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Cool Brees following Dayne's pattern
By Gary Danielson
Special to

Each Monday, ABC college football analyst Gary Danielson will break down the top quarterbacks around the country and rank his Top 10.

I was fortunate to be in West Lafayette to do the Michigan-Purdue game with two tremendous quarterbacks, one at the beginning of his career, and the other closing out a brilliant career.

Drew Brees
Drew Brees is still a contender for the Heisman after his performance against Michigan.
More than ever, after watching that, I am convinced that quarterback is the most difficult position to play in sports. Not only are you expected to perform at an extremely high level with all the pressure because 80,000 fans are watching you, but you are also required to orchestrate the rest of the team and make sure they do their jobs and they don't get down on themselves. Even though you are fighting the same emotions as everybody else, you can't show it. Not only is it a battle with the opposing defense -- it's a battle within yourself to show the proper emotion. It's apparent at the college level because you have defensive coordinators with 20-25 years of experience trying to set up defenses to trick and stop 18, 19 and 20-year-olds -- like Ken Dorsey matched up against FSU's Mickey Andrews.

What struck me was that all the people going to the Purdue game who dogged Drew Brees for not being able to win the big one. He had never beaten Penn State, Michigan, Ohio State or Wisconsin. That has never been the case. It wasn't that he never beat them, it was that his team never beat them. Drew Brees is good enough to beat Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State -- the other 21 guys are not good enough to beat those guys.

Yet, the choke factor was put on Drew Brees. Last year, Purdue dropped 14 passes against Michigan last year and someone said Brees can't beat Michigan -- a team that had 16 passes broken up by Penn State. That only means the quarterback is throwing the ball in the proper spots -- his receivers aren't getting open.

After watching Ken Dorsey do the job at the end of the game against Florida State, and watching Josh Heupel carve up Texas, I am further convinced that you have to be a special person to be able to handle the pressures and accolades of being a quarterback in big-time football.

That's why again this year, a quarterback will win the Heisman Trophy. You can't give it to LaDainian Tomlinson. You just can't give it to a TCU player that plays inferior talent. He might be a great professional, but he is not playing the talent necessary to be considered a Heisman candidate.

There is no running back outside of Northwestern's Damien Anderson has a chance at it. If Northwestern runs the table, he would be the only running back with a shot. He is carrying that team.

Here are the latest Top 10 quarterbacks and their previous ranking in parentheses.

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No. 1 -- Michael Vick, Virginia Tech (2)
Temple: 14-28-162, 1 TD, 2 int.; rush: 18-55, 1 TD
Season: 55-89-635, 5 TD, 4 int.; rush: 59-484, 7 TD
Not only is Michael playing at a tremendously high level, he is garnering votes for his team because of who he is. Voters are now voting Virginia Tech second or third based on Vick's performance against Florida State in the Nokia Sugar Bowl. He has impressed the voters so much that even though the Hokies still have not won that big game -- based solely on Michael Vick's reputation and performance the last two years, people are giving Va. Tech the benefit of the doubt. That's why he deserves now to be the front-runner for the Heisman. He hasn't lost a step yet.

He now becomes more than just numbers. He continues to be one of only two quarterbacks (with Eric Crouch) where numbers don't really matter. One of his runs is like a knockout punch from a heavyweight fighter. It demoralizes the other team and fires up his team.

Grade: P. He just needs to pass. He has enough points to graduate.

No. 2 -- Eric Crouch, Nebraska (3)
at Iowa State: 7-17-164, 1 int.; rush: 19-138, 1 TD
Season: 39-78-666, 8 TD, 4 int.; rush: 79-478, 8 TD
I am not quite sure how good a team Nebraska is. It might not be vintage Nebraska. Iowa State at times made Crouch look human. When you are the top team in the country and you run an option offense, the quarterback is the guy that has to make it go. Eric deserves the credit. The interesting thing for Eric is that when the voting takes place, if Virginia Tech and Nebraska are both undefeated, Vick will probably get the Heisman. Yet, at the end of the year, if they met in the Bowl Championship Series title game, I am not sure which guy ultimately will deserve it because Crouch might have the game to beat him.

Grade: P. Doesn't need the grade.

No. 3 -- Drew Brees, Purdue (5)
Michigan: 32-44-286, 2 TD, 1 int.; rush: 10-80
Season: 158-253-1930, 12 TD, 3 int.; rush: 47-293, 3 TD; rec: 1-5, 1 TD
Reminiscent of what happened with Ron Dayne last year -- everyone wrote Dayne off after the Cincinnati and Michigan games. Drew had the tough loss at Penn State, then he was down 28-10 against Michigan -- just like a year ago when Dayne was down 17-0 to Ohio State and came out with a tremendous second half to get his team rolling and they never looked back. Drew has the opportunity now, with that performance, to run the table. There is no one on Purdue's schedule now that he can't beat. He might lose, but there is no one there that can stop him.

He has a number of tremendous stages in front of him where he can make a great impact. This Saturday, he has Northwestern on national television and everyone wants to see Northwestern. Then he has a likely undefeated Ohio State team coming to West Lafayette for another huge game.

He still has a chance because his numbers will be so overpowering, that if he runs the table like Dayne did, he still has a shot. Being a senior will help him in the voters' minds.

Grade: A+. When the season was on the line, he came through. 14-of-18 third down conversions.

