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Musings on the Heisman vote

Click here for more on this story

Posted: Tuesday December 14, 1999 05:48 PM


Click here to send your college football questions to SI's Ivan Maisel.

Let's get right into the bag this week ...

Why didn't Shaun Alexander get more votes? I just don't understand how he could have been overlooked by everyone. For much of the season he led the nation in all-purpose yardage, and has led Alabama back to the top of the polls. I think Alexander belonged on the front row of the Downtown Athletic Club in New York along with Ron Dayne, Michael Vick, Joe Hamilton and Chad Pennington!
-- Peter Susman, Mobile, Ala.

A healthy Shaun Alexander would have made it to the DAC with votes to spare, Peter. Someone would have to be silly enough to schedule a Bar Mitzvah on Tennessee-Alabama weekend not to know that. But once Alexander got hurt against Tennessee, he missed one game and his production fell off for a month. The DAC invites the top five vote-getters to New York for the final. I was surprised that Alexander didn't make it and, while we're on the subject, stunned that Vick finished third.

How did Thomas Jones finish so low in the Heisman Voting? Was it merely because the rest of the Virginia team (especially the defense) had a sub-par season? Jones is perhaps the most talented all-around back in the country. He catches well, jukes well, blocks well, hits holes exceptionally well, sees the entire field and makes most tacklers pay to bring him down. Also, do you think a lot of college football fans will be surprised when his number is called on draft day? In addition, why did Michael Vick finish so high? Don't get me wrong, Vick is an exceptional athlete and I think he will prove to be everything that Ronald Curry was supposed to be, but, he was not Heisman caliber this year.
-- Miles S. Mullin, McAllen, Texas

Good questions, all, Miles. I don't have an answer. I voted Jones third. He did his best work late in the season. Unfortunately, Heisman races seem to firm up by mid-October. By the time Jones got rolling, the engravers already had started to learn how to spell W-I-S-C-O-N-S-I-N. I believe Jones will go high in the draft. And as I said above, I can't figure out how Vick finished third. I agree with you. He's certainly a very good player but he's only half as good as he's going to be.

Why does everyone want the Heisman winner to be flashy? Isn't the Heisman for the best college football player? You shouldn't have to justify voting for a player such as Ron Dayne just because he isn't the flashiest player to ever come through the college gridiron. Let's face it, he had a great season (a great four seasons), led his team to a top 5 ranking and their second consecutive Rose Bowl, and outplayed every other college football player this year. Let's not forget either that he is playing Big Ten defenses and broke the record despite sitting out six quarters this year (none due to injury, all because Wisconsin had the game in hand and coach Barry Alvarez didn't see a point in running up the score).
-- Bryan Sauer, Oconomowoc, Wisc.

He doesn't have to be flashy, Bryan. I just wanted him to be flashy. Having a dull Heisman winner is like giving a documentary the Best Picture Oscar. I want a highlight reel running in my head when I think of Dayne. Instead, I see a steamroller. Effective? Yes. Exciting? No.

Ivan, thanks for sticking up for Virginia Tech. Living in Virginia, I have the advantage of watching Tech, and many ACC games (Florida State vs. whoever they are playing that week). I totally agree with you that the Hokies have a very good chance of beating Florida State. To me they both definitely deserve the title shot because they're undefeated, and play some tough teams (I don't care what anybody says, the Big East may be down but it is still a good conference). My question is, many people are talking about Va. Tech being the Cinderella team this year. Why? This is their first shot at a national title but they've been a top 20 team consistently over the past few years and have won some big games over Miami, Syracuse, and Virginia. I guess for those of us who have seen the progression, this season is not as much shocking as it is exciting (we can't say we expected it).

-- Josh Chapman, Richmond, Va.

I wouldn't be offended, Josh. Suffice it to say that the Hokies haven't been on the radar of the casual Big Ten fan or Pac-10 fan the way that a Nebraska, Alabama, Florida State, etc., is. There's a difference between being a consistent top-20 team and a perennial contender for the national championship. Take one step at a time. Maybe someday you'll look back on this year as the season that Virginia Tech became one of the permanent elite.

