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The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

The 2010 Heisman

P.S.R. 2010 Heisman Watch: Week 12

I keep coming back to the Heisman Trust’s mission statement, which can be summed up in one sentence:

“The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity.”

That’s all: simply combine your on-field excellence with off-field integrity. Simple, though not quite. Suspicious circumstances surrounding your recruitment, enough so where the N.C.A.A. — not to mention the F.B.I. — is paying close interest? Check. A star running back who was handed a one-game suspension for an off-season altercation — whether blown out of proportion or otherwise — with his girlfriend? On the list. A wonderfully talented wide receiver who was suspended for a conference game after driving under the influence? He’s in the Heisman mix. The options are clear: simply go for the best player in the country, which would be easy, or begin to inspect each player’s candidacy according to the mission statement put forth by the Heisman Trust. That’s hard.

1. QB Kellen Moore, Boise State (Last week: No. 3)

Week 11 W 52-14 at Idaho (19 of 26 for 216 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT)
Year to date 174 of 242 for 2588 yards, 21 TD, 4 INT

Why Moore and not Cam Newton? See below. Why Moore and not LaMichael James in this spot? It’s neck-and-neck, and for good reason. James is the engine behind the nation’s top team; Moore is the engine behind the nation’s top story, a Boise State team hungry for a title shot. The lone difference — and the difference is only by a hair: Moore has been overwhelmingly consistent, while James sputtered in Oregon’s near disaster in Berkeley. Now, one week does not a season make. Still, when each player is so close, one average performance can mean the difference. Moore’s game against Idaho, all achieved in one half of play: 19 of 26 for 216 yards and 3 scores. Just another day at the office.

Week 12 vs. Fresno State, Friday

2. RB LaMichael James, Oregon (Last week: No. 2)

Week 11 W 15-13 at California (29 carries for 91 yards; 2 reception for 11 yards)
Year to date 225 for 1522 yards, 17 TD; 10 receptions for 149 yards, 1 TD

It says much about James that rushing for 91 yards is disappointing. If not disappointing, his struggles against California were surprising. Credit the Golden Bears and defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast, who made a concerted effort to stop James first, making the rest of the U.O. offense a secondary concern. In doing so, Pendergast may have identified a way to beat the Ducks. Don’t count on this happening twice: Chip Kelly will make changes, and James will be back to his normally potent self when Oregon returns to play against Arizona next Friday. As if the Wildcats don’t have enough to worry about: now they’ll have to take on a running back hungry to make amends for his worst performance of the season. Here’s betting James has a big day against Arizona.

Week 12 bye

3. QB Cam Newton, Auburn (Last week: No. 1)

Week 11 W 49-31 vs. Georgia (12 of 15 for 148 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT; 30 carries for 151 yards, 3 TD)
Year to date 135 of 198 for 2038 yards, 21 TD, 6 INT; 196 carries for 1297 yards, 17 TD

I expect to be dismissed for moving Newton down this list, particularly given this important fact: there’s no doubt that Newton is playing the best football of any player in the country. There’s also no doubt that Newton is the most important player in the country; without Newton, Auburn’s no better than 8-3 at this point, I feel safe in saying. Regardless, I fear that Newton’s candidacy is tarnished by the circumstances surrounding his recruitment. Let’s go off the fact that Cecil Newton, his father, has admitted to attempting to broker a pay-for-play deal with Mississippi State. Even if Auburn did not pony up a dime to land Newton’s signature, Newton’s eligibility would eventually be voided. Forget about integrity; if Newton’s ineligible, he’s obviously not eligible for the 2010 Heisman.

So why include him on this list at all? You’ve got me there. Perhaps because Newton likely didn’t do anything wrong — it was his father, along with Kenny Rogers, who seem to be at fault in this potentially dreadful situation. Punishing Newton for that pair’s missteps seems wrong, even if it follows the N.C.A.A.’s letter of the law. So Newton remains on this list; if everything were equal, if the rising specter of N.C.A.A. sanctions were not hovering over his head, Auburn’s quarterback would be the clear leader.