No. 4 -- Chris Weinke, Florida State (1)
at Miami: 29-58-496, 3 TD, 2 int.; rush 0-0
Season: 127-209-1,974, 15 TD, 5 int.; rush: 21-(-65), 1 TD
I don't know if Weinke can still win this. He had to have an undefeated season to be able to do it. Even though his statistics were huge against Miami, the turnovers hurt him and it was obvious that he was less than 100 percent. I can't think of a scenario of him winning it. He is still playing at a high level of football and he doesn't deserve to go too far down.

Grade: C-.

No. 5 -- Woodrow Dantzler, Clemson (4)
N.C. State: 18-30-220, 2 int.; rush: 25-103, 2 TD
Season: 81-128-1085, 8 TD, 3 int.; rush: 105-732, 10 TD
All he had to do was keep winning. It was a little tougher this week with N.C. State. He's facing stiffer competition. He's going to catch a much hungrier Florida State team on Nov. 4.-- a primetime ESPN game. He's set up the next few weeks with better competition that will allow him to make an impact. He needs help from the guys above.

Grade: B+. Two interceptions kept N.C. State in the game.

No. 6 (tie) -- Jonathan Beasley (6)
at Kansas: 12-18-235, 1 TD; rush: 9-33, 4 TD
Season: 71-114-1359, 10 TD, 2 int.; rush: 57-225, 12 TD
The season starts this week. Jonathan is still slightly in the shadow of Michael Bishop. It has already been done at K-State. He does not strike anybody differently than anyone who has ever been there. He has an opportunity now with the schedule in K-State's favor and being at top of the polls.

Grade: A.

Josh Heupel
Oklahoma is hoping for another 63-point outburst from Josh Heupel and the Sooners offense this Saturday at Kansas State.
No. 6 (tie) -- Josh Heupel, Oklahoma (7)
Texas: 17-27-275, 1 TD; rush: 7-34
Season: 115-173-1520, 9 TD, 4 int.; rush: 24-61, 4 TD
I am not surprised that people are beginning to notice this guy. He has the advantage of the schedule with Texas, Kansas State and Nebraska in three straight games. Although it looks imposing, it's a great opportunity for him to come out of the old wishbone shadow that everything still thinks is there.

Grade: A+.

No. 8 -- Philip Rivers, N.C. State (9)
at Clemson: 21-48-370, 3 TD
Season: 118-217-1,701, 16 TD, 4 int.
This guy is for real. When you watch Rivers play, it should tell every high school coach or quarterback out there to perfect your own style. You don't need to be like anyone else. He was turned down by so many programs because he had funny footwork. Who cares? He is a tremendous gamer. His upside potential is unlimited. Hopefully for him, North Carolina State can surround him with some more skill players. N.C. State might be the team that emerges to give Florida State its first battle in the ACC. He's a future superstar.

Grade: A.

No. 9 - M. Tuiasosopo, Washington (NR)
Oregon State: 20-32-223, 1 TD; rush: 10-39, 1 TD
Season: 83-159-1098, 5 TD, 7 int.; rush: 61-87, 4 TD
Without Tuiasosopo, Washington is lucky to be .500 this year. He's the most valuable player in the Pac-10. There are five teams in the conference that have one only loss. He's definitely the best player on the West Coast. He deserves -- because of the way he battles and leads -- to be considered one of the top 10 quarterbacks in the country.

Grade: A.

No. 10 (tie) -- Ken Dorsey (NR)
Florida State: 27-42-328, 2 TD
Season: 95-157-1297, 11 TD
Makes the Top 10 just for that last drive. People question why Miami went to Washington and that loss was a lot on Ken's shoulders, but it sure paid off against Florida State because he looked like he was ready to play major competition. You have to believe the Washington road trip hardened both him and his team. I am not sure if that early season loss is going to kill Miami for a national championship shot.

Grade: A+. Extra credit for the last drive.

No. 10 (tie) -- Drew Henson (10)
at Purdue: 15-27-257, 1 TD
Season: 49-79-654, 5 TD
An Elwayesque performer. Two things: One, It's too bad Michigan's game plan is not up to the level Henson can play at; two, he is only playing at 70 percent right now because of his foot. In the first half, he put on a performance never before seen at Michigan.

Grade: A.

Others to Watch:
Steve Bellisari, Ohio State

Quincy Carter, Georgia: Starting to come on in the SEC.

Zak Kustok, Northwestern

Sage Rosenfels, Iowa State: Nice performance against Nebraska.

Dropped Out
Major Applewhite, Texas
Ben Leard, Auburn

Gary Danielson writes a column every Monday for  

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Battle of Drews won in a Brees

Weekend wrap-up

Danielson: Top quarterbacks beginning to emerge

Danielson: Dantzler setting the ACC on fire

Danielson: Purdue takes the ball out of Brees' hands

Danielson: Crouch looks golden

Danielson: Vick beginning to resemble a certain Tiger

Danielson: Year of the QB

 Drew Brees throws 25 yards to Vinny Sutherland for the touchdown.
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 Michael Vick flies in for the touchdown on this 5-yard run.
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 Michael Vick's first completiton is a 41-yard TD toss to Cullen Hawkins.
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 Woodrow Dantzler finds Travis Zachery for the 24-yard touchdown.
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 Oklahoma's Josh Heupel lays it in nicely for Andre Woolfolk.
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 Steve Bellisari finds a wide-open Darnell Sanders for the touchdown.
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