Tag Archives: Heisman

Attention College Football Fans: The Heisman Trophy Isn’t a Race

In the wee, wee hours of Sunday morning, I found myself unfortunately watching Danny Kannell on ESPN. He was joined by Joey Galloway, who I rather enjoy. But Danny Kannell? Not so much.

Somehow, in the wee, wee hours of Sunday morning, Danny Kannell inspired within me a furious sportsrant. Attention college football fans: college athletes are not horses, the Heisman Trophy isn’t a race. Stop treating it like one.

In the wee, wee hours of Sunday morning, Kannell began a hopeless, long-winded, ESPN-ish adjudication about the current state of the Heisman race. His bold conclusion? Neither Lamar Jackson or J.T. Barrett had helped or hurt themselves in action this week. Thrilling.

Sure, completely ignore the fact that Barrett defeated the #8 team in the country on the road, in overtime, primarily thanks to his play. Ignore the fact that Lamar Jackson barely defeated Duke this week. If you ignore both of those plain facts, Kannell is actually correct.

It’s not Kannell’s fault that 24-hour sports media like ESPN ruins the sanctity of an award like the Heisman Trophy. A lot of things are Kannell’s fault, but, to his credit, this isn’t one of them. College football’s dependence on rankings – AP, Coaches Poll, CFP, FPI, etc.  – creates a culture where analysts feel the need to adjudicate everything as far in advance as possible. Should that bother me? Probably not. But it does.

Remember last season, when the college football universe had all but anointed Leonard Fournette a Heisman trophy winner? Yeah, then Alabama happened. Continuously ranking players in respects to the Heisman ceremony defeats the purpose of the award. If Lamar Jackson can’t score six touchdowns in a given game, the talking heads like Kannell will declare it a regression. That’s not realistic.

Not only is it unfair to frontrunners like Jackson, but take a player like Christian McCaffrey for example. In 2015, McCaffrey wasn’t considered to be a pre-season Heisman favorite. After eclipsing 2,500 all-purpose yards, you’d expect McCaffrey to be a strong contender. That trophy, of course, went to Derrick Henry. I certainly don’t mean to take anything away from Henry, but if McCaffrey had been a favorite at the season’s beginning, would Henry have the edge? I think not.

Plus, calling the Heisman Trophy a “race” implies a comparison to, say, a 400-meter dash. That’s simply not the case. Greg Ward Jr. is turning in another impressive season, yet the most difficult part of his schedule has already passed. Jabrill Peppers, however, wishes he could say the same. The playing fields aren’t even at any given time, so the snapshots of a Heisman race at those times intentionally mislead.

Obsessing over day-by-day rankings for the Heisman Trophy pollutes one of organized sports’ greatest honors. Let the players play a full season of football. Then, when it’s all said and done, objectively review all statistics and accomplishments to determine a winner. The only need for weekly rankings is to provide Danny Kannell a paycheck.

From what I gather, he’s doing alright.

NOTE: Although this article documents my dislike for Danny Kannell, let it be known that I unequivocally consider Mark May to be the worst, major television analyst of my lifetime.

Email Cole Hankins at [email protected]or follow him on Twitter @Cole_Hankins.

Photo courtesy – Wikipedia

Congratulations 2016 Heisman Trophy Winner, Josh Dobbs

Unless you didn’t watch yesterday’s game or are an absolute Tennessee nut job, you probably understood that this article’s title is complete sarcasm. It isn’t even the first Saturday of the college football season, and it seems that we’ve already eliminated someone from the Heisman race. I mean, he’s not completely eliminated from contention, but I can say that Josh Dobbs’ performance Thursday night against Appalachian State has to be one of, if not the “worst opening game from a Heisman candidate” I’ve ever seen. So let’s talk about what the physical embodiment of Mighty Mouse‘s first game so awful, and what it means for the rest of his season.

The Game

To put it bluntly, Josh Dobbs did more to hurt his Volunteers than help them in their opening game of the season. In fact, I would more or less say that the Volunteers won Thursday night’s matchup despite the supposed Heisman candidate. To start, he completed just over 50% of his passes, with many of his incompletions being errant throws or just bad decisions. He had a horrible interception at the end of the first half, which was almost duplicated in the second half on another play. Plus, I managed more rush yard from behind my keyboard than the man many consider to be “the best dual-threat QB in the country”. His Offensive line, which looked like they forgot how to block for half the game, though didn’t do Josh any favors. Nevertheless, Dobbs is supposed to be a dual threat QB, and the fact that he got negative yards against a Sun Belt team was not great for his Heisman candidacy.

None of that, however, did as much damage to Dobbs’ Heisman hopes Thursday night than the play that actually lead to the Volunteers’ victory. Dobbs attempted an Elway-esque move as he dove towards the end zone, and to say it backfired would be an understatement. Luckily for Dobbs, Jalen Hurd was there to bail him out and prevented Dobbs from dealing with boatloads of scrutiny. Nonetheless, check back with me later, as I believe the image of Josh Dobbs having the life hit out of him may define the Volunteers season to come.

Dobbs

Okay, okay. So last night’s game wasn’t an R.E.M. level disaster for Dobbs, however, it certainly leaves him with a lot, like a non-metaphorical ton, of work to make up the rest of the season. If the Volunteers want to win half of their conference matchups, it will definitely need a lot more from Dobbs than what we saw last night. Now the Appalachian State game could be great for Dobbs, as now that he’s seemingly eliminated himself from Heisman contention, Dobbs may be able to take a deep breath and concentrate on just playing quarterback. I frankly expect him to come out and play very well next week against Virginia Tech, and I think we will see more of the 2015 version of Dobbs 1.

But, last night’s performance may also have the Roberto Aguayo effect on Dobbs, and with VT, Florida and Georgia in the next month, Tennessee fans need to pray that Dobbs won’t need to hire a psychotherapist like Aguayo did. Tennessee’s coaching staff needs to make sure that one bad game doesn’t get to their star quarterback, because as I said, they are absolutely going to need him for the rest of the season. That being said, I’m in the camp that the Volunteers should play the Mighty Mouse theme song at their practices until Dobbs gets his mojo back.

