This is not the easiest year to craft a Heisman ballot, at least not the way it should be done. As I've said before, the Heisman is becoming too much like the MVP award, and the MVP is becoming too much like the Heisman. Remember that the Heisman Award is supposed to go to "the most outstanding college football player in the United States." There is no reference there to how valuable you are to your team. There's not even a suggestion that your team has to be very good. The winner has to "the most outstanding." That's a tall order for anyone to fill.
Which is why I get distressed when I hear people touted for the award because his team is great and "they just couldn't do it without him." If the numbers back up that player being the most outstanding, fine. But his team's achievements shouldn't be as important to a candidate's chances as they are.
That said, they can't be discounted either. Which is why you have to at least look at Colt McCoy -- until you realize that he's having either his worst or second-worst statistical year and has nearly disappeared in three of his team's biggest games (Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Nebraska). Because showing up for the big games does matter if you're going to be most outstanding.
Showing up for almost all the games also matters. It's not just enough to be good overall; you need to have games where you shine. Just because your team's achievements aren't central to the award doesn't mean the ability to carry a team, either in victory or defeat, isn't something we should look for in a Heisman candidate.
But the overall numbers are a good place to start. I've chosen a few players from several different categories to consider. The choices aren't that easy to make; there are a lot of good football players in the NCAA -- and I threw in Tim Tebow because this is an SEC blog and so he has to at least be considered.
First, the quarterbacks.
Your going to want to click that for a larger version because it's got a lot of good info in there. For those unfamiliar with PEPCT (pass efficiency percentage), it's a new stat I'm still tweaking that measures a quarterbacks performance against defenses based on those defenses' normal pass efficiency numbers. And we should note that Tebow also has 859 rushing yards and 13 TDs on the ground.
But even if you add the rushing yards, Tebow just hasn't produced as much as Kellen Moore or Jimmy Clausen. The touchdown numbers would move him past Clausen, but he's thrown almost as twice as many picks as Clausen in comparison to the number of attempts. The numbers just don't support a Heisman candidacy this year.
Still, let's look at how players tended to do on a week-by-week basis.
You're not reading that incorrectly; Tim Tebow has passed for 250 or more yards in one game (Arkansas) all season long. Yes, I realize that Tebow is a running quarterback; but you should have to throw the ball for more than 250 yards more than once in a season to be a Heisman contender.
Not that there's nothing wrong with the other two contenders. It was hard to come up with a "signature" game for either -- their best games came either against weak opponents or when their teams lost, and like McCoy they sometimes had subpar outings in important games. For example, Moore's numbers aren't terrible against Oregon, but it was still his worst game statistically. And Clausen's "signature" game was against a team that defeated Notre Dame.
I'll choose Kellen Moore as the best of the quarterbacks.
Running backs overall.
It's harder to adjust statistically for defenses with running backs than with quarterbacks, though I'm working on a couple of possible ways to do it. In any case, here are a few things that I found interesting about this chart. First, Mark Ingram is undeniably the best per carry by more than a half-yard. Second, he has the edge in receiving yards. But look at Gerhart's touchdown numbers; they are absurd. He essentially scored every twelfth time he ran the ball. Dion Lewis was very good, but he just can't quite compare with what Ingram and Gerhart did overall.
Here is where Ingram's candidacy takes a little bit of a hit. Three times he rushed the ball for fewer than 75 yards, a mark that Gerhart and Lewis never falled to make. Even against the defenses of the SEC, the "most outstanding" should do better than that -- especially at rival Auburn with a chance at an undefeated season on the line.
Gerhart was more consistent by far this year, and his worst game seems just a little bit better than the others. Sure, it was against Wake Forest, but at least it wasn't against Navy.
So Toby Gerhart gets first place among the running backs, with Mark Ingram a close enough second to warrant further consideration later.
I've never understood why wide receivers don't get more consideration than they do for the award. So let's take a look at some of the better wideouts this year.
How hard was it for an SEC fan to include two Notre Dame players on his list of potential Heisman candidates? I don't want to talk about it.
But Golden Tate had an outstanding year. Look at that touchdown percentage and the yards per catch. With 45 fewer catches than Freddie Barnes against tougher competition, he had just 55 fewer receiving yards. Another 14 receptions for Danario Alexander only earned him 148 additional yards. The edge is resoundingly to Tate among the players I looked at here.
This is where Alexander and Barnes fall off the table to me. Both have more games with fewer than 75 yards than Tate and were far worse in their worst outings. (Though one becomes more and more curious as to how Notre Dame lost to Stanford. Oh, that's right. They had to play defense.)
So the best wideout of the group appears to be Golden Tate.
Finally, we have to look at defenders and examine this hype about Nebraska's Ndouopiufdsoia Suh, or something like that.
Dr. Saturday is the one who got me to consider Brandon Graham. And you've never heard of Von Miller at Texas A&M, who was completely off my radar until I started looking through the numbers. I know you've heard of Ndamukong Suh, because you probably watch football on ESPN and they mention his name almost as frequently as McCoy's.
All three of these players are very good, and consider that Suh was probably double-teamed more than any defensive lineman in the country. Even so, based purely on the statistics, you have to give Miller the edge here.
If you thought that Suh was almost unstoppable against Texas in the Big XII Championship Game, you were right. Four and a half sacks among six tackles for loss and 11 overall. Nothing Graham or Miller did all year can come close to matching that.
Counting all of those things and throwing in some of those "intangibles," I have to go with Ndamukong Suh as the defensive candidate.
Leaving us with:
One of these names is really in a different league from the others -- literally -- and that's Moore. He had a great year for Boise State, but playing in any midmajor save the Mountain West isn't quite like playing in a BCS conference. For consideration, you need to put up laughable numbers, and Moore's not quite there.
The next cut is tough, but I'm removing Golden Tate. That's hard, because I really wanted to see him at least get considered. He is, though, on a 6-6 team that not's going to a bowl game. Gerhart was on the best Stanford team in years, Ingram helped win an SEC Championship and Suh led the Cornhuskers to a Big XII North title. Again, the team's season can't be the central point. But we're getting to the point here where hair-splitting is all that's left.
So the top three are Gerhart, Ingram and Suh. Not terribly original. But the idea here is not to be surprising or creative; it's to find the best. Find me better than any of those three at their positions. I don't think it can be done.
We're allowed three names for the final ballot. So I now have to put them in order. This is the hardest part, because I honestly think any one of these players is more than deserving.
But Ingram disappeared one time too many. And as good as Suh was for Nebraska this year -- and as scared as I'd be to tell him this to his face -- the numbers put up by Toby Gerhart are almost incomparable. Gerhart it is.
1. Toby Gerhart
2. Mark Ingram
3. Ndamukong Suh