Virginia Tech's Early Season Losses Mire Taylor's Heisman Campaign
“What if…” scenarios are some of the most obnoxious things in sports, but they do present interesting discussions.
Questions such as, “What if Boise State were in the SEC?” or “What if college football had a playoff system?” flood conversations across the country, no matter how irrelevant they are.
After the Georgia Tech game—the Hokies’ seventh straight win—the hypothetical question beginning to appear when talking about the Hokies is “If Virginia Tech didn’t lose to James Madison, where would Tyrod Taylor be in this year’s Heisman race?”
Taylor’s numbers on Thursday night weren’t dazzling: 15-for-25, 137 yards (57 added on the ground) one touchdown and one interception—but his numbers this season overall have been impressive.
Taylor is currently No. 8 in all of FBS football in pass rating, No. 9 in yards per attempt, and is also ranked in the top 40 in touchdowns and completion percentage.
Add that to the fact he is also leading Tech in rushing yards with 687, and he has a pretty good resume.
He can also be credited for keeping the Hokies offense together in the beginning of the season when it was struggling to find its identity.
The main reason Taylor isn’t in the same discussion as Auburn’s Cam Newton or Boise State’s Kellen Moore is the fact the Hokies have two losses, and one of those losses came to FCS opponent James Madison.
While this has nothing to do with how well Taylor has played individually, it greatly affects how he is viewed in the Heisman race.
In addition to having some of the most impressive numbers in college football, Heisman Trophy winners have also been on the best teams in football.
Over the last five years, the Heisman winners have had a combined record of 59-6, with four of them appearing in the BCS National Championship Game.
The only exception to this was Florida’s Tim Tebow in 2007, but he had arguably the best season statistically in the history of college football when he posted 3,286 passing yards with 32 touchdowns and added 895 rushing yards and 23 scores.
Simply put, if you aren’t on one of the best teams in college football, you aren’t going to win the Heisman unless you have record-breaking numbers.
It may sound weird because of how far the Hokies fell after losing to James Madison, but if Tech hadn’t lost to the Dukes, it never would have dropped out of the top 15, let alone the top 25.
With a lone loss to Boise State in the first game of the season, the Hokies would actually be in the top 10 right now and very much in the type of spotlight Taylor needs to get into the Heisman picture.
The fact Taylor is even in this conversation is pretty amazing, considering where he was two years ago.
Taylor’s development from his sophomore season until now has been a fundamental reason for the Hokies’ offensive success this season.
In 2008, Taylor’s numbers were hardly a reflection of the talent that made him a 5-star recruit coming out of Hampton High School. He had just two touchdowns, seven interceptions and his yards per attempt were worse than 259 players in the FBS that season.
Taylor ran too much, therefore risking injury, and he relied heavily on his running backs and tight ends because he had trouble throwing to receivers.
Then, as if by magic, Taylor evolved into a well-rounded quarterback, instead of just an athlete playing the position. He started utilizing his receivers, made better decisions and—perhaps most importantly—he started using his agility and speed to prolong plays so his receivers could get open.
All of a sudden, he was becoming the quarterback everyone thought he would be when he first played in 2007 as a true freshman.
Now a senior, Taylor has continued his improvement and has been responsible for the Hokies’ best scoring offense since 2000—when Tech averaged 40.3 points per game under the direction of signal-caller Michael Vick.
Overall, Taylor should without a doubt be the ACC Player of the Year. And although he might not have the accolades to win the Heisman, he is good enough to have his name thrown into the conversation.
Unfortunately for Taylor, Tech did lose to James Madison and there is nothing that can be changed about it. All that is left of his Heisman Trophy considerations is a series of hypotheticals and “What if’s...?”
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