Update There’s a great comment below, which I’ve placed here to avoid it getting lost in the shuffle:

I think you need to begin with an understanding of the actual voting process and the rules by which it is governed. This is what the very short and simple ballot says:

“I hereby designate _____________ as my First Choice to receive the Heisman Memorial Trophy, awarded to the most outstanding college football player in the United States for 2010. To the best of my knowledge, he conforms to the rules governing this vote.”

RULES GOVERNING VOTE: In order that there be no misunderstanding regarding the eligibility of a candidate, the recipient of the award must be a bona fide student of an accredited college or university including the United States Academies. The recipient must be in compliance with the bylaws defining an NCAA Student Athlete.
That’s it, plus places to list your second and third choices.

Too little information exists at this time to deny Newton the Heisman and you even say “Newton likely didn’t do anything wrong.”

Further, this is not a fact: “Even if Auburn did not pony up a dime to land Newton’s signature, Newton’s eligibility would eventually be voided.” NCAA rules are not that simple.

You are also jumping to conclusions about Cecil Newton’s actions. You go too far in saying, “Let’s go off the fact that Cecil Newton, his father, has admitted to attempting to broker a pay-for-play deal with Mississippi State.” That specific allegation you make is not a fact. All we know, through a TV report paraphrasing a source, is that Cecil Newton “admitted having conversations with an ex-Mississippi State University player about the possibility of under-the-table money.”

Having conversations does not equal having attempted to broker a deal. We do not know who initiated the conversations or what actions were taken by whom. I could describe to you several scenarios where Newton was approached by former Mississippi State football players who attempted to orchestrate a deal.

Link: http://www.wsbtv.com/sports/25778803/detail.html

Let’s be honest, you’re not denying Newton your Heisman ‘vote’ based on integrity, facts or anything other than your assumptions and the unknown. That’s not what governs the Heisman voting process.

Very fair points. I can’t argue with any of it. But I do feel we need to consider the fact that Newton might very well be declared ineligible before the end of his college career.

Week 12

4. QB Andrew Luck, Stanford  (Last week: No. 4)

Week 11 W 17-13 at Arizona State (33 of 41 for 292 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT; 3 carries for 3 yards)
Year to date 208 of 275 for 2405 yards, 19 TD, 7 INT; 40 carries for 333 yards, 3 TD

Luck’s the leader among the second grouping, the next tier of players who are battling for an invite to Manhattan but are clearly trailing the top threesome. His candidacy rests on a simple premise: consistency, even in defeat, and the leadership coveted at the game’s most important position. Then there are his numbers, which are superb. Then there’s the fact that Stanford, only shortly removed from incompetence, is very much in the mix for a Rose Bowl berth. Luck has it all — but it will be hard for him to leapfrog into the top three.

Week 12 at California, Saturday

5. WR Justin Blackmon, Okla. St. (Last week: No. 10)

Week 11 W 33-16 at Texas (9 receptions for 145 yards, 1 TD)
Year to date 84 receptions for 1430 yards, 16 TD; 4 carries for 77 yards, 1 TD

Blackmon’s numbers are simply impossible to ignore. Double-teamed, triple-teamed, bracketed, what have you: it doesn’t matter. Blackmon’s getting his yards, getting his catches, getting his scores, and no team — not even Nebraska, with the nation’s best secondary — has been able to slow him down. Texas, which has a talented secondary of its own, was the latest to fall victim to Blackmon’s rare blend of size and speed. The count continues: at least five receptions in every game, at least 125 yards receiving in every game and at least one touchdown in each of the nine games Blackmon has played.