E-mail Cooper at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @uf_goetz.
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  1. Editors note: 2015 Josh Dobbs is the one Seth “loves”. -dB

Predicted: New Year’s Six and the College Football Playoff National Championship

This is the third and final part of my 2016 College Football Preview. The picks in this article directly reflect my first and second article, so check those out before reading this one.

Orange Bowl (ACC vs. Big Ten/SEC/ND) 12/31/16

Miami (9-4) vs. LSU (10-2)

The Matchup: Miami will get the automatic ACC bid, as the Hurricanes are the best ACC team not in the CFP. LSU squeezes its way into the New Year’s Six over the likes of Notre Dame, the second team in line who just misses the New Year’s Six due to their indecisiveness at the QB position early in the season, which cost a few games. Other teams who are in the hunt for the Tigers’ Orange Bowl spot are Michigan State, Ole Miss and Arkansas, but none of them finish over 9-3.

The Game: This is Leonard Fournette’s final game in an LSU jersey. He will eat up the Miami defense, which will have to deal with a bit of Les Miles madness. LSU will come out passing early and often, as the Miami defense gets weaker the further away from the line of scrimmage you go. Once the Tigers expose Miami’s pass defense, LSU will catch the Hurricanes on their heels by simply letting Fournette run over the competition. Fournette’s early season injury may keep him out of the Heisman Race, but he will sure look like a Heisman winner after this game is all said and done. LSU will simply put up too many points for the Hurricanes to keep up with.

Final Score: LSU Tigers 38 – Miami Hurricanes 20

Cotton Bowl (At-Large vs. At-Large) 1/2/17

Michigan (11-1) vs. UH (12-1)

The Matchup: Michigan is not happy to be here. The Wolverines believe that it belongs in the CFP. However, it ends up playing in Dallas facing off against a Houston Cougars squad whose excitement to be in this spotlight inversely mirrors the Wolverines.

The Game: The team’s respective enthusiasm for this particular game reflects into the matchup’s first half to a large degree. Michigan comes out uninterested and sluggish, which a Greg Ward, AAC player of the Year, powered Cougar offense heavily exploits. The First Half ends with the Cougars up 14-10. The Wolverines swing back in the second half, and take a three-point lead over UH with just over a minute left in the game. Greg Ward leads a final charge down the field into the red zone with time winding down. However, after two incomplete passes, Jabrill Peppers fools Ward, after Peppers fakes a blitz before dropping back into coverage. The strong Wolverine defensive line forces Ward to rush a decision, and he overlooks Peppers before throwing a pass which Peppers intercepts.

Final Score: Michigan Wolverines 41 – Houston Cougars 38

Rose Bowl (Big Ten vs. Pac-12) 1/2/17

Iowa (9-4) vs. Stanford (11-2)

The Matchup: Iowa, who lost the Big Ten championship to Ohio State, gets the automatic Rose Bowl bid. Stanford, meanwhile, wins the Pac-12 and because no Pac-12 team gets into the CFP, are the other automatic bid, which makes the 2017 Rose Bowl an identical matchup to the 2016 game.

The Game:  This game will have a similar outcome as the matchup the previous year. Stanford will let Christian McCaffrey run free, and he will single-handedly slaughter Iowa. Iowa, in all honesty, does not belong in the Rose Bowl, and once again, the game’s result shows that. This one is not even close.

Final Score: Stanford Cardinal 31 – Iowa Hawkeyes 6

Sugar Bowl (Big 12 vs. SEC) 1/2/17

TCU (10-2) vs. Tennessee (10-3)

The Matchup: I’m going to be honest. Even though I picked them to be here, I would be surprised if Tennessee can win the SEC East and get the automatic bowl berth. The Volunteers’ inconsistency over the last several years makes I hard to believe that it can string together a solid season and take the East over Georgia and Florida. But, that’s what my mind believed when I wrote last week’s prediction article, so here we are. If the Volunteers manage to make it to the Sugar Bowl, it will face off against TCU, winners of the lackluster Big 12.

The Game: Despite the fact that I don’t think it will make it to this game, I think the SEC will prove too much for TCU. Tennessee, behind powerhouse running back Jalen Hurd and a Joshua Dobbs who develops into a great passer throughout the season, are able to out muster the Horned Frogs offensively. Tennessee’ defense, which nine starters, will shut down the Horned Frogs’ offense. This will be a defensive battle between these two teams, but the Volunteers prevail.

Final Score: Tennessee Volunteers 24 – TCU Horned Frogs 17

Peach Bowl (College Football Playoff Semifinal)  12/31/16

#1 Ohio State (13-0) vs. #4 FSU (11-1)

The Matchup: Ohio State, still riding off “The Game of the Century” Part 2, in which the Buckeyes beat #2 ranked Michigan, gets the #1 overall seed for the third annual College Football Playoff. FSU, meanwhile, campaigns hard for its spot, which the Seminoles fight Michigan, Stanford, TCU and Houston for. However, dominating wins late in the season after a close defeat to Clemson allow FSU to squeeze into its second College Football Playoff appearance.

The Game: Lead by recently crowned Heisman Trophy winner, J.T. Barrett, the Buckeyes get off to a quick start, scoring quickly on a pass over the middle against the weakest part of the Seminole defense. However, the Buckeyes’ inexperienced defense will struggle to do anything to stop the Dalvin Cook Seminole offense, and FSU goes up by 10 heading into halftime. Coming out of the half, Dontre Wilson brings the kickoff all the way back for a touchdown, making the Buckeyes deficit only three. Both defenses then hunker down, with the likes of Raekwon McMillan and DeMarcus Walker dominating for the Buckeyes and Seminoles respectively. Late in the 4th, J.T. Barrett leads Ohio State down the field, but Urban Meyer has to settle for a field goal. However, with two minutes to work with, Dalvin Cook is able to take his time and rush the Seminoles into Field Goal position with only a few ticks left. Ricky Aguayo gets a perfect hold ad knocks home a 52-yard field goal as time expires to allow the Seminoles to win.

