As the 2009 season ends Monday for the TCU football team, Andy Dalton's 2010 Heisman Trophy candidacy begins.
The Horned Frogs' junior quarterback received nary a vote for the Heisman Trophy this season, despite leading his team to its first undefeated regular season since 1938.
He'll lead the the third-ranked, an unbeaten Frogs against also flawless, and sixth-ranked Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl.
Dalton threw for 22 touchdown passes and only five interceptions. He also has rushed for 522 yards and three more TDs.
What does a guy have to do to get one measly vote in this country?
Ralph Nader gets votes all the time when he runs for President. People actually voted for John McCain because of Sarah Palin. Jesse "The Body" Ventura actually won an election, for goodness sake.
Dalton's exposure suffers from a college football double whammy—he plays for a non-BCS school who is part of a television package that can be seen only in sparsely populated areas in the the Mountain Time Zone, and certain parts of Siberia.
My apologies to The mtn. network, but it's true.
Why else would Stanford running back Toby Gerhart and Nebraska destructive tackle (defensive tackle doesn't seem appropriate) Ndamukong Suh finish second and third, respectively, in Heisman voting while Dalton gets the goose egg?
Stanford and Nebraska, both—ahem—BCS teams, combined for a respectable 18-9 record this season, but come on; we're talking about the Heisman, not respectability. Er, I mean, since when do players on four and five loss teams get a lot of Heisman votes?
Not that the Horned Frogs seem overly concerned about their under-the-radar QB.
Coach Gary Patterson was asked in a conference call near the end of the regular season whether he was surprised at Dalton's lack of popularity in the race for the biggest individual award.
"Yeah, but he started late," Patterson said. "That's the name of the game. I feel bad for him. For us, what we need to do is to make sure we keep his name in front of people and he keeps winning, and give him an opportunity his senior year to maybe do some things special.
"I think he's taken a great approach to it. He's been about the team which is what he's been about all the time. He hasn't even mentioned it to me, which states even more what kind of person he is and what kind of player he is."
Granted, Dalton's stats aren't as eye-popping as some of the other candidates this year. He has passed for "only" 2,484 yards. When your offense averages 256.5 rushing yards per game, the ball doesn't have to go through the air that often.
Texas' Colt McCoy had 3,156 passing yards with 27 TDs and 12 interceptions, and ran for 348 yards and three TDs. Florida's Tim Tebow had 2,413 passing yards with 18 TDs and five interceptions, but he had 856 rushing yards and 13 TDs.
Houston's Case Keenum had video-game numbers in the regular season—5,449 passing yards, 43 TDs and nine interceptions. But 222 yards with one TD and six picks in a 47-20 loss to Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl, saddled Keenum with his fourth loss of the year.
Boise State sophomore Kellen Moore—who'll take center stage Monday opposite Dalton—threw for 3,325 yards with 39 TDs and just three interceptions.
Which makes the Fiesta Bowl huge for Dalton's 2010 hopes. A lot more people will be watching the Fiesta Bowl than just the greater Laramie, Wyo., area that tunes in for the annual TCU-Wyoming war on The mtn.
Dalton's 2010 Heisman candidacy will be off and running if he can outshine Moore, and the Horned Frogs can dominate the Broncos.
There is that small matter of current Heisman holder Mark Ingram of Alabama returning in 2010—as well as Gerhart. Then again, we all saw how much more scrutiny Florida QB Tim Tebow faced after winning the Heisman in 2007.
The same raised expectations will be on Gerhart (see McCoy).
As Patterson said, as long as TCU keeps winning with Dalton at the helm, the QB may be having a fiesta of a different sort next December.
We'll find out Monday if Dalton is ready for his meet-and-greet.