Saturday, December 13, 2008

The 2008 Heisman Finalist Breakdown

Here are my thoughts on the three finalists for the 2008 Heisman Trophy. I think all three are excellent athletes and was very impressed with them over the course of this season. Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree and quarterback Graham Harrell were also two guys I thought highly of who did not make it - and there are several more players who were probably in the conversation, but did not make the cut. Here are my thoughts on the three finalists.

Tim Tebow – Florida

Tebow has been here before, a fact that could prevent him from winning as much as help. Voters are just as likely to give someone else a shot since Tebow already became the first sophomore to ever win the award. Only one other player has ever won a pair of Heismans – Archie Griffin, running back for THE Ohio State Buckeyes won back to back in 1974 and 1975. Tebow’s numbers aren’t as gaudy as McCoy or Bradford’s. 2515 yards and 28 TDs almost seem pedestrian next to their numbers. But while he may not throw often, he also rarely makes mistakes and has just a pair of interceptions to his name. Tebow is also dangerous with his feet, running for 564 yards this season and totaling 12 touchdowns on the ground. More than anything, voters have to be impressed with his leadership – after losing to unranked Ole Miss (at home no less), Tebow stepped up and took responsibility for the loss. "You have never seen any player in the entire country play as hard as I will play the rest of this season," Tebow said afterwards. "And you'll never see someone push the rest of the team as hard as I will push everybody the rest of this season, and you'll never see a team play harder than we will the rest of this season." And push he did, playing near flawless football the following nine games and capping the season with three touchdowns and 216 yards in the victory over then #1 Alabama. He did it all season long and did it against some of the top defenses in college football.

Sam Bradford – Oklahoma

His numbers speak for themselves – 4464 yards, 48 TDs and just 6 interceptions are nothing to sneeze at. Bradford only threw for less than 300 yards once, in week 1 and was the signal caller for the highest-scoring offense ever. Bradford has phenomenal arm strength, is smart behind center and is cool under pressure. He waits for his shot, then takes it and makes it count. He’s also a tough competitor, isn’t afraid to take a hit on the very rare occasion he has to, and isn’t afraid to hold the ball long enough for a receiver to get open. Bradford piled up stat after impressive stat with efficiency and poise, all the while leading his team to the top of the BCS rankings and into the National Championship game.

Colt McCoy - Texas

There are a fair amount of people who are still lamenting Texas’ absence in the Big 12 Championship game and that may factor into the voting here. It shouldn’t need to. McCoy’s actions on the field more than support his presence here. His 3445 yards and 32 TDs are impressive enough, as is his durability (holds a school record for games as a starter at 31) and his ability to perform in the clutch (led 9 second half comebacks resulting in wins). He outshot co-finalist Sam Bradford back in October (one of the nine comeback wins) but one of his biggest come-backs in my mind was in a deafeningly loud Jones SBC Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. After a difficult first half, the Longhorns trailed 19-0 and then trailed again in the third, 29-13. But McCoy led drive after drive, chipping away at the Texas Tech lead, capping an 11play, 80 yard drive with a 6 yard scramble to the five yard line, setting up a Vondrell McGee touchdown. While the Longhorns lost that game, Colt McCoy willed that drive and showcased everything he needed to become a Heisman finalist.

My thoughts –

I would not be surprised with any of the three walking away with the award. I think McCoy has the biggest hill to climb. He’s tough and a gamer, but he faced very few top defenses and missing out on that Big 12 Championship game was unfortunate, especially with voters getting an extra look at Bradford and Tebow. He proved himself very tough, running the ball a ton, at what seems like half of Tebow’s size. On the other hand, Tebow has been here before which is good and bad. I think history has shown that the voters like to see some new faces win and that makes it tough to predict the Gator quarterback winning. He’s faced the toughest defenses of the trio and put the team on his back when needed. Bradford seems to fill most of the bills of a Heisman winner – he piles up the stats while his team wins it’s way to the BCS Championship game. Like Tebow, he is a leader and like McCoy, he is cool in the pocket and has nasty stats. In my mind, Bradford is likely the front runner for this award at this time.

As I said, no name called from that podium Saturday night will surprise me (Unless Graham Harrell wins. Which would be kinda odd.) and looking at this season I think all three have made excellent cases for themselves. If I had a vote – I think Bradford would get it. I like both other QBs but I think the Sooner quarterback showed all the tools a well-rounded and successful athlete should have. His athleticism, ability, poise and accuracy all were on display throughout the season and I was very impressed every time I watched him. I never felt like he was out of a game – like I did with McCoy in the first half of that Texas Tech loss – and I always felt like I was watching a quarterback who excelled at his position.

Taking away nothing from the other two, I think Sam Bradford should be the Heisman Trophy winner for this season. I am excited to find out who the actual voters think should be the guy Saturday night.

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