Week 12 at Kansas, Saturday

6. QB Andy Dalton, T.C.U. (Last week: No. 5)

Week 11 W 40-35 vs. San Diego State (21 of 36 for 240 yards, 4 TD, 1 INT; 3 carries for -3 yards)
Year to date 185 of 279 for 2482 yards, 23 TD, 6 INT; 73 carries for 415 yards, 5 TD

Currently 11-0, T.C.U. can clinch a perfect regular season with a win on Nov. 27 against New Mexico. I think the Horned Frogs will finish 12-0. Little did we know that getting to 11-0 would be so difficult: T.C.U. turned an early 14-0 deficit into a 34-14 lead, but needed a late defensive stand to hold onto a 40-35 win over San Diego State. Like the offense as a whole, Dalton did most of his damage in the first half; all four of his touchdowns, along with most of his yardage, came over the first 30 minutes. It wasn’t a bad thing for T.C.U. to be tested, especially with New Mexico coming up in two weeks, but the narrow margin of victory hurt T.C.U. on a national level. Dalton performed well, however, and remains the top senior on this list.

Week 12 bye

7. QB Ryan Mallett, Arkansas (Last week: No. 6)

Week 11 W 58-21 vs. UTEP (19 of 26 for 215 yards, 5 TD, 0 INT)
Year to date 191 of 284 for 2663 yards, 23 TD, 7 INT

Poor UTEP never stood a chance against Mallett and the Razorbacks, who pounded out 49 points through three quarters before cruising through the fourth quarter. Mallett didn’t play in the final quarter, giving way to his eventual replacement, Tyler Wilson, but nevertheless tied a career-high with five touchdowns. Above all else, Mallett continues to make great strides forward in his accuracy: Saturday’s performance marked the seventh time in 2010 he had completed at least 65 percent of his attempts — only once all season has Mallett hit on less than 60 percent of his attempts. For a quarterback with his type of arm, this added accuracy only makes Mallett all the more dangerous.

Week 12 at Mississippi State, Saturday

8. QB Terrelle Pryor, Ohio State (Last week: No. 7)

Week 11 W 38-14 vs. Penn State (8 of 13 for 139 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT; 9 carries for 49 yards)
Year to date 161 of 238 for 2136 yards, 22 TD, 8 INT; 93 carries for 512 yards, 4 TD

It’s not going to happen for Pryor in 2010: his numbers are very good, though not great, and his Buckeyes — barring an absolute miracle — won’t be playing for the national title. In fact, Pryor has been fairly average for weeks, if held against his torrid first month. He’s thrown at least one interception in four straight games, though he has remained efficient with the football, and hasn’t rushed for more than 56 yards since the first weekend of October. Injuries have surely played a role in the latter category, but Pryor’s numbers don’t stand up to the handful of quarterbacks running ahead of him in the Heisman race.

Week 12 at Iowa, Saturday

9. WR Alshon Jeffery, S. Carolina (Last week: No. –)

Week 11 W 36-14 at Florida (6 receptions for 53 yards)
Year to date 65 receptions for 1087 yards, 7 TD

I think one player from South Carolina deserves to be mentioned: U.S.C. is having its finest season in decades — if not ever, all things considered. Marcus Lattimore, the freshman running back, has been here before. He spent two weeks on this list in the early season before his slow start to SEC play. He’s been terrific, but a tad inconsistent; he did rush for 212 yards in the biggest win in program history, but it was only his third 100-yard rushing game of the season. The skill player most worthy of acclaim is Jeffery, who has been terrific: take note that his six-reception, 53-yard showing against Florida was his weakest statistical performance of the season. He’s been terrific, nearly unstoppable, in fact, and will be a fixture in the Heisman race in 2011.

Week 12 vs. Troy, Saturday

10. QB Dan Persa, Northwestern (Last week: No. –)

Week 11 W 21-17 vs. Iowa (32 of 43 for 318 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT; 18 carries for 50 yards, 1 TD)
Year to date 222 of 302 for 2581 yards, 15 TD, 4 INT; 164 carries for 519 yards, 9 TD

This final spot has always been reserved for a wild card. Persa certainly fits that bill: his season is over following an Achilles injury suffered in Northwestern’s win over Iowa, so Persa’s inclusion will last only a week. What he does the rest of the year doesn’t matter, however. All that matters is what he’s done for Northwestern through 10 games: carry an otherwise bumbling offense on his back, helping N.U. land a 7-3 mark with two games to go in the regular season. On his final play of the season, Persa found Demetrius Fields for the game-winning touchdown. It was a Heisman moment, albeit merely for a fringe Heisman contender for a team battling for the outskirts of the Top 25. Nevertheless, Persa’s deserved a spot on this list for one week.