Final Score: Florida State Seminoles 23 – Ohio State Buckeyes 20

Fiesta Bowl (College Football Playoff Semifinal) 12/31/16

#2 Clemson (13-0) vs. #3 Alabama (12-1)

The Matchup: Winners of the ACC and SEC respectively, Clemson and Alabama both come off monster season to qualify as the middle seeds for the College Football Playoff. Heisman runner-up Deshaun Watson, Clemson finished undefeated, while Alabama’s only loss came to Ole Miss early in the season.

The Game: This game will ultimately come down to Clemson’s offense vs. Alabama’s defense. The Alabama offense will struggle with Cooper Bateman at the helm, but Clemson’s defense will not be nearly as dominant as years past, allowing the Crimson Tide to find holes to score both on the ground and in the air. However, the issue for Alabama is that Clemson’s offense simply has too many pieces, as if the passing game to wide outs Mike Williams and Artavis Scott struggles, Deshaun Watson and Wayne Gallman, both of whom were 1000 yard rushers in 2015, can simply push Alabama back behind the Tigers’ O-Line. Though Alabama remains in the game in the first half, Clemson comes out firing in the second and breaks the game wide open. Alabama, though talented, won’t have an answer for Clemson, and the Tigers win the game by a fairly wide margin. The Crimson Tide’s shot at returning to the College Football National Championship is cut one game short.

Final Score: Clemson Tigers 45 – Alabama Crimson Tide 24

 College Football Playoff National Championship 1/9/16 (Tampa, FL)

#2 Clemson Tigers (14-0) vs. #4 Florida State Seminoles (12-1)

The Game: This game is going to be a rematch of possibly the best offensive matchup of the 2016 season. Earlier, Clemson beat out FSU in Tallahassee, and that is why the Tigers remained undefeated the entire year. The National Championship, featuring two teams less located less than 600 miles from the game’s location, Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, will be an offensive bout the likes of which we haven’t seen in man years. While both teams have competent defenses, Clemson and FSU will look to win the National Championship with offensive firepower. This game will actually not be as much of a nail-biter as their first matchup, as Deshaun Watson, in his second straight title game, will come out firing on all cylinders. FSU will stay in the game, but the Clemson offense will prove to be too much, and keep a constant lead over the Seminoles the entire game. The Clemson Tigers will have its first National Title since 1981.

Final Score: Clemson Tigers 48 – Florida State 35

E-mail Cooper at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @uf_goetz.

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ACC Links: The Weakest Link Edition

Boston College’s ACC Struggles

The Boston College Eagles have had a history of success in their athletic program, especially in football. This past season they managed to lose every single conference game they played. To make matters worse, the Boston College basketball team also lost every single one of its conference games. The Eagles have seemed to slowly decline since they joined the ACC in 2005. As in previous years, the ACC was clearly trying to become more of a “football conference.” And, as in previous years, the program that they chose to add only became worse after becoming a part of the conference. This raises all sorts of questions about what happens to a team when they start playing ACC football, or any ACC sport, for that matter. So is it time to vote Boston College off the ACC Island? Well, I’m just going to go ahead and vote for everybody and say yes. Boston College, you are the weakest link. Goodbye.

Heisman Potential in ACC Football

The ACC had outstanding offensive talent scattered throughout the conference last season. Much of that talent is returning this year, leaving a pretty decent list of the conference’s top five Heisman Trophy candidates. This list obviously includes Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, who I discussed in last week’s ACC football links. Florida State running back Dalvin Cook was also clearly included in the list after being an integral part of the Seminole offensive attack last season. Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya was also included, as he had a solid season last year and is expected to grow even more under Mark Richt. Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson is on this list despite having a quiet season last year since he shared reps. Finishing out the list is North Carolina running back Elijah Hood, who rushed for nearly 1,500 yards and 17 touchdowns last season. With players like these playing huge roles in each team’s offensive attack, I would not be surprised to see a Heisman winner from an ACC football program this year. I guess you could say that these guys are definitely not the weakest links.

Jimbo Fisher’s Toughest Schedule

Much has been said about Florida State’s strength of schedule in previous seasons. This year, the Seminoles are playing what is arguably their most difficult schedule since Jimbo Fisher took over the team in 2010. Florida State opens the season against Ole Miss and also plays Louisville, North Carolina, Miami, Clemson, and Florida. The teams on their schedule actually posted a combined record of 96-61 during last season, which puts them at a win percentage of over 61 percent. If Florida State can navigate their way through this schedule and win the ACC, there should be no argument about whether or not they deserve to be included in this year’s College Football Playoff. To continue with the theme of weakest links, clearly Florida State’s competition does not fit that bill.

Pittsburgh’s James Conner is Cancer-Free

Last December, Pittsburgh running back James Conner announced that he had been diagnosed with Stage 2 Hodgkin lymphoma. Conner was nursing a knee injury last year after having a great sophomore season in 2014. During that season alone, he ran for 1,765 yards and 26 touchdowns. His fighting spirit has been an inspiration to Pittsburgh fans as well as many others throughout the country. Conner recently made an appearance on the Ellen Degeneres Show, only to be surprised by another football player who fought Hodgkin lymphoma, Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry. Just a few days ago, he announced that his body is clean of cancer. Here’s to hoping he pulls an Eric Berry, coming back even stronger than he was before his battle with cancer. That would be scary for the rest of the ACC football teams. And James Conner, you are ACC football’s strongest link.

Image courtesy of wikimedia user Ayzmo.

Ohio State vs. The Best Team Nike Can Buy

The first ever college football playoff will crown either the Oregon Ducks or Ohio State Buckeyes as its champion today.  However, regardless of who wins, the true national champion is Nike.  All four teams in the playoff, Florida State, Alabama, Oregon, and Ohio State are sponsored by Nike.  As a result, some of the most significant games of the season turned into uncontested Nike commercials.  Based on ESPN reports and side pieces on Oregon, it is no secret that Oregon is Phil Knight’s, the Chairman of the Board of Directors for Nike, personal playground and laboratory.  Oregon has used Phil Knight (or, perhaps, Phil Knight has used Oregon) brilliantly to turn itself into a national power in recent years.  Everyone likes getting free things and athletes are no exception.  In fact, they might like free things even more considering receiving benefits is banned and it is human nature to want what you cannot have.  The allure of getting amazing free Nike gear, including new uniforms almost every week is strong.  Most colleges have certain pipeline states for recruiting, but Oregon has found a way to reach players in essentially every state through the power of Nike, pipeline or not.  Essentially, unless a recruit is a devout follower of the other three major college football sponsors, Under Armour, Adidas, or Russell Athletic, Oregon can use the power of Nike to worm its way into the mind of essentially any player it wants and then use Nike to tip the scales in its favor.  Paying players to attend certain schools is against NCAA rules, but Oregon has used the power of Nike to get as close to that line as possible without crossing it.

