About the 2013 Heisman Trophy ...
The BMOC would like to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. And now, here's a plate full of college football.
So the Heisman Trophy race was minding its own business when suddenly the leading candidates began stinking it up like it was BakedBeanapalooza.[+] EnlargeSean Gardner/Getty ImagesLSU put a hold on Johnny Manziel's Heisman repeat hopes.
I was leaning hard toward voting for Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, but that was before he got John Chavis'd in the 34-10 loss at LSU.
Just 16-for-41 against the LSU defensive coordinator's scheme? Only 4-of-14 on passes thrown 15 yards or longer (thank you, ESPN Stats & Information). Two more interceptions? Just one touchdown in the Aggies' third loss of the season?
LSU coach Les Miles was right: Tiger Stadium truly is a place where opponents' dreams go to die. Manziel's dream of a Heisman two-peat officially expired in Baton Rouge, La., on Saturday.
Still, it was an action-packed, hair-on-fire Heisman reign by Johnny Football. But unless Manziel throws for 600 yards and nine TDs at Mizzou on Saturday, somebody else will be giving the Dec. 14 acceptance speech.
Of course, that somebody else won't be Baylor's Bryce Petty. Petty has had a wonderful season, but he spent much of Saturday night's 49-17 blowout loss at Oklahoma State overthrowing receivers, throwing into coverage, tripping untouched just short of the end zone and losing count of downs.
His numbers were respectable (28-of-48 for 359 yards and two touchdowns), but if you watched the game, you know better. Petty, who put a lot of pressure on himself entering the game, knows better, too.
Yes, Baylor was playing without some key offensive players. But however you want to measure it, Petty's performance in the Bears' most important game of the season wasn't Heisman quality.
And whatever flickering Heisman hopes Oregon's Marcus Mariota had, they were extinguished in the Ducks' shocking 42-16 loss at Arizona. Mariota is a class act, but he wasn't the best quarterback on the field (that would be B.J. Denker) in Saturday's loss.
So with Manziel, Petty and Mariota escorted from the Heisman House foyer, that means Florida State's Jameis Winston has clinched the statuette, right?
For the moment, Winston is the prohibitive Heisman favorite. But all that could change, depending on the outcome of an ongoing investigation into claims that Winston sexually assaulted a former FSU coed.
If Winston is charged, and if Florida State suspends him (or even if it doesn't), then a Heisman Trophy candidacy becomes instantly insignificant -- if it hasn't already.
But for the purposes of this Heisman exercise, let's say circumstances eliminate Winston from consideration. Then what?[+] EnlargeKevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesAJ McCarron's Heisman hopes are pointed in the right direction.
And the winner of the 2013 Heisman Trophy is … Alabama's AJ McCarron?
It could happen. Lots of strange things could happen.
Northern Illinois' Jordan Lynch and Fresno State's Derek Carr could end up in New York. Clemson's Tajh Boyd might squeeze his way back into the discussion. Boston College's Andre Williams and Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey could get some much-deserved running back love. Ohio State's Braxton Miller, despite missing the better part of three games, could find his way on the list.
The uncertainty of Winston's situation, coupled with the late-season stumbling by Manziel, Petty and Mariota, could create a new voting dynamic. Ballots were sent out last week and the first day of voting began Monday (though anybody who sends in their ballots this soon should have their voting privileges revoked).
If Bama beats Auburn and then South Carolina or Missouri in the SEC championship game, does McCarron, on the strength of his winning percentage, consistency and national championship résumé, become the Heisman front-runner?
Can a non-AQ quarterback such as Lynch or Carr, both of whom continue to put up huge numbers for undefeated teams, actually win this thing?
Could a big game against South Carolina turn Boyd from an also-ran to a finalist?
Will somebody finally look at Williams' rushing numbers?
Will Ohio State's second season of record perfection propel Miller into a front-row seat for the ceremony?
I have no idea how this is going to turn out. And right now, I have no idea what my final ballot would look like. But I do know this: Winston is going to win the Heisman big, or not at all.
• Hot seats. As the regular season nears its conclusion, here are the featured members of Biscuits-Burning Row: Florida's Will Muschamp, Texas' Mack Brown, Hawaii's Norm Chow, Illinois' Tim Beckman and possibly Kansas' Charlie Weis.[+] EnlargeRonald Martinez/Getty ImagesClint Chelf and the Cowboys sent the Bears' BCS title hopes into hibernation.
• Oklahoma State. From a 9½-point underdog to Baylor, to a 49-17 winner over a Bears team everyone assumed was going to become No. 3 in the BCS standings.
• Defense. Thank you, Alabama (three shutouts this season), FSU, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Clemson, Mizzou, Stanford, Michigan State, South Carolina, LSU and Wisconsin.
