Every year there are a group of players passed over by the BCS powerhouses. Some of them finish solid college careers playing against their lower level of competition, while others explode on to the national scene and make the big programs see what they missed. Last year, running backs Matt Forte of Tulane and Chris Johnson of Eastern Carolina were so productive that they both were taken in the first day of the NFL Draft. Now, they're the top two rookie rushers in the NFL.
The Heisman Memorial Trophy has gone to a player in a BCS conference every year since 1990, when BYU's Ty Detmer broke 42 NCAA records as a junior. Since 1970, only one other non-BCS player won the Heisman trophy: Andre Ware of Houston.
Every year these athletes give all that they have each week without the recognition they deserve.
The only requirement to win the non-BCS Heisman trophy is that the player must come from a non-BCS conference (Conference USA, the Mid-American Conference, Mountain West Conference, the Sun Belt, or the Western Athletic Conference). Independent teams are also included with the exception of Notre Dame. Preference is also given to players who are competing on winning teams, but all players get consideration.
These are the five finalists:
David Johnson — Quarterback, Tulsa
At 6'3, 217 pounds, Johnson has led the Golden Hurricane to a 7-0 record and a No. 22 ranking in the Associated Press poll. As a team, Tulsa has put up 50+ points in five of their games this season. He is leading the NCAA in passer rating, yards per attempt, and touchdowns, while completing 69% of his passes with a 31-8 TD-to-INT ratio. Johnson's 212.88 passer rating tops Oklahoma's Sam Bradford by 12.6 points.
Tyrell Fenroy — Running Back, Louisiana Lafayette
At 5'9 and only 186 pounds, Tyrell Fenroy is not the typical size of a running back. However, the senior from Louisiana-Lafayette has been turning heads in his final year as a Ragin Cajun. He is fourth in the nation in both rushing yards (970) and touchdowns (12). His average of 7.5 yards per carry is second among players with at least 100 rushes. He has rushed for 100 yards four times in his senior season, including a 297 yards, 3 touchdown game against intrastate rival UL-Monroe. With 30 more rushing yards this season he will become only the seventh player in NCAA history to rush for 1000 yards in each of his four seasons.
Aldrick Robinson and Emmanuel Sanders — Receivers, SMU
Normally the Heisman trophy is reserved for a single player, but considering this trophy is not real, the receiver tandem from Southern Methodist comes as a package deal. Robinson and Sanders rank number one and two in receiving yards in the country. Robinson is leading all receivers with at least 30 catches with an average of 19.8 yards per catch and also has 10 touchdowns on the year. Neither receiver is prototypical in size with Sanders, the bigger of the two, listed at 6'1 but only 170 pounds. Combined, they have caught 105 of Bo Levi Mitchell's 180 completions, or 58%.
Max Hall — Quarterback, BYU
Like Ty Detmer, Hall, a junior, is having the best season of his career. Before the season, many experts had picked BYU to be the most likely team to break into a BCS bowl like Hawaii did a year before, thanks in large part to the season Hall had in 2007. He has a passer rating of 157.97 and ranks 10th in the nation in passing yards with 2119. He has led the Cougars to a 6-1 record including two wins against Pac-10 opponents. While currently ranked No. 18, the Cougars at one point were as high as No. 9. Season highs include throwing for 486 yards against Northern Iowa and accounting for seven touchdowns against UCLA.
Jarett Dillard — Receiver, Rice
Along with Max Hall, Dillard was a well known player before this season. He finished his junior year with 79 catches for 1057 yards and 14 touchdowns. With the added pressure of an excellent junior season, Dillard has done nothing to disappoint. He has already matched his total touchdowns from a year before and has raised his yards per catch from 13.4 as a junior to 15.4 this year. He is third in receiving yards, only behind Robinson and Sanders of SMU. Dillard managed nine catches, 158 yards and a touchdown against the University of Texas and followed that performance with four touchdowns and 114 yards the next week against North Texas.
There are many other good football players playing non-BCS football but each of these teams have elevated the play of their teams. All six are playing on teams with winning records through the first eight weeks of college football. Stats are an important factor in judging talent, but in the end the only stat that really matters is wins and losses.
Other players considered: Case Keenum, QB Houston; Kellen Moore, QB Boise State; Tim Hiller, QB WMU; MiQuale Lewis, RB Ball State; Colin Kaepernick, RB Nevada; Dennis Pitta, TE BYU.