Heisman vote a statement on season, but also sign of times
Slate of Heisman candidates is product of sport's changing landscape, Internet age
Cam Newton, LaMichael James, Kellen Moore face make-or-break tests this week
Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck added a new dimension to his Heisman profile
It was like a love letter to a bygone era. Watching Army and Notre Dame play at the new Yankee Stadium immediately had me scouring YouTube for grainy highlights of the Black Knights' Heisman-winning duo of Felix "Doc" Blanchard and Glenn Davis going head-to-head with Irish winner Johnny Lujack.
One could argue the Heisman never meant more than during that period of the game's history, when Blanchard and Davis appeared on the cover of Time magazine and Lujack on the cover of LIFE.
I'm not going to argue that the trophy and its winners will ever again hold that kind of sway over the American public; Blanchard, Davis, Lujack and their contemporaries all became household names in the days before the NFL took hold. But just as those legends were indicative of their time, we're approaching a vote that may be just as telling for ours.
Just look at the three leading candidates in this race. The presumptive leader, Auburn's Cam Newton, has become a target of the wild-west mentality of the 24/7 news cycle. Boise State's Kellen Moore plays for a program that has only been an FBS member since 1996. LaMichael James is on an Oregon team that's now known for wearing Nike's latest technology -- the Ducks have 350-plus possible uniform combinations -- while running a new-age offense that averages less than 25 seconds between plays. We couldn't have a more modern bunch.
It's likely that no school with more than two Heismans in its trophy case will even have a player among the finalists, and no program with multiple national titles has a serious contender as Thanksgiving nears. That combination has never happened in the current era, a testament to the sport's changing landscape.
No matter who wins, this is indeed looking like a race for college football in the Internet age.
This week we're cutting the list from 10 to eight and will continue to narrow the candidates as we approach the Dec. 6 vote. To refresh, here's a look at how I stacked things up after Week 11.
Last Week: Idle
Season: 135-of-198 passing for 2,038 yards, 21 TDs and six INTs; 206 rushes for 1,297 yards and 17 TDs; two receptions for 42 yards and one TD
The off-field drama surrounding Newton isn't going away, but this week it could pale in comparison to what happens on the field. Newton and Auburn head to Tuscaloosa for the Iron Bowl, and Alabama would like nothing better than to put a major dent in its rival's national title hopes. The game could also define Newton's Heisman candidacy. Dominate, and he may have the trophy wrapped up; struggle, and he'll give his detractors even more ammunition.
Next Up: Friday at No. 9 Alabama
Last Week: Idle
Season: 225 rushes for 1,422 yards and 17 TDs; 10 receptions for 149 yards and one TD
After speculating that James' past conviction could hurt his chances, I received multiple e-mails pointing out that if we're talking character, James was recently named to the Pac-10's All-Academic first team. To be fair, there's precedent for winning despite legal troubles, as Nebraska's Johnny Rodgers won in 1972 with a felony on his record. Currently the bigger concern is James' ankle -- and whether it will slow him down against Arizona's No. 15 ranked rush defense.
Next Up: Friday vs. No. 20 Arizona
Last Week: 27-of-38 passing for 333 yards, four TDs and one INT; two rushes for zero yards in a 51-0 win over Fresno State
Season: 201-of-280 passing for 2,921 yards, 28 TDs and five INTs; 12 rushes for minus-23 yards; one reception for seven yards and one TD; one punt for 54 yards
In three games this month, Moore has thrown for 1,056 yards and 10 scores and completed 75.2 percent of his passes -- all while playing in just under nine of the team's 12 quarters. He's always been efficient, ranking 12th nationally in 2008, second in 2009 and first this season, but he struggled in the past with the long ball. Not this year. Moore has completed nine of 10 deep throws to Titus Young for 461 yards and six touchdowns.
Next Up: Friday at No. 19 Nevada
Last Week: 10 catches for 130 yards and one TD in a 48-14 win over Kansas
Season: 94 catches for 1,560 yards and 17 TDs; four rushes for 77 yards and one TD; one blocked punt recovery for a TD
Blackmon's assault on the record books continues. He's now racked up 10 straight games with at least 100 yards receiving (one behind the season record shared by three players) and he's 113 yards shy of breaking Larry Fitzgerald's sophomore mark of 1,672. Blackmon's pursuit of both those marks against an Oklahoma defense that's already allowed 171 yards to Cincinnati's D.J. Woods, 139 to Missouri's Jerrell Jackson and 136 to Texas A&M's Ryan Swope will add another subplot to the Bedlam Game.
Next Up: Saturday vs. No. 14 Oklahoma
Last Week: 16-of-20 for 235 yards and two TDs; three rushes for 72 yards in a 48-14 win over Cal
Season: 224-of-319 passing for 2,746 yards, 24 TDs and seven INTs; 49 rushes for 489 yards and three TDs
Luck led Stanford to 48 points against Cal, delivering the largest margin of victory in Big Game history. That will look good in the media guide, but the lasting image of this blowout will be Luck's career-long 58-yard run, in which he gave a forearm shiver to Cal safety Sean Cattouse. No one's going to confuse Luck with Newton or Denard Robinson, but Luck's ability to pick his spots has resulted in three runs of 50 yards or more this season.
Next Up: Saturday vs. Oregon State
Last Week: Idle
Season: 164-of-243 passing for 2,242 yards, 19 TDs and five INTs; 70 rushes for 418 yards and five TDs; one reception for 27 yards
The redhead is red hot. Dalton has thrown for at least 240 yards in his last three games, tossing nine touchdowns to one interception in that span. He'll likely build on those numbers against New Mexico's 118th-ranked defense. Dalton has already passed Peyton Manning for third on the alltime quarterback wins list with his 40th victory and can move within a win of tying David Greene (42) for second with a win in Albuquerque.
Next Up: Saturday at New Mexico
Last Week: 18-of-33 passing for 195 yards, one TD and two INTs; 15 rushes for 78 yards in a 20-17 win over Iowa
Season: 178-of-271 passing for 2,331 yards, 23 TDs and 10 INTs; 108 rushes for 719 yards and four TDs; two receptions for 19 yards and one TD
Pryor put together a Heisman-type drive in Iowa City, running 14 yards to convert on fourth-and-10, set up the game-winning score and keep the Buckeyes' Rose Bowl hopes alive. It was a glimmer of greatness, but unfortunately for Pryor's candidacy, it hasn't been the standard. Even an invite to New York seems like a long shot for the player I pegged as the favorite in Sports Illustrated's preseason preview.
Next Up: Saturday vs. Michigan
Last Week: 16-of-25 passing for 239 yards, two TDs and one INT; 22 rushes for 121 yards and two TDs in a 48-28 loss to Wisconsin
Season: 147-of-232 passing for 2,229 yards, 16 TDs and 10 INTs; 227 rushes for 1,538 yards and 14 TDs
Shoelace has now broken Beau Morgan's 14-year-old single-season rushing record for a quarterback and has become the first player in NCAA history with 1,500 yards rushing and 1,500 yards passing in the same year. There's no question Robinson has been electrifying in his first season as a starter, but after falling to Wisconsin his Wolverines are now 0-3 against Top 25 teams and 3-4 in the Big Ten. And they still have to play No. 8 Ohio State. It may not be fair to deride Shoelace for Michigan's struggles, but like it or not, winning is part of the equation.
Next Up: Saturday at No. 8 Ohio State