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Posted: Monday November 2, 2009 1:38PM; Updated: Monday November 2, 2009 4:13PM
Gene Menez Gene Menez >
HEISMAN WATCH

Despite idle week, Alabama's star RB still leads Heisman pack

Story Highlights

Mark Ingram makes the best case, having shined against top opponents

Ndamukong Suh comes in at No. 2, though teammate Jared Crick played big

Golden Tate beats out his quarterback Jimmy Clausen in the No. 3 spot

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Mark Ingram
Mark Ingram is the nation's fifth-leading rusher with 1,004 yards.
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Heisman 2009

Oregon trashed USC behind the 1-2 punch of LaMichael James and Jeremiah Masoli. But does either belong in the Heisman hunt? Time to answer that and more in this week's Watch.

1. Mark Ingram, Alabama, RB, Soph.

Last week: Idle

Season: 153 rushes, 1,004 yards, 8 TDs; 19 receptions, 186 yards, 3 TDs

Heisman-o-meter: Someone has to be No. 1 in this Heisman traffic jam, and Ingram makes a case better than anyone right now. He is the nation's fifth-leading rusher and would be higher had he not sat most of the Florida International game due to illness. He has been great against the Tide's toughest opponents. And he had a signature moment in the game-sealing drive against South Carolina. On Saturday, he has another chance to win the favor of voters in the weekend's marquee matchup.

Up next: Saturday vs. No. 9 LSU

2. Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska, DT, Sr.

Last week: 5 tackles, 3 solo; 3 tackles for loss; 1 sack; 1 quarterback hurry in a 20-10 victory at Baylor

Season: 49 tackles, 28, solo; 13 tackles for loss; 5 sacks; 1 interception; 7 passes broken up; 14 quarterback hurries; 1 forced fumble; 2 blocked kicks

Heisman-o-meter: Suh backers may not want to hear this, but on Saturday against Baylor, Nebraska's defensive tackle didn't cause the kind of havoc up front that he usually does. The Huskers' other tackle, Jared Crick, who had five sacks, looked like the real All-America. But give Suh credit: Twice he showed his amazing sideline-to-sideline speed (amazing when you consider he's 300 pounds), once chasing the quick Kendall Wright and once tracking down quarterback Nick Florence. Perhaps Suh's most impressive play was when he avoided a cut block, found Florence and sacked him. (The tackle, however, incurred a questionable 15-yard penalty for "slamming the quarterback to the ground.") And it was not as if he was getting double-teamed a lot either. On the five plays Crick recorded his sacks, Suh battled two blockers only once.

Once Suh returned to Lincoln, Neb., after the game, he was having other issues.

Up next: Saturday vs. No. 20 Oklahoma

3. Golden Tate, Notre Dame, WR, Jr.

Last week: 4 receptions, 80 yards, 1 TD; 4 rushes, 61 yards, 1 TD; 1 punt return, 0 yards in a 40-14 victory over Washington State in San Antonio

Season: 56 receptions, 927 yards, 9 TDs; 19 rushes, 155 yards, 2 TDs; 7 punt returns, 47 yards; 3 kickoff returns, 62 yards

Heisman-o-meter: Many readers have written in wondering why Tate is ahead of teammate Jimmy Clausen on The Watch. Here's one reason: At the end of the first half against the Cougars, Tate hauled in a 50-yard Hail Mary pass by going up against three Washington State defenders for a catch that coach Charlie Weis called "one of the most phenomenal catches I've seen anyone make, ever." Tate, not Clausen, was the reason for that touchdown, and that wasn't the first time this season either. And how about that touchdown run, in which he spun out of a tackle? (Granted, all of this came against Wazzu.) I realize Clausen is getting a lot more Heisman love than Tate, but it's well past the time that voters reconsider.

Up next: Saturday vs. Navy

4. C.J. Spiller, Clemson, RB, Sr.

Last week: 5 rushes, 27 yards, 1 TD in a 49-3 victory over Coastal Carolina

Season: 113 rushes, 574 yards, 4 TDs; 18 receptions, 267 yards, 2 TDs; 5 punt returns, 182 yards, 1 TD; 12 kickoff returns, 459 yards, 3 TDs; 0-of-1 passing

Heisman-o-meter: Reason No. 9,831 why it's shortsighted to only rely on stats to measure Heisman candidates: Stats don't reveal how much a player played. Spiller, for example, wasn't needed against FCS member Coastal Carolina, so Clemson coach Dabo Swinney pulled the do-it-all running back after his 6-yard touchdown run with 10:56 remaining in the second quarter so as to not risk injury. Unfortunately for Spiller, Heisman voters love their stats, so this game may end up catching up to him in December if voters don't do their homework.

Up next: Saturday vs. Florida State

5. Case Keenum, Houston, QB, Jr.

Last week: 44-of-54 passing, 559 yards, 5 TDs, 1 INT; 5 rushes, 10 yards in a 50-43 victory over Southern Miss

Season: 285-of-398 passing, 3,293 yards, 25 TDs, 5 INTs; 35 rushes, 74 yards, 3 TDs

Heisman-o-meter: Forget the numbers. What was most impressive about Keenum's career passing day against Southern Miss was that he was clutch. With 57 seconds remaining and the score tied at 43, he drove the Cougars 77 yards and hit Patrick Edwards for the game-winning, 28-yard touchdown with 21 seconds remaining. And remember that Keenum pulled all this off against what was Conference USA's top defense.

