The Heisman hype is well underway this season at barely its midpoint.
All the talk seems to all be centered around Cam Newton. And justifiably so.
To date, Newton has put up impressive, Denard Robinson-type numbers as a dual threat quarterback. Numbers that are hard to argue with.
But is Newton the real deal?
Based on stats alone, many would say yes. 1,278 yards passing, a 65.6% completion percentage, 13 touchdowns, five interceptions and another 1,096 yards with nine touchdowns rushing certainly looks impressive.
But taking a closer look, it’s hard to really say that Newton has the experience and consistency to keep putting up impressive numbers.
Cam Newton is a first year starter. While he has played the previous two years, that playing time was severely limited. A total of 12 passing attempts by Newton in 2007 and 2008 combined are hardly what one would call experience. His lack of experience—and maturity—as a leader are cause for concern.
Recently, the Heisman candidacy took a wild turn, with Denard Robinson going from demigod to overrated. And rightfully so, as he proved that his lack of experience outshined his flashiness, especially when it counted most. Almost everybody can agree that while Denard Robinson is good, he’s not Heisman good and has growing to do before he’s ready to seriously contend for the award.
Enter Cam Newton, who swoops in on the downfall of Denard Robinson to claim the throne as Heisman frontrunner. Still, the question is begging to be answered: does Cam Newton really have what it takes to be Heisman material?
He may be the real deal but he has yet to prove himself. Take into consideration Newton’s stats and then start comparing them to other players.
Let’s start with Denard Robinson. In fact, Robinson still tops Newton in every major statistical category except for total touchdowns. Robinson still has more passing yards, a better completion percentage and more rushing yardage than Newton. It’s hard to say that Newton is any more deserving than a candidate that is decidedly not even in the picture anymore.
Newton currently holds the top spot in most Heisman opinion polls. And while his rushing numbers are better than LaMichael James, who sits behind him in the candidacy, Newton has played in two more games than James (James did not play in Oregon’s first game against New Mexico). What you find in examing the actual game statistics for each candidate is that James’ worst rushing game to date was a 94 yard, one touchdown performance against Arizona State. James has had two games with over 200 rushing yards and averages 176.8 yards per game and 7.4 yards per carry. Newton had a -11 yard performance against Louisiana-Monroe, a 68 yard performance against Clemson and a 70 yard performance against Mississippi State. Newton also averages more than 50 yards per game less than James (122.9) and averages less per carry (6.7). Overall his numbers aren’t bad at all, especially for a quarterback, but taken in context, the consistency factor comes up. James undoubtedly is a more consistent rusher than Newton, who has rushed for 70 yards or less in nearly half of his games.
And then there’s the passing. Nobody will argue that Newton is one of the top all-around college football players in the country. But it’s certainly hard to argue that he is a top passer. The other top quarterback candidate for the Heisman, Kellen Moore, has put up far more impressive numbers in the passing department. Newton does trail Moore as a close second in quarterback rating, but that’s it where the comparison essentially ends.
A good quarterback rating is only a portion of the battle. Moore has thrown for 1,567 yards, nearly 300 more yards than Newton at 1,278. And Moore did it in one less game than Newton (on top of that, Moore has sat out the entire second half in multiple games because of Boise State’s pounding of their opponents in the first half).
Moore also boasts the best touchdown to interception ratio of sixteen to one, a far cry from Newton’s thirteen to five. Moore’s completion percentage also hovers at around 70% while Newton’s is right around 65%. Moore’s ‘worst’ game came in their opening week against Virginia Tech in which Moore threw for a ‘mere’ 215 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and engineered the game-winning, clock-eating drive that sealed the victory for the Broncos. Newton’s worst passing game was a 136 yard, two touchdown, one interception game against Mississippi State.
To get a good picture of the consistency (or lack thereof) Newton has displayed, it’s best to look at his game by game statistics and take note of the opponents in those games.
Newton’s by game statistics:
Vs. Arkansas State 9/14, 186 yards passing 3 TDs/0 INTs, 171 yards rushing, 2 rushing TDs
@ Mississippi State 11/19, 136 yards passing 2 TDs/1 INT, 70 yards rushing, 0 rushing TDs
vs. Clemson 7/14, 203 yards passing, 2 TDs/2 INTs, 68 yards rushing, 0 rushing TDs
vs. South Carolina 16/21, 158 yards passing 2TDs/0 INTs, 176 yards rushing, 3 Rushing TDs
vs. Louisiana-Monroe 14/19, 245 yards passing, 3TDs/1 INT, -11 yards rushing, 0 rushing TDs
@ Kentucky 13/21, 210 yards passing, 0 TDs/1 INT, 198 yards rushing 4 TDs
vs. Arkansas 10/14, 140 yards passing, 1 TD, 188 yards rushing, 3 TDs
It’s evident that Newton has not been consistently good all year long. While his numbers combined are certainly impressive, most of them come from the same types of teams that Kellen Moore is criticized for having on his schedule.
And taking an even further look, Auburn has yet to face a truly good defense this season. Some may argue that South Carolina was a good defense based on points given up per game; the real argument is whether they were good enough to even be called a good defense. The SEC is not known for its defenses, but rather for its fast-paced offenses, as evident in high scoring games in the SEC such as the 65-43 game against Arkansas this past weekend. That’s certainly not a display of defensive prowess. Perhaps the best defense Auburn has played to date was Mississippi State, which produced one of Newton’s worst games.
While Newton is a one man wrecking crew and Auburn's bread and butter, a team can only rely on one kid for so long. If the game against Mississippi State is any indication of how Newton will fare against good defenses—which I suspect it is—then hold your horses and save your vote. We still have a lot of football before the end of the season and Cam Newton will have the opportunity to either show he’s got what it takes or falter heavily against a staunch defense like Alabama, just as Denard Robinson did against good defenses. Only time will tell, but I for one have serious doubts about Newton’s ability to sustain consistently good play against good defenses.