Final Look at the Heisman Trophy
Written by Curt Popejoy on 12/09/2011
We are only a day away from awarding the 2nd most overrated award in college sports. It can’t be the most overrated because every year the NFL Pro Bowl awards an MVP and that is slightly more overrated. But I digress, the Heisman Trophy is a big deal to a lot of people and like most everything in football, I have an opinion about it.
I was trying to decide if anyone got snubbed. I suppose a case could be made that Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden has a compelling case. 11-1 record a Big 12 Title and some ridiculous statistics. But I have a hard time including him in the team photo when I consider Weeden’s teammate wide receiver Justin Blackmon the most outstanding player on his team. And in a year that has a defensive back on the ballot why not the most dominant wide out in the nation also? I suppose they cancel themselves out.
Looking at the 5 finalists I really only have beef with one guy. I’ve never been on board with the notion that LSU Cornerback Tyrann Mathieu. If the award was for most ESPN highlight reel moments he’s almost certainly in the Top 5. But creating a body of work on par with a players like Baylor QB Robert Griffin III and Wisconsin RB Montee Ball is a dubious challenge for any defensive player. And while I have no qualms about The Honey Badger getting the free trip to New York I can’t reasonably consider him on par with the other 4.
I typically don’t do a lot of research when I think about things like this, but when such diverse players I felt obligated to dig a little and see what the numbers told me. And let me say as I have done this sort of thing for a decade, this one is as close if not closer than any group I’ve ever seen.
RGIII has some incredible performances this year and did so against some very underrated defenses. To counter that I’ve always said that his skill players particularly his wide outs are very underrated and certainly helps his case. You also have to figure in the system that he plays in. Just in comparing his to fellow quarterback finalist Stanford and what do you have? Luck is playing in a very balanced, traditional offense that doesn’t emphasize the pass nearly as heavy as Baylor and he does not have the targets that RGIII does either. And yet he put up very comparable numbers. By contrast Luck played against slightly easier pass defenses. Advantage;RGIII
Now the 2 tailbacks. In terms of their competition Ball and Alabama running back Trent Richardson were nearly identical so I just looked at the numbers. And in those numbers both players were impressive. And in yards per game fewer than 5 ypg divided them. And while Richardson played 1 fewer game, he still was able to score 20 rushing scores and 3 more receiving. I realize that the argument is that the Badgers had a more balanced offense and that took forced defenses to focus less on Ball and so he should have had better stats. But 39 total touchdowns for a running back is absurd. I think both are incredible players, and will both be amazing players but Ball was better. And having been on the Richardson bangwagon for the past two years it was a tough call to make. Advantage-Ball
What do I do with Mathieu? That’s a good question. Is he an exciting player? Yes. Is he the most outstanding player in the nation? Not a chance. I am an NFL draft guy, and for all his exciting plays his NFL potential as a coverage player isn’t even the highest on his own team. But I am sure that tomorrow night there will be must attention on the Honey Badger and I won’t be at all shocked if he’s in the top 3. And he should be excited for that and proud of what he’s accomplished.
When I wrote about the Heisman a few weeks ago, I had Richardson and Ball in my top 5, and they are also in my final 3. My final Ballot looks something like this.
1.Montee Ball, RB Wisconsin
2.Andrew Luck, QB Stanford
3.Trent Richardson, RB Alabama
4.Robert Griffin III, QB Baylor
5.Tyrann Mathieu, CB LSU
Oh and my prediction? It’s going to be RGIII in a runaway. The groundswell of support for him is like nothing I’ve ever seen. I’ve never felt comfortable simply rewarding statistics when they are generated in a system that is so geared toward them. If that were so easy to do, why isn’t Case Keenum in the finals? And why have the past Texas Tech quarterbacks not win the award? But no matter who wins I can’t imagine anyone having much of a beef either way.
Last Edited: 12/09/2011