No Such Luck: Heisman Candidates from Every Conference
If you're anything like me, you're tired of hearing about the same six guys who are in the running for the Heisman.
Yes, it's true that some of these guys are performing very, very well. Stanford's Andrew Luck threw for another 300 yards, Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon has caught more touchdowns than half the receivers on the team have caught passes and Trent Richardson is, well, Trent Richardson.
But there are more guys out there playing as though they deserve the Heisman than the ones dominating SportsCenter highlights. Don't they deserve a fair shake, too?
So, without further ado, I give you the Heisman candidates that no one else is talking about from every conference in college football.
ACC: OG Omoregie Uzzi (Georgia Tech)
Yeah, I'm starting out the list with an offensive lineman. What of it?
Georgia Tech's going to steal the ACC from Clemson and no one seems to care. Clemson's Tahj Boyd is a good quarterback. He's throwing for 250 yards a game and he's got a couple dozen touchdowns, but who doesn't in Division I football?
He's not the best player in the ACC, nor is he even playing on the best team in the ACC.
Did you know that Georgia Tech has the second-best rushing attack in the country—2,952 yards and 34 touchdowns on the ground. Their offensive line is making it look silly out there, and right guard Omoregie Uzzi deserves most of the recognition. His traps and pulls to the right side have made the Georgia Tech stat sheet look like it's out of NCAA Football 2012.
With three games to go, there are three guys with more than 500 rushing yards and four guys with at least four rushing touchdowns.
More of those yards are coming behind Uzzi than any other member of that standout offensive line. Georgia Tech's going to beat No. 10 Virginia Tech this weekend and then go on to beat Clemson in the ACC title game—and fans will have Uzzi to thank.
Big 12: WR Ryan Broyles (Oklahoma)
The best wide receiver in Oklahoma is not named Justin Blackmon.
Enter Ryan Broyles, the saddest kid in the Sooner State. If it wasn't for the Oklahoma wide receiver tearing his ACL last weekend against Texas A&M, Broyles would have finished this season with more catches, more yards and a better yards per catch average than Blackmon.
He's the all-time NCAA leader in receptions and deserved to leave his collegiate career a little better than on the back of an injury cart. He'll still be drafted in the spring, but his stock has gone way down since Saturday.
I don't think he'll get any Heisman votes, but if he'd stayed healthy, it'd be silly not to throw some his way.
Big East: QB Geno Smith (West Virginia)
West Virginia may only be 6-3, but quarterback Geno Smith is playing the best football of anyone in the Big East.
Smith has the most yards, completions, attempts and touchdowns as anyone in the conference, not to mention the fewest interceptions. If he stays on pace with his current average of 347 yards a game, he'll have thrown over 4,100 yards by the time the Mountaineers end their season against USF.
It's not Smith's fault that West Virginia has the worst defense in the Big East, giving up 27.4 points per game. He is, however, the reason that the Mountaineers have the seventh-best passing attack in the country and have more points (344) than anyone in the conference.
Big Ten: DE Whitney Mercilus (Illinois)
There's a guy named Whitney Mercilus who is leading the country in sacks, but he's on an Illinois team that is currently 6-3 and is fighting for the chance to play in the obscure "Never Heard of It" Bowl.
Sadly, Mercilus' great year has been wasted on most Heisman voters because the Fighting Illini played the first eight games of its schedule against unranked opponents.
It's hard to get recognition when South Dakota State is on your schedule.
Mercilus, however, has gotten most of his 11.5 sacks (which, if I haven't mentioned it already, leads the nation) against quality opponents like Northwestern and Arizona State. In fact, last week against No. 12 Penn State, Mercilus was a force to be reckoned with, collecting 1.5 sacks and six tackles (two of which were for a loss).
Illinois has No. 15 Michigan, No. 20 Wisconsin and Minnesota left on their schedule, and I guarantee he'll perform against those three. He won't win the Heisman, but he'll keep his hold on the lead for sacks in the nation.
Conference USA: WR Patrick Edwards (Houston)
Who has the best yards-per-catch average in the country? It's not Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon (11.9), Oklahoma's Ryan Broyles (13.9) or even USC's Robert Woods (12.5).
It's Houston's Patrick Edwards, with an amazing 20.5 yards per reception. This isn't just some great year that Edwards plucked out of a mediocre collegiate career. The Cougars all-time leader at wide receiver is just 97 yards shy of 4,000 and currently holds an average of 15.1 yards per reception.
