Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Everything in the universe goes by indirection. There are no straight lines.”
Emerson must have known a thing or two about the 2009 Heisman Trophy race. There is not a single player on a straight path towards the award this season.
Trying to project which player will take home the hardware on Dec. 12 is about as easy as picking tomorrow’s lottery numbers. There simply is not a single player worthy of such high esteem to this point.
Prior to the season, great things were expected in 2009. It was only the second time in history that the top three Heisman finalists from the previous season were back again.
Beyond that, all three of those players were record-setting quarterbacks who quite possibly could be the greatest to ever play at their respective schools.
Sam Bradford, the defending winner from Oklahoma, was the first to drop out of the race. With one swift yet crushing hit in the second quarter of the Sooners’ first game, Bradford sprained his shoulder and lost his chances at a repeat.
Just down the road in Austin, Tex., Colt McCoy looked to have a great opportunity to capture the award many thought he had earned last season. In 2008 he completed 77 percent of his passes and 3,859 yards. He threw only eight interceptions the entire season. It was one of the most statistically dominant seasons in college football history.
However, 2009 has taken another path, leading towards lackluster wins and frequent interceptions. McCoy has already been intercepted seven times, and is on pace for fourteen by season’s end. His quarterback rating of 137.85 is a career-low, and the Longhorns’ offense has sputtered out of the gate on more than a couple occasions.
Colt had a chance to re-establish himself at the forefront of the award race last Saturday against the Sooners. Instead, he endured one of the worst games of his career completing 21 passes for only 127 yards, averaging a paltry six yards per completion.
Of course, no Heisman talk is complete without mentioning Tebow, the golden boy of college football. While he has done nothing wrong this season, he simply does not have the weapons around him like years’ past.
Many times, Heisman winners that return to school have the problem of needing to top their previous success. Considering Tebow is coming off two of the best years any quarterback has ever had, did anyone really expect him to better his resume in 2009?
The biggest asset in Tebow’s favor is his Florida Gators are rolling towards a potential undefeated season atop the BCS rankings. If Florida runs the table and wins the SEC, Tebow will be a finalist for the third time in his career, and might even steal the award for a second time.
Rising fast on everyone’s Heisman board is Mark Ingram, the running back from Alabama. He is now third in the nation in rushing with 905 yards, and is the biggest reason the Tide’s offense has been so tough in the first half of the season.
Ingram kicked the season off with a bang, rushing for 150 yards and a touchdown while catching another in the Tide’s 34-24 win over Virginia Tech. He did not reach the 100-yard mark again until October.
He has put that weak first month in the past, and without any doubt. In the last three games, he has carried the ball 74 times for 558 yards and four touchdowns. That’s nearly a season’s worth of numbers from some backs who face SEC defenses weekly.
Similar to Tebow, should Alabama be the team to come out of the SEC unscathed, and Ingram continues his scorching play, don’t be surprised if he comes out of nowhere to lay claim to the trophy.
Here are some other players who could find themselves in New York thanks to a watered-down selection this season:
Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska
· Tell me the last time a defensive tackle led his team in tackles. Suh is doing just that for the Huskers with 36. He continues to leave a lasting impression on every quarterback he faces
Dion Lewis, RB, Pittsburgh
· He may be a freshmen, but heck, in a year like this why can’t he win? Lewis is second in the nation with 918 rushing yards. For Lewis to enter the inner circle of Heisman elite, he needs the Panthers to win the Big East, and he probably needs another couple 200-yard performances.
Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame
· Everyone who was not watching the Irish’s clash with USC last weekend has surely heard about it by now. Clausen nearly led a magical fourth-quarter comeback from a 20-point deficit, only to fall short from inside the five-yard line. Had he delivered a touchdown on that drive, and then led the Irish to win the game in overtime, he would be the clear-cut favorite at this point. Instead, he has a hardy challenge ahead of him.
Thankfully there is still a month and a half of football yet to play, because we will need every last week to find a true favorite, or else they just might cancel the award altogether.