Friday, December 4, 2009
The case for Toby Gerhart
By ESPN.com staff ESPN.com
I can't take credit for the following research, which came from the great minds inside ESPN, but it clearly should give folks a clear picture of what Stanford running back Toby Gerhart has accomplished this year.
Toby Gerhart has been a battering ram all season for the Cardinal.
One of the uncomfortable parts of making the case for Gerhart is that it requires poking holes in the resumes for the other top candidate, specifically Texas' Colt McCoy and Florida's Tim Tebow.
McCoy and Tebow have played well this season. And both have had historical careers that won't be forgotten. One of them may win the national championship.
But there's simply not any question which player has had the best season while playing against the best competition. That's Gerhart.
Consider some notes, courtesy Chris Fallica, College GameDay researcher.
Gerhart has faced six of the top 46 rushing defenses and gained at least 123 yards against five of them. His low against those six teams was 96 yards against Oregon State. In those six games, Gerhart gained 881 yards (146.8) and ran for 14 TDs. That average of 146.8 YPG is actually higher than his overall season average of 144.7 YPG.
Gerhart has finished strong. In his last four games, three of which came against teams currently ranked in the AP Top 20, Gerhart rushed for 742 yards (185.5 YPG) and 12 TDs.
McCoy also has finished strong but in his last four games, Texas faced zero ranked teams -- two teams that went 1-7 in the Big 12 (Baylor and Kansas) along with Texas A&M and UCF (which are 111th and 112th nationally in pass defense).
Tebow has finished strong in his last five games but, again, none of those five opponents are ranked. The stretch consisted of Georgia (10th in SEC in scoring defense), Vanderbilt (2-10, winless in SEC), South Carolina, FIU (119th in nation in total defense) and Florida State (108th in nation in total defense).
In each of the last seven games, Gerhart has rushed for more, individually, than the opposing team has allowed against all other opponents. Some of the highlights: Gerhart gained 178 yards on a USC defense that has allowed 116.5 rush YPG vs all other teams. He gained 223 yards on an Oregon team which has allowed 118.3 rush YPG vs everyone else.
Gerhart was at his best when he played the best. In four games against teams currently ranked, Gerhart rushed for 158.3 YPG and 12 TDs (against unranked teams, Gerhart ran for 137.9 YPG).
Texas has faced only one team currently ranked this season (No. 22 Oklahoma State). McCoy threw for 171 yards on 16-of-21 passing and a TD in a game which the Texas defense/special teams accounted for two TDs.
Florida has also faced only one ranked opponent this year (No. 15 LSU). Tebow was 11-16 for 134 yards with a TD and Int, though that was his first game following a concussion suffered at Kentucky.
Gerhart didn’t pad his stats against bad teams. Against Washington State and San Jose State (two of the five worst rush defenses in the country), Gerhart gained “only” 121 and 113 yards – figures which represent two of his four lowest rushing totals this season.
19 of Colt McCoy’s 27 TD passes and four of his five best passing games have come against teams which currently do not have a winning record. Against opponents with winning records, he's thrown for eight TDs and five Ints.
Tim Tebow’s last two games accounted for two of his three highest offensive outputs of the season (311 vs FSU, 317 vs FIU). As mentioned above, those teams are in the bottom 13 nationally in total defense.
Stanford faced only one team from a non-AQ conference this season (San Jose State). The other two non-conference opponents were Wake Forest (ACC) and Notre Dame. Stanford also faced nine Pac-10 opponents. Texas’ four non-conference opponents were UL-Monroe, Troy, UTEP and UCF – all from non-AQ conferences. Florida’s four non-conference opponents were Charleston Southern, Troy, Florida International and Florida State – three of which are from non-AQ conferences.
The only comparison Gerhart loses? Florida and Texas are undefeated, while Stanford has four losses. Yet the losses weren’t Gerhart’s fault. In them, he ran for 109.3 YPG and 8 TD, while Stanford’s defense allowed 34.8 PPG. Tebow and McCoy had the luxury of playing with the No. 1 and No. 5 total defense (Stanford is 85th) and the No. 1 and No. 9 scoring defense (Stanford is 65th).
Again, this isn't about McCoy and Tebow not being good players or Texas and Florida not being good teams, even though both paths to undefeated were no where near as arduous as what Stanford faced.
It's simply this.
Gerhart is the most outstanding player in college football, which is what the Heisman Trophy is supposed to recognize.