If Cougars quarterback Case Keenum deserves any Heisman attention, then so does Edwards.
When the best player in your "conference" is Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees, you're going to get overlooked.
Seriously, there's more likely Heisman winners in the Mid-American Conference than here.
Mid-American: QB Tyler Tettleton (Ohio)
Ohio may be 0-5 in postseason bowls, but I believe that behind new quarterback Tyler Tettleton, the Bobcats stand a legitimate chance to add their first piece of silverware to the awards cabinet.
Tettleton is the MAC's version of Russell Wilson—solid, dependable and efficient. He's completing 64 percent of his passes, he's +15 in touchdowns to interceptions and he's averaging 249 yards a game.
Ohio has shown they can hang with the big boys, losing a tight game with Rutgers that was within eight points going into the fourth quarter.
The Bobcats will win the Mid-American Conference, meaning they'll play the eighth-place team in the Big 10 (most likely Illinois or Iowa) in the Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl. Tettleton is a better quarterback than Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase or Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg and will out-duel either of them in a bowl game.
Mountain West: QB Kellen Moore (Boise State)
I will not say Kellen Moore, I will not say Kellen Moore, I will not say Kellen Moore...
Okay, it's Kellen Moore. But who else can you name from the Mountain West Conference? Heck, can you even name another team in the Mountain West Conference?
Moore has won more games than any other quarterback in the history of college football, moving him ahead of former Texas quarterback Colt McCoy. (And if McCoy deserves some Heisman votes, than Moore deserves some!)
He's leading Boise State to within inches of their first national title game, and I think they'll get in with an undefeated record. How? Stanford will fall to Oregon this week, Oklahoma State will lose to Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game and Alabama will stay at No. 3 because they won't even be in the SEC title game.
...at least, that's what we're all praying for, right?
Pacific-12: QB Matt Barkley (USC)
Like the Kellen Moore pick, this isn't as much of a shocker as it is just trying to give a guy recognition who's being horribly (and unjustly) overlooked in his own backyard.
Every other quarterback in the same conference as Stanford is going to be compared with Andrew Luck. And sports pundits will find something that makes guys not named Andrew Luck look inferior.
But I believe that Matt Barkley is every good a quarterback as Luck. Barkley's thrown 28 touchdowns, Luck's thrown 26. Barkley's throwing for 289.7 yards per game, Luck's throwing for 269.3.
When the game was on the line in the USC-Stanford game, Luck was bailed out by his defense, throwing for only 42 yards and an interception in the fourth quarter.
Barkley? He threw for 83 yards and a touchdown.
SEC: K Caleb Sturgis (Florida)
An offensive lineman and a kicker on a list of players that should be getting Heisman recognition?
Florida's Caleb Sturgis has been 17-for-19 this season, going 7-for-9 from beyond 40 yards. He has the second-longest field goal in the country so far (55 yards) and converted every single one of his extra point tries (only three guys in the country have done that).
Sturgis won't be graduating until 2013, but I have him as the highest-rated kicker when he makes himself available to be drafted.
Sunbelt: QB Blaine Gautier (Louisiana-Lafayette)
Like Tyler Tettleton before him, Blaine Gautier is a quarterback that is leading his team through a dramatic turnaround.
Louisiana-Lafayette hasn't won a bowl in recent memory, but if they stay in the top two of the Sunbelt Conference, they're guaranteed a bid. With how the Ragin' Cajuns have been playing, I have them beating Arkansas State at the end of the season, winning the Sun Belt conference and playing Southern Methodist in the New Orleans Bowl.
With the way Gautier is playing and a home crowd full of fans from the Bayou, Louisiana-Lafayette's turnaround season should end with a bowl victory.
WAC: OG Chris Barker (Nevada)
Nevada has the seventh-best rushing attack in the country. Some may say it's because their schedule has San Jose State, UNLV and two teams from New Mexico.
I say it's because of their offensive line, specifically guard Chris Barker.
Scout.com has Barker rated as the 18th-best guard in college, and, with another year at Nevada, that ranking could jump before he enters the draft in 2013.
The Wolfpack will end the 2011 season with four running backs with at least five touchdowns. Barker's presence in the interior of that offensive line is a big reason why.