Week 12 vs. Illinois (in Chicago), Saturday

Dropped out

QB Robert Griffin III, Baylor (Last week: No. 8 )
RB John Clay, Wisconsin (Last week: No. 9)

Previous weeks

Week 11 list Cam Newton, No. 1
Week 10 list Cam Newton, No. 1
Week 9 list Cam Newton, No. 1
Week 8 list Kellen Moore, No. 1
Week 7 list Kellen Moore, No. 1
Week 6 list Denard Robinson, No. 1
Week 5 list Kellen Moore, No. 1
Week 4 list Kellen Moore, No. 1
Week 3 list Kellen Moore, No. 1
Week 2 list Kellen Moore, No. 1
Preseason list Kellen Moore, No. 1

You can also follow Paul Myerberg and Pre-Snap Read on Twitter.

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Comments

  1. Bob J says:

    LaMichael James tweaked his ankle in the Washington game and wasn’t completely ready for California. With a bye week coming up, he should be his old self against Arizona.

  2. sfduck says:

    Cal the #12 defense in the country at the time stacked the box to stop James and he still pulled off 91 yards, which is a good day for an average back. Kellen Moore played against a junior college.

  3. RS says:

    I think you need to begin with an understanding of the actual voting process and the rules by which it is governed. This is what the very short and simple ballot says:

    “I hereby designate _____________ as my First Choice to receive the Heisman Memorial Trophy, awarded to the most outstanding college football player in the United States for 2010. To the best of my knowledge, he conforms to the rules governing this vote.”

    RULES GOVERNING VOTE: In order that there be no misunderstanding regarding the eligibility of a candidate, the recipient of the award must be a bona fide student of an accredited college or university including the United States Academies. The recipient must be in compliance with the bylaws defining an NCAA Student Athlete.

    ###

    That’s it, plus places to list your second and third choices.

    Too little information exists at this time to deny Newton the Heisman and you even say “Newton likely didn’t do anything wrong.”

    Further, this is not a fact: “Even if Auburn did not pony up a dime to land Newton’s signature, Newton’s eligibility would eventually be voided.” NCAA rules are not that simple.

    You are also jumping to conclusions about Cecil Newton’s actions. You go too far in saying, “Let’s go off the fact that Cecil Newton, his father, has admitted to attempting to broker a pay-for-play deal with Mississippi State.” That specific allegation you make is not a fact. All we know, through a TV report paraphrasing a source, is that Cecil Newton “admitted having conversations with an ex-Mississippi State University player about the possibility of under-the-table money.”

    Having conversations does not equal having attempted to broker a deal. We do not know who initiated the conversations or what actions were taken by whom. I could describe to you several scenarios where Newton was approached by former Mississippi State football players who attempted to orchestrate a deal.

    Link: http://www.wsbtv.com/sports/25778803/detail.html

    Let’s be honest, you’re not denying Newton your Heisman ‘vote’ based on integrity, facts or anything other than your assumptions and the unknown. That’s not what governs the Heisman voting process.

  4. Dave says:

    @sfduck 91 yards on 29 carries is barely over 3 ypc. James was banged up, sure, but it also looked like Cal borrowed a page from Boise State’s defensive handbook for stopping the Oregon offense.

    And Kellen Moore does that to everyone, and he does it in 3 quarters or less.

  5. Mark Richens says:

    Nice move giving Persa some recognition; he has been a warrior. It was tough to see his reaction when he got word on the sidelines that his season was over. And it looked to be a freak noncontact injury.

  6. schedule nit says:

    Kellen Moore just had the best game I’ve ever seen a quarterback have…in an aircraft hangar. Those highlights will look delightful during his acceptance speach!

