Tuesday, July 5, 2005
2005 College Football Preview: Heisman Top 10
The Heisman Trophy may be the most prestigious award in all of sports. It is given to the top college football player in the country, and it is an honor that will last a lifetime. There are many guys this year that have a shot at winning it, but there are a few that should be considered favorites. Here are my top 10 candidates to take the hardware home.
10. RB Laurence Maroney, Minnesota
What he has to do to win: Win the national rushing crown. Maroney has a shot at for over 2,000 yards, and he'll need to in order to win the Heisman. He has a team that will feature him in their offense, and he needs to take full advantage of this.
What his team has to do for him to win: Finish the season at the top of the Big 10. The Golden Gophers have a pretty solid team this season. Unfortunately, their schedule is among the toughest in the conference. They have difficult tests at Michigan and Iowa, and they will definitely need to defeat those teams in order to win the division.
Conclusion: Maroney will gain at least 1,500 yards this season. I just don't see his team getting into the spotlight, and he will be another great player on an average team.
9. RB Gerald Riggs, Jr., Tennessee
What he has to do to win: Play big in the national spotlight. Gerald Riggs, Jr., has a familiar name (his dad was a star in the NFL), but he's still relatively unknown outside of the SEC. In 2005, he is going to have many chances to change that. The key for Riggs to put himself in Heisman contention is to have huge games against Florida and LSU. If he can do this, stay healthy, and win the conference rushing crown, he moves up much higher on the list.
What his team has to do for him to win: Win their conference. Playing on a strong team is almost a prerequisite for winning the Heisman, and Tennessee is one of the best in the country. In my SEC preview, I picked them to win the conference, and this will help Riggs' chances tremendously. Tennessee has to follow through on my prediction and win against Florida and LSU. If the Vols can go undefeated and get to Pasadena, Mr. Riggs might just have to take a detour to New York, because he will be in the top three.
Conclusion: Tennessee will feature a balanced attack this year, and that may actually hurt Riggs' shot at the Heisman. I just don't see him being able to have the impact necessary to have a chance.
8. QB Reggie McNeal, Texas A&M
What he has to do to win: Put up solid numbers consistently. Reggie McNeal is the sleeper in this year's Heisman trophy race. He is an electrifying player, and he plays in a high-profile conference. If he can put up some huge numbers against Texas and Oklahoma, and win one of those games, he's got a slugger shot at the trophy.
What his team has to for him to win: Win at least nine games, and upset Texas or Oklahoma. The Aggies should be bowl-bound this season, and they are the beneficiaries of a light early-season schedule. A&M could be 8-0 going into the home stretch of the season. The schedule then stiffens considerably with games at Texas Tech and Oklahoma and the rivalry match against Texas. If the Aggies can beat either Oklahoma or Texas, McNeal's chances increase significantly.
Conclusion: McNeal has the talent and the personality needed to win the Heisman. The question will be whether his team can get him the attention necessary in order for everyone to see that talent. I have my doubts.
7. QB Drew Tate, Iowa
What he has to do to win: Continue making big plays. Tate, the Big 10 Offensive Player of the Year for 2004, has a flair for the dramatic. His last-second touchdown pass against LSU in the Capitol One Bowl will go down as one of the greatest plays of all-time. Heisman voters love players who can make big plays, and Tate is certainly one of them.
What his team has to do for him to win: Win the Big 10 conference. In my Big 10 preview, I have the Hawkeyes winning the conference, with OSU, Purdue, and Michigan in the mix. I still stand by my prediction, and Iowa's strong passing attack will assist Tate's chances of going to New York.
Conclusion: Drew Tate has just as much momentum going into this year as any contender. I just don't know if he will be able to put up the numbers necessary to win the trophy.
6. QB Chris Leak, Florida
What he has to do to win: Master Urban Meyer's offensive schemes. Chris Leak has vaulted into the Heisman race because of Urban Meyer. The key will be how well Leak adapts to the offensive sets that Meyer will introduce in his inaugural season with the Gators. If Leak does as well as Alex Smith did last year, watch out!
