Sunday, December 11, 2005

College Football Grab Bag

The Heisman Trophy
It's no surprise that Reggie Bush took home the hardware, but most people weren't expecting this big of a runaway win. Reggie took home nearly 85% of the first place votes, the second highest tally ever next to fellow Trojan Running Back O.J. Simpson.

Reggie is a phenomenal player who put up great numbers all year (nearly 9 yards per rush!) Most importantly, he's already joined the elite group of Spectacular, Breathtaking Players to Watch that I've witnessed in my lifetime. That group is limited to Barry Sanders, Michael Vick, and Bo Jackson. Welcome to the club Mr. Bush. I've always thought that awards like this should go beyond mere statistics and consider intangibles like this. Every time Reggie touched the ball, you got the feeling he was going to do something special. Players like that don't come along very often.

That being said, both Vince Young and Matt Leinart would have been deserving selections as well. I do want to know who saw fit to give first place votes to Michael Robinson, Drew Olsen, and DeAngelo Williams.

As a final story, I was on the road during the Heisman Trophy presentation, listening to coverage on a Newsradio station in Moncton, New Brunswick. They were carrying the ESPN radio feed, which was awesome, but inexplicably decided to cut to a 6 minute local commercial block right before the announcement. Oh, but they were back in time for the ESPN news update at the top of the hour. Ugh. Suffice to say, I have a new least favorite radio station. I can't think of anything they could have done to aggravate me any more than that.

The Maxwell Award
Considered the second most prestigious 'player of the year award', the voters for the Maxwell continued the 21st Century trend of picking a different winner than the Heisman electorate, which is surprising since there was a consensus selection 8 out of 10 years in the '90s. This year, Vince Young edged out Reggie Bush to win the award.

Since this is the 6th Year in a row that we've had different recipients of the Heisman and the Maxwell, I decided to try and find out why - starting with figuring out who the voters are for each.

The Heisman electorate is made up primarily of sportswriters. While it's difficult to figure out exactly who is voting, the Heisman Trophy website has a detailed explanation of how the voters are chosen. I then checked out the Maxwell Football Club home page in hopes of finding out who casts a ballot for their award. The best I could find was a mention that College Head Coaches, Sportswriters and Sportscasters, and members of the Maxwell Football Club get to vote, but there was nothing more specific than that. However, it appears that anyone can buy a membership in the club, and that voting for the award is a privilege of membership. This is great news. If you don't think that I'm buying a membership so I can vote for next year's award, then you're crazy.

The Heisman vs The Maxwell
Given the discrepancy in terms of 'Player of the Year' selections, I thought it would be fun to compare the picks of the two organizations. There haven't been very many dominant college players (until the Trojan dynasty began) this decade, so the discrepancy shouldn't be too surprising. The last consensus winner was Ron Dayne in 1999, so let's examine the picks from the past 6 years.

Heisman (Maxwell Ranking in Brackets)
2000 Chris Weinke, QB, Florida State (n/a)
2001 Eric Crouch, QB, Nebraska (n/a)
2002 Carson Palmer, QB, USC (n/a)
2003 Jason White, QB, Oklahoma (n/a)
2004 Matt Leinart, QB, USC (2nd)
2005 Reggie Bush, RB, USC (2nd)

Maxwell (Heisman Rank in Brackets)
2000 Drew Brees, QB, Purdue (3rd)
2001 Ken Dorsey, QB, Miami (3rd)
2002 Larry Johnson, RB, Penn State (3rd)
2003 Eli Manning, QB, Ole Miss (3rd)
2004 Jason White, QB, Oklahoma (3rd)
2005 Vince Young, QB, Texas (2nd)

I don't think any of the choices were terrible on either count, except for Jason White winning the Maxwell in 2004 when Adrian Peterson was clearly the best, and most valuable player on that Sooners team. I think Reggie was the best player in college football this year, but Vince Young would be deserving in any other year, and isn't a terrible choice. Prior to 2003, the only year where the Heisman made a better choice was in 2001 - since Crouch was the catalyst of the Huskers offense while Dorsey was more a beneficiary of playing with a great offense at Miami. In other words, he was Gino Torretta Part 2. Brees was a better college QB than Weinke, while Palmer and Johnson were both very deserving in 2002. White is another guy who benefited from a great college system, so Manning was a better pick in 2003. The Heisman has redeemed itself with Leinart and Bush the past two years, so we'll call it a wash for the decade so far in terms of who made a better selection.

The Rest of the Award Winners
Most of my picks didn't end up picking up the hardware, but I don't think any of the choices were terrible. I don't have much else to add, but you can check out a full list of the recipients .

Gary Barnett
I don't blame the Buffs for firing him. The Colorado program has declined during his 7 year tenure, and really only had 2 big moments, which happened to occur 8 days apart. The first was the 62-24 trashing of then undefeated Nebraska on Thanksgiving Weekend 2001 - the game that was the beginning of the end of the Big Red Machine, eventually leading to the shocking move to drop the Option offense. A week later, they upset Texas in the Big 12 title game - which, as an aside, they probably wouldn't have won had Texas opted to start the immortal Major Applewhite instead of Chris Simms. Instead, Major came in to try and rally the Horns once Colorado had built up a lead, but came a couple of points short. Anyway, that win led to the Buffs missing out on playing in the National Title game by about 0.000002 BCS points (Nebraska edged them out), and instead they went to the Fiesta Bowl and got blown out by Joey Heisman and the Oregon Ducks. They haven't had a relevant moment since. A series of off the field scandals overshadowed their play on the field, which wasn't hard. The Big 12 North is one of the weakest division in 1-A football, and Colorado failed to take advantage of that. When you're losing 2-3 Conference Games a year when most of your schedule consists of Iowa State and the Kansas teams, it's time to reevaluate the program.

When Bill McCartney left a decade ago, the Buffs were a perennial Top 10 team, National Title contender, and were consistently producing skilled players to send to the NFL. Through the Neuheisel and Barnett years, they've dropped off on all counts. Aside from Chris Brown, I can't think of a decent prospect the Buffs have sent to the NFL in years; they had one sniff of a National Title run during the Barnett era, and have failed to compete with the big boys in the Big 12. Barnett had his chances, and it was time for a change in Boulder. A 30-3 loss at home to 7-4 Nebraska, then a 70-3 loss to a Texas team that stopped trying at halftime shows how far the once mighty have fallen. Let's hope they can find someone to right the ship starting next year.


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