Just like we all know we wouldn't even be having this debate if Stanford's Toby Gerhart went to a "real school" like Florida, Southern Cal, Ohio State, or Notre Dame—you know college football's tired powerhouse teams, the same could be said for Notre Dame if they, like Cincinnati, had went undefeated in the regular season.
Unlike the All—State Sugar Bowl to which Jesus Tebow and his Disciples will play the Benedict Kelly—less Cincinnati Bearcats, if the roles were reversed, Notre Dame would be playing for the national title against storied Alabama.
That is a given.
What's not a given is the intrigue that this year's Heisman race has created for the first time in years. Not only do we have a legit defensive player in Nebraska's Suh (who if Gerhart can't win it, I hope the Heisman goes to him), but Suh also represents the first such player in twelve years since Michigan's (another has—been program) Charles Woodson won the award in 1997.
I don't normally watch the Heisman Trophy presentation since it's basically another prima donna award that goes to the latest pretty boy or eventual hired gun that is a student-athlete in name only—Ingram this means you—as we all know you'll go running to the NFL as soon as you can and who could blame you?
Gerhart on the other hand is a student-athlete in the truest sense of the word. Not only does he go to an academic—first school in Stanford, but he carries a 3.25 GPA in the classroom while majoring in Management Science and Engineering according to ESPN. Academics aside, what he's doing for tiny, afterthought Stanford is simply amazing.
Put him on a powerhouse school and his numbers would be even more sick. Probably 2,000+ yards behind those monster offensive lines. The fact Pac-10 defenses know whose going to get the ball, and who the offense runs through—literally—and still can't stop him, speaks volumes.
How many people can name two of his teammates? I can't. I hear they got a pretty good freshman quarterback but that's it. They won seven games for a reason and not to call them the Stanford Gerhart's would be a discredit to his teammates who block for him and create the best diversions they can. Additionally, the defense must be adequate to give Stanford the field position which allows Gerhart to do what he does, and does so well.
A Country Divided-literally and emotionally
This morning ESPN ran a segment on how the Heisman votes were divided around the country on a new interactive map. Each of five regions: Midwest, West, South, Northeast, and Southwest has 145 votes.
Todd McShay I believe it was—correct me if I'm wrong—explained how Gerhart should "clean up" most of the votes from his region as he's the only candidate out there. Keep in mind there is no flashy Southern Cal team, as they have the worst team they've fielded in a decade. This will work to Gerhart's advantage.
Next, it was mentioned how Ingram and Tebow would split most of the South's vote. Since I expect Suh to gain a lot of support being the only Midwest region candidate (geographically speaking) as Nebraska I believe was in the West bracket since it was enormous, being the biggest region), the wild card becomes the Northeast and their 145 votes.
Knowing what we know about the Northeast, do you really expect the progressive and enlightened writers from this region to vote for Ingram who comes from what is perceived as a "country" and "redneck" school and conference? People are going to vote for who they can relate to, and these learned people are more likely to vote for the impressive Gerhart who comes from a fellow ivy background they can take pride in.
Additionally, it was mentioned that on many ballots Ingram was being left off of many of the top three in voting. While people's opinions are that of their own and no one knows for sure what voter intent is, it is possible that many of these Southern—based writers are leaving Ingram off because of his race, whether they want to admit it or not.
However, it should be noted that it is just as likely that these same Northeast or Western writers, for example, could be doing the same, but it was the South region where this discrepancy was noted, leaving speculation to abound. It is also just as likely that writers from these regions could be leaving off Suh for similar reasons, although I hope this is not the case.
Predicting the ballot
I'm starting to think the final ballot will look like this:
1. Gerhart 2. Suh 3. Ingram 4. McCoy 5. Tebow
Basically all the national Heisman voters I've heard about are placing Tebow last and I think he knows at this point, it isn't going to happen and I think he's fine with that.
In this same regard, there seemed to be a late propaganda push to gain Suh some momentum and one has to wonder what impact his 4.5 sack Big 12 Title game had on the late voters who held off, like they should have until all the games were played. Other than Ingram, no one had a more impressive late, final weekend run than Suh who I think will be rewarded for this effort.
Keep in mind that Gerhart didn't have the luxury of having a Pac 10 title game to pad his stats or make one last push the same way all of his rivals did. If he should win the award, that would make the accomplishment all the more impressive.
Tim Cawlishaw from the Dallas Morning News admitted this week on Wednesday's 'Around the Horn' on ESPN that he voted Gerhart first, along with McShay who did so in his first year of eligibility as a Heisman voter. Mel Kiper, while not having a vote, agreed a day later that had he been able to vote he'd have done the same Gerhart—Ingram—Suh order the first two did.
ESPN's Ryen Russillo from 'The Scott Van Pelt Show' said the same thing if he too had a vote, which he doesn't.
The momentum definitely appears to be in Gerhart's favor.
In what once seemed McCoy's to lose, agreed that he would get in either as a lifetime achievement award being college football's winningest quarterback from a stellar power that will surely work to his advantage, his disappearing act in the season's biggest games appears to have sealed his fate as he's rarely talked about anymore.