What his team has to do for him to win: Get to a BCS bowl. The Gators have a shot at winning the SEC conference this season, but they have to get past Tennessee. If Florida can defeat the Volunteers and win the SEC East, they will most likely face LSU or Auburn in the championship game. A victory there guarantees a BCS bowl, a nice payout, and a good shot for Leak to win the Heisman.
Conclusion: The question that has to be asked is how well will Leak acclimate to Urban Meyer's system in Florida. I don't think he will do enough to win this year — however, if he stays in school, he's the favorite in 2006.
5) WR/PR/KR/DB Ted Ginn, Jr., Ohio State
What he has to do to win: Make jaw-dropping plays on special teams, especially against Michigan. Ted Ginn is one of those special athletes that can just about do it all. He can single-handedly take over a game, and that's what Heisman voters love to see. If he plays consistent all year and can make the play that wins the game on the grandest stage of all (the rivalry game against Michigan), he's probably going to win the trophy.
What his team has to do for him to win: Perform to expectations and make the Michigan game matter even more than normal. Ginn has so much attention surrounding him this season that the Buckeyes don't have to win the national championship for him to get the Heisman. If Ohio State can win the Big 10 and get a berth in a BCS bowl, Ginn will have the spotlight he needs to showcase his talent. Also, a highly-anticipated game against the Wolverines won't hurt.
Conclusion: Ginn has the talent and drive to win the Heisman. The thing that hinders his chances will be how many touches he will get on offense. Will Jim Tressel give him enough opportunities, and will Troy Smith be able to get him the ball. We will see.
4. RB Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma
What he has to do to win: Prove that he can thrive without Jason White. Peterson has proven that he is among the best backs in the country. His combination of speed and power is awesome, and he has the ability necessary to win the Heisman. This year he has to create his own legacy. He has to show everyone that even without Jason White, he can still dominate and rack up the yards.
What his team has to do for him to win: Win the Big 12 conference. Oklahoma's resurgence under Bob Stoops has been phenomenal. They have come out of obscurity in the '90s, to reclaim their position as a national power. This season, they will have to continue their dominance by winning their conference. Texas will be a formidable foe, and games against UCLA and Texas Tech may be potential upsets.
Conclusion: Adrian Peterson's success hinges on how well he will play on a weakened Sooner team. I think he will play very well, but just not good enough to win the trophy.
3. QB Matt Leinart, Southern Cal
What he has to do to win: Have a season that obliterates all of the other candidates. Matt Leinart will no doubt have an excellent 2005 as long as he stays healthy. He has the potential to put up huge numbers in the upcoming season, and if he does he has a shot of becoming the second two-time winner of the Heisman.
What his team has to do for him to win: Win the national championship. This goal may sound daunting to many teams, but it is almost expected at USC. The Trojans are everyone's pick to win the title again in 2005. Their offensive firepower is the best I've seen, and they have the experience to boot. As long as the Trojans don't trip up at ASU or Notre Dame, they will win it all.
Conclusion: Leinart already is on Heisman watch as he won last season. His dilemma is that only Archie Griffin has ever repeated as the Heisman Trophy winner. Leinart must have a storybook season that compels voters to give him the nod once again over other deserving candidates. I think Leinart will do extremely well in 2005, but he won't even out-shadow one of his teammates let alone win the trophy.
2. QB Vince Young, Texas
What he has to do to win: Get the Longhorns back to Pasadena. Vince Young had one of the most memorable performances in the Rose Bowl last season. He destroyed a very formidable Michigan defense, and had one of the best individual efforts I've ever seen. This year, Young must continue his stellar play, and get Texas in the national title hunt.
What his team has to do for him to win: Let Vince Young lead them to Pasadena. The rest of Mack Brown's team must complement Vince Young's ability and play consistently. They are the favorites to win the Big 12, and will be targeted on every other team's schedule. The Horns' have early season tests against Ohio State and Oklahoma that can vault Vince Young into the early lead for the Heisman if they can win.
Conclusion: 2005 provides Vince Young for all of the necessary ingredients for him to win the trophy. He has an excellent shot, and if the Longhorns win it all, he's my pick.
1. RB Reggie Bush, Southern Cal
What he has to do to win: Show off his versatility. Bush has the talent and the opportunity needed to win the Heisman. He will get the ball plenty of times, and will find the end zone often. The way in which Bush will score will be what will sway voters his way. If he can score on the ground and through the air, as well as on special teams, he's got the trophy.
