarterbacks, so if McCoy can keep up the strong numbers, he could see himself hoisting the trophy and leading his team to the National Championship in January. However, the Longhorns face potential trip-ups the rest of the way, with games against 14th-ranked Oklahoma State, a Kansas squad that is 5-2 on the season, and Texas A&M who despite a rough 4-3 record, are always sure to play competitively against their in-state rival. If the Longhorns can hold on the rest of the way, McCoy will be a definite favorite for the trophy.
Ingram, the Crimson Tide running back, makes a case for himself due to averaging a touchdown game against always dominant SEC defenses. Last week’s win over Tennessee was his first game without crossing the end zone, but Ingram still managed to run for 99 yards on 18 carries, a 5.5-yard average. If the award is going to go to a running back this season, Ingram has it on a lock, helping his case with 186 receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns. Still, Alabama’s questionable number-two ranking might hurt his case in the long run, especially if the Tide falters down the stretch.
Keenum is the final candidate, and seen to be the dark horse. Sure, he’s thrown an average of roughly 390 yards and 3 touchdowns per game. Sure, in a losing effort to UTEP, he threw for 536 yards and 5 scores, despite being beaten 58-41. However, the Houston Cougars play in Conference-USA, home to legendarily bad football. Even the loss came to a team that is 3-4 on the season. Despite sexy numbers and a seductively easy schedule the rest of the way, Keenum is one Cougar that will be left at the bar when the night is over.
A lot could happen between now and the Heisman presentation in December, but as the season stands, this is how it looks. Keep your eye on these four names, but always be vigilant of BCS-busters, injuries and other factors that might trip up the favorites.