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In the bag?

OSU's Smith may have already locked up the Heisman

Posted: Thursday October 19, 2006 2:15PM; Updated: Thursday October 19, 2006 2:55PM
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Unless Ohio St. loses, it's difficult to see anyone but Troy Smith winning the Heisman.
Unless Ohio St. loses, it's difficult to see anyone but Troy Smith winning the Heisman.
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I had lunch in Los Angleles earlier this week with none other than the Heisman Pundit, the brain behind the Heismandments and the man who handicaps the race each year for college football's "most outstanding" player on his indispensable HeismanPundit.com.

The Pundit prefers to remain nameless, although I can tell you that he used to work at Southern California, and believes the Trojans offensive doldrums are the manifestation of a kind of time-delayed hangover resulting from the departure of Norm Chow.

We met at the Starbucks just off the USC campus. HP had an Odwalla orange juice and a chicken sandwich. I went with my usual tall cappuccino, semi-dry. It wasn't like getting an audience with the Dalai Lama, but it was enlightening.

The Pundit awarded this year's September Heisman -- given to the best player through the first month of the season -- to Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith. That sounds swell, until he fills me in on the background of the award. Previous winners of the September Heisman have been USC's Matt Leinart (last season), Purdue's Kyle Orton ('04), Michigan's Chris Perry ('03) and Iowa State's Seneca Wallace ('02). No winner of the September Heisman Interim Trophy -- that's my more formal name for it; the acronym hints at its worth -- has ever gone on to win the real door jamb.

Smith is looking like the exception. Noting that the savvy senior has passed for 1,495 yards, 17 touchdowns and just two interceptions, and has a passing efficiency rating of 172.8, the Pundit is prepared to hand him the award today: "Smith is the quarterback on the No. 1 team and as long as the Buckeyes remain undefeated, he will be your next Heisman winner.

What has to happen for someone else -- say, Notre Dame's Brady Quinn -- to have a chance? First of all, says HP, Smith needs to stink up the joint in a bad loss to Michigan on Nov. 18. It isn't enough that Quinn keep putting up big numbers in Fighting Irish victories. The Man from Dublin (Ohio) needs help: "Notre Dame needs for USC to keep winning in order to set up a hugely-hyped matchup on Nov. 25, [in which] Quinn must produce a masterful performance in a Notre Dame win over USC," says HP.

What sublime reversal that would be for Domer Nation: a Notre Dame player using the Trojans as a springboard for his Heisman aspirations, rather than the other way around.

What I don't like about the handicapping for this trophy is the hurry in which the Pundit and his ilk seem to be to kick certain candidates off Heisman Island (coinage: SI.com's Gene Menez); the urgency they feel to declare candidacies DOA.

These are the people telling me I'm supposed to forget about Garrett Wolfe, now, just because the Northern Illinois Comet was held to 25 yards on 18 carries by Western Michigan. So what if he had a bad game. The guy still leads the nation with 195 rushing yards per game. West Virginia's Steve Slaton, in second place, is 40 yards back.

"OK, OK," said the Pundit, relenting slightly. "Northern Illinois has Temple this weekend. If Wolfe goes for 400 against the Owls, he's back in the mix."

Piece of cake, right, Garrett? Don't thank me for salvaging your Heisman hopes, kid. Just get a good night's sleep on Friday.

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