But who knows, he could be this year's Ty Detmer , who seemingly stole the award from Rocket Ismail in 1990 when he was considered the favorite. Personally, I love the lack of any wide receiver and just two quarterbacks on the ballot. We need to see more of this.
Compare and contrast
Without clicking on the links yet, look at the two sets of stats. Which one looks more impressive to you?
Player A . 249 attempts 1542 yards 6.2 average rush, 15 TD's 30 REC 322 yards 3 TDS
Player B. 311 attempts 1736 yards, 5.6 average rush, 26 TDs 10 REC 149 yards O TDS
Player B. beats player A in attempts, yards, rushing TD's, and total TD's.
The only thing player A beats player B in is average rush which isn't that far off at just .6 yards per rush and is a better receiver.
Additionally, Player A's defense and special teams is much better creating more opportunities for player A to get the ball back complete with better field position to pad those stats. All signs point to player A being the better player when he simply isn't by comparison.
If you haven't guessed (or clicked yet) player A is Alabama's Mark Ingram and Player B is Toby Gerhart of Stanford.
Looking at each finalists' competition, Mark Ingram's defense and argument is "look at the numbers he put up in a real conference against all those good defenses each week."
Some of Gerhart's biggest games came against the best talent his conference has to offer in 223 yards and 3 TDs against Oregon in a win, 178 yards and 3 more TD's in a 55-21 thrashing against Southern Cal at their house where they never lose the very next week, which I think did it for most writers, and 205 yards and 3 TDs against everyone's overrated darling Notre Dame and Weis which ultimately got him fired. All three were unsurprisingly, wins.
Not only does Gerhart find the endzone in thrilling fashion and in bunches, but he gets better as the season goes along against the nation's top talent when players are supposed to be winding down.
ESPN noted today that since October 17, Gerhart has averaged 165 yards per game, with 5.0+ yards per rush against ranked teams, and 16 TDs. It's reminders like this which tell me, they may have a clue as to who might win and how they are preparing us for the inevitable but to be fair, they did short bios on each finalist and this was simply Gerhart's time.
As an SEC fan foremost and alum, I'd challenge Oregon, Stanford, or Southern Cal to take on anyone from the vaunted SEC any day. Imagine Oregon vs. Florida, Southern Cal vs. LSU, and Stanford vs. Ole Miss. At the very least, all three of the Pac-10's "premier" schools would likely hold their own—even in a down year for Southern Cal. Additionally, don't sleep on Oregon State or Cal which would project very nicely against a seven—win South Carolina or Kentucky team.
Face it, the Pac—10 is getting better. We just don't get to see their games but at least Gerhart is giving us a reason to care and its great that is has nothing to do with overrated Southern Cal for once, who's playing in an early bowl in San Fran.
Comparing the competition
In terms of ability and comparative competitiveness where they stand (conf vs. overall)
Pac 10 vs. SEC
Oregon (10-2-8-1) Florida (8-0. 12-1)
Arizona (6-3-8-4) Tennesee (4-4, 7-5)
Oregon State 6-3, 8-4) South Carolina (3-5, 7-5)
Stanford (5-4, 8-4) Ole Miss (4-4, 8-4)
Southern Cal (5-4, 8-4) Kentucky 3-5. 7-5)
Washington (4-5, 5-7) Mississippi State (3-5, 5-7)
UCLA (3-6, 6-6) Arkanasas (3-5, 7-5)
Arizona State (2-7, 4-8) Vanderbilt 0-8, 2-10)
So the way I see it the SEC offers a stronger LSU (5—3, 9—3) to which the Pac-10 has no answer and a 3-5, 7-5 Auburn team that surprised many this year, but from top to bottom it compares favorably.
Seven wins to the SEC (6 total) is comparable to the Pac-10's 5-6 wins to which they have four.
Moreover, SEC advocates will argue that with the SEC being tougher that is where the one extra win comes from and why its that much more important. It means more because its harder to do.
Also, keep in mind the Pac-10 plays one more conference game and because their conference is two teams smaller, there is a built—in disadvantage in the form of having no answer to LSU or Auburn as I've stated above.
So with all things equal, who deserves the trophy? A prima donna sophomore who has a few more years to win it or a man who is on his last leg before the junior goes to the NFL and lights it up—hopefully for a team that truly needs him and whom he doesn't just ride the pine as an insurance luxury pick of the Patriots, Steelers, or Giants?
Gerhart needs to go to a team like Cleveland, Detroit, Seattle, or Tampa where he'll have every opportunity to play and shine as the team will build around him since they are so bad and have nothing to lose.
Wherever he ends up, my guess is he will be a winner, not saying his team will be, but it won't be his doing. But it would make it all the sweeter if he was finally given the recognition he deserves for all of posterity with his own award that he earned.
I mean, come on, Stanford and Gerhart are college football's feel good story, and it's not like Stanford has more Heisman Trophy winners than historic Alabama or anything.
Statistics and information for this article courtesy of ESPN, ESPN.com, Todd McShay, Desmond Howard, Tim Cawlishaw, 'Around the Horn' and 'The Scott Van Pelt Show'.