Never mind White's title-game stumble -- he's still No. 1
Updated: Thursday December 11, 2003 11:20AM
By Luke Winn, SI.com
Last week in this space, I tried to spell out the ways Jason White could open the door in the Heisman race. The first: If -- and it seemed like an enormous if -- he managed to slip up against Kansas State in the Big 12 championship game.
Well, he slipped. Had one of his worst games of the season, in fact, throwing more interceptions (2) than touchdowns (0) for the first time.
And still, the kid stays in the picture. Much like his Sooners team, which lost its final game but remained No. 1 in the BCS, White keeps his No. 1 spot in the final Heisman Watch. Why?
I had White ranked ahead of the only other realistic contender, Larry Fitzgerald, before Fitz had a similarly disappointing regular-season finale on Nov. 29, catching just three balls for 26 yards. White's mediocre final showing canceled out Fitzgerald's ... but still left the Sooners QB in the lead.
Even with those two interceptions against K-State, White finished with a stunning 40 touchdowns against just eight INTs. That stat, combined with his completion percentage and record, makes White not only the most deserving player this season, but possibly the most impressive Heisman quarterback in the past 10 years.
Think about this: Had White, Carson Palmer, Eric Crouch, Chris Weinke and Danny Wuerffel all been playing college football at the same time, White probably would have beaten them out for the sport's most prestigious award. The stats, please:
Remember, this is but one look at the race. Here, White's the man; when the hardware is handed out Saturday, the vote is bound to be extremely close, with either him, Fitzgerald or Eli Manning as the winner.
1. Jason White, QB, Oklahoma, Sr.
Last game (vs. Kansas State): 27-of-50 passing, 298 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs in 35-7 loss
Manning may be the better story and a much higher NFL Draft pick, but White was the better quarterback this season. It would be understandable if White fell to Fitzgerald, but a shame if he lost to Manning.
2. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Pittsburgh, Soph.
Last game (vs. Miami, Nov. 29): 3 catches, 26 yards, TD in 28-14 loss
In the name of fairness, I beg you to read Tim Layden's column from Friday -- he made a good case for Fitzgerald even before White stumbled.
3. Matt Leinart, QB, USC, Soph.
Last week (vs. Oregon State): 22-of-38 passing, 278 yards, 5 TDs, 2 INTs in 52-38 win
Shift some of that "USC-didn't-make-the-Sugar-Bowl" sympathy over to Leinart, who most likely won't get invited to New York despite an incredible run to close the season: 25 TDs and just two INTs in his past seven games.
4. Chris Perry, RB, Michigan, Sr.
Last game (vs. Michigan): 31 carries, 154 yards, 2 TDs in 35-21 win
Perry, unlike Leinart, will be on hand for Saturday's ceremony. But like Leinart, he has no chance of winning. Fourth place will be a reasonable consolation prize for this workhorse.
5. Darren Sproles, RB, Kansas State, Jr.
Last week (vs. Oklahoma): 22 carries, 235 yards in 35-7 win
The spritely Sproles went on a tear in his final five games, rushing for 1,004 of his 1,948 yards. Sad to see Philip Rivers pushed out of the top five, but when someone runs roughshod over the most respected defense in the nation, as Sproles did against the Sooners, he deserves recognition.
Philip Rivers, QB, N.C. State, Sr.: Blame Sproles.
Eli Manning, QB, Ole Miss, Sr.: To the angry folks who wrote in accusing the Heisman Watch of anti-Manning "bias," there is no bias. I tried, I tried, but I just couldn't make myself believe that Manning had a better season than White, Leinart or Rivers. It's as simple as that.
B.J. Symons, QB, Texas Tech, Sr.: He can take solace in the fact his name will be etched in the NCAA record book for years to come. It's not a trophy, but it's not bad.