December 18, 2017

Leatherheads Heisman Poll for 2012

Tonight, the 78th Heisman Trophy winner will be announced on ESPN with three finalists waiting in the audience.  The three finalists are Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein, Texas A&M quaterback Johnny Manziel and Notre Dame middle linebacker Manti Te’o.

In anticipation of tonight’s announcement, Leatherheads of the Gridiron polled 18 of its contributors to see who we think will be the next name added to the elite list of college football greats who can say they are a Heisman Trophy recipient.  Our voters followed the same format as the Heisman voters: 3 points for our number one choice, 2 for our second choice and 3 for our third choice.  Last season, Leatherheads had a tie for the award with both Baylor’s Robert Griffin III and Alabama’s Trent Richardson finishing first, although RG3 had more first place votes.  RG3 ended up winning the trophy while Stanford’s Andrew Luck was second and Richardson finishing in third place.  Click here for results.

We had 18 voters allocate their votes to ten different players.  A few names missing that have been mentioned as possible winners at the beginning of the season and along the way include USC QB Matt Barkley, Oklahoma QB Landry Jones, South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore, Alabama QB A.J. McCarron, Georgia QB Aaron Murray, Michigan QB Denard Robinson, Stanford RB Stepfan Taylor, Oregon RB De’Anthony Thomas and Arkansas QB Tyler Wilson.  Also missing is LSU’s Tyrann Mathieu who finished fifth in the voting last year and was dismissed from the team before the season for his drug use.  A sad story.  Hopefully, he can turn his life around and make it in the NFL in some capacity.

Our candidates in alphabetical order are as follows:

Montee Ball
Ball is a running back for the 8-5, Rose Bowl-bound Wisconsin Badgers.  The senior is ranked third in rushing with 1,730 yards and is tied for eighth with 21 touchdowns.  Last year he finished fourth in the Heisman voting.  Over the last two seasons, he has rushed for 3,653 yards and scored an amazing 60 touchdowns.

Kenjon Barner
Barner is a running back for Oregon.  The Ducks are 11-1 and heading to play in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.  Barner ranks seventh in rushing with 1,624 yards and is tied for fourth with 22 touchdowns.  The senior rushed for 321 yards and five TDs on November 3 against the USC Trojans.

Jarvis Jones
Jones is a linebacker for the Georgia Bulldogs.  The Bulldogs are 11-2 and will be playing in the Capital One Bowl.   The junior is the SEC Defensive Player of the Year and a two-time All-American.  His 12.5 sacks are tied for fourth in the nation.

Collin Klein
Klein is the quarterback for the 11-1 Kansas State Wildcats and will be playing against Barner and his Ducks teammates in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.  Klein, a senior, led the Wildcats to 10-straight victories before losing to Baylor on November 17.  He has scored 22 touchdowns, tied for fourth in the nation.  Over the last two seasons, the former wide receiver has passed for 4,408 yards and 28 TDs with 13 INTs while rushing for 2,031 yards and 49 TDs.

Marqise Lee
Lee is a wide receiver for the USC Trojans.  The sophomore leads the nation with 112 receptions, is second with 1,680 yards, and ranks third in TD catches with 14.  He has also returned 28 kickoffs for 802 yards and a score.  In two seasons, Lee has 185 catches for 2,823 yards and 25 scores.

Jordan Lynch
Lynch is a junior quarterback for Northern Illionois.  He has led the 12-1 Huskies to the Orange Bowl.  He leads the nation in rushing with 1,771 yards, a record for FBS quarterbacks.  He has thrown for 2,942 yards with 24 TDs and just 5 INTs.  He also has 19 rushing touchdowns.

Johnny Manziel
Manziel is a freshman quarterback for the 10-2, Cotton Bowl-bound Texas A&M Aggies.  Johnny Football, as he is called, gained national promience when he led his team to a 29-24 victory over #1 ranked Alabama.  Manziel has passed for 3,419 yards, 24 TDs with 8 INTs while running for 1,181 yards and 19 TDs.