The timing of this article is strange as almost every angle for this game has been discussed extensively in the lead up to the game.  Here are a few of my, hopefully unique, takes on the championship matchup:

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota vs the Ohio State defense

The analysis of every game featuring the Ducks includes a discussion about the speed with which Oregon plays followed closely by the merits of Heisman winning quarterback Marcus Mariota.  When the offense is rolling, seeing a play called every 10 seconds is not uncommon.  The pace of the Oregon offense causes mental mistakes, fatigue, and vanilla defensive looks.  However, Ohio State may be better equipped to deal with this attack than many others.

Although scout teams can be employed to mimic the attack of an opponent, having an offensive attack that is similar to what an opponent runs is an advantage.  Ohio State’s coaches and players are uniquely prepared for the Oregon offense because they see a version of it everyday.  Like Oregon, Ohio State runs a spread and is known for its hurry up offense that features a read option look and speedy receivers.  Looking into things further, both teams also have a very physical feature running back (Royce Freeman and Ezekiel Elliiott, Oregon and Ohio State, respectively) and their own versions of a mobile quarterback.

Against Alabama, Ohio State’s physical defense, especially its defensive backs, were very disruptive.  Oregon’s wide receivers thrive when they have defensive backs playing off the line of scrimmage and allowing them a free release.  This sets up the Oregon wide receiver screen game and allows its speedy athletes to operate in the open field.  The philosophy of jamming receivers, disrupting the timing of quarterbacks, and generally being physical works at all levels.  Peyton Manning doesn’t lose often, but when he does, it is normally because he is playing a defense that is getting pressure and disrupting quick throws.  The same can be said for Tom Brady.  If two of the greatest modern quarterbacks can be rattled in this way, then Marcus Mariota can be as well.

Cardale Jones vs the Oregon defense

By now, the story about Ohio State’s third string quarterback, Cardale Jones, taking over and leading the Buckeyes to wins against Wisconsin and Alabama in two of the biggest games of the season is well known.  So far, he has shown that he starts games slowly and improves once he gets into the flow of the game.  Although Jones should still be considered an unknown asset, he has shown that he is unafraid of the big game environment.  Oregon’s defense forced Florida State into several turnovers which transformed that game into a blowout.  A turnover free or minimal turnover performance from Jones should allow the Buckeyes to keep pace with Oregon.  Of course, if Jones is unable to make accurate throws consistently, keeping up with the Ducks may prove difficult.

Win or lose, does this game mean the Big Ten is back?

In short, yes.  Compared to other bowl seasons, this bowl season was very successful for the Big Ten.  The conference as a whole seems to have upward momentum thanks to the performances of Ohio State and Michigan State and to a slightly smaller extent, Wisconsin.  Former San Francisco 49ers’ coach Jim Harbaugh is bringing his track record of consistent success wherever he goes to Michigan and there is little reason to believe that he would not be able to return Michigan to its winning ways.  At the start of the season, it seemed unlikely, if not impossible, that a Big Ten team would be in the playoff, much less in the championship game after Ohio State lost to Virginia Tech and Michigan State lost to Oregon.  To see Ohio State in the championship game at all is surprising, to say the least and shows that at least one Big Ten team has the ability to recruit and develop players who can play against arguably the most talented team in the country, Alabama, and win.

Pay to Play: Wisconsin’s Recent History of Not Paying Coaches

One is an anomaly, two is a trend. After a legendary coaching run by Barry Alvarez, two Wisconsin coaches, Bret Bielema and Gary Andersen, have left Wisconsin for head coaching positions for less successful teams, Arkansas and Oregon State, respectively. Although the stories surrounding the departures of the head coaches were mainly about who the next coach of Wisconsin would be and how the departed coach would fit into his position with a new school, one of the overlooked aspects of the story is the reason why Bielema and Andersen left. Both cited, to some degree, the inability to pay assistant coaches.

At first, the lack of funding given to Wisconsin’s head coach seemed to come from an obvious source: the school didn’t bring in a lot of money. However, the USA Today published this report. Based on the USA Today report, Wisconsin is not hurting for athletic revenue as it brought in over $149 million, second only to Texas. They have money from a variety of obvious sources that seem to be pretty significant: Big Ten Network money, bowl game money, and ticket sale money. Like many other schools, football, and to a lesser degree, basketball, bring in the bulk of the money and probably help to fund other sports that are not as revenue generating. Continuing to use the USA today report, Wisconsin seems to have an issue with expenses. The Badgers generated $149 million in revenue, but spent $146 million in the process. In comparison, Michigan had a total revenue of approximately $143 million and had expenses of approximately $131 million. The solution to Wisconsin’s apparent lack of money seems obvious: cut down on expenses.

However, another variable may be in play that has nothing to do with cutting down on expenses (although taking this step is probably a good idea, regardless). Having attended and graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I experienced a strong, but often not discussed, undercurrent of students and adults who had a genuine dislike of the fact that the head football coach was one of the highest paid employees in the state. While I understand that football coaches can receive money from both the state and the university, the philosophy behind the resentment is still troubling. The arguments against having a highly paid football coach were almost something along the lines of he just coaches football or football isn’t that important. While there is an argument to be made for some individuals who deserve to get paid more than Wisconsin’s head football coach, the money that these coaches and their staffs bring in doesn’t lie. According to this article, Wisconsin’s football program brought in $50 million for the 2012-13 season. While this Forbes article is about Nick Saban, the same concept applies at Wisconsin and many other top football programs: football coaches of premiere teams, or in Wisconsin’s case, an almost-kinda-sorta premiere team, are a bargain.