Since you have the weapon of the mighty pen, and know ways to reach people, why don't YOU start a movement for NCAA Division I-A playoff system here on this site? I would, but I don't have the tools or influence or pipeline to do so. The three wasted weeks in December waiting for the "Bowls" sucks. Let's get serious and get this thing moving. My passion is football. A D-IA playoffs would be the best thing for the college sport, never mind a HUGE moneymaker.
-- Shawn Rivera, Massillon, Ohio

All right, on three: one, two, three -- "Kum bah ya, my lord, kum bah ya ..." Shawn, Shawn, Shawn. You're up against university presidents who claim that no amount of money will sway them. They don't want to extend football into January. They don't want to schedule playoff games during final exams in December. That's a contradiction, since the I-AA, II and III schools have finals, too, as do schools on the quarter system in March during the basketball tournament. They don't care. They don't like the perception of the athletic tail wagging the academic dog. Also, the presidents can afford to turn away from football money. They have basketball money.

I am a diehard LSU fan, and as you know they recently spent $6 million on new coach Nick Saban (formerly of Michigan State). Many people have said that LSU had the talent to move to the next level, but lacked the coaching. Do you think this is true? And if so, is Nick Saban the man to bring them there?
-- Seth Johnson, DeRidder, La.

I find it hard to believe that Gerry DiNardo suddenly got stupid. He didn't forget how to coach over the course of two seasons. I don't absolve DiNardo. Obviously the kids stopped listening. But it's equally obvious that LSU's talent slipped. I can't tell you how far it slipped. Saban is going to have to try to keep the top talent in the state home. The best players have been leaving for the last few years.

"Strength of schedule" is often the reason given for keeping Marshall out of the top 10. The logic seems to be that their victories are worth less because "anyone could play Marshall's schedule would go undefeated." If the wins over "lower quality" teams are devalued, should the loses to those teams also not be magnified? For instance, it would be assumed that ANY top 10 team would go undefeated if they played Marshall's schedule, and yet No. 4 Wisconsin lost to Cincinnati. If they cannot beat Cincinnati, it is safe to assume that they could not play Marshall's schedule and go undefeated. I am not trashing Wisconsin, they are a good team, but let's give Marshall some credit!
-- Richard Harper, Charleston, W.V.

Richard, you're forcing me to defend the BCS, which makes me cranky. But take a look at the Badgers' ranking in the BCS, which takes strength of schedule into account. Wisconsin finished seventh and its strength of schedule ranked 75th (Marshall's ranked 93rd). Wisconsin is receiving credit for winning a power conference. I hemmed and hawed over where to rank the Badgers and finally decided sixth, as a nod toward their strong finish. If Marshall wants to be ranked higher, it's going to have to figure out how to entice the marquee teams to agree to play.

With a retirement looming in the near future for current head coach Don Nehlen, and Rich Rodriguez turning down the Texas Tech job, do you think there is any chance that coach Rodriguez will end up at West Virginia? Keep in mind he is from Fairmont and graduated from WVU.
-- Dave Greathouse, Morgantown, W.V.

I think there's a very good chance that Rodriguez will end up at WVU. The possibility of that job opening up in the next year or two played a role in his decision to turn down Texas Tech.

Why do teams which such poor records at season's end get to go to good bowl games? Take, for example, Stanford and Michigan. TV money and local fan support aside, Stanford will get crushed by Wisconsin. I just don't understand. I think the best eight teams, with the best eight records should go. What you think?
-- Ed Miarecki, St. Catharines, Ontario

Ed, you're confusing a bowl with a playoff. Bowls are set up to reward teams and to promote the cities and sponsors that put the game on. Playoffs are set up to determine a champion. Stanford made a mockery of defense, yes, but the Cardinal won the Pacific-10 Conference championship. What do you want the Rose Bowl to do?

Send a question to Ivan Maisel, and check back each week during the season to read more of his answers.

Sports Illustrated senior writer Ivan Maisel covers college football and appears regularly on CNN/Sports Illustrated.

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