Braxton Miller
Miller is the quarterback for the 12-0 Ohio State Buckeyes and the Big Ten Player of the Year. The Buckeyes were not eligible for the Big Ten championship or a bowl game this season while on probation for past NCAA violations. The sophomore rushed for 1,271 yards with 13 TDs while passing for 2,039 yards and 15 TDs.

Geno Smith
Smith is the quarterback for West Virginia.  The senior is ranked first with 40 passes for touchdowns, fourth with 4,004 passing yards, and sixth with a 164.6 QB rating.  On September 29 against Baylor, he threw for 656 yards and 8 TDs.  Over the last two seasons, he has thrown for 8,389 yards with 71 TDs and just 13 INTs.  The 7-5 Mountaineers will play in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl.

Manti Te’o
Te’o is the middle linebacker for the undefeated Notre Dame Fighting Irish.  The senior is tied for second in the nation with 7 interceptions and has made 101 tackles this season.  He has already won several awards this season, including the Maxwell Award.  He will play in the BCS National Championship Game, hoping to lead his team to a 13-0 record and a national championship.

Rank Player First Second Third Total
   1 Johnny Manziel 27 (9)   6 (3)   5 (5)   38
   2 Manti Te’o 21 (7) 12 (6) 3.5 (3.5)   36.5
   3 Collin Klein   6 (2) 10 (5)   5 (5)   21
   4 Braxton Miller   0 (0)   4 (2)   0 (0)     4
   5 (Tie) Montee Ball   0 (0)   2 (1)   0 (0)     2
   5 (Tie) Jordan Lynch   0 (0)   0 (0)   2 (2)     2
   5 (Tie) Geno Smith   0 (0)   2 (1)   0 (0)     2
   8 (Tie) Kenjon Barner   0 (0)   0 (0)   1 (1)     1
   8 (Tie) Marqise Lee   0 (0)   0 (0)   1 (1)     1
 10 Jarvis Jones   0 (0)   0 (0)   .5 (.5)      .5


So the winner of our poll is Johnny Football, the freshman.  A few of our voters could not vote for him in the number one spot just because he is a freshman.  One Leatherhead stated, “Sorry I do not feel Manziel is worthy of the trophy being only a freshman, let us see what he can do next year.”  I disagree with that thinking since the play is based on this season.  I personally picked Manziel number one, largely for his play in the SEC which is clearly, in my mind and many others, the top conference in college football.

Another Leatherhead would disagree with me making Manziel my top choice, “If raw statistics alone is your game, he’s your winner.  But if you actually take a closer look….he piled up great numbers against some terrible defensive teams. How did he do in the big games?  He completely failed to drive the offense in the second half of A&M’s loss to Florida, and threw 3 interceptions and was held to 27 yards rushing in the loss to LSU.  So that leaves the Alabama game – you’re voting a freshman the Heisman on the basis of one game.  Which means, in his college career, he has as many arrests as big-game victories.”  Ouch!

The arrest refers to an incident last summer when he got in a fight and produced fake identification to a police officer.  Should this count against his chance of winning the Heisman?  I personally do not since it has nothing to do with play on the field.  But it might.  Sports Illustrated’s Thayer Evans did for that reason.  He stated, “I don’t consider players with pending criminal charges.”

Enough about Manziel.  Leatherhead Tex Noel stated about Klein, “He’s an exciting player to watch. He thinks well on his feet as he eludes the defender or diving into the end zone. His passes are straight and on the mark. Without a doubt, Kansas State would not be the same without him.”

Tex has some good words for Te’o fans as well, “One of the best players the Irish have had in some time. He’s fearless as he makes plays sideline-to-sideline. You can’t stop him; you can only hope to contain him–maybe with a brick wall.”

So the top three finalists are the Leatherheads’ top three.  Early in the season I thought it would be Geno Smith, hands down.  Then the Mountaineers couldn’t stop losing.