    But seriously at this point he’s played the inexperienced VT secondary and that’s it. Pfffft…

  7. Burnt Orange says:

    What I do not understand about the Newtons is if anyone falsely accused me or my son, we would not be hiding behind the lawyers, my son’s coach, privacy laws, the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment, the nuances and ennui of NCAA regulations etc. I would be out front vehemently denying the charges. Auburn and the Newtons have elected to go a very different way- stop talking, stonewall everyone and make them prove it.

    Of course, the tactic seems to be working. Saturday, I heard CBS game commentators refer to a report of fact by a CBS affiliate in Atlanta as being an “alleged” report of fact. ( still the highlight of the CBS coverage was when Spencer Tillman – O.U. All American back under Switzer – same recruiting class as Marcus Dupree – lectured us all about how sports are a reflection of society and how we need to clean things up.) I also heard more than one commentator talk of the unbridled joy and courage displayed by the preening and ever smiling Cam Saturday.

    However, at the end of the day, Auburn is backing a kid who was charged with three felonies at Florida and one who seems to have a knack for attracting nasty rumors for all sorts of allegations – just imagine not one, not two, but three “charges” of academic fraud in three semesters at Florida. Boy, he is really unlucky and persecuted.

  8. schedule nit says:

    Hey Burnt; NICE SEASON!!!

    Maybe the media should have been using the word “alleged” all along. Generally, when they start using that word in the 2nd report, it means the legal department has chimed in.

  9. M Meyer says:

    It’s too bad that Northwestern gets a big statement win, and their best player is out for the year. With Persa they might win out, grab the Outback bowl and break their bowl winless streak. Well, it’s a shame. Hopefully they can salvage something.

  10. Burnt Orange says:

    @ schedule nit – thanks ! The Longhorn season has made me a tad grumpy. I am trying to brace myself for a loss to Fla. Atlantic this weekend. I should know this but I am too lazy to go search your old posts- please state your allegiance. By the way, your “high school team in an aircraft hangar” line was hilarious.

  11. Oregon Fan says:

    Wow… Kellen is one. Now compare his numbers to Oregon’s QB.

  12. Tim says:

    “Newton likely didn’t do anything wrong.” Okay, maybe not lately and not at Auburn. But getting caught with a stolen computer and academic cheating at Florida? Not the kind of guy I’d vote for.

  13. schedule nit says:

    Actually don’t think I’ve stated my allegiance on this site as I like to complain about everyone’s schedules here–since you ask I’m mostly an Alabama fan actually.

    I’m no hater just because of a rivalry though, and I actually find it quite easy to take Cam’s side here by default; Innocent until proven guilty.

    From the beginning of this story, I have found the reporting to be shoddy, reckless, and frankly predatory. The rush to print seemingly every rumor passed along by every shady anonymous source without any substantiation is unfair, in my mind, when dealing with a college student. Even so, to keep omitting words like “allegedly” and “according to the source” is irresponsible. Some of these allegations may prove to be true, but c’mon, nobody ACTUALLY believes that both Newtons called separate people at Miss St and “tearfully” told them that Auburn had paid them too much money now do they?

    The academic cheating allegations, for instance, have become considered “fact” despite no documents being provided and the university itself denying that there were academic cheating charges pending against Cam when he left school. If this is more than a salacious rumor, then Florida should be receiving a letter of inquiry from the NCAA very soon because a player cannot just transfer away from a cheating charge and retain their eligibility to play in Juco the next season. The source would have just outed Florida for covering up an athlete’s NCAA violation.

    And at least this source has a good reason for remaining anonymous–they’d be fired and face jail time for releasing those records. What about the Mississippi State “recruiters” who claim the Newtons called them after the fact and told them they had gotten too much money from Auburn to go there? They wouldn’t be arrested or fired for going on the record, why on earth should they be allowed to sling such absurd mud without getting a bit of scrutiny themselves?