• Northern Illinois running back Cameron Stingily. Sure, go ahead and try to tackle him. It's like trying to tackle a sequoia tree trunk.
• Pac-12 championship teams. Stanford from the North, Arizona State from the South. Just as we all predicted back in August. (And by the way, I'm getting whiplash trying to keep up with Stanford's football personality disorder. Lose to Utah, but then beat UCLA, Oregon State and Oregon. Lose to USC by three, but then beat Cal by 50.)
• Fresno's Carr and wide receiver Davante Adams. Of Carr's seven TD passes against New Mexico, Adams caught four of them (nine receptions, 246 yards). Adams' 19 TDs this season is four more than the next guy and is as many or more than 76 other FBS teams. And don't even get me started on how nutty good Carr's numbers are this season. This will last for now: He's second in the country in passing yardage and has played one fewer game than the other quarterbacks ranked in the top five.
• Ed Orgeron Jr. That would be Florida Atlantic interim head coach Brian Wright, who is 3-0 since FAU waved goodbye to Carl Pelini.
• The actual Ed Orgeron. Another week, another win. Yawn.
• Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan. His five TD passes against Cal were one fewer than his total in the previous seven games.[+] EnlargeMichael Chang/Getty ImagesGeorgia Southern ran past Florida in the Swamp.
• Georgia Southern. The FCS-member Eagles not only beat Florida, but the Gators paid them $550,000 to do it. And they did it without completing a pass!
• Duke. If the Blue Devils beat North Carolina, they will set a school record for most wins (10) and clinch a place in the ACC championship game.
• One of the great weeks in college football: Bama versus Auburn, Ohio versus That Team Up North, Clemson versus South Carolina, UCLA versus USC, Arizona versus Arizona State, Notre Dame versus Stanford, Minnesota versus Michigan State, and, if you're a Seminoles fan, Florida State versus Florida.
• Baylor. The program is in good hands, but the loss to Oklahoma State cost the Bears any chance of reaching the VIZIO BCS National Championship Game and likely cost them a BCS bowl berth. And one of these decades, Baylor will figure out a way to win at Stillwater.[+] EnlargeMike Zarrilli/Getty ImagesQuarterback Aaron Murray left a lasting legacy at Georgia.
• Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray. A torn ACL ends his season and Georgia career. Bulldogs fans didn't always appreciate him when he was there, but in time, they'll appreciate him after he's gone. A gamer who cared about his teammates and that G on his helmet.
• Alabama assistant strength and conditioning coach Corey Harris. As soon as the news broke of his involvement in a "loan" to Bama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, you knew this wasn't going to end well for Harris. And it didn't.
• Scoring sanity. Florida State's football team scored as many points against Idaho (80) as FSU's basketball team scored a night earlier in an overtime loss to Michigan.
• The road mystique of Manziel and A&M coach Kevin Sumlin. The loss at LSU marked the first road defeat for Johnny Football and Sumlin during the past two seasons.
• Northwestern's bowl chances. The Wildcats, who started 4-0, needed to win their last two games to salvage bowl eligibility. Instead, they lost to Michigan State to drop to 4-7.
"I just got off the phone with Bill Rutherford. Apparently you two had quite a meeting. 'Princeton can use a guy like Joel.' … His exact words."
In honor of one of the great underrated movies of all time, "Risky Business," here's the return of a BMOC favorite shtick: "Yes. No. Maybe."
• Will Muschamp be the Florida coach in 2014?
I suppose Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley could still hit the eject button on Muschamp's Gators career after three years, but don't count on it. Foley isn't a big fan of empty seats at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, of disenchanted alums and donors, and of bowl-less seasons. But unlike the failed Ron Zook hire, it's obvious that he still believes that Muschamp is the guy to fix the program.[+] EnlargeSam Greenwood/Getty ImagesWill Muschamp and the Gators have suffered six straight losses.
Foley gave Muschamp a strong vote of confidence after the Nov. 9 home loss to Vanderbilt. Of course, that was before Florida got beat at home by Georgia Southern, an FCS program that didn't need to complete a single pass during the victory.
Morale, by the Gators players' own admission, is almost subterranean. There have been 13 season-ending injuries, six consecutive losses (and barring a football miracle, another one on the way … at home … to rival FSU), and at times the Gators have been unwatchable.
But as bad as it has been, a few reminders: Florida lost at Miami by five, lost at LSU by 11, to Georgia by three, at South Carolina by five. Considering the injury carnage, the Gators have, for the most part, played hard.
The bigger question is whether Muschamp has lost the confidence of his team. Or more accurately, whether Foley thinks Muschamp can't salvage the situation.
The answer to both of those questions is no.
Foley has a lot of equity built up at Florida. Still, he's taking some heat for this because Muschamp was his hire.
