Bluebook Notes #9: Leinart Second in L.A.

Matt Leinart is a great college quarterback who will go down as one of the best to don the cardinal and gold. However, he is not the best quarterback in the country. He's not even the best in the city of Los Angeles. That honor has to go to Drew Olson.

Olson is quietly having the most impressive year of any quarterback in the land. He leads the nation in passing efficiency, quarterback rating, and has an absolutely staggering 30-to-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He is a cinch to throw for over 3,000 yards and has an opportunity to lead the UCLA Bruins to their first double-digit win total since 1998.

The Trojans are currently at 10 wins already, and have had yet another banner season. Matt Leinart is a major factor in USC's success, but is anyone really surprised? All credit to the ballroom dancer aside, USC has more talent than a strip bar in Atlanta.

When Leinart takes his five-step drop, he has Dwayne Jarrett, who is probably the best receiver in the country and Steve Smith, the best number two wideout in the Pac-10. If they are covered, he can dump it off to some guy named Reggie Bush, or Dominique Byrd, who is probably being covered by some hopeless linebacker. Leinart has all of this time to go through his reads because his offensive line is one of the best in America. Drew Olson has no such luxury.

Olson has led the Bruins to nine victories by making stars out of average receivers. Due to his pinpoint accuracy, Marcus Everett and Gavin Ketchum have exceeded expectations and Joe Cowan, a virtual unknown until this season, now looks like the next coming of Danny Farmer. Olson has had to contend with an offensive line is barely a notch above adequate as Mike McCloskey, their best lineman, has been out due to injury for several weeks now. Of course, Maurice Drew has been spectacular and Marcedes Lewis is heating up, but Drew Olson has put up better numbers than Leinart with far less at his disposal.

Of course, many will argue that Leinart would have posted much better numbers if he played almost every down as Olson has. There is no debating that due to SC's many blowouts, Leinart has not had as many chances to throw the ball as he could if the games were closer. However, he has only thrown four less passes than Drew Olson all season. Therefore, with their opportunities being equal, Olson's seven more touchdowns and four fewer interceptions than Leinart become even more impressive.

The effect of publicity can also not be minimized. Everyone in the country saw Leinart's pass to Dwayne Jarrett against Notre Dame, but how many saw Olson's toss to Brandon Braezell against Stanford? Both passes were in equally critical moments in the game, but only Leinart's will be remembered outside of Westwood. Whether we like it or not, the national media plays a major role in shaping public opinion. This is just another case where the media has tricked the nation into thinking the best quarterback suits up in the Coliseum, when in fact he's actually in the Rose Bowl. At least they were close.

As stated before, this is not a slight on Matt Leinart. Leinart has led USC to a spectacular season, while cementing his own legacy at the same time. His audible and subsequent pass on 4th-and-9 against Notre Dame will go down as one of the best plays in college football history. He has all of the intangibles, and that is what makes a truly superior quarterback. Nonetheless, Drew Olson has been even better in the clutch, and his performance in UCLA's four come from behind victories has been spectacular.

Olson has had to be perfect on no less than nine drives in order for UCLA to be at the current record of 9-1. His level of success in the most critical part of the game is what sets him apart from any other quarterback in the country. Without Matt Leinart, USC is probably still in the top 10 pursuing a national championship, without Drew Olson, UCLA looks a lot more like UC-Davis.

As always, the final say in this argument will be settled on the field. On December 3rd, these two teams will meet in the final regular season game of both Matt Leinart's and Drew Olson's careers. If history is any indicator, this game could be decided in the final minutes. Guys like John Barnes and Todd Marinovich have become local legends in this fierce rivalry with gutty fourth quarter performances.

Speaking of the fourth quarter, as good as Leinart has been, I'd rather have Olson in the clutch. Even though Leinart has been remarkable throughout his career, his team's initials revert to "Second Choice" when picking the best signal-caller in the city of Angels.