Up next: Saturday at Tulsa

6. Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame, QB, Jr.

Last week: 22-of-27 passing, 268 yards, 2 TDs; 2 rushes, minus-9 yards in a

40-14 victory over Washington State in San Antonio

Season: 172-of-257 passing, 2,318 yards, 18 TDs, 2 INTs; 40 rushes, minus-57 yards, 1 TD

Heisman-o-meter: In about three quarters, Clausen had another accurate outing, and he once again showed off his newfound ability to extend plays with his feet. (His first TD pass to Duval Kamara came that way.) The Watch has already spoken at length about Clausen's biggest blemish as a Heisman winner: his lack of a victory against a top-ranked team. The reason why Tate doesn't suffer as much as Clausen for that -- even though they're teammates -- is that quarterbacks need to be held to a higher standard as far as winning games. They touch the ball on so many more plays than, say, running backs or receivers, and, therefore, should be more responsible for the game's outcome.

Up next: Saturday vs. Navy

7. LaMichael James, Oregon, RB, Fr.

Last week: 24 rushes, 183 yards, 1 TD; 1 reception, 8 yards in a 47-20 victory over No. 5 USC

Season: 131 rushes, 918 yards, 7 TDs; 7 receptions, 39 yards

Heisman-o-meter: Here's the dilemma: The Watch believes Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli was catalyst for the Ducks' rout of the Trojans on Saturday night and that he is the team's most valuable player. (The Watch even had Masoli at No. 10 on the preseason list.) The problem is that Masoli got off to such a horrid start over the first three games (29-of-64 passing, 379 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs) that it's extremely difficult to consider him among the top 10. In his place, we have James, who has been a bolt of lightning since breaking into the lineup. He has rushed for 840 yards and 7 TDs in the last six games, including victories over three ranked teams (Utah, Cal and USC). James had a few great runs Saturday night, which were highlighted by the disappearing-and-reappearing act he made in the pile on his long run with about 10 minutes left in the second quarter.

Up next: Saturday at Stanford

8. Tim Tebow, Florida, QB, Sr.

Last week: 15-of-21 passing, 164 yards, 2 TDs; 18 rushes, 85 yards, 2 TDs in a 41-17 victory over Georgia in Jacksonville

Season: 99-of-153 passing, 1,323 yards, 10 TDs, 4 INTs; 139 rushes, 551 yards, 8 TDs

Heisman-o-meter: I hate myself for having Tebow on here, and I was ready to boot him off the list completely this week. And it was not as if he was great against Georgia. He made a nice throw to Riley Cooper for the second touchdown (Cooper made a great catch), and he benefitted from great blocking on his long TD run. Brandon James also dropped a would-be touchdown throw.

But the Dawgs snuffed out a lot of Tebow's passing plays in the second half, forcing him to tuck it and run, and it is getting harder and harder to find reasons to keep him on the list. So we're giving him one more week to impress us.

Up next: Saturday vs. Vanderbilt

9. Earl Thomas, Texas, S, Soph.

Last week: 2 tackles, 2 solo; 2 passes broken up; 1 interception, returned for a TD in a 41-14 win at Oklahoma State.

Season: 37 tackles, 24 solo; 6 interceptions, 2 returned for TDs; 2 tackles for loss; 11 passes broken up; 1 forced fumble; 2 punt returns, 4 yards

Heisman-o-meter: After watching Earl Thomas intercept Zac Robinson and return the pick 31 yards for a touchdown on Saturday, Heisman Watch buddy and all-around good guy Christian said, "It's about time Thomas gets some Heisman love." He's right. Texas fans can scream McCoy, McCoy, McCoy all they want, but Thomas has been great all season for a nasty Horns defense, whereas the Texas quarterback had a mysterious first half of the year. Thomas is so versatile that he has been playing a lot of cornerback.

And maybe most impressive is that he has played well in the Horns' biggest games; he had a pick, two tackles for loss, a forced fumble and three passes broken up in Texas' victory over Oklahoma earlier in the season.

Up next: Saturday vs. Central Florida

10. Dion Lewis, Pittsburgh, RB, Fr.

Last week: Idle

Season: 185 rushes, 1,029 yards, 11 TDs; 14 receptions, 92 yards, 1 TD

Heisman-o-meter: Many wrote in last week wondering why Lewis was not on the list. The answer, as always, was because The Watch felt that others were better. But after rough games for West Virginia's Noel Devine and Virginia Tech's Ryan Williams, they fall out of the top 10, making room for Lewis, who has been a sensation as a replacement for LeSean McCoy. Only 5-8 and 195 pounds, he has a shifty running style and gamebreaking speed. The biggest knock on him is that he has put up big numbers against a lot of less-than-mediocre teams, but that's about to change with Notre Dame, West Virginia and Cincinnati on the schedule. Devine, Williams, Fresno State's Ryan Mathews, Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers and Stanford's Toby Gerhart each could have been in the spot as well.

Up next: Saturday vs. Syracuse

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