In Wisconsin, there is a tool that provides the public with access to the salaries of Wisconsin state employees. For fun, I entered in running back coach Thomas Brown’s name and found the salary paid to him by the state was $175,336.00. His state salary is not small, but considering he is the coach behind Heisman contender Melvin Gordon and has a significant role in maintaining and improving Wisconsin’s reputation as a place where running backs have incredible success, it seems low. While there may be an argument that a football coach is not as important as say, an English professor, the work of a football coach will bring far more renown, recognition, and money to a school and the surrounding community than an English professor’s research paper on Shakespeare ever will.

To put things in perspective, Gary Andersen was paid $2.2 million for his efforts in 2014. The man in charge of orchestrating Ohio State’s Big Ten Championship beat down on the Badgers, Urban Meyer, was paid approximately $4.5 million for the 2014 season. Ohio State pays its staff approximately $3.6 million while Wisconsin pays its coaches a relatively paltry $2.4 million (stats from here). How Wisconsin manages to have a winning season at all, much less get to the Big Ten championship, is a miracle considering that it pays its coaching staff so little compared to Big Ten teams with comparable records.

As Wisconsin looks for a new coach, possibly Greg Schiano or former Badger assistant Paul Chryst, according to rumors, fans can only hope that Wisconsin increases its pay to assistants so that the cycle of finding and promptly losing a head coach can end. Consistency is key for all sports, but is especially important in college athletics where a bad year or a bad recruiting class can have a ripple effect that sends a team to the bottom of a conference. Top recruits choose to play for a specific coach. If that coach leaves or is fired (see Michigan), recruits often decommit and go elsewhere. Wisconsin has done a remarkable job in recent years of doing more with less. Overall, the caliber of athlete who takes the field for Wisconsin is not at the same level as the athlete putting on an Ohio State or Michigan uniform. Yet, despite a community that resents the salaries of its coaches, possibly to the point of trying to reduce what coaches are paid, Wisconsin has consistently put out a quality product, makes it to bowl games every year, and even finds itself in Rose Bowl contention when everything clicks. At some point, either Badger coaches will get paid more, the revolving door at head coach will be extinguished, and Wisconsin will continue to find success or the poor coach pay will catch up to the Badgers, Wisconsin will begin to struggle, and appearances in the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl will be the best the team can muster. If the latter happens, maybe the critics will change their tune. The fun and games associated with hating on the football team when its winning will come to an abrupt halt if the Badgers start to lose, Football Saturdays become just another day, and the restaurants and businesses on State Street close because no one comes to Camp Randall. Badger football drives the Madison community; unfortunately, there are many who just don’t get it.

The SEC Heisman

The SEC has seen some familiar and unfamiliar faces lighting up the box scores and highlight reels this season. Dak Prescott has led Mississippi State to some great wins these past few weeks and Alabama’s Amari Cooper continues to prove why he is the best receiver in football. It was hard to narrow the list down to just five, but here’s a list of the top five Heisman contenders in the nation’s best conference:

(Photo Credit: Rogelio V. Solis — AP Photo)
(Photo Credit: Rogelio V. Solis — AP Photo)

1. Dak Prescott, Mississippi State, QB
Season Totals: 1478 passing yards – 576 rushing yards – 22 total TDs
Mississippi State is the new team to beat in college football capping off three-straight wins versus top ten opponents all in convincing fashion. Quarterback Dak Prescott has been in the spotlight throughout the three weeks compiling up 1,085 total yards with 10 touchdowns (361 yards per game) over that span. Prescott is not just a SEC household name anymore as he is now on the top of many Heisman voters list in the country with a legitimate chance to take home the trophy in New York in December.
2. Amari Cooper, Alabama, WR
Season Totals:
62 receptions – 908 receiving yards – 7 TDs
Lane Kiffin figured out quickly how this offense was going to work when he had a gem at receiver in Amari Cooper. This Alabama offense runs through Cooper. In games where defenses would lock down on the junior receiver Alabama struggled on offense. Cooper is a dynamic athlete with exceptional hands and a burst to leave opposing corners in the dust. Cooper leads the SEC in receptions and yards and is second in touchdowns with seven. Cooper had a great game this past weekend taking advantage of a weak Texas A&M secondary finishing the day with 143 yards and a couple of scores.
3. Todd Gurley, Georgia, RB
Season Totals: 773 rushing yards – 8.2 yards per carry average – 8 TDs
Only a player like Todd Gurley could miss a few weeks and still be on the top of the leaderboards in rushing and still with a chance at a spot in New York. Before sitting out, Gurley was coming off back-to-back games with 160-plus yard games scoring two touchdowns in each. Gurley still sits at the top in the SEC in total rushing yards with 773 and an insane average of 8.2 yards per carry on just 94 attempts. Freshman running back Nick Chubb has picked up the load, but Georgia will welcome back Gurley with open arms Saturday when the Bulldogs take on the Gators in Jacksonville.
4. Josh Robinson, Mississippi State, RB
Season Totals: 689 rushing yards – 7.0 yards per carry average – 8 TDs
Dak Prescott has taken the load of the attention of Mississippi State’s unprecedented success so far this season, but a player that is not in the spotlight, yet deserving is running back Josh Robinson. Robinson has been very effective in the run game this season for State while also coming up in the passing game. Robinson hasn’t had a game this season in which he rushed for less than 77 yards and has scored at least one touchdown in all but one game this season. Robinson could be noted as the silent assassin for this rising team, but like Dak, he is making a name for himself each week showing up big when it matters in key games.
5. Jonathan Williams & Alex Collins, Arkansas, RB
Williams Season Totals: 677 rushing yards – 6.5 yards per carry avg – 9 TDs
Collins Season Totals: 665 rushing yards – 6.5 yards per carry avg – 8 TDs
This two-headed monster is a nightmare for opposing defenses. The two are so effective together it’s too hard to split them up. Senior Jonathan Williams ups Collins by just 12 yards and one touchdown. Williams is a downhill style runner with a headstrong mentality and that has continually brought him success these past two seasons so far. Collins is the all-purpose back with NFL talent and has been a game changer this season with three games over 130 yards rushing and two scores over 50 yards in big games. These two excellent runners run behind a solid offensive line and will continue to be towards the top of the SEC leaderboards.