That hire, by the way, went 11-2 last season, including a win at FSU. But an Allstate Sugar Bowl loss to Louisville negated part of that Muschamp goodwill.
Foley doesn't like to lose games and isn't afraid of making difficult decisions. But for now, it appears he's all in with Muschamp. And Muschamp himself said in his weekly news conference Monday that he "absolutely" will return as the Gators' coach in 2014.
• Have some of the Oregon players lost their minds?
I know what the Ducks' De'Anthony Thomas and Josh Huff were trying to say last week when they told reporters they weren't personally interested in playing in another Rose Bowl Game. They were trying to say that anything less than a national championship appearance meant nothing to them.[+] EnlargeChristian Petersen/Getty ImagesDe'Anthony Thomas and the Ducks left the desert out of the Rose Bowl picture.
OK, fine. I get that they have high expectations.
But the problem with popping off like that? The Ducks hadn't actually qualified to play in the Rose Bowl yet. They hadn't clinched the Pac-12 North, hadn't won the Pac-12 championship game and the automatic Rose Bowl berth that comes with it.
But their words, which undoubtedly found their way onto the bulletin boards at Arizona, provided little wiggle room for the Ducks. They sounded like the Rose Bowl was a foregone conclusion, that they would dispense with the remaining mopes on their schedule and then, I don't know, ride a float in the parade and then beat Ohio State later in the day.
You can try to defend the Oregon players all you want -- their comments were taken out of context, etc. -- but the simple truth is that they should have known better. They should have known how their comments would play nationwide, and how they'd play in Arizona, a program that would crawl across the desert to appear in a Rose Bowl.
Final score: Arizona 42, Oregon 16.
Were the Ducks' comments the reason Oregon lost? Of course not. But they didn't do themselves any favors.
Nothing personal, but you wonder if Thomas and Huff would have said those things during the Chip Kelly regime.
• Is Oklahoma State the best one-loss team in the country?
Auburn, right? Another no.
As impressive as the Cowboys' win was against Baylor -- and it was a brilliant performance -- I'm sticking with Missouri for the moment.
I'm a huge fan of what Auburn and Oklahoma State have done this season, but Mizzou's only loss came against South Carolina in double overtime after a missed chip-shot field goal.
Anyway, Mizzou, Auburn and Oklahoma State are drafting one another around the one-loss track. Trailing the leaders are Clemson, Baylor, Michigan State, UCF and Louisville.
• Is Kevin Sumlin the heir obvious for the USC job?
I used to think so, but now I'm not so sure.
I'm not saying USC isn't interested in Sumlin, or that Sumlin isn't interested in USC. And I'm not saying that Ed Orgeron doesn't have a legitimate shot at the full-time gig. He does.
But you can't tell me that the only names on Pat Haden's list are Sumlin, Jack Del Rio and Orgeron. There have to be a few more possibilities -- and I'm not talking about the usual list of suspects.
Think big. Think outside the box. I bet you Haden is.
I checked the preseason predictions -- nobody on ESPN's team of experts picked Auburn to win the SEC West. Of course, those 20 experts still might end up being right.
Or wrong, depending on what happens Saturday at the suddenly very relevant Iron Bowl.
Anyway, Auburn earned its very own video essay this week. It's only a click away.
THIRD QUARTEROK, since we already discussed the whole Heisman thing earlier in the column, let's get right to the turkey and dressing of the matter.
SportsNation: Heisman Watch
Should Jameis Winston still be the Heisman front-runner? Does Andre Williams have a shot at the award? Rank 'Em!
So, if I had to vote now …
1. Jameis Winston, Florida State. Until a decision is made relative to the state attorney investigation, Winston is the leader in the Heisman clubhouse.
Am I conflicted by the investigation and accusations? Certainly. Am I repulsed by some of the message board/blog-a-ganda being thrown out there by the fanatical fringe? Definitely.
It is a complicated dynamic, and to discuss the so-called importance of a Heisman Trophy seems almost laughable. In the meantime, I'll let the legal and investigatory process play out.
2. Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois. The guy is a ballplayer. And without him … well, Northern Illinois doesn't even want to think about that. Just watch him play and you'll understand his value.[+] EnlargeThearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesDerek Carr has thrown 39 TD passes so far in 2013.
3. Derek Carr, Fresno State. Carr's numbers are off-the-charts ridiculous. Take my word for it, he's a regular atop some of the NCAA's key offensive categories. Carr has six 400-yard-plus passing games this season, eight 300-yard-plus games.
4. AJ McCarron, Alabama. Bama fans are going to throw a fit, but remember two things: (1) McCarron has time to move up the list and (2) it's not a lifetime achievement award. I'm in awe of what McCarron has done at Bama, but I'm not convinced he's the nation's most outstanding player. But he's in the discussion, which is never a bad thing.
