As the conference game approaches, each of the preseason Heisman hopefuls has lived up to our expectations of them or started their slow slide into obscurity. The player who emerges as the final winner will depend not only on his outstanding personal performances, but also on his team’s ability to consistently win soccer matches, especially the key matches in their schedules. Early-season hopefuls included Ohio State’s Troy Smith and Ted Ginn, Jr., Oklahoma’s Adrian Peterson, West Virginia’s Steve Slaton, Florida’s Chris Leak, Auburn’s Kenny Irons, Notre Dame’s Brady Quinn, Notre Dame’s Michael Hart. Michigan and Garrett Wolfe from Northern Illinois to name a few.
Let’s take a quick look at how the first three weeks have played out for these notable candidates. Many sportswriters have identified Ohio State’s Troy Smith as the man to beat for the 2006 Heisman Award. Troy Smith not only has patience and precision from the pocket, but he also has a deadly ability to run in the heat. This rare ability often leaves opponents wondering exactly how to defend against Buckeye’s versatile offense. With Ohio State’s current # 1 ranking in Associated Press and USA Today polls, the spotlight will remain on Troy as the season progresses.
Running backs Adrian Peterson of Oklahoma and Steve Slaton of West Virginia are also making their presence known. Although Oklahoma lost its last game, Adrian Peterson put in a respectable day of work at the office. With 515 yards in three games, he has proven to be a worthy candidate for this year’s vote. Not to be outdone, West Virginia’s Steve Slaton showed us he has all the right moves when he rushed for 195 yards and two touchdowns against Maryland under the spotlight of a nationally televised game. Take a close look at these two endorsements as they travel to check out Hesiman’s polling stations in the coming weeks.
If you want to get the attention of journalists and former Heisman Trophy winners who voted for the Heisman, stage a spectacular comeback against a key opponent on their own turf. Chris Leak did just that against rival Tennessee when he engineered a 10-point comeback down to lead Florida to a 21-20 victory over the Volunteers. 199 passing yards and 3 touchdowns on 15 completions in that game earned Chris Heisman strong consideration at this point in the season.
Ohio State’s Ted Ginn, Jr. and Auburn’s Kenny Irons are two preseason favorites who have struggled to make the big plays necessary to keep them in the running for the title of college football player of the year. This is not to say that they haven’t contributed significantly to the success of their teams, because they certainly have, but to win the Heisman, you have to outshine the other candidates with outstanding performances that keep you ahead of the pack. So far this season, Ted Ginn, Jr. hasn’t lived up to his reputation as a punting and kick-off return specialist, and Kenny Irons hasn’t racked up the big yards needed to stay with the other top running backs. in all the country.
Michigan’s Michael Hart has always given Michigan fans something to look forward to this season. Hart’s third straight performance of over 100 yards rushing has helped Michigan get off to an enviable start to 2006. If Michigan and Michael Hart continue on their winning path, look for a season-ending Heisman showdown between Hart and Troy Smith. of OSU on November 18 at Ohio Stadium.
On the other side of Michigan’s latest win was Notre Dame. Brady Quinn’s below-average performance in that loss has taken some of the steam out of his Heisman career. It will take a significantly better game from Brady to get back in the race this year. Only the strength of Notre Dame’s schedule can provide the stage for Brady to play the role of catching up for the rest of the season.
If you think a small conference can’t produce a Heisman winner, don’t tell Garrett Wolfe of Northern Illinois. So far in 2006, he leads the nation in rushing races and showed signs of greatness even against Ohio State’s stingy defense. If Garrett can stay healthy and continue to add eye-catching numbers and personal performances week after week, he could surprise many of this year’s other Heisman hopefuls.
With only three games played so far in 2006, it is still too early to know for sure who will get this year’s Heisman Trophy winner. Rest assured that each of the contenders with Heisman’s dreams will continue to play with their hearts to be the one to hear their name announced from that sacred podium in New York on December 9. A great performance awaits us! Enjoy the action.