2015 NFL Draft Prospects (QB, RB Edition)

The 2015 NFL Draft projects to be plentiful with quality running backs and quarterbacks, but I wanted to delve deeper into this group than the usual suspects of: Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston, and Todd Gurley. I think an abundance writers have been penned many superlative articles about the top Heisman Trophy candidates and quite frankly I find anointing players as “can’t miss” usually leads a draft analyst down the primrose path. My list includes Heisman hopefuls, likely first round picks, and small college studs that will be fighting for an opportunity to compete at the combine, in February.
Ameer Abdullah RB Sr. Nebraska 5’9 195
Abdullah, an Alabama native, spurned SEC schools that recruited him as a corner because he believed in his ability to run the football. It would appear that Abdullah knows best and the gamble to go to Nebraska has paid off. With the running back position being devalued in the NFL (none taken in the first round in 2014) it is imperative that a player offers more than just running the ball. Ameer Abdullah has showcased his great return skills and hands during his career in Lincoln. He is a capable blocker despite his diminutive size and has excellent hands, (50 receptions last two years) vision, and breakaway speed. I think with most teams employing a two running back system, coupled with his incredible return skills, Ameer Abdullah projects anywhere from the 2nd-4th round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
Jeremy Langford RB Sr. Michigan State 6’0 205
Jeremy Langford has enjoyed a nice career at MSU and starts this season on the Doak Walker watch list. Last season Langford enjoyed a banner campaign for the Rose Bowl Champions; he had 1422 yards, 4.8 yards per carry, 28 receptions and 18 touchdowns. While Langford needs to learn to be patient in letting his blocks develop (it’s not speed TO the hole but speed THROUGH the hole) sometimes he runs straight into the pile; he’s a great blocker, makes one cut and goes downhill. He runs with great body lean and always moves the pile while falling forward. Langford is the type of running back that projects as a mid round pick but could easily rush for 1,000 yards multiple times and have a stellar NFL career.
David Johnson RB Sr. Northern Iowa 6’1 215
If I were to predict one running back currently in college to usurp Marshawn Lynch and become next “Beastmode” David Johnson would be the guy. Johnson runs the ball with a violent thudding style where he is the aggressor not the would be tackler. Johnson is a workhorse for the Panthers, amassing 3,129 yards, 103 receptions, and 44 TD’s; during his career at Northern Iowa. Johnson begins 2014 on the Walter Payton watch list (FCS Heisman) and like Langford could be another mid round selection that contributes mightily during his rookie year.
Trayion Durham RB/FB Sr. Kent State 6’1 248
I would be remiss if I didn’t include one fullback prospect on my list, even as the evolution of the Spread Offense has made the position a bit of an anomaly. While at Kent State, Durham hasn’t been the typical battering ram type of Moose Johnston traditional fullback (2755 yards and 24 TD’s) he projects as one in the NFL. He is much more than just a lead blocker on the blast however. He and Dri Archer (3rd round 97th pick Steelers) combined in 2013 to be one of the most prolific tandems in the country. Durham has some wiggle and it is a matter of which team drafts him and how they choose to utilize him that will ultimately decide his professional fate. Whether he gets designated as a big back like a Jerome Bettis or a fullback really doesn’t matter. I expect Durham to enjoy a lengthy career in the league.
Bret Hundley QB Jr. UCLA 6’3 227
Hundley was the first five star QB prospect (Scout.com) to ever sign with the Bruins. Last season Hundley had a completion percentage of 67.2 and threw for 24 TD’s with 9 Ints.
The UCLA signal caller possesses all the tangible physical metrics that would seemingly guarantee him NFL success. Athleticism, arm strength, and size are all features Hundley has an abundance of. In 2014 Hundley will need to show more poise and confidence working through his progressions. During the NFL evaluation process next spring it’ll be vital for Hundley to demonstrate that he can effectively read defenses, like he will have to do at the next level. UCLA’s offense is almost exclusively shotgun so he will have to showcase good footwork and technique from under center. With that being said, I fervently expect Hundley to be a 1st-2nd round pick in 2015 and with a transcendent year Hundley could very easily vault ahead of Winston and Mariota and find himself at the very top of the draft. If Hundley struggles, it would behoove him to come back to school and he will be at the very top of the 2016 NFL Draft.
Sean Mannion QB Sr. Oregon State 6’5 220
Mannion is the definition of a pure pocket passer, in the mold of a Drew Bledsoe. He displays a cannon arm and has nice touch on his intermediate passes. When he’s under fire he tends to fade in the pocket instead of stepping up to get better velocity on his throw. His mobility is limited but he has the arm to make all the throws in the NFL. In 2013 Mannion threw for a PAC 12 record 4,662 yards and OSU record 37 TDs. Right now I’d put Mannion in the 3rd to 4th round range but with the caveat that he could quickly develop into a franchise QB.
Kevin Rodgers QB Sr. Henderson State 6’3 215
There isn’t a quarterback playing in college currently that has had a more prolific career than Kevin Rodgers. Rodgers has put up back to back 4,000 yard passing seasons in Henderson State’s vaunted Scorched Earth Offense and lead the Reddies to the D2 playoffs the past two seasons. Rodgers football cognition is off the charts. He is able to process and decipher coverages on the fly with relative ease. He displays surprising velocity and throws an accurate ball. The 2013 Great American Conference Player of the Year and Harlon Hill Finalist (D2 Heisman) is now on the NFL radar and will look for a spot in a post season all star game to ascend up NFL draft boards; much like Jimmy Garrapolo (Eastern Illinois, 2nd round Patriots) did this year.
Whether they play “big time” college football or at a small school the NFL doesn’t discriminate if you can play. Whether you play in the SEC or NAIA all college players dream of a chance to play in the league. These players have all had remarkable collegiate careers and look to build on their past successes and become just another rookie in 2015. With a healthy and productive 2014, I expect all seven of these players to hear their name called at the 2015 NFL Draft. Look for my prospects column throughout the season, as well as my picks column. Follow me on twitter: @purebredwarrior to stay up on all things cool.

