The BCS poll is in full swing and the college football season is starting its second half downward descent. While players are doing everything they can to ensure wins for their team on the field, college football writers across the country are starting to feel the Heisman crunch. In recent years the races have been a little more clear cut than this season, with the likes of Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush and Troy Smith separating themselves from the pack. Of course, the fact that they were not only putting up big numbers, but the fact that their teams were some of the best in the country helped a lot with the voters as well.
This season has been interesting thus far in that no player has really distinguished themselves from the rest of the candidates. Other potential winners are being hurt by either their team’s poor performance, or lack of name recognition. Taking all of these factors into consideration, here is run down of the top Heisman hopefuls and how they stack up.
Tim Tebow – Florida
This was a big weekend for Tebow and the Gators. Not only did a win over Kentucky bring Florida back up to 11th in the BCS rankings, but the sophomore quarterback threw for four touchdowns and ran for one more. Tebow’s numbers alone are enough to put him in the Heisman picture. He is on pace for just under 3,000 passing yards, over 800 rushing yards, and will likely end up close to 40 total touchdowns. Add in the fact that Florida is still very much in the hunt for an SEC title, well that all adds up to some hardware at the end of the season for Tebow.
Matt Ryan – Boston College
Much like his team has done, Matt Ryan has snuck up on a lot of people this season. Despite being projected as the top quarterback in the ACC coming into the season, and probably one of the most NFL ready quarterbacks in the nation, Ryan wasn’t getting much press early on. Now with the Eagles ranked second in the BCS polls, Ryan is suddenly at or near the top of everyone’s list. He has been a steady, efficient presence of the field all season long, completing 63.2% of his passes, and having thrown only 6 interceptions in seven games. While his projected 29 touchdown passes won’t blow anyone away, his 3,682 passing yards and 137.02 quarterback rating will certainly draw some attention. If the Eagles wind up running the table and appearing in the BCS National Championship game, the odds are very much in Ryan’s favor to bring home the Heisman.
In the Hunt
Andre’ Woodson – Kentucky
Talk about a guy who really wasn’t getting any press before the season. Woodson put up phenomenal numbers last season, topping 3,500 yards passing and 30 touchdowns, yet everyone was shocked when both he and Kentucky started making noise this season. Woodson is back at it again this year. While he isn’t on pace to equal his yardage numbers of last season, he is projected to throw nearly 40 touchdown passes. As great of a season as Woodson is having, he is one of those players whose chances of winning the trophy are directly connected to how his team is fairing. The Wildcats are still very much alive in the beyond crowded SEC East, but they still have Georgia and Tennessee on their schedule, and Georgia is on the road. If for some reason Florida should falter down the stretch, and in combination with some other breaks Woodson can guide the ‘Cats into a showdown for the SEC title, he will at the least get an invitation to New York at the end of the season.Odds: 10-1
Dennis Dixon – Oregon
Here is another player that has quietly been putting together a Heisman worthy season. Dixon has huge offensive numbers so far (1,721 passing yards, 16 touchdowns, 423 rushing yards, 7 touchdowns) and he’s been doing it in a tough conference. Next to the SEC, the Pac-10 can lay claim to having the toughest competition around. Dixon has two big things going for him right now. First, Oregon is fifth in the BCS polls right now, and in great position to find itself playing in a BCS bowl in January. Dixon is also helped by the fact that he has already put together a couple of signature games, which are huge. At the end of the season, voters will certainly remember his 27-36, 367 yard, 4 touchdown performance in a win over Stanford. They will also probably remember his 21-28, 287 yard, 3 touchdown performance in the Ducks win over Washington. The fact that Dixon is an electric runner (5.6 yards per rush) doesn’t hurt matters either.
Darren McFadden – Arkansas
You almost have to feel bad for McFadden. Here was the preseason Heisman favorite who was supposed to lead Arkansas to a great year in the SEC. Instead the Razorbacks are 1-3 in conference play and their star back is seeing his name slide down the voters list. Even with a 1-2 start to the season, McFadden was still posting great numbers. In his first three games he was averaging 173 rushing yards per game and had scored 4 touchdowns. Since week three though McFadden has only scored 3 more touchdowns, has seen his yards per game drop to 103, and hit rock bottom when ran for only 43 yards in a 9-7 loss to Auburn. With all the bad that has happened, how is McFadden still in the race you ask? Being preseason favorite in the Heisman race is huge; sometimes having a solid season and just being the choice early on is enough to still get you to the top three. McFadden is falling though, so a big late season push from both him and Arkansas will do a lot to right his ship.
Colt Brennan – Hawaii
While this season won't match last year's absurd 5,549 yards and 58 touchdowns, Brennan is still having himself a fine season. Sure he throws the football a lot (see 61 passes vs. Louisiana Tech and 75 passes vs. San Jose State), but the kid does put up the numbers to back it up. He’s second in the nation in total offense and currently has a QB rating of 157.16. Another thing that voters love to see is a zero in the loss column for Hawaii. Sure they haven’t been playing the same kind of schedule that any of the BCS conference teams do, but there is still something to be said for a team that doesn’t lose. While it is very unlikely that Brennan will even be invited to New York for the Heisman presentation, his name does at least deserve to be mentioned in the race.
Mike Hart – Michigan
There’s something to be said for grit and determination. Hart and the Wolverines never lost hope after starting out 0-2, and here they are now six weeks later at 6-2 and moving up the BCS poll. Hart is on pace right now for his best season ever, and has already topped 1,000 yards rushing. He isn’t the most electric player, and he isn’t going to put up earth-shattering statistics, but Hart is a great player and his team is playing great football. Sometimes, though, all you need is solid play and a winning team, and your name starts popping up in discussions.
Just Missed the Cut
Ray Rice – Rutgers
DeSean Jackson – Cal
Chase Daniel - Missouri