In the Big Ten there are two players that jump out at you as potential Heisman candidates this season. Both play the quarterback position and both have the ability to make plays and win games.
Both Isaiah “Juice” Williams and Terrelle Pryor are players that look like they will have successful seasons this year, and one of them could end up holding a Heisman at the end of the season.
The question is which one has the better chance at holding the Heisman or maybe even the National Championship trophy in their hands.
Juice Williams reminds me of a former Buckeye who was the last Big Ten player to win the Heisman, Troy Smith.
He started out being a scrambling quarterback, but has worked to be a quarterback who can drop back and throw with the best of them.
The difference between Williams and Smith is that Williams has more yards on his record, but has thrown a lot more interceptions than Smith did and hasn’t been as efficient as Smith was.
Juice completed 57 percent of his passes this season and will need to improve on that number if he wants to be effective this season. Illinois has been able to keep up with teams like Missouri, Penn State, and Ohio State, but Williams hasn’t been the guy to take control and lead his team to victory.
This season I see Williams improving on that a lot. I don’t think Illinois will make it to a national championship, but if Williams can lead his team to some of these key victories, he will at least have the opportunity to keep Illinois in the mix.
Illinois has some key games against Missouri, Ohio State, Penn State, and Cincinnati. He needs to do more than just have good performances in these games; he needs to do something great.
Juice is a good quarterback, but what makes a quarterback great is winning.
When opponents look at Terrelle Pryor and what he can do, they get a headache because he can beat you in so many different ways.
Like Williams, he can be compared to another great college quarterback, Vince Young.
Terrelle had a good freshman year where he started 10 games and won eight of them. Pryor is definitely a winning quarterback and he will do whatever he needs for his team to get a win.
He also shows great leadership and there is no doubt in my mind that he makes Ohio State a national title contender, just like Vince Young did for the Texas Longhorns.
Things that Pryor needs to improve on before you even mention him for the Heisman is his passing game. Pryor wants to be a drop back and throw kind of quarterback so that's definitely one aspect of his game he needs to work on.
He only threw for 1,311 yards last season, and only had one game when he threw over 200 in a loss to Penn State.
Just watching him last season you could see him improve. He went from taking too long to make a decision to deciding what he wanted to do with the ball quicker and executing.
He has shown the ability to make his team rally and lead them to victory, which, as I mentioned, was something Williams lacks.
He scored the game winning touchdown at Wisconsin, and nearly led his team to victory in the Fiesta Bowl with a couple trick plays where he caught the ball in the end zone.
When you look at both teams, Ohio State is the better team. Of course, we will truly see which team is better when they play each other September 26, but, at least on paper, the Buckeyes are the better team.
If you look at the last three seasons the Buckeyes played Illinois, the Fighting Illini are the only team to really give the Buckeyes a scare.
The Buckeyes only won by a touchdown against the Illini in ’06. The Illini almost knocked the Buckeyes out of the BCS National Championship Game in ’07 by beating them 28-21. And, last season, only 10 points separated the two, with Ohio State the victor.
In last season’s matchup, Juice Williams definitely had the better day passing, going 17-26 for 192 yards compared to Terrelle Pryor’s 6-10 day passing for a mere 49 yards, but that wasn’t Pryor’s key stat of the day.
Pryor ran for 110 yards and a touchdown, adding to Chris “Beanie” Wells’s 149 yards. Juice ran for 48 yards and didn’t score a touchdown rushing.
If I had to choose which one is better for the Heisman, I’d have to say Terrelle Pryor. Juice Williams loads up stats, and this season may be even better for him, but one of the keys to the Heisman Trophy is how many W’s you have in the win column.
I think that Juice will have the better year in stats, but Pryor will have the better season with wins, possibly carrying Ohio State to the national championship.