Kevin Rodgers, Henderson State
Kevin Rodgers, Henderson State

Bret Hundley, UCLA
Bret Hundley, UCLA

Dethroning Jameis Winston

 
A few weeks ago I chronicled the best five Heisman seasons of the BCS era. There were some pretty amazing seasons just in the last half decade; does anyone this year have the chance to make that type of run? These days predicting the Heisman winner is nearly impossible. Not too long ago you could simply look at the top quarterbacks and running backs that were juniors and seniors and had pretty good college careers up to that point, and you would’ve given yourself a pretty good chance. These days the pool has grown immensely. With both freshman and sophomores having won the award and that barrier being broken, you now have to consider every player in college football. Freshmen, and particularly quarterbacks, are getting to campus more prepared to succeed immediately than ever. In the last few seasons, Cam Newton, Johnny Manziel, and even Jameis Winston’s Heisman seasons were somewhat of a surprise. Sure they may have been talented players, but who knew they could have that type of season that soon. It’s hard not to have Jameis Winston as the Heisman favorite coming into this year. He won it last year, won the championship, and is returning to a still loaded Florida State Seminoles team. But it is nearly impossible to win a second Heisman trophy, as Tim Tebow and Johnny Manziel among others can attest. The bar is raised much higher, and you have to significantly outperform your Heisman season numbers to even have a chance. There are various factors working against Winston besides just history. Florida State will be rolling through most of its season again, so it will be hard to improve on last year’s numbers playing only two or three quarters in half his games. And while the Seminoles offensive line is loaded, losing a first round receiver in Kelvin Benjamin doesn’t make your wide receiving corps better. These aren’t really knocks against Winston, and don’t mean he won’t improve as a player, but are little things that in the end will lead to him not bringing home the Heisman again this season. So who could be the finalists to stand at the podium where Winston was last year?
 
1. Bryce Petty – QB Baylor
Last year Petty put up incredible numbers while only throwing three interceptions. Everybody already knows about Baylor’s high octane offense and not turning the ball over gets people’s attention. Once again Baylor will have one of the top offenses in college football, and I think they go 11-1 which will keep Petty at the forefront of the Heisman conversation. A benefit Petty has over Winston is that Baylor’s defense isn’t exactly up to par with Florida State’s, which will keep Baylor in shootouts and Petty slinging it all over the field well into the fourth quarter.
 
2. Braxton Miller – QB Ohio State
Braxton Miller received Heisman buzz going into last season, and may have been a finalist if not for missing a few games. When you have 36 total touchdowns and rush for over 1,000 yards you’re going to be in the conversation. Miller has improved every year, and 2014 will be no different. On a Buckeye team that will be in the college football playoff race until the very end, I would be surprised if Miller doesn’t top 40 total touchdowns assuming he stays healthy.
 
3. Melvin Gordon – RB Wisconsin
If nothing else the numbers should be there, and they’ll have to be. With quarterbacks taking home 11 of the last 12 Heisman trophies, it’ll take a monstrous season from a running back to win the award. Fortunately, Gordon has the talent and the system to do just that. Gordon rushed for over 1600 yards last year on only 206 carries. As hard as it is to imagine, Wisconsin may have to lean on the run even more this year with the departure of most of their top pass catchers from a year ago. A run at 2,000 yards is not unrealistic, but Gordon will have to double his touchdown total (12) from last year to overcome the record of a Badger team that will likely be significantly less impressive than that of other Heisman contenders’ teams.
 
4. Marcus Mariota – QB Oregon
Mariota’s situation reminds me of Andrew Luck’s a few years ago. You could argue he’s the best player in the country and a potential number one pick in the NFL draft, but the numbers just might not be there to get enough momentum amongst Heisman voters. Mariota could’ve been on his way last year if not for a mid-season injury. This year however, Oregon will be very inexperienced at WR and could lean heavily on the dynamic duo of Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner at RB. Regardless, I expect Mariota to be an invitee to the ceremony even if his Heisman campaign ultimately falls short.
 
5. Rakeem Cato – QB Marshall
Every year there seems to be a quarterback from a non-power conference team that puts up huge numbers and injects himself into the Heisman race. This year that player could be Rakeem Cato. Cato finished last year with 39 touchdowns and 9 interceptions while throwing for almost 4,000 yards. His receiving core returns leading wide out Tommy Shuler, who could become the first player with three 100 catch seasons, and adds promising 2012 recruit Angelo Jean-Louis. If Marshall can make their way through the season undefeated and Cato makes even moderate improvements to his stat line, he could find himself unexpectedly in the race if the top candidates falter.

Top 5 Heisman Seasons of the BCS Era

USP NCAA FOOTBALL: HEISMAN TROPHY PRESENTATION S FBC USA NY            When someone mentions the BCS, the first thoughts that pop into your head usually are something along the lines of unfair, chaotic, a broken system to determine a national champion. But taking a step back from crowning a champion, college football as a whole saw significant changes throughout the BCS era. The money involved has increased exponentially and there has been an obvious increase in the explosion of offensive numbers. This is no more evident than when looking at the past Heisman winners. The start of the BCS marks somewhat of a turning point in Heisman winners. In the 16 years prior to the BCS, Heisman winners included 7 quarterbacks, 6 running backs, 2 wide receivers, and 1 cornerback. Perhaps not so coincidentally the year before the BCS started marked the last time a non QB/RB has won the award. In today’s college football where up-tempo offenses are the norm and people want to see teams put up 50+ points routinely, it’s hard to imagine a WR (let alone a defensive player) having the stats/impact to overcome the QB position. In the 16 BCS years (not counting 2005 where Reggie Bush had his trophy stripped away) there have been 12 quarterbacks who won the Heisman and 3 running backs and 12 of the last 13 winners have played quarterback.
Being a Heisman winner cements your status as an all-time college football great. But while becoming a Heisman winner is something that can’t be taken from you (unless you’re Reggie Bush) some Heisman seasons are rather forgettable and fade into the back of our minds as if they never happened. It’s hard to believe in 2001 Eric Crouch won the Heisman throwing for 1,510 yards with 7 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Clearly most of his value came from leading Nebraska’s option attack (1,115 yards/18 touchdowns on the ground), but those numbers wouldn’t get you an invite to the ceremony in today’s game. So which 5 players had the best Heisman seasons of the BCS era? It’s not as easy as simply looking at the stats. To be the best amongst other Heisman winners, a player had to have a monumental achievement or impact on his team. Spoiler alert: Eric Crouch didn’t make the list.
 
