Posted: Monday December 4, 2006 3:36PM; Updated: Monday December 4, 2006 3:36PM
How does Troy Smith compare to the fraternity of players that he is about to join?
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The No. 1 spot in this final Heisman Watch of the year has been locked up since even before Troy Smith's four-touchdown performance against Michigan. But now that the season's over and Smith's crowning as the "most outstanding college football player in the United States for 2006" is imminent, the question is: How does Smith's season compare with recent Heisman winners' campaigns?
From a statistical standpoint, he ranks alongside '86 winner Vinny Testaverde (2,557 passing yards, 26 TDs), '92 winner Gino Torretta (3,060 yards, 19 TDs), '93 winner Charlie Ward (3,032 yards, 27 TDs) and '04 winner Matt Leinart (2,990 yards, 28 TDs). For Smith's sake, let's hope he turns out better than both Torretta and Ward, whose lack of NFL success (Ward didn't even try to play in the NFL) have made people question, unfairly, their credibility as Heisman winners over the years. To all those who read the Watch this year, I send you my thanks and my condolences. As far as I know, I still have eligibility remaining, so, as long as the boss will let me, I plan to return next year. I hope you will too.
1. Troy Smith, Ohio State, QB, Sr.
Last week: Idle Season: 199-of-297 passing, 2,507 yards, 30 TDs, 5 INTs; 62 rushes, 233 yards, 1 TD Heisman-o-meter: Many have e-mailed over the course of the season claiming that Smith is just "the best player on the best team," not the best player in college football. I disagree. Smith has excelled in every aspect I want a Heisman winner to excel: He has been productive against top competition (31 total touchdowns). He has shined in his team's biggest games (585 passing yards and six touchdowns versus only one interception against Texas and Michigan). He has demonstrated superior athletic skills. (Touchdown passes against Penn State and Indiana come to mind.) And, maybe most importantly for a quarterback, he has won. A landslide winner.
2. Brady Quinn, Notre Dame, QB, Sr.
Last week: Idle Season: 274-of-432 passing, 3,278 yards, 35 TDs, 5 INTs; 79 rushes, 65 yards, 2 TDs Heisman-o-meter: This column's preseason favorite flopped in the Week 3 loss to Michigan and spent the rest of the season inhaling Smith's exhaust. Still, Quinn had a remarkable year, throwing for 35 touchdowns (second best in the country) versus just five interceptions while often scrambling for his life behind an offensive line that wasn't nearly as nasty as it was last year. But he was 0-2 in the Irish's two biggest games of the season, and that stat is the one that will keep him from surpassing Smith. In April, Quinn will certainly be drafted ahead of Smith, and he may end up having a better pro career than the Buckeyes' quarterback. But being the better pro prospect will have to be Quinn's consolation.
3. Darren McFadden, Arkansas, RB, Soph.
Last week: 21 rushes, 73 yards; 1-of-3 passing, 2 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT; 2 receptions, 27 yards in a 38-28 loss against No. 4 Florida Season: 265 rushes, 1,558 yards, 14 TDs; 6-of-8 passing, 72 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT; 11 receptions, 149 yards, 1 TD; 8 kickoff returns, 226 yards, 1 TD Heisman-o-meter: A number of candidates -- Hawaii's Colt Brennan, Michigan's Mike Hart, Rutgers' Ray Rice, West Virginia's Steve Slaton -- received consideration for the runner-up to the runner-up spot, but McFadden prevailed for two main reasons: his absurd athletic ability and his performance against the toughest defenses in the country. It can be argued that no player this year impacted games in more ways than McFadden, who was a rushing, passing, receiving and kickoff returning back of all trades. And while other running backs can boast having better numbers over the course of the season, none of them went for 145 yards and one touchdown against Auburn and 182 and two scores against LSU. (I'm willing to grade his 73-yard effort in the SEC Championship game leniently since he tweaked an ankle early in the game). If the Hogs can successfully replace three senior starters on the offensive line, McFadden may just be No. 1 on this list next year.