Heisman Outlook: Can Patrick Peterson Win College Football's Top Award?

Dan ScofieldAnalyst IOctober 19, 2010

Patrick Peterson is the best defensive player in the country.

Carrying one of the nation's best defenses on his back, Peterson has been rarely contested this season after showing what he can do for the first two years in an LSU uniform. Now, opposing quarterbacks know better than to even look Peterson's way when putting the ball through the air.

Because of that, he may not have the eye-popping stats of the one defensive back who actually did take home the Heisman.

Charles Woodson, the 1997 winner, played for Michigan, the national champions, during the year he won the trophy. On top of his team being No. 1, Woodson also totaled eight interceptions and 47 tackles on defense to go along with his elite punt return numbers and receiving stats. To say the least, he did it all for the Wolverines and clearly earned his honor.

Peterson at least has some of that going for him. Through this weekend's games, Peterson leads the SEC in punt return average and has already taken it to the house on two occasions. He has been a media darling as of late, especially after his two interception shut down day of Mississippi State.

He may not have the offensive opportunity that Woodson did, but he is just as good, if not better, of a special teams threat. With his freakish athleticism and sub-4.4 speed, there isn't a better return man in the game.

The question of Peterson's chances lie in a few different areas. Can his team keep winning, and can Peterson keep inflating his numbers?

Without LSU being successful, Peterson has no shot at the trophy. Luckily for him, the Tigers remain undefeated at 7-0 through October 16th. If his team can keep winning, they just might end up where Woodson's Michigan team once did—in the national championship.

But for now, that is a long shot, especially with a rugged SEC conference slate left. The Tigers still have showdowns with Auburn, Alabama and Arkansas left on the schedule. However, already at 4-0 in conference play and proving to be a legitimate contender this year in the nation's best conference, don't be surprised if LSU pops up in at least a BCS game in January.

If his team keeps winning, Peterson himself also has some work to do. With his current numbers, an invitation to the Big Apple would seem generous. If he wants to win the nation's top award, he will have to earn it with some big plays not only on defense, but on special teams as well.

No Heisman winner has won the award without his fair share of highlights and inflated numbers. This year won't be any different. 

But if there's any year for a defensive player to take home the Heisman, this just might be the one. With no clear front runner, thanks to the recent average showings by Michigan's Denard Robinson, Peterson isn't overmatched and certainly isn't going to be overlooked if the above two questions are answered.

Offense wins Heismans and defense wins championships. 

But this year, the defense may be winning both.