I most note that one voter could not pick between Te’o and Jones with their third-place vote.  He declared it a tie and I let it go since no harm was done.  He stated, “I know, it’s a cop-out to do a tie but I can’t separate the two. Te’o is on a higher profile team and rightfully deserves his accolades, but Jones is every bit as special and actually runs sideline to sideline better.”

This is the word from Leatherheads of the Gridiron.  Johnny Football will add his name to the elite list of Heisman Trophy winners.  Will that actually happen?  We will all find out shortly.  Either way, all three finalists had a special season.


Participating voters: David Boyce, Bo Carter, Ronnie Foreman, Terry Keshner, Bob LazzariJim Lefebvre, Chris Mascaro, Dan McCloskey, Andrew McKillop, Tex Noel, Michelle Nolan, Pete Sonski, Bob Stevenson, Bob Swick, Dan Totten, Brandon Williams, Joe Williams, Tony Williams.


The Red Raiders Climb All Over the Mountaineers as WVU Drops in Top 16

In last week’s Leatherheads College Football Top 16, three of our top five teams lost to shake-up the poll.  In this week’s poll, two of the top five lost.  The big surprise was West Virginia’s loss to Texas Tech.  It was not just a loss but a blowout!  The Red Raiders improved to 5-1 by beating the Mountaineers by the score of 49-14.  One QB passed for 499 yards and 6 TDs in the game and that QB’s name was not Geno.  Seth Doege played outstanding while Geno Smith’s Heisman run hit a speed bump.  In my estimation, Smith is still by far the Heisman choice to this point, but West Virgina will need to return to their winning ways.  Next up is Kansas State who is our #3 ranked team after Alabama and Oregon.  West Virginia dropped from #5 to #15 this week.

The other team in our top five to lose was South Carolina.  The Gamecocks lost a close one against LSU, 23-21.  LSU found some offensive against what is usually a tough South Carolina defense.  Jeremy Hill led the way with 124 yards rushing with two touchdowns.  South Carolina dropped from #3 to #9 as LSU slightly rose in the poll from tied for ninth to eighth.

Notre Dame rose one spot to #5 with their narrow victory over Stanford.  The Fighting Irish stopped the Cardinal on the goal line to end the game in overtime, staying undefeated at 6-0.  Stanford fell out of the Top 16 a few weeks back and only received one 16th place vote this week.

One team that caught my attention that I have been neglecting to cast a vote for in recent weeks is the Oklahoma Sooners.  They took apart Texas 63-21.  Texas was a team that I thought more highly of earlier in the season.  After back-to-back losses, the Longhorns are now out of the poll and didn’t receive a single vote from our pollsters.  The Sooners, on the other hand, have started to creep back up in the poll.  They rose three spots to #11.  In our first poll of the season, Oklahoma was ranked #5 but their loss to Kansas State sank them in the polls which included one week out of our rankings.  The week prior to beating Texas, the Sooners defeated Texas Tech 41-20.  Next up is Kansas and then a matchup with Notre Dame.

This week’s poll also includes two undefeated teams making their debut in the Top 16, Mississippi State and Louisville.  Both teams are 6-0 and have received support the last three weeks from some of our pollsters.  In two weeks, the Bulldogs play at Alabama.  If they don’t lose to Middle Tennessee this weekend, the chances are the Bulldogs will no longer be undefeated after their battle with the Crimson Tide.  If they manage to upset our current #1 team, they will then play Texas A&M and LSU.  The Louisville Cardinals have some tough games ahead of them in the Big East, but an undefeated season is not out of the question.  However, two other Big East teams and upcoming opponents are also undefeated at this time.  Cincinnati is 5-0 and Rutgers is 6-0.  Next up for Louisville is South Florida.

Rank Team Record Points Last Week
   1 Alabama (12)    6-0   192        1
   2 Oregon    6-0   180        2
   3 Kansas State    6-0   159        4
   4 Florida    6-0   151        7
   5 Notre Dame    6-0   146        6
   6 Ohio State    7-0   113        8
   7 Oregon State    5-0   112        9 (Tie)
   8 LSU    6-1   110        9 (Tie)
   9 South Carolina    6-1    88        3
 10 USC    5-1    71      11
 11 Oklahoma    4-1    70      14
 12 Florida State    6-1    68      12
 13 Mississippi State    6-0    39      NR
 14 Louisville    6-0    32      NR
 15 West Virginia    5-1    31        5
 16 Georgia    5-1    26      15

Others receiving votes
: Rutgers – 22, Clemson – 11, Texas A&M – 5, Cincinnati – 4, Northwestern – 1, Stanford – 1.

Participating voters: David Boyce, Ronnie Foreman, Terry Keshner, Bob Lazzari, Dan McCloskey, Andrew McKillop, Tex Noel, Pete Sonski, Bob Swick, Brandon Williams, Joe Williams, Tony Williams.


Stanford Slips and Falls Out of Leatherheads Top 16

There were lots of points scored and some close games in Week 5 of the college football season but only one Leatherheads Top 16 team lost.  Stanford led the week off with a 17-13 loss to Pac-12 rival Washington, dropping them from the poll.  The Huskies’ defense shut down Stanford’s running game while QB Josh Nunes completed less than 50% of his pass attempts.  Stanford’s upset victory over USC on September 15 lifted them in the polls, but the loss to the Huskies created the exact opposite result.  Oregon State and Clemson joined the Top 16 while Oklahoma joined Stanford, slipping from our ranks.

Alabama got a scare when Ole Miss went up 7-6 in the second quarter.  The Rebels held the lead for an amazing 15 seconds before the Crimson Tide regained the lead when Christion Jones ran the following kickoff 99 yards for a TD.  From that point on, it was pretty much all Alabama.

There was very little movement in our rankings other than Stanford dropping from 10th to unranked.  In a tight race at the top half of the poll, West Virginia tied idle Kansas State for the #7 spot with a 70-63 victory over Baylor.  Geno Smith separated himself from the pack for the Heisman with his 656 yards passing and 8 TD passes.  Baylor’s QB Nick Florence had a nice game too with 581 yards and 5 TDs passing.

As predicted last week, the Oregon State Beavers jumped into the ranks with their victory over the Arizona Wildcats.  The Beavers received big days from QB Sean Mannion (433 yards throwing and 3 TDS), Markus Wheaton (10 receptions, 166 yards and 2 TDs), Brandin Cooks (9 receptions and 149 yards) and Storm Woods (161 yards rushing and a TD).  Here is my Brandon Williams quote of the week: “Quietly, the Beavers are writing a Cinderella story in the Pac-12.”  Could they be for real or will Washington State do the upsetting in the Pac-12 this week?

There are several big games coming up in Week 6 that will shake up the Top 16:  LSU plays at Florida, Georgia plays at South Carolina, and West Virginia plays at Texas.  Other interesting games include Washington playing #2 Oregon.  Can the Huskies knock off another Pac-12 rival and perhaps find themselves in the Top 16?  Ohio State plays a very good Nebraska team.  Notre Dame plays a home game against a 4-1 Miami team.

I am looking forward to next week’s matchups, but for now here are the Leatherheads College Football Top 16:

Rank Team Record  Points  Last Week
   1 Alabama (13)    5-0    208         1
   2 Oregon    5-0    190         2
   3 Florida State    5-0    174         3
   4 LSU    5-0    169         4
   5 Georgia    5-0    156         5
   6 South Carolina    5-0    131         6
   7 Kansas State    4-0    124         7
   7 West Virginia    4-0    124         8
   9 Notre Dame    4-0    101         9
  10 Texas    4-0      96       11
  11 Florida    4-0      81       12
  12 Ohio State    5-0      51       13
  13 TCU    4-0      47       15
  14 Oregon State    3-0      31       NR
  15 USC    3-1      24       14
  16 Clemson    4-1      18       NR

Others receiving votes
: Oklahoma – 12, Louisville – 8, Mississippi State – 6, Rutgers – 5, Stanford – 5, Nebraska – 4, Northwestern – 3.

Participating voters: David Boyce, Ronnie Foreman, Terry Keshner, Bob Lazzari, Dan McCloskey, Andrew McKillop, Tex Noel, Matt Oldham, Pete Sonski, Bob Swick, Brandon Williams, Joe Williams, Tony Williams.


Heisman 2011: A Week 4 Snapshot

In 1935, the Downtown Athletic Club in New York created an award for the most outstanding player in collegiate football. Eventually it was renamed in honor of the club’s athletic director, John Heisman. It has become one of the most prestigious annual awards in all of sports and pundits begin weighing in on potential winners in the preseason.

With each successive week the focus becomes sharper. By the time the award is presented in early December, there is typically an odds-on favorite. The interest is particularly keen this year, with a large field of candidates.  Here are some of the most commonly mentioned candidates.

Andrew Luck
The Stanford QB was runner-up in the Heisman balloting to Auburn’s Cam Newton last year. A redshirt junior, he surprised many by forgoing the NFL to play a third collegiate season. He was the preseason favorite and has performed well to date. Stanford had a week four bye, but Luck has led them to a 3-0 record with 786 passing yards on 57 completions. He has tossed eight TDs and only one INT.

Kellen Moore
A redshirt senior, Moore has led his Boise State Broncos to both prominence and BCS contention over his three seasons. Though a Heisman finalist last year, he is often dismissed by pundits due to his stature (6 ft. 0 in., 190 lbs.). His size hasn’t inhibited his success, however. Moore is 41-2 as a starting QB. He’s already thrown for 995 yards and 12 TDs this season (against two INTs). The Broncos are 4-0 and have their sights set on a national championship.

Marcus Lattimore
The South Carolina tailback burst on to the Heisman stage this year with 611 rushing yards and eight TDs. He also has a TD through the air and 139 receiving yards for the Gamecocks. Though only a sophomore, he has carried his team to a 4-0 record overall record and 2-0 in the SEC.

Robert Griffin III
The Baylor Bears don’t get a lot of attention, often being overshadowed by more prominent Big 12 schools. Their junior QB has brought them notoriety this season though. Once a player earns a universal nickname, his stock is bound to rise. “RG3” has earned a lot of Heisman mentions this season. His Bears are 3-0 and he has 962 passing yards and 13 TDs (with no INTs).

Landry Jones
The Oklahoma Sooners have enjoyed top billing in the weekly AP poll much of this season. Landry Jones is a primary reason for that prominence. The redshirt junior QB has 1,022 passing yards this season for the 3-0 Sooners. He has five TDs against four INTs.

Russell Wilson
Wilson is a redshirt senior QB for the Wisconsin Badgers, having transferred from North Carolina State, where he enjoyed much success in the ACC. He has led Wisconsin to a 4-0 start throwing for 1,136 yards and 11 TDs and one INT.

Geno Smith
Every writer is entitled to a dark horse candidate. I’ll take Geno Smith, junior QB for the West Virginia Mountaineers. Smith has thrown for 1,471 yards so far, with nine TDs and three INTs. West Virginia is 3-1, having lost to LSU last Saturday. Despite the loss Smith threw for 463 yards against the Tigers, one of the best defenses in the NCAA.

One other player who emerged last weekend with 288 yards rushing and two TDs is LaMichael James, a junior tailback for Oregon. During the preseason he was widely expected to be among the contenders, but has not had a Heisman performance until last Saturday against Arizona. Going forward he may find his way into the conversation.

These players all have impressive credentials, making for interesting competition. Unlike many recent years’ competition, this could be a toss up in December.


Check out this disscussion on Moore and Lattimore at: Heisman Hopefuls Kellen Moore and Lattimore


Pete Sonski blogs about college football. He welcomes feedback here and on Twitter @PSPRGuy.