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November 16, 2007 With Oregon moving up into a top 2 BCS slot this weekend thanks to Illinois, the wide-open Heisman race of 2007 apparently now has a front-runner. Ducks QB Dennis Dixon has indeed been an impressive threat in the mold of Vince Young and Troy Smith, but the country gives him too much credit for leading a top BCS team. Certainly that is an important part of the mix and Louisville QB Brian Brohm loses consideration based on a 5-5 record, but the real Heisman front-runner should be Tim Tebow. If the Heisman is granted to college football’s best player, part of that mix must be who is the most valuable player to their team. There’s no doubt in this category that Tim Tebow is the one.

[Editor's Note: This article was written prior to Oregon's loss to Arizona Thursday night.]

Tebow’s statistics prove how important he is to the Florida Gator team, currently 7-3 and 5-3 in the SEC. Tebow is completing 67.8% of his passes this season as a sophomore, leading to 2532 passing yards and 23 touchdowns against just 5 interceptions. His QB rating has been above 140 every single game this season, with the exception of a moderate outing against national title leader LSU (12/26 for 158 yards passing, 2 TD, 1 INT, and a 115 QB rating). Tebow also leads the Gators in rushing this season, running the ball 170 times for 718 yards and an astounding 19 touchdowns. Those 19 rushing touchdowns broke the SEC records for rushing by a quarterback and the Florida rushing record for touchdowns in a season, held by a little someone called Emmitt Smith. All of this has happened while Tebow nurses a sore shoulder as well. With all the talent Florida lost off their national title team last season, Tim Tebow is the only thing keeping that program afloat in a rough SEC East.

So what stands against what seems to be such a clear-cut winner? First, there are some problems with him. Florida has three losses, and this leaves a very narrow margin of error since the Heisman goes to a skill player on a top team. Still, the three losses Florida has are all respectable (LSU, Georgia, Auburn) and Tebow played well in all those losses. Another point against Tebow is his status as a sophomore and first-year starter. Generally Heisman winners have to be on the radar from their performance in previous years and the award is limited to upperclassmen almost entirely. There’s nothing Tebow can do about this problem, but why should he have to wait one year to win the accolades he deserves now? Only time will tell if Heisman voters wise up to this reality. If Tebow gets some real support from Urban Meyer’s new recruits the next two years and does not put up the best numbers in the country again, how is it fair to deny him this award based solely on when he had his monster year? There are other reasons he may not win the award, and those come in other contenders.

First and foremost, we must deal with Dennis Dixon of Oregon. Dixon does have a 67.9% completion rate with 2074 yards and 20 touchdowns against 3 interceptions. Unlike Tebow, Dixon has help at the running back and is only second on the team in rushing. Dixon has carried the ball 103 times for 549 yards and 8 touchdowns. Dixon has very typical numbers for an efficient running quarterback, and the numbers are shockingly close to last year’s winner Troy Smith. Still, having RB Jonathan Stewart and the WR duo of Jaison Williams and Ed Dickson makes any quarterback look tons better (think of how bad Troy Smith looked when you took away Ted Ginn last season, leaving him with only Antonio Pittman and Anthony Gonzalez for support). Dixon is the media “front-runner” because of the good BCS position and the likeness to last year’s winner. Tebow has much better numbers overall and carries the best three-loss team in the country in the SEC, which is far more important than Dixon is to the Ducks. This may be a close call, but it is certainly not a blowout for Dixon.

Arkansas RB Darren McFadden will certainly make the trip to New York for the Heisman ceremony this season, mostly on the efforts of last season. McFadden has carried the ball 244 times for 1431 yards and 12 touchdowns, but what has killed his Heisman hopes is the emergence of backup RB Felix Jones (1032 yards and 11 TD). Also taking McFadden out of the mix is the four loss season Arkansas is suffering through, which is bound to get worse with LSU coming up to close the season. McFadden has not even accounted for a third of the Arkansas scoring this season, so Tebow is more important to his team. Given that Florida has a better record in the same conference and the lack of monster numbers, McFadden falls short.

If there’s one player in the country who can compete for the title of most important player to his team, it would be Hawaii QB Colt Brennan. Brennan has been putting up passing numbers worthy of my Xbox quarterbacks who throw every down, and he accounts for over 80% of Hawaii’s offense and scoring (68.9% completion rate, 3216 yards, 28 touchdowns against 12 interceptions). Hawaii is undefeated as well, and Brennan is a senior. Tebow has two things going for him that Brennan does not: a much higher efficiency as a quarterback and conference exposure/respect. Tebow has accounted for more yards than Brennan when adding rushing and throwing totals, and Tebow also is responsible for way more touchdowns and fewer than half the interceptions. Tebow also gets to carry the Gators on national television in the SEC every week, while Brennan beats up on WAC opponents very late at night every weekend. There’s no disputing Brennan is a special quarterback, but this is not even his best season. As a junior Brennan completed 72.6% of his passes for 5549 yards and 58 touchdowns against 12 interceptions. To match those numbers, Brennan would need 30 touchdowns, 2000 yards, and zero interceptions in his final three games. That’s not going to happen, so Tebow gets the edge here too.

