Wednesday, November 23, 2005

2005 Heisman Trophy: Fearless Predictions

By Rich Carlson

As the autumn leaves fall to the ground and the snow starts to fly in college football stadiums across the country, sportswriters across the country begin to make their case for who should be the 2005 Heisman trophy winner. Debates between writers, fans, coaches, and even players revolve around individual statistics, BCS rankings, strength of schedules, East Coast vs. West Coast bias (real or perceived), and a myriad of other factors.

If I had top pick the five finalists, they would be (in no particular order):

* Matt Leinart (QB, USC): 3,217 yards passing, 24 TDs/7 INTs, 66.4% completion ratio, 161.9 QB rating

* Reggie Bush (RB/WR, USC): 1,398 yards rushing, 383 yards receiving, 15 total TDs

* Brady Quinn (QB, Notre Dame): 3,201 yards passing, 29 TDs/5 INTs, 64.9% completion ratio, 161.5 QB rating

* Vince Young (QB, Texas): 2,414 yards passing, 22 TDs/8 INTs, 774 yard rushing/8 TDs, 169.8 QB rating

* Jerome Harrison (RB, Wash St): 1,900 yards rushing, 16 TDs, averages 28 carries/172 yards per game

Why isn't Jerome Harrison getting more publicity? He is leading the nation in rushing yards by 301 yards and has been an absolute workhorse for the Cougars. How is Harrison not mentioned in the Heisman debates? And please don't tell me that it's because he plays for a 4-7 Washington State team. He is the Cougars' only go-to guy, so opposing defenses are putting eight or nine men in the box to stop him, yet he keeps getting his yards. Unfortunately for Jerome, I doubt he will be invited to the party.

The next pretender on the list is Brady Quinn. Yes, he's been at the helm of a Notre Dame team that has re-emerged on the national title scene. Yes, he has put up impressive statistics in leading his team to a 8-2 record. However, does he have more passing yards than Matt Leinart? No. Does he have a higher QB rating than Matt Leinart? No. Did his team beat Matt Leinart's team? No. Strike three, Brady, and you're out.

Reggie Bush is the best collegiate football player, period. He can dominate a game from three positions (wideout, running back, and kick returner). His performance in the Notre Dame game this year was phenomenal. His performance on Saturday against Fresno State was jaw-dropping.

So why isn't Bush running away with the Heisman trophy this year? Unfortunately for Bush (and fortunately for USC), he shares the backfield with another 1,000-yard rusher in LenDale White, and lines up next to two quality receivers in Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith. While the depth of USC has been a major factor in their 33-game winning streak, it has also been the main reason for Bush's lack of eye-dropping total statistics (other than yards per carry). Can you imagine what kind of numbers Bush would put up if he were the only go-to-guy on his team?

Sportswriters across the country are now declaring that Reggie Bush won the Heisman Trophy solely on his performance in the Fresno State game. Last time I checked, the sports writers were supposed to judge the candidates based on their entire body of work, not just what happened in one game. If you were to judge Bush on the merits of a single game, wouldn't he be out of the running because of his lack of production against Washington (69 yards) or California (86 yards)?

As I stated earlier, Reggie Bush is the best player in the country, but his overall numbers don't hold up against Matt Leinart or Vince Young. I believe that 2005 will mark the second straight year that the best football player in the country will not win the Heisman Trophy.

Vince Young has been nearly unstoppable this year in leading the Texas Longhorns to a projected BCS showdown with USC. His 169.82 QB rating ranks him fourth in the country, and he is on track to finish with over 2,650 yards passing and 800 yards rushing. Young's total yardage (3,218) is very close to Leinart's (3,248), and he has a higher QB rating than Leinart (169.82 to 165.55). Both Young and Leinart have chalked up 30 total touchdowns. So what differentiates the two?

It all comes down to strength of schedule. USC's opponents have a combined winning percentage of .526 (60/54), while Texas's opponents have a .548 (57/47), so it's basically a wash. However, when you look at the number of BCS opponents for each team, USC is clearly at an advantage. Using the current BCS rankings, USC has defeated No. 7 Oregon (at Oregon), No. 8 Notre Dame (at South Bend), No. 19 Fresno State (at home), and will play No. 12 UCLA this weekend. Texas has defeated BCS No. 6 Ohio State (at Columbus), and No. 16 Texas Tech (at home). Advantage: USC.

If USC is able to run the table and defeat UCLA this weekend, I believe the Heisman Trophy will go to Matt Leinart. USC has played every game this year with a target on their heads and they haven't blinked. There are sportswriters who are downplaying Leinart's chances of winning this year, when he is in fact putting up better numbers than he did last year when he won the trophy. Are you kidding me? Let me repeat — he's putting up better numbers this year than he did last year! He's led his team to 33 straight wins, two straight national championships, and he's well on his way to a third championship. How can a sportswriter who voted for Leinart last year not vote for him this year when nobody has put up more impressive numbers than him?

In order to be the best, you have to beat the best. Matt Leinart is the best quarterback in the country playing on a team that is on the verge of becoming a dynasty. He's won the Heisman Trophy last year and is putting up better numbers this year. How can any sportswriter that voted for Leinart last year not vote for him this year and have a clear conscience? Thanks to Reggie Bush's lesser amount of touches, the Heisman Trophy belongs to him.

Contents copyright © Sports Central 1998-2009