One bad game. That was all it took for Florida Gator’s quarterback Tim Tebow to fall from Heisman grace. One great game. That was all it took for Alabama Crimson Tide’s Mark Ingram to vault himself into leading contention for the Heisman Award.
Well, neither of the above statements is actually quite true. While Tebow was the leading contender for the Heisman Award for most of the season, there really was no time during the year that you could say, “Yeah, he’s the guy”, like you could in ’07 when he won it.
And, conversely, there were times prior to Saturday’s SEC Championship game when you could easily envision Ingram walking up on stage to collect the prestigious award. But, that also goes for the rest of the candidates that will be in attendance at the New York Athletic Club in New York City on Saturday night.
Along with Tebow and Ingram, Texas QB Colt McCoy, Stanford RB Toby Gerhart, and Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh will also be on hand. There really is no clear winner this season, although good money today is on Ingram or Gerhart. Prior to last week, most bets may have been on Tebow and McCoy.
In no particular order, here is a thumbnail sketch of how the candidates’ seasons shook out:
QUARTERBACK – SENIOR
As Tebow fell flat in the SEC Championship Game, McCoy’s timing was just as bad as he picked the Big 12 Championship to have his worst game of the season. Not only did McCoy not throw a touchdown pass for the first time this year, but he also threw 3 interceptions, a season high. His 184 yards were his 4th worse of the season, and his 55.6% completion rate was his second worse of the year.
Now, this shouldn’t diminish the spectacular season that he had as he led his team to yet another Big 12 Championship Game and BCS Title Game. He finished 2nd in the conference in both passing yards (3512, 6th in nation) and TDs (27, T-8th in nation). McCoy is also the Longhorns 2nd leading rusher (378 yards).
McCoy, who was runner up to award winner Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford last season may find himself as a bridesmaid again this year.
RUNNING BACK – SENIOR
Gerhart finished the season with the most TDs in the nation (26) and the most rushing yards in the nation (1736). His last game, against Notre Dame, he rushed for 205 yards and 3 TD. It was his 3rd 200+ yard game of the season.
He had one game this season, against Wake Forest in Week 2, where he was stopped cold. In that game he was held to only 84 yards and no TD. In Week 6, against Oregon State, he was held to a mere 96 yards on the ground, but the Beavers still couldn’t keep him out of the end zone. Gerhart had 2 TD that day.
Based on his numbers and his consistency, many consider Gerhart to be the most deserving candidate in the group. Unfortunately, sometimes, the most deserving doesn’t always win the prize.
RUNNING BACK – SOPHOMORE
ALABAMA ROLLING TIDE
Alabama RB Mark Ingram has been in and out of the Heisman conversation all season. Interestingly, he found himself not only squarely in the thick of it, but largely on top of it when Alabama beat Florida in the SEC Championship Game on December 5th. Very much the same way that Tebow lost a great deal of stock that day, Ingram gained a great deal of stock.
In fact, in many people’s minds, Ingram won the Heisman that Saturday afternoon. Here’s the funny thing: Ingram’s 1542 yards this season was only 5th best in the nation, and his 15 TDs was only good enough to be ranked 14th. Yeah, not even in the top 10.
But, when you’re on the team that has been ranked 2nd in the nation nearly all season, then you get 3 TDs and nearly 200 all-purpose yards in the game that vaults them to #1 and sends them to the National Championship Game, funny things like the Heisman Award can happen.
Ingram has a very, very good shot at being only the second sophomore in college football history (Tebow was the first) to win the award.
QUARTERBACK – SENIOR
Tebow had a couple of problems this season: First, he was amazing his sophomore year, and pretty spectacular his junior year as well. So much was expected of him that anything less than superior would be a disappointment. Second, while he still had receivers Aaron Hernandez and Riley Cooper, they were not Louis Murphy and Percy Harvin, and any team that loses Harvin is a team degraded.
His 2413 yards barely cracked the top 50 and were the lowest total in his 3 years starting at UF. Same can be said for his 18 TD (39th in the nation), which is far lower than the 30 he had last season. Always known as a great running QB, his 859 yards and 13 TD slightly better than last season’s 12 rushing TDs, but a huge drop from ‘07’s 23 rushing TDs. His 25 sacks this year clearly hurt him as well.
Against Alabama in the SEC Championship, Tebow had one of the worst games of his career. While he went 20-for-35 for 247 yards, he had only one TD with one INT. His 7.06 YPA was the 3rd worst of the year. His 76.7 passer rating was also his 3rd worst of the season. He rushed for 63 yards and 0 TD.
Had he put up typical Tebow numbers and beaten Alabama, we’d be having a whole different conversation right now. We’d probably still be talking about him as the greatest college football player to ever play the game. As it is, he’ll be lucky to finish 3rd in the balloting this year.
DEFENSIVE TACKLE – SENIOR
No defensive player has made it as a Heisman finalist since `1997, and he won the award that year. That was Charles Woodson from the Michigan Wolverines. Cornhuskers tackle Ndamukong Suh is good, very very good in fact. But probably not good enough to win.
This season he has 83 tackles (tops in the nation for a DT) and 12 sacks (3rd in the nation at any position). His performance during the Big 12 Championship Game very nearly singlehandedly won the game for Nebraska as he recorded a ridiculous 12 tackles and 4 ½ sacks that day. At the very least, he can say that he probably cost Colt McCoy the Heisman Award.
While Suh may not win the award, his very appearance in New York this weekend will do plenty for a position that has long been ignored at awards time.
PREDICTION: 2009 HEISMAN AWARD WINNER
MARK INGRAM – ALABAMA