What his team has to do for him to win: Win the national championship. "Anything less would be uncivilized!" USC fans will consider 2005 a major disappointment if they do not win it all.
Conclusion: Bush is a multi-dimensional talent who is my pick to win the Heisman. He has a good head on his shoulders, as well, and his team will have the spotlight from beginning to end this season. This race is Reggie's to lose.
At the beginning of this month, and every month thereafter through the end of the season, I will comment on the best e-mails I've received regarding my articles.
It looks like I've riled up the folks in Ann Arbor. I even have the president of MichiganFanSite.com on my case. The first one is from Brian:
Wow. I can't decide which is more ridiculous: UM with 3 losses or Iowa with 1.
Brian, you will be forced to decide this season, because Michigan will lose to Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Iowa. The next e-mail is from Chris:
Are you kidding me? Michigan picked 4th in the Big Ten? Michigan has finished no worse than tie for 2nd in the last 8 years. 2004 Tie for 1st place 2003 1st place 2002 2nd place 2001 2nd place 2000 1st place 1999 Tie 2nd place 1998 Tie 1st place 1997 1st place
This year Michigan is going to have a renewed sense of vigor on D and this is going to be a Breaston Break Out Year. Before Big Ten play Henne will be on the Heisman watch list, mark my words. 12-0 this year for Big Blue!
Chris, I do think Michigan will have a good season, but just not enough to win the conference. As far as them going 12-0, please read the next e-mail from K.J.
If Michigan goes 12-0 this year, I'll drive a riding lawnmower from NE to MI in a speedo. Michigan will definitely lose to IOWA in Iowa City.
I think we are all hoping Michigan loses now! K.J., I'm sure you will be fully clothed throughout this season. The next e-mail is from Adam regarding some of my picks for 2005.
Ted Ginn Jr. is not "bar none" the best athlete in the country. That title is up for dispute. Reggie Bush and Marcus Vick are just as good if not better and this season will prove it. And those are a just a few I could mention. The fact that you have Michigan number four in the big ten is a joke. The Buckeyes are the only team that should be ranked ahead of the Wolverines. Iowa has a good team on paper, but stats and preseason awards don't always transfer on to the field. I'm not even going to address Purdue. They don't even know what offense they are going to run this season. Who do they have on defense?
Adam, while I agree with you that Vick and Bush are great athletes, Ginn is still the best. He is probably the fastest player in the country, and to still be agile with that speed is just ridiculous. As far as your comments on Purdue, please read this next e-mail from Otis.
Purdue may well be the 3rd best team in the Big Ten and win it all going undefeated. They should be favored in every game they play this year. Their Big Ten title and BCS bowl birth likely will be decided in the Iowa game. Iowa recently capitalized on not having to play OSU and now Purdue gets the benefit of avoiding Michigan also.
Otis, you make some excellent points on Purdue's chances in 2005. One thing you failed to mention is that Purdue also returns 11 guys on defense this season. That's big, as well. The Boilermakers do have an excellent chance of running the table this year. I don't know if they will, just because of the difficulty for any team to win all of their games. The final e-mail of the day is from Mr. Merz regarding the Hawkeyes.
As a diehard Hawk fan let me tell ya, I HOPE YOU'RE A GENIUS!!!!!! Thanks for the love and for being outside the box enough to not do what every other lame, big name sports columnist does, go with Michigan and Ohio State every dang year. espn and all those places are lame. The only concern on this team is dl and frankly I love this because it means we'll blitz more, which has been something we haven't done the last few years. It'll be nice also to have teams think they can actually try running on us again, that will waste downs rather than watching 40 passes a game on our defense teams might actually try and run a bit, which is just what our linebackers love to hear. Great synopsis of the top of the Big Ten.
Mr. Merz, thanks for the love, and there are plenty of people that would agree with you. Your comments on the Hawkeyes are right on, and if they can avoid injuries like the one to Lee Gray, they have an excellent shot of winning the conference. Thanks for reading, everyone, and stay tuned for my next preview that will cover the Big 12.