As conference play approaches, each of the preseason Heisman hopefuls has either lived up to our hype or begun their slow descent into obscurity. The player who emerges as the ultimate victor will depend not only on outstanding personal performances, but also on his team’s ability to consistently win football matches, especially key matches on 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, Michael Hart of Michigan and Garrett Wolfe of northern Illinois. 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 accuracy from the pocket, but also has a deadly ability to run when the heat is on. This rare ability often leaves opponents wondering exactly how to defend against Buckeye’s versatile offense. With Ohio State currently ranked No. 1 in both the 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 had a respectable work day in the office. With 515 yards in three games, he has proven himself a worthy candidate for this year’s ballot. Not to be outdone, West Virginia’s Steve Slaton showed us he’s got all the right moves when he rushed for 195 yards and two touchdowns against Maryland in the spotlight of a nationally televised game. Let him keep a close eye on these two backs as they head to Hesiman polling places in the coming weeks.
If you want to get noticed by journalists and former Heisman Trophy winners who voted for the Heisman, stage a spectacular comeback against a key rival on your home turf. Chris Leak did just that against his rival Tennessee when he engineered a comeback from down 10 points 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 strong Heisman 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 needed to stay in the running for 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 real standout performances that keep you ahead of the pack. So far this season, Ted Ginn, Jr. hasn’t lived up to his reputation as a spectacular kickoff and punt return specialist, and Kenny Irons hasn’t produced the big yardage needed to stay with the other best players. runners around the world. country.
Michigan’s Michael Hart has always given Michigan fans something to celebrate so far this season. Hart’s third consecutive 100+ yard rushing performance has helped Michigan get off to an enviable start to 2006. If Michigan and Michael Hart continue on their winning ways, look for a late-season Heisman matchup between Hart and Troy. OSU’s Smith on Nov. 18 at Ohio Stadium.
On the other side of Michigan’s last victory was Notre Dame. Brady Quinn’s sub-par performance in that loss took some of the steam out of his Heisman run. 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 catch-up role 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. He leads the nation in rushing thus far in 2006 and showed signs of greatness even against Ohio State’s stingy defense. If Garrett can stay healthy and continue to put up big numbers and impressive 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’s still too soon to know for sure who will walk away with this year’s Heisman Trophy winner. Rest assured, each of the contenders with Heisman dreams will continue to play their hearts out to be the one to hear his name announced from that hallowed podium in New York on December 9. We are all ready for big performances! Enjoy the action.