SEC: Colt McCoy
My Heisman Trophy ballot has changed every week for the last couple of months.
I'm not surprised there are more than three players going to the trophy presentation.
Five players were invited to New York for Saturday night's Heisman Trophy presentation -- quarterbacks Andrew Luck of Stanford and Robert Griffin III of Baylor, tailbacks Montee Ball of Wisconsin and Trent Richardson of Alabama and cornerback Tyrann Mathieu of LSU.
It's a shame the Heisman Trust didn't have room for three more quarterbacks because Houston's Case Keenum, USC's Matt Barkley and Boise State's Kellen Moore were just as deserving.
With five finalists going to New York, it figures to be one of the closer votes in recent Heisman Trophy history.
The closest vote in Heisman Trophy history came just two years ago, when Alabama tailback Mark Ingram edged Stanford's Toby Gerhart by only 28 points. Ingram received 227 first-place votes, Gerhart got 222 and Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, the second runner-up, received 203.
Given the number of finalists and their geographical regions, we could have another really close finish on Saturday night.
Luck, the runner-up to Auburn's Cam Newton last season, entered the 2011 season as the Heisman Trophy favorite. His performance didn't slip much this season, as he completed 70 percent of his passes for 3,170 yards with 35 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
I still feel Luck might be the most valuable player on any team in the country. Without him, there's no way the Cardinal is ranked No. 4 in the country and playing No. 3 Oklahoma State in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. Luck has done more with less, as Stanford lacks the game-changing playmakers that other teams have.
But Luck might still be the second-best quarterback in New York. Griffin, who is widely known as RG3, completed 72.4 percent of his passes for 3,998 yards with 36 touchdowns and six interceptions. He also ran for 644 yards with nine touchdowns.
Without him, the Bears wouldn't have beaten TCU, Oklahoma and Texas. Griffin's one drawback: He had a late interception that sealed the Bears' fate in a 36-35 loss at Kansas State on Oct. 1 and threw two picks in a 59-24 loss at Oklahoma State on Oct. 29. But with everything else RG3 has done this season, it's easy to give him a mulligan for the miscues.
Ball has been a scoring machine for the No. 10 Badgers this season, running for 1,759 yards with 32 touchdown runs and six touchdown receptions. His 38 total touchdowns are one shy of matching former Oklahoma State running back Barry Sanders' NCAA single-season record of 39 set in 11 games in 1988. Ball's production helped lead the Badgers to a Jan. 2 date against Oregon in the Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO.
Mathieu fell off my ballot after he was suspended from playing in the Tigers' 45-10 victory over Auburn on Oct. 22 for smoking synthetic marijuana. But his big plays helped the Tigers overcome deficits in each of their last two victories, over Arkansas and Georgia in the SEC championship game.
Mathieu -- aka the "Honey Badger" -- is the best player on the top-ranked team. He leads the Tigers with 70 tackles and has forced six fumbles and recovered five. He also is the most dynamic punt returner I've seen since Florida State's Deion Sanders. Mathieu has scored four touchdowns -- two on fumble returns and two on punt returns.
To penalize Mathieu for one foolish mistake wouldn't have been right. After all, Newton was briefly ruled ineligible at Auburn last season and 2010 Heisman Trophy finalist LaMichael James of Oregon was suspended from playing in last season's opener.
- Plenty of fresh faces will see the field for LSU this weekend in the Tigers' opener.
- Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt is awaiting word on the status of senior defensive end Kentrell Lockett after Lockett had some heart-related tests done following some issues with his heart fluttering Saturday during practice.
- The Rebels are also waiting on a ruling from the NCAA on quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, who'd requested a waiver to be eligible this season after transfering from Oregon. Sophomore Nathan Stanley is listed No. 1 on the depth chart this week at quarterback for the Rebels.
- An NCAA ruling in the South Carolina hotel matter could come as early as Tuesday. Defensive backs Akeem Auguste and C.C. Whitlock are the most likely players to receive suspensions, reports Travis Haney of The Charleston Post and Courier.
- Former Texas quarterback Colt McCoy "knows he had them" before his injury against Alabama knocked him out of the BCS National Championship Game last year.
- Georgia's streak of consecutive home sellouts reaches 58.
- Auburn defensive coordinator Ted Roof is committed to playing more players this season.
- Mark Story of The Lexington Herald-Leader lists his 25 reasons why Kentucky's football season could be fun this year.
He was also the most productive defensive end on Alabama’s team in 2009.
This coming season, Marcell Dareus will be a lot more. Along with linebacker Dont’a Hightower and safety Mark Barron, the 6-foot-4, 296-pound junior will be one of the centerpieces of the Alabama defense.