5.         2000 – Chris Weinke QB Florida State
As a kid I remember watching a fair amount of college football but being young enough that not a lot of things stood out. One thing that did was Florida State QB Chris Weinke. I couldn’t believe he kept putting up these crazy passing stats week after week. In the decade and a half since, you sort of forget about his season and remember him more for being the 28 year old college quarterback and his FSU offense getting shut out in the championship game against Oklahoma. His stat line of 4,167 yards, 33 touchdowns, 11 interceptions looks average now until you dig deeper. In that 2000 season, only 10 QBs threw for even 3,000 yards (2nd place had only 3,687). More impressively, out of those 10, Weinke had the most yards while attempting the 3rd fewest passes. His 33 touchdown passes also placed him as 1 of only 2 quarterbacks who had more than 27 that year. When you put his season into perspective, it truly was one of the more impressive Heisman seasons in recent memory.
 
*** I should note that if Reggie Bush was eligible, his 2005 season would have ranked #5 on the list. I decided to respect the NCAA’s decision of not acknowledging a Heisman winner for 2005, because you know, the NCAA is such a respected, stand-up institution and all. Bush had 2,218 yards from scrimmage and 18 touchdowns, averaged 8.7 yards per carry on 200 carries, and almost every week had a ‘Whoa!’ moment. His 2005 excitement/dominance showed up in the Heisman voting. He received 784 first places votes, compared to 79 and 18 for second and third place and had the highest percentage of possible points in history (91.7%). ***
 
4.         1998 – Ricky Williams RB Texas
Most remember Ricky Williams for his various NFL retirements, sabbaticals, and the Saints trading their entire draft for him. Before all that he put together one of the best seasons for a running back in history. The Heisman voting reflects this as Williams received 85% of the possible points he could get and had one of the highest margins of victory in the trophy’s history. Williams gashed defenses in 1998 for a total of 2,124 yards and 27 touchdowns on the ground and in the process broke the all time NCAA rushing mark, one that had stood for over 20 years. He capped off the season by leading Texas to a Cotton Bowl win, rushing for 203 yards and 2 touchdowns. To further demonstrate how dominant of a rushing season Williams had, no other RB even finished in the top 10 of Heisman voting that year.
 
3.         2012 – Johnny Manziel QB Texas A&M
It’s easy to see why Johny Manziel will never be forgotten. Whereas past performers didn’t have the coverage players do now, Manziel’s twitter account and the media’s nauseating updates of his life will be sure to keep Manziel at the forefront of our minds. Unfortunately with the coverage slowly reaching unbearable, Tim Tebow levels, people will soon forget how great of a Heisman season Manziel actually had. Crazy stats? Check. Heisman moment? Check. Historical achievement? Check. Manziel’s stats alone were enough to win him the award. He was 21st/8th in the nation in rushing yards/rushing touchdowns respectively, totaling 1,410 yards and 21 TDs on the ground. He did this while managing to put up 3,706 yards with 26 TDs and 9 picks through the air as well. His incredible, playground-like touchdown against Alabama all but sealed up the award for him, and he proceeded to celebrate winning the award by embarrassing Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl to the tune of 287 yards with 2 touchdowns and 1 interception through the air and 229 yards and 2 touchdowns rushing. Top all that off with becoming the first Freshman to ever win the Heisman trophy and you can see why this season will live on forever.
 
2.         2010 – Cam Newton QB Auburn
I was never a big Cam Newton fan. Didn’t know why but for some reason I rooted against him and Auburn that entire 2010 season, and I was set on the fact that he couldn’t make this list. But as I looked more and more into his dominant 2010 campaign, I realized there was no way I could leave him off of it. Newton won the Heisman in a landslide, garnering 81.5% of his possible points (1 of only 3 to accumulate that amount in the BCS era, again not including Reggie Bush). He was dominant all season and showed up when it mattered most. His season stats of 2,854 passing yards with 30 touchdowns and 7 interceptions to go with 1,473 yards and 20 touchdowns rushing are impressive, but he wasn’t just racking up stats against bad teams. He had 5 SEC games with at least 150 yards rushing and multiple rushing touchdowns including games against South Carolina, LSU, and Georgia. With a potential BCS championship berth on the line he finished the year with 4 total touchdowns and no interceptions against Alabama and then shredded South Carolina in the SEC championship with 408 total yards, 6 touchdowns, and zero interceptions. While the Heisman is a regular season award, leading Auburn to a championship to cap the season helps distinguish Newton’s season as one of the best in recent memory.
 
1.         2007 – Tim Tebow QB Florida
Who else? Before Tim Tebow became one of the most hated sports figures because of the media hype/coverage, he was one of the greatest college football players of all time and a lot easier to root for. Though his Florida teams had more success his other years, 2007 was his most impressive statistically and one of the most impressive in NCAA history. While in most cases you can’t just look at the stats when making a player’s argument, they do most of the talking in this case. Tebow threw for 3,286 yards and 32 touchdowns and added 895 rushing yards and 23 rushing touchdowns, accounting for 55 total touchdowns and only 6 interceptions. He cemented his Heisman push in the final 3 regular season games by notching 16 total touchdowns and 1 interception against South Carolina, Florida Atlantic, and Florida State. More importantly, it’s difficult to understate the impressive feat of becoming the first underclassmen to win the Heisman in the trophy’s 73 year history up to that point.
 
Close calls: 2008 Sam Bradford and 2013 Jameis Winston