The HeisDAQ

The race for the Heisman Trophy fluctuates week by week. The HeisDAQ will let you know whose Heisman "stock" is rising and falling. Now that the race is winding down, I will highlight the five guys with the best chances of taking home the hardware.

1) Vince Young, QB Texas (strong buy) — V.Y. has finally overtaken Reggie Bush and is now in the top spot for the Heisman. He has a good chance to be the first quarterback to run for 1,000 yards and pass for over 2,500 in the same season. If he does this, they might as well just fly him to New York and leave everyone else at home.

2) Reggie Bush, RB/KR/PR USC (buy) — Bush has slipped a bit in the Heisman race, but it is really no fault of his own. He had a solid game against Cal last Saturday, but the absence of game-breaking plays has hurt him. Bush still has a very good chance to regain his lead for the trophy, as the next two games for USC will be nationally-televised against top opponents.

3) Matt Leinart, QB USC (hold) — Even though I feel that Drew Olson is the better QB, the HeisDAQ will always reflect who has the best shot of winning the Heisman. Leinart has led the Trojans to another fantastic season, and even though his chances of winning the Heisman are fairly slim, his odds of being a multimillionaire aren't.

4) Brady Quinn, QB Notre Dame (hold) — Quinn has played fantastic this season, but the "Push By Bush" ended his hopes of winning the Heisman. He had a solid game against Navy, but it is just not enough to move him up in the rankings. Unfortunately for Irish fans, the next two games (against Syracuse and Stanford) offer little hope for Quinn to gain any traction in the race.

5) Drew Olson, QB UCLA (speculative buy) — Olson has a slugger's chance to win the Heisman. Of course, Gerry Cooney was considered a slugger, as well. Realistically speaking, the Bruins would have to trounce USC on December 3rd, and I just don't see that happening. UCLA has had an aversion to blowing teams out since September, and it certainly won't happen against the Trojans. Olson's only hope to win the trophy is a magical come from behind victory, coupled with upsets against Texas and Notre Dame.

Games to Watch/Picks to Click

(Season Record: 12-10 ATS; Last Week: 1-2 ATS)

Ohio State @ Michigan (+3)

I have picked against Michigan the last couple of weeks and they have finally proven to me that they have jelled. They are playing good football and with the return of Mike Hart, they have a chance to pull off the upset. I believe that this game might just come down to special teams, and the Buckeyes have the ace in the hole with Teddy Ginn. I'm still hardheaded, because I'm going with OSU.

Woody 24, Desmond 20

Alabama (+7) @ Auburn

I like how Auburn has played recently. Al Borges is one of the best offensive minds in the country, and I think the Tigers will be able to score on the Tide. They won't score very much, but I think it'll be enough to cover as Alabama has looked horrible on offense without Tyrone Prothro.

Bo 24, Joe Willie 14

Fresno State @ USC (+24)

USC has the most prolific offense in the nation, and they will definitely win this game. However, Fresno State is a very underrated team, with a pesky defense that will give USC some problems. Fresno can also move the ball offensively with Wendell Mathis and chew up some clock. I think the Trojans will win, but they will not cover.

O.J. 35, Dilfer 20

Do you think that I'm "off my rocker," or did I hit the proverbial "nail on the head?" Let me know! Send an e-mail to [email protected] and include your name and hometown. I'll do my best to include it in the next week's column.

Comments and Conversation

November 18, 2005

Pac10 What?!:

It’s GERRY Cooney, not Jerry Cooney as you referenced in your article, “Of course, Jerry Cooney was considered a slugger.”

Before you give me some lip about dual spellings or some other type of nonsense, here’s a link to his official bio on FIST (

You’re 0-2 on your analogies.

November 19, 2005

Art Vandele:

Excellent article. Matt L is a good kid but simply a product of the system. Nothing more. My grandma could lead USC to at least 10 wins if she was QB and she’s dead.

Seriously, USC’s defense a lone would win them 9 or 10 and any QB in the nation would have a minimum 9 wins as USC QB this year.

Matt was just in the right spot and the right time. Good for him. HE better cash in on draft day because he won’t be getting an extension.

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