5. Andre Williams, Boston College. General rule of Heisman thumb: Rush for more than 2,000 yards, get on this list. Williams is at 2,073 yards, and counting. And the yards have meant something: BC is bowl eligible and has gone from 2-10 a year ago to 7-4 this season.
6. Braxton Miller, Ohio State. Those missed games are problematic, but Miller's talent level is undeniable.
In December 1998, a little less than 10 months before he would win his first game as Oklahoma's 21st head football coach, Bob Stoops was in a rental car with nothing more than a cell phone, a map, a recruit's name and address, and a plan.
I remember talking to him that night as he searched in the darkness for the recruit's house. He had gotten the Sooners job -- and the OU-issued cell phone -- only a few days earlier. He had yet to hire a staff, so for the moment, he was the face -- the only face -- of Oklahoma football.
Recruiting was a mess. In fact, the whole program was a mess, thanks to the 12-22 tenure of John Blake and 5-5-1 record of Blake's predecessor, Howard Schnellenberger.
Stoops was 38 back then. He had never been a head coach. But OU athletic director Joe Castiglione gave Stoops the keys to the Sooner Schooner and off he went.[+] EnlargeJackson Laizure/Getty ImagesBob Stoops walked into the Oklahoma record books with his 158th win.
The thing is, OU had to sweat it out. It offered the job to Stoops, but Stoops had given his word to his alma mater, Iowa, that he would talk to Hawkeyes officials about their opening.
Stoops met with the Iowa people on a Sunday in Atlanta. On Monday he called Castiglione.
"I would just like to ask, when do you want me there?" Stoops said.
That was 158 victories and a BCS national championship ago. In all, Stoops has led the Sooners to four BCS title game appearances and eight BCS bowls altogether, coached two Heisman winners and is one victory away from his 12th double-digit-win season.
But it was Saturday's victory against Kansas State -- and against one of his coaching mentors, Bill Snyder -- that pushed him to 158 wins and past Barry Switzer on the OU all-time career wins list.
This is no small thing. In fact, Switzer was one of the first to notice what Stoops might accomplish at OU.
"Bob came into a situation and did all the right things from the beginning," Switzer told me years ago. "I observed. I watched the beginning of the transition. I watched the results. He is the catalyst that has brought a new era to Oklahoma football."
Now it is Stoops' era, and deservedly so.
Sometimes we forget how hard it is to win a football game. Or 10 games. Or a conference championship. We dismiss the degree of difficulty it takes to reach a BCS bowl game. Or a national championship game.
Stoops has won spectacularly (a national title in only his second season at OU) and lost spectacularly (the 2007 Fiesta Bowl defeat to Boise State, the Johnny Football highlight show in last season's Cotton Bowl).
He can be dismissive, abrasive. He doesn't suffer fools. He also never phones it in. Never concedes a thing.
I remember that phone call that night. I remember him repeating the same phrase more than a few times during the conversation.
"No excuses," is what he said. Fifteen years later, through good and not-so-good, Stoops has lived by that phrase. That's why those 158 wins have meaning.
From the home office in Wheaton, Ill., comes this week's version of a four-team BCS playoff format.
• No. 1 seed Alabama vs. No. 4 seed Missouri.Or as it might be called on Dec. 7: the SEC championship game.
Bama did what it had to do against Chattanooga: get a convincing win, rest its dinged-up players and not show too much to Auburn. Check, check and check.
Mizzou moved up to the No. 4 spot, over Auburn and Clemson, on the strength of a road win against Ole Miss.
• No. 2 seed Florida State vs. No. 3 seed Ohio State.
If you thought Muschamp had troubles after the loss to Georgia Southern, just wait if FSU tries to surpass the 80 points it scored against Idaho. Will be curious to see how many Gators fans sell their seats to FSU fans.[+] EnlargeScott Cunningham/Getty ImagesSurprising Auburn made another jump in the BMOC's standings.
As for Ohio State, the Buckeyes were last seen at the Auburn student union scarfing up all available War Eagle attire and pompoms.
5. Auburn: The Tigers won't be No. 5 for long if they beat Bama in the Iron Bowl.
6. Oklahoma State: In honor of the Cowboys' win against Baylor, school benefactor T. Boone Pickens is naming a hedge fund after coach Mike Gundy.
7. Clemson: Yes, I know you beat The Citadel by 1,000 points. Congratulations. Now it's time to face the University of Visor.
8. Baylor: And just like that, there's no more talk of the Bears jumping over Ohio State.
9. Stanford: The Cardinal have beaten this week's opponent, Notre Dame, three out of the past four.
10. South Carolina: Yes, I know you beat Coastal Carolina by 1,000 points. Congratulations. Now it's time to face the University of Dabo.
Close, but not quite there: Oregon, Arizona State, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Fresno State, Northern Illinois.
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