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Posted: Monday October 5, 2009 3:06PM; Updated: Monday October 5, 2009 4:37PM
Gene Menez Gene Menez >

Tebow, fellow Heisman contenders face major tests ahead

Story Highlights

Tim Tebow, if he even plays, needs a strong effort against No. 4 LSU on Saturday

Jimmy Clausen put on a show against Washington but now has to face USC

With Jahvid Best struggling recently, Toby Gerhart takes over as top RB

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Jimmy Clausen
Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen threw for 422 yards and two touchdowns in Saturday's overtime win over Washington.

Heisman 2009

Gene Menez's Mailbag
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If you haven't paid much attention to the Heisman Trophy race, don't fret. It's about to get really interesting. Over the next two weeks, many of the top contenders will face major tests, ones that have a huge impact on their chances to carry the stiff-armed statuette in December. And after these two weeks, The Watch will crown its annual Halfway Heisman winner. Alas, a trip to New York will not be included for the recipient.

1. QB Tim Tebow, Sr., Florida

Last week: Idle

Season: 44-of-68 passing, 643 yards, 6 TDs, 1 INT; 55 rushes, 271 yards, 5 TDs

Heisman-o-meter: Come Saturday, you'll probably sick of the 24/7 coverage devoted to the will-he-or-won't-he-play storyline following Tebow. On Monday, Gators coach Urban Meyer acknowledged the quarterback has been free of post-concussion symptoms for several days, but Tebow had yet to be cleared to play. And while The Watch has no idea if he will take the field next Saturday, we can definitively say that his Heisman hopes will take a hit if he doesn't. The LSU matchup figures to be the landmark game on Florida's schedule, and, without it, Tebow would have to assemble a Heisman résumé based on performances against Georgia and South Carolina (and possibly the SEC Championship game). Would that be enough? Maybe. But having a good effort against LSU would make his case much stronger.

Up next: Saturday at No. 4 LSU

2. QB Jimmy Clausen, Jr., Notre Dame

Last week: 23-of-31 passing, 422 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT; 8 rushes, minus-32 yards in a 37-30 victory over Washington

Season: 100-of-148 passing, 1,544 yards, 12 TDs, 2 INTs; 23 rushes, minus-45 yards

Heisman-o-meter: After Clausen moved up to No. 2 last week, a slew of Clausen haters wrote in to ridicule the ranking. But on Saturday, the quarterback continued his virtually spotless play this season with another fourth-quarter comeback. Still hampered with that turf toe injury on his right foot (but looking much better physically than he did against Purdue), Clausen completed 4-of-4 passes for 57 yards on the Irish's last drive of regulation, taking advantage of 6-foot-6 tight end Kyle Rudolph on the go-ahead touchdown pass with 1:20 left. Clausen wasn't perfect; he threw a backward pass that was returned for touchdown, he was intercepted once (though Armando Allen should never have let that pass bounce off his hands). Not to mention, Golden Tate's fleet feet were responsible for much of Clausen's 422 passing yards. Yes, I realize he hasn't beaten a team with a winning record or a defense that ranks higher than 49th in total yardage, but the quarterback with the best passing efficiency in the country more than deserves this spot.

Up next: Oct. 17 vs. USC

3. QB Colt McCoy, Sr., Texas

Last week: Idle

Season: 103-of-145 passing, 1,145 yards, 9 TDs, 5 INTs; 28 rushes, 61 yards 1 TD

Heisman-o-meter: One of the reasons The Watch voted for McCoy over Sam Bradford last year was because of Longhorn's impact on his team's running game. (He ran for 561 yards and 11 TDs last season.) This year, we have yet to see McCoy unleash his true speed, in part because Texas hasn't needed him to against the likes of Louisiana-Monroe, Wyoming, Texas Tech and UTEP, and Mack Brown doesn't want to subject him to unnecessary hits. The guess here, though, is that, come Oct. 17 in Dallas, you will see McCoy again making plays with his feet. The Horns' ground game with Tre' Newton, Vondrell McGee and Co. is much more effective when McCoy is a threat to tuck it and run.

Up next: Saturday vs. Colorado

4. QB Tony Pike, Sr., Cincinnati

Last week: 23-of-42 passing, 270 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT; 1 rush, 3 yards in a 37-13 victory at Miami (Ohio)

Season: 116-of-174 passing, 1,493 yards, 13 TDs, 3 INTs; 14 rushes, 41 yards, 2 TDs

Heisman-o-meter: The Bearcats seemed to go into cruise control after taking a 20-0 lead, and Pike didn't exactly look like a Heisman winner. According to The Associated Press, "Tony Pike had a so-so game ... The senior came in with a 70.5 percent completion percentage, but repeatedly forced throws against a defense stacked to stop the pass." Pike however did have a nice TD pass, throwing while scrambling to the right to Mardy Gilyard in the corner of the end zone. Pike's next game, against South Florida, looms as a huge opportunity to make a Heisman statement.

Up next: Oct. 15 at South Florida

5. QB Jacory Harris, Soph., Miami

Last week: 19-of-28 passing, 202 yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs; 4 rushes, minus-30 yards in a 21-20 victory over No. 8 Oklahoma

Season: 69-of-112 passing, 1,008 yards, 8 TDs, 5 INTs; 12 rushes, minus-61 yards, 1 TD

Heisman-o-meter: After throwing two interceptions in his first four passes (both after trying to attack with long throws) against the nation's top-ranked scoring defense, Harris settled down, opting for underneath receivers. At one point he hit 12-of-13 passes, including touchdown throws to tight ends Jimmy Graham and Dedrick Epps (the second throw traveling through a lot of traffic). Harris later hit a wide-open Travis Benjamin for a 38-yard score. While the five interceptions this season are disconcerting for a Heisman candidate, the 'Canes quarterback now has wins over No. 18 Florida State, No. 14 Georgia Tech and No. 8 Oklahoma. No other candidate even approaches that.

Up next: Saturday vs. Florida A&M

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