Thursday, December 04, 2008

Tebow by TKO

For the vast majority of the 2008 college football season, the race for the Heisman Trophy seemed to be a three-way battle between three statistically ridiculous quarterbacks in the Big XII. Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy, and Graham Harrell have all been the frontrunner at some point this year. Each led his respective team to an 11-1 finish while totaling more than 40 touchdowns and 4,000 yards. All three are deserving of the award and there is a chance that one of the three will win it. However, there might be an even better chance that none will win it. For the first time in recent memory, the Heisman race appears to be a toss-up between three players from the same conference. That is a disastrous scenario for Bradford, McCoy, and Harrell. Heisman winners absolutely must carry their region—and carry it strong—to have any chance at winning the award. The Big XII’s big three are so statistically similar that it would be nearly impossible for any of the three to carry the Southwest Region with any sort of authority. Then there’s the possibility that there will be ballots within the Southwest Region that completely omit one or more in favor of Chase Daniel, Michael Crabtree, Dez Bryant, or Kendall Hunter. All four have absolutely gaudy statistics. Those players won’t likely receive votes in other regions but could see some “love” from voters more familiar with their performances in the Southwest Region. Each time one of those names shows up on a ballot, the chances of the Heisman winner coming from the Big XII decreases significantly.

On the other side of the spectrum is Tim Tebow. He was pretty much and afterthought mid-season after Florida’s loss to Mississippi and the realization that his numbers were way down from last year. However, Tebow has something exponentially more important than gaudy statistics. He has total autonomy as the king of the SEC and the South Region. Knowshon Moreno is the only other player in the SEC worthy of Heisman consideration but Georgia’s big-game failures make it unlikely that he’ll steal many votes from Tebow. Additionally, national voters are less likely to vote for three players from the same conference and more likely to spread their votes around. As long as Tebow consistently finds his way onto ballots across regions, he will keep the Big XII quarterbacks at bay.

A situation like this happened in 2001 when Eric Crouch won the Heisman with the fewest total points since 1962. Voters from the South Region split their votes between the two top candidates from their region, Rex Grossman and Ken Dorsey. Crouch only carried one region—his own—but he placed in the top three in every region. Grossman and Dorsey also took a huge hit in the Far West Region where Joey Harrington and David Carr took home a number of first-place votes. Crouch was the lone player to carry his region while showing up in the top three in all six regions. If Grossman had a down season, Dorsey would’ve won the Heisman and vice versa. Instead, neither won it.

The 2001-outcome is more the rule than the exception when equally strong candidates emerge from the same region. When a region boasts multiple threats to win the Heisman, it essentially boasts zero threats. Look no further than to 2004 for another example. Matt Leinart won because the Southwest Region could not decide between two Sooners, Jason White and Adrian Peterson. White and Peterson combined for 325 first-place votes. Leinart only tallied 267 first-place votes. It only took two players from the same region to cancel each other out in 2001 and 2004. This year, the Big XII has three players and a few more who could find their way onto ballots. Interestingly, Reggie Bush—Leinart’s teammate—finished sixth in 2004 but since he received very few first-place votes, Leinart was not affected.

Bradford, McCoy and Harrell are facing the same fate that Rex Grossman and Ken Dorsey faced in 2001, and Jason White and Adrian Peterson faced in 2004. If the voters from the Southwest Region come to a consensus like the voters in the Far West Region did in 2004 (Leinart over Bush), then a Big XII QB will win the Heisman this year. If they split their vote like the Southwest Region did in 2004, then Tebow will come away with it again.

Big XII Stalemate

PlayerPass TDINTPass YardsRatingComp. %Rush YardsRush TDTotal TDsTotal YardsBowl Teams
G. Harrell4174,74716371.5-586474,6896
C. McCoy3273,445179.277.657610424,0217
T. Tebow2522,299175.56550714392,8069

Tebow may very well be the best player in college football this season but that argument would have to be largely based on “strength of schedule” and “importance to his team” since his statistics do not stack up with the Big XII’s triumvirate. It is clear that Bradford, McCoy, and Harrell are statistically superior. Strange as it sounds, I don’t believe that matters. Tebow has no competition in his own region while the rest of his competition resides in the same region. That is a dream scenario for a Heisman candidate and if the Southwest Region voters don’t get wise to trends, then that’ll be the reason Tebow becomes only the second player in college football history to win two Heisman Trophies. Tebow by TKO.

1 comment:

Lord Byron said...

Thats a really good observation about the regional aspect of the voters. Course, i do believe you forgot one phenomenal player #10 Steve Threet of the Michigan Wolverines who threw for nine touchdowns and only seven interceptions. Although i know what you thinking, no freshman has ever one the Heisman, we're just going to have to see how it all plays out with the voters. Enjoyed the analysis on Vote for Utah as well. Great reading, thanks! Byron


Powered by Blogger