Since we previewed the Big East more than three months before the season starts and a full six months before a conference champion is crowned, why not go ahead and take a look at the 2008 Heisman Trophy field, given that the winner won’t be named for a good seven months?
If there’s anything more subjective than Heisman Trophy voting, I don’t know what it is. Maybe the definition of a valid Florida ballot. (Hamfisted nod to “Recount,” currently airing on HBO.)
Nevertheless, maybe we can remove some of the subjectivity from it by at least starting with some data. (Sly nod to “Star Trek: First Contact,” which I am currently watching,)
First, let’s compile a list of season-starters, culling from two categories: Top returning vote-getters, and potential breakout stars hwo didn’t make last year’s Top 10 in the voting.
The top returners, per last year’s voting, are:
- Last year’s winner, Florida QB Tim Tebow, a junior this season.
-Fourth-place finisher Missouri QB Chase Daniel, a senior this season.
-Sixth-place finisher WVU QB Patrick White, a senior this season.
Here are a few guesses for potential breakout Heisman contenders this season:
- Missouri sophomore WR Jeremy Maclin: This speedy cat averaged 209 yards per game in all-purpose yardage last season. He’s a returner, as well.
- Texas Tech sophomore WR Michael Crabtree: This long-and-lean speedster with the Spider-Man grip had more than 1,800 yards receiving and 21 TDs.
- Georgia sophomore RB Knowshon Moreno: Last season he rushed for 1,300 yards, but because he played in the Superior to Everybody Conference, that translates to 2,000 yards in every other BCS conference.
- Ohio State junior RB Chris “Beanie” Wells: Nice numbers, but strikes me as another unexciting, plodding Big Ten running back— like Mike Hart, Ron Dayne, P.J. Hill, etc. etc. etc. I need a little more flash, and a little more pizazz.
- Oklahoma sophomore QB Sam Bradford: Big numbers in the Big 12 last year, which he’ll probably replicate. Good thing he won’t have to face WVU’s defense again, which dismembered him in the Fiesta Bowl.
- Texas Tech senior QB Graham Harrell: Gimmick offense? Sure. Big numbers, though: 5,700 yards, 48 TDs last season. Gonzo.
Now, let’s take a look at the situations of the candidates.
Missouri finds itself in a similar position to WVU’s last season, with two Heisman candidates, but frankly I don’t think that matters. Last year, Steve Slaton started as a top favorite with White an almost afterthought. But as the season progressed and Slaton faded, White surged, and became a favorite.
Heismanpundit.com has a list of Heismandments. Among them—the Heisman winner must be a QB, RB, or multi-purpose athlete, which covers everyone on the list above.
Also, he needs some previous name recognition, which many have but others don’t. And he cannot be considered an obvious product of his system, which could ding the two Texas Tech candidates.
Also, it helps of the candidate is on a national title contender, which will either eliminate the Oklahoma or Texas Tech candidates, as they both play in the Big 12.
Tebow last year broke one of the Heismandments, that the winner must be a junior or senior.
Heisman winners need to be winners for their teams. Here are the records for the three returning favorites as starters:
- Tebow: 9-4 with a loss in the 2008 Capital One Bowl.
- Daniel: 8-5, 12-2 20-7, with a loss in the 2006 Sun Bowl and a win in the 2007 Cotton Bowl.
- White: 29-4, with wins in the 2006 Sugar Bowl, 2007 Gator Bowl, and 2008 Fiesta Bowl.
Now, let’s take a look at the hype-building opportunities—big games on national TV.
- Tebow: He plays in the SEC and every game will be on TV, probably. It’s kinda how he won it last year.
- Daniel: He’s first up. A season-opening Saturday night game against Illinois on Aug. 30, prime time and Brent Musberger, to boot! But he drops off the map after that until a midseason game at Texas, which probably will be televised. After that, it’s a yawn through the Big 12, until the season finale against Kansas and the Big 12 title—which would be the first time Mizzou would face the Sooners.
- White: Early-season road game against Colorado on Thursday night on ESPN on Sept. 18. Big numbers and a big win put White in good position. If he follows up with a good game against Auburn at WVU on Oct. 23—also Thursday night on ESPN—he’s in the driver’s seat.
The Mountaineers face Pitt and South Florida—the two teams that ruined WVU’s seasons the past two years—in the last two games of the season. If White can beat back both of those schools, it will be hard to deny him the li’l stiff-armer.