“I think this is my year to show everybody what I can do,” Dareus said. “I’m not in anybody’s shadow. I guess you can say this is my time to shine and show what I can do on a consistent basis.”
Dareus, despite starting only four games, led Alabama with 6.5 sacks. He finished with nine tackles for loss and also had the biggest hit of the season.
His tackle of Texas quarterback Colt McCoy knocked the Longhorns’ star out of the title game in the first quarter.
To this day, Dareus has mixed emotions about the play. It was a perfectly clean tackle. He just hated to see McCoy get injured.
Afterward, Dareus wanted to seek McCoy out, but wasn’t able to get to him before he left the field.
“I really didn’t get a chance to speak to him. I didn’t want him to hold anything against me,” said Dareus, who also returned an interception 28 yards for a touchdown in the 37-21 win over Texas. “I wasn’t happy that he was hurt, but there was a feeling of relief that there was one big player [out of the game] we wouldn’t have to worry about.
“It was like a big weight had been lifted off our shoulders. But at the same time, I was like, ‘I hope I haven’t hurt this man’s career.’ It’s just part of the game. It happens. It’s football. You get hit, and some people get knocked out and some people come back and play.”
With so many starters gone off last season’s national championship defense, Dareus understands how some people might be expecting the Crimson Tide to drop off on that side of the ball.
But based on what he’s seen this spring, he’s not ready to concede anything.
“I know this defense might not be as big as we were last year, but we will be faster and we will be dominant,” Dareus said. “We’re going to work our butts off to be as good as we can be.”
The players soaked more of Saban’s shirt than they did his head.
“I wish they’d do the water,” Saban said. “You know, the Gatorade is awfully sticky.”
But, hey, he wasn’t complaining. Not on this night.
Saban revels in talking about the process. Well, the process for this team and for this season was all about getting it done – no matter what it looked like, how close it was or how unorthodox it was.
Alabama’s 37-21 victory over Texas on Thursday at the Rose Bowl won’t go down as a classic. The Crimson Tide knocked quarterback Colt McCoy out of the game, built a big lead at the half and still had to sweat it out in the fourth quarter.
“The thing about this team is that when a guy has a play to make and everybody else does his job, that guy always makes that play,” Alabama senior cornerback Javier Arenas said. “That’s the way it’s been all year.”
Indeed it has.
The play that sealed it Thursday night was Eryk Anders’ perfectly called and perfectly executed blitz off the edge. Texas backup quarterback Garrett Gilbert never saw him coming and coughed up the ball. Courtney Upshaw recovered at the Texas 3 with 3:02 to play, and Alabama finally put the game away.
“I didn’t think about anything but hitting him and didn’t know he fumbled until I looked up and saw Courtney Upshaw jumped on the ball,” Anders said.
At last, the Crimson Tide could exhale.
They couldn’t have started the game any worse, thanks to a couple of special teams gaffes. And then in the third quarter, they sort of fell asleep at the wheel and allowed Texas to climb back into the game.
“That’s who we are. We bend, but don’t break,” Alabama sophomore center William Vlachos said. “Our defense did a tremendous job. They made the plays when they had to make them, and we were able to run the ball when we had to. It all came together for us.
“We had a goal going into the year. Championship teams are defined by how they finish and what they accomplish.”
Junior linebacker Rolando McClain played through a nasty virus that had knocked him for a loop all week. He had two IV's before the game and one at halftime.
"I just want to go home and take another shower and go to sleep," McClain said. "That’s how weak and tired I am right now. But my team needed me. They needed me to be a leader, and I couldn’t let them see that I was sick. I couldn’t let them see that I wasn’t 100 percent. For them, I’d do anything."
And while the Alabama players expressed genuine remorse that McCoy missed almost the entire game, they weren’t buying for a second that their national championship was somehow tarnished.
Not after everything this program has been through the past few years.
“I don’t write the script. I just play it out,” said Alabama junior quarterback Greg McElroy, who was held to 58 yards passing, the lowest output in BCS National Championship Game history.
“It’s unfortunate for them, and I feel terrible for Colt. But when it comes down to it, that’s how things go sometimes. We lost one of our best players early in the season in Dont’a Hightower to a torn ACL. Sometimes terrible things happen in this game.
“But on my ring, it’s not going to say, ‘Beat Texas without Colt.’ It’s going to say, ‘National champions.’ ”
Mark Ingram will be battling the Heisman Trophy jinx in national championship games, and Alabama will be trying to claim the fourth-straight BCS national title by an SEC team. The last non-SEC team to win the title: Texas.
