Tune into a college game this weekend and you'll hear about quarterbacks Colt McCoy and Tim Tebow as front runners for the Heisman Trophy. Each player leads a highly ranked, undefeated team and has had a great college career. They've got plenty to be proud of.
Neither player should be mentioned for the Heisman this season. They are products of the hype machine that is college football. Both guys are playing well, but they simply aren't doing anything truly special.
If we remove preseason hype and judge players strictly on what's happened in 2009 the Heisman Trophy race would look completely different. Here are the five players who should be in consideration:
1 - Running back Mark Ingram, Alabama - The Crimson Tide offense is pretty one-dimensional at this point. Quarterback Greg McElroy is really struggling. That means defenses can focus on stopping Ingram. The problem is that they can't stop him. Slowing him down has been ridiculously hard. Ingram is 6th in the nation in rushing. He's run for 1,148 yards and 8 touchdowns. He's also caught 24 passes. What makes Ingram so impressive is that he comes up big in crucial situations. Late in games when the score is tight Alabama will feed him the ball and Ingram will lead the offense right down the field. At the least he'll move the chains. Other times he will score. Ingram is only a sophomore, but he is the best player I've seen this year.
2 - Quarterback Case Keenum, Houston - Now we get to a name that not everyone will know. Keenum leads the top ranked offense in the country. Houston averages a gaudy 577 yards per game. The team in second place is trails by more than 70 yards a game. That's a "wow" stat. Keenum leads the nation in passing yards per game. He's more than 90 yards above the next guy. Keenum completes more than 70 percent of his passes. He's thrown 28 touchdowns and only has 5 interceptions. Set the numbers aside. He's led Houston to wins over Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, and Mississippi State. The Cougars have an 8-1 record and could easily finish the regular season 11-1.
3 - Running back Bernard Pierce, Temple - Who? Temple began the season 0-2. Pierce wasn't playing much. The NCAA was late to clear him to play and Coach Al Golden didn't want to rush his freshman running back. Pierce became a starter in the third week. Temple has won all 7 games with him as the starter. Pierce has rushed for 1,143 yards and 14 touchdowns in that time. Despite the slow start Pierce is 3rd in the nation in rushing yards per game. Temple is not good offensively so it makes Pierce's success all the more impressive. He hasn't faced any juggernaut defenses, but any freshman who can carry the Temple team on his back and lead them to 7 wins is pulling off something special. That's a Heisman worthy accomplishment.
4 - Running back Toby Gerhart, Stanford - The best power runner in college football is Toby Gerhart. Pac-10 defenses have tried to slow him down all year, but Gerhart continues to run over them game after game. He's 2nd in the nation in rushing yards per game. He leads all running backs in rushing touchdowns with 16. Stanford is 