  14. RS says:

    I’ve learned some new information that I’m going to reveal here, because this is a nice blog and I like it. :)

    In a meeting last Thursday with Auburn and NCAA officials, Cecil Newton admitted that he had solicited Mississippi State representatives for money in exchange for Cameron’s signature but he backed out of the plan and no money changed hands. I do not know if Cecil Newton initiated this or if he was approached and prompted by former MSU player and NFL-agent runner Kenny Rogers and that’s a minor point at this juncture, but apparently, no one else — most importantly Cam — knew about this. Based on information it received this summer from the SEC office, this is the assumption Auburn has been working under since August. Auburn evaluated its recruitment of Cam and found no impropriety and they couldn’t find that Cam had done anything wrong. So, they determined that he was eligible to play at Auburn. He likely would not be eligible to play at Mississippi State. That conclusion was reaffirmed on Thursday, which is why he played against Georgia. Unless new evidence surfaces he’ll continue playing.

    I don’t know when this information will be part of the general story, but I am confident in its accuracy and I promise you that my sources are better, more honest and better intentioned than anyone you’ll find at ESPN.com or FoxSports.com. So people will have to basically decide whether they will punish the younger Newton for the sins of the father.

    On the academic allegations, the ‘reporter’ for FoxSports.com that authored the original story has a terrible reputation and was fired as a non-employee contributor to the New York Times two years ago for gross negligence. Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/18/opinion/18pubed-web.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1

    If you have questions about Newton’s academic standing when he left Florida, I would refer you to an article in Monday’s Houston Chronicle, where Newton’s junior college athletic director said: “We have a (National Junior College Athletic Association) policy that you can’t take a student-athlete that is not eligible to go back to the institution he was at. … So, upon him leaving Florida, he was still in good standing as a student, and he was still in good standing with the (football) program. “We were assured by people in the admissions office and the coaching staff at Florida that he was in good standing.”

    Link: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/headline/sports/7294741.html

    Paul: One point I think worth contending from your comment, as solid as it is. Thayer Evans was not — in no way, shape or form — fired, let go or released of any contract as a freelance contributor for The Times. That is simply not true at all. In fact, Thayer’s reporting is missed greatly. He left only for the great opportunity over at FoxSports. And his story for FoxSports was assuredly checked, re-checked and checked again for accuracy before being posted.

  15. Burnt Orange says:

    Really good stuff from many posters and Paul.
    A few observations – if Newton was accused of academic fraud at Florida, with a hearing pending , wouldn’t he still be in good standing academically when he left since the hearing had not taken place? To say that he left in “good standing” is not the same as “these charges of academic fraud are baeless – I didn’t do it.” Once gain back to my original point, the Newtons are not out front denying these things- the only quote I can find fron Cam on the academic fraud charges is essentialy that he is not going to talk about things that may or may not have occurred two years ago.

    On Bishop Newtons admission to the NCAA that he, without Cam’s knowledge, participated in and later withdrew from a plot at Mississippi State without taking money – if that is true and Bishop Newton has been completely honest with the NCAA – that is as good as it gets for the Newton’s and Auburn and NCAA rules were still violated.

  16. GTWrek says:

    I think professional baseball is viewed as a joke by many people since all the most prominant records are held by known cheaters. But baseball is content to let the records stand.

    College football is running the risk of the same thing happening if they do not take appropriate action. Only an Auburn fan would argue at this point that the guy is really eligible. The NCAA should have sat him by now. It’s clear they are going to nothing about this in a timely fashion. But it’s also clear this Auburn season is ultimately going to be voided by the NCAA.

    So if Auburn wins the title, and Newton wins the Heisman, that will 2 national titles, and 2 Heisman’s voided in the space of 7 years. I think that’s very damaging stuff for the sport, and the NCAA needs to get on the ball to prevent that from happening. These 2 year long investigations are not the solution.

  17. Dave says:

    If Cam was unaware of what Cecil was doing, why did Cam regretfully inform MSU that he had to go to Auburn because “the money was too much”?

    Also, @OregonFan, I don’t know what Thomas’ numbers look like (very good, I’m sure) but if Kellen Moore finishes the season with his current rating it will be the best season in NCAA history. Thomas is a stud QB, but nobody in the country is a better passer or smarter game manager. He’s clutch, accurate, & always puts the Broncos in a position to win.

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