Those are just a few of the subplots in Thursday's Citi BCS National Championship Game. Big 12 blogger Tim Griffin and SEC blogger Chris Low take a look at the matchup and other factors that will play into it.
Chris Low: Tim, it's ironic that you would ask about McElroy, because everybody was asking about him back in the spring. Nobody really knew anything about him, whether he could handle the quarterback position or whether he would even finish the season as the starter. I think it's safe to say that he's far surpassed anybody's expectations. He's such a smart player, knows the Alabama offense inside and out and rarely makes the same mistake twice. After all, he's only thrown four interceptions in 13 games. I've seen halves against SEC defenses in which quarterbacks have thrown three or four picks. But McElroy is not just a caretaker of the offense. He'll spread the ball around. He throws a nice deep ball, and is better at moving around and making plays than he's given credit for. In short, if the Alabama offensive line plays the way it did against Florida, I look for McElroy to have another solid game. That's the thing about this Alabama offense. They don't need him to put up mammoth numbers to win. My question to you, Tim, is whether Colt McCoy is going to be running for his life against Alabama like he was against Nebraska a month ago?
TG: If he does, Texas has absolutely no chance. But I think the fact that observers have been questioning Texas' offense for nearly five weeks after the Longhorns allowed nine sacks against Nebraska should serve as a motivational ploy. I look for Texas to try and dictate tempo early. Look for McCoy to try to use the Longhorns' one-minute offense, in which there would be little time between plays as they try to keep them out of their comfort zone. The Longhorns have struggled with their pass blocking all season. Look for freshman Tre Newton to get more time because of his pass-blocking skills. And I would also expect Texas to use tight end Greg Smith more than usual to have an extra blocker. In the Big 12, the Longhorns liked to run a lot of three- and four-wide receiver sets. I think they'll need the extra beef tonight. Chris, speaking of beef, how do you think Alabama's big offensive line will play against Texas' fast and quick defense. The Longhorns led the nation in rush defense, but faced four teams with defenses ranked 100th or worst. Does Alabama feel like they can exploit a Texas defense that is good, but hasn't played many good rushing attacks?
CL: Honestly, I think Alabama thinks it can exploit any defense. This Alabama offensive line isn't as big as the one last year and has relied more on quickness and angles than just lining up and mashing people. Alabama will certainly look to run the football and won't be afraid to use both Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson. It seems like the Crimson Tide always have a fresh back in the game. Against Florida, Alabama was able to throw it some and spread the Gators out. But that was just one game. We also saw Alabama struggle to run the ball against Auburn in the last game of the regular season, and McElroy had to bring them from behind throwing the football. Even in that game, after getting down 14-0, the Crimson Tide didn't panic and didn't get out of character offensively. What do you make of McCoy having two of his worst games against the two best defenses he's faced this season -- Nebraska and Oklahoma?
TG: Chris, interestingly those were also the games where he most faced consistent pressure from blitzes and had more trouble with interceptions. If Alabama can keep him from getting comfortable in the pocket and knock him around some, he could face a similar fate. The Texas offensive front isn't a great line -- by its standards or anybody else's. It's their biggest weakness, but really didn't impact them over the course of the season. The Longhorns had too many weapons and scored touchdowns in other ways to beat all the Big 12 teams they played.
CL: Alabama has not been very good on kickoff coverage. That's a given. So it wouldn't be a shock to see the Crimson Tide give up some long returns or even a touchdown. Short fields could be critical in this game, because neither defense has allowed teams to consistently put together long drives. The problem with exploiting Alabama on special teams is that the Crimson Tide have one of the best punt returners in the country in Javier Arenas and a field goal kicker in All-American Leigh Tiffin who's made a bunch of big kicks and also has great range. In short, unless Alabama uncharacteristically turns the ball over and/or is forced to play from behind the whole game, I think the Crimson Tide take home the crystal trophy and complete a perfect season. Alabama 27, Texas 17
TG: I think Texas is going to have trouble stopping the run defense. But if they can get some early momentum, I like their chances of taking this game into the fourth quarter. But at that point, Alabama will have too much power and gradually wear the Longhorns down, likely with a late drive like the one Florida put Oklahoma away with last season. Alabama 24, Texas 13
The Huskers sacked McCoy nine times, 4 .5 of those by star tackle Ndamukong Suh, and kept the Texas quarterback on the run the entire Big 12 championship game.
Yes, the Crimson Tide have seen that film. Yes, they see their own opportunities to get after McCoy. No, they’re not really making a big deal of it publicly.
Still, don’t think for a second that Alabama hasn’t studied that tape in great detail to see what Nebraska did so effectively.
“They got a lot of pressure up the middle. That’s pretty much what we saw,” Alabama nose guard Terrence Cody said.
The Crimson Tide are also coming off a game against Florida in the SEC championship game where they were facing a mobile quarterback, and they were able to keep Tim Tebow in the pocket most of the game.
“It helps, because our D-line did a great job containing him and not letting him get out and run and make plays with his feet often,” McClain said. “I think he had one scramble. Other than that, he was in the pocket all day. So we have confidence in our secondary coverage. We just have to do a good job of containing [McCoy] and getting to him when we do blitz.”
Texas center Chris Hall, who had a rough outing against Suh, gets a chance to redeem himself against Cody.
“They are different players,” Hall said. “But as far as quality is concerned, they’re on the same level. They’re both great football players.”
Cody, who most of the time isn’t on the field in obvious passing situations, figures he’ll have enough chances to make his own impression.
“[Suh] had a good game,” Cody said. “I’m going to try and have, maybe not the same exact game, but something close to that.”
At some point, I think I had five or six different guys at the top of my list during the season.
But my final ballot, which I submitted early this morning, looks like this:
1. Mark Ingram, Alabama
2. Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska
3. Toby Gerhart, Stanford
Ingram's performance against so many good SEC defenses is what sold me on him. That and his value to an Alabama team that's ranked No. 1 in the country. The guy is incredible after contact and to rack up 189 rushing/receiving yards against Florida's defense speaks for itself.
According to this week's NCAA statistics, Ingram faced six of the top 28 defenses in the country (No. 4 Florida, No. 14 Virginia Tech, No. 15 South Carolina, No. 16 Tennessee, No. 24 Ole Miss and No. 28 LSU). And in those six games, Ingram rushed for 924 yards, averaging 154 yards per game and scoring seven touchdowns.
When Alabama needed him the most this season, he was at his best. He has 1,542 rushing yards and 30 catches going into the BCS National Championship Game.
How many players in SEC history have rushed for more than 1,500 yards and caught 30 passes in the same season?
Here's betting we spend a long time looking.
Speaking of looking, I looked long and hard at Suh as my top choice. He's the most dominant interior defensive lineman I've seen in college football in a long time.
Leaving Texas quarterback Colt McCoy off my ballot was tough. But he played poorly against the two best defenses he faced -- Nebraska and Oklahoma.
Tebow's third-down prowess in the fourth quarter was what separated Florida from Alabama a year ago in the SEC championship game.
There's no doubt that Tebow is one of the best in the business when it comes to converting in those key situations.
But thanks to some legwork by Texas sports information director John Bianco, Tebow hasn't been THE best this season.
Texas' Colt McCoy has actually been better on third down and in the red zone.
See for yourself:
74-of-103 (71.8%) for 765 yards and 8 TDs (two INTs) (156.0 rating)
- Conversions: 46-of-103 (44.7%)
28 rushes for 130 yards (4.6 ypc) and 1 TD
- Conversions: 15-of-28 (53.6%)
Total Conversions: 61-of-131 (46.7%)
39-of-61 (63.9%) for 490 yards and 4 TDs (one INT) (149.8 rating)
- Conversions: 25-of-61 (41.0%)
52 rushes for 221 yards (4.5 ypc) and 6 TDs
- Conversions: 26-of-52 (50%)
Total Conversions: 51-of-113 (45.1%)
RED ZONE EFFICIENCY:
37-of-52 (71.2%) for 273 yards and 15 TDs (two INTs) (202.8 rating)
20 rushes for 16 yards (0.8 ypc) and 1 TD
Conversions: 49-of-51 (96.1% / 36 TDs / 13 FGs) (73.5% TDs)
10-of-29 (34.5%) for 82 yards and 4 TDs (one INT) (96.9 rating)
61 rushes for 114 yards (1.9 ypc) and 10 TDs
Conversions: 38-of-46 (82.6% / 21 TDs / 17 FGs ) (45.7% TDs)
Now, it's Ingram's turn.
McCoy had more than 300 yards passing and nearly 200 yards rushing in a nationally televised game a lot of people were watching on Thanksgiving night.
The same goes for today's nationally televised game at Auburn. Ingram takes his shot against an Auburn defense ranked 10th in the SEC against the run.
A big game by Ingram today could make it a McCoy vs. Ingram duel on championship game Saturday next week for the Heisman Trophy.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
Imagine if somebody had proclaimed following the Vanderbilt game a year ago that Ole Miss' Jevan Snead would enter this season as one of the top handful of quarterbacks in college football.
Snead had more interceptions (seven) than touchdown passes (six) at that point and was coming of a horrid four-interception performance against the Commodores in which the Rebels didn't score an offensive touchdown in a 23-17 loss.
|Rebels quarterback Jevan Snead has matured into one of the top quarterbacks in college football.|
"Fortunately, I was able to grow in the system, but that's what you should do when you gain a little experience," said Snead, who ended the season by throwing 16 touchdown passes and only three interceptions during the Rebels' six-game winning streak.
Chances are his start will be a lot better this season, although Snead is taking nothing for granted.
If anything, he's worked even harder this past offseason and knows nothing will come easy for the Rebels, who will be the last SEC team to open preseason camp when they hit the practice fields Monday night.
The 6-3, 215-pound junior worked the Manning Passing Academy for the second straight year, dug a little deeper into the Ole Miss playbook and did his best to set the tone for the rest of the team, not so much by what he said, but by what he did.
"I feel like I'm ready to take more of the offense on my shoulders and be able to do a lot more than last year," said Snead, who dons an easy smile when anybody mentions him in the same breath as Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford or Colt McCoy.
After all, it was McCoy who beat out Snead at Texas during the 2006 season, precipitating Snead's transfer to Ole Miss.
He's never looked back.
"Any time you're in a situation like that, it's tough to see the big picture," Snead said. "I just knew my chances of it happening there weren't too good, so I knew I had to get out of that situation. I feel like God has a plan for all of us, and it truly worked out the best it could."
The Rebels would sure say so.
Snead proved time and time again a year ago that he's as good as there is in college football when it comes to making throws under duress. He has that sixth sense about him to be able to feel pressure, get out of the pocket, keep his eyes on his targets and make throws on the move.
He's certainly a different kind of quarterback than Tebow and not nearly as accomplished on the college level, but many in the NFL ranks think Snead will be drafted higher than Tebow.
Snead doesn't even want to begin to go there. After all, he's only a junior. Plus, Tebow has a Heisman Trophy on his mantle and a pair of BCS national championship rings.
But to say that Tebow and the Gators haven't crossed Snead's mind at all wouldn't be completely true. In their only head-to-head matchup, Snead came out on top a year ago.
"It's just a great honor to be mentioned in the same sentence as Tebow," Snead said. "He's a heck of an athlete and a great person as well."
And as Snead notes, the Rebels and Gators don't play this year ... in the regular season.
"We're going to do everything we can to be able to play them when the time comes," Snead said.
As in Dec. 5 in Atlanta in the SEC Championship Game.
Ivan Maisel sits down with Tim Griffin and Chris Low to figure out whether the Big 12 (Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy) or the SEC (Tim Tebow and Jevan Snead) has the better tandem of quarterbacks.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
All the Heisman Trophy ballots had to be in by 5 p.m. ET on Wednesday, so the numbers I'm about to give you are not a push to get anybody to vote a certain way.
They're simply something to consider as we await word on Saturday on who among Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy and Tim Tebow (listed in alphabetical order) wins college football's most coveted individual award.
Anyway, here we go.
Tebow faced six of the top 25 defenses in college football this season. Bradford faced one and McCoy none.
Tebow faced 10 top 50 defenses. Bradford faced three and McCoy none.
McCoy faced 11 defenses that were ranked lower than 70th. Bradford faced eight and Tebow one.
In Tebow's eight games against defenses ranked in the top 30 this season, he passed for a total of 18 touchdowns and no interceptions and rushed for nine touchdowns.
Here's a look at all the defenses Bradford, McCoy and Tebow faced this season and where those defenses were ranked nationally, using the rankings as of Dec. 6:
No. 2 TCU
No. 26 Cincinnati
No. 50 Texas
No. 66 Nebraska
No. 72 Texas Tech
No. 86 Oklahoma State
No. 87 Baylor
No. 94 Kansas
No. 99 Missouri
No. 110 Washington
No. 113 Texas A&M
No. 117 Kansas State
No. 65 Oklahoma
No. 72 Texas Tech
No. 73 Arkansas
No. 79 Colorado
No. 86 Oklahoma State
No. 91 Missouri
No. 93 Florida Atlantic
No. 94 Kansas
No. 99 Missouri
No. 113 Texas A&M
No. 114 Rice
No. 115 UTEP
No. 3 Alabama
No. 4 Tennessee
No. 11 South Carolina
No. 13 Florida State
No. 15 Ole Miss
No. 25 Miami
No. 28 Georgia
No. 29 Vanderbilt
No. 36 LSU
No. 37 Kentucky
No. 59 Hawaii
No. 73 Arkansas