With the Louisville Cardinals jumping back to tie the game at 31 last Thursday in Morgantown, West Virginia QB Patrick White forced his team down the field and finished the drive with a 51-yard touchdown run. This was a signature Heisman moment for a guy who has flown under the radar all season due to his teammate Steve Slaton. While Slaton was also considered seriously for the Heisman, Slaton’s injuries have taken him out of the mix (much like Michigan RB Mike Hart). White has run for almost as many yards as Slaton while saving the Mountaineers’ Big East hopes and national title aspirations. White is also an efficient passer when he needs to be, but his statistics pale horribly in comparison to Tebow’s. Again, White just does not have the perfect package to defeat Tebow in this race.

For all those reasons, Tim Tebow should clearly win the Heisman, especially if Florida wins out. He probably will not thanks to Dennis Dixon, but it seems clear that selecting anyone else would be a mistake when considering all the variables that supposedly go into the Heisman.

While on the subject of WVU, I would like to personally thank all the personnel at WVU including Mike M. who made the trip to Morgantown a great time. The game was great and working with fellow writers in the pressbox while the game was going on is an experience I will not soon tire of. Everything looks different from the press perspective, including the post-game interviews. The Morgantown fans also showed a lot of class for the game being a night game…best of all, parking is free at their basketball arena for football games. After getting robbed at Penn State to park farther away, the scene in Morgantown was refreshing. Looking forward to the experience at Ohio University next weekend!

The first game of the week is Boston College at Clemson, a battle for the ACC Atlantic Division crown. Boston College has lost two in a row to Florida State and Maryland after barely escaping Virginia Tech, while Clemson has recovered from a midseason two-game losing streak with four straight wins. Both offenses can crank out the points, but Clemson has a much more balanced attack and the better defense. Eagles QB Matt Ryan will try to salvage his slim Heisman hopes by improving on his 24 touchdowns while not adding to his 13 interceptions. Tiger QB Cullen Harper has been more efficient than Ryan, and sports better numbers (26 TD-4 INT ratio). RB James Davis and RB C.J. Spiller will challenge the Eagle defense in the toughest road environment in the conference (arguably). Clemson also has a settle to score after losing the past two year’s division crowns with overtime losses to BC. Clemson runs away with it this time, winning by 17.

The second game of the week is a battle to likely determine the Big East champion, West Virginia at Cincinnati. The Bearcats have two league losses and trail WVU and UConn by a game, but will likely win the conference with a victory here (Cincinnati only has to beat Syracuse and get WVU to sweep Pittsburgh and UConn to win the conference in a tiebreaker over UConn and WVU). West Virginia remains in control of their own destiny, but wins over their final three opponents are all necessary to reach the BCS. West Virginia’s defense is ranked fourth nationally, but they were exposed against a good offense last Thursday against Louisville. Cincinnati does not boast as good of an offense, but at home the Bearcats have been nearly impossible to stop. QB Ben Mauk will truly test the WVU secondary again, while the Bearcat defense will need to focus on what Patrick White is doing at all times. As long as Cincinnati adjusts defensively, there’s no reason to think WVU will run away with this game. On the contrary, I think the pressure on the road gets to WVU and the Bearcats pull an upset by 7.

The top game of the week is a usual suspect, Ohio State at Michigan. The de facto Big Ten Championship will determine an outright champion for the second straight season. Despite the stakes not being as high as last year (#1 vs. #2), outright Big Ten titles and Rose Bowl berths are nothing to sneeze at. Michigan rested injured QB Chad Henne and RB Mike Hart last week in a loss to Wisconsin, while the Buckeyes were shocked at home by a feisty Illinois team that always plays well against the Bucks. If it were not Michigan week, I would normally say OSU would have trouble getting over the devastating loss to Illinois. Still, this is a “rebuilding year” in Columbus and a Rose Bowl is still very important now that a loss likely drops the Buckeyes out of the BCS picture. QB Todd Boeckman has been very efficient with new superstar targets Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline to throw to, and RB Chris Wells has filled in nicely where Antonio Pittman left off last season. On the other side of the ball, the question will be how healthy Henne and Hart really are. Thankfully Michigan has capable experienced backups in QB Ryan Mallett and RB Brandon Minor, and great WR targets Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington. If Henne and Hart were healthy, this would be the kind of game Michigan would win. Unfortunately, the Sweater Vest has a hex on Michigan recently and his troops are much better defensively, as well as more healthy offensively. These rivalry games are always crazy and too close to call, but this year the Buckeyes should pull away from a fading Wolverine squad by 10.

GOTW Record to Date: 20-16 (.556)
Last Week: 2-1

Fitz Top 10 – Week 11
1. Kansas (10-0)
2. Oregon (9-1)
3. Oklahoma (9-1)
4. LSU (9-1)
5. Missouri (9-1)
6. West Virginia (9-1)
7. Ohio State (10-1)
8. Hawaii (9-0)
9. Arizona State (9-1)
10. Georgia (8-2)
Just Missed: Boise State, Texas, USC, Virginia Tech, Clemson

This will be the first time in 7 years I will not be seeing Michigan play Ohio State in person and the first time in many weeks I will not be seeing any college football live, so go out there and support your teams in my absence. This is crunch time and a fun time to debate BCS implications with 50,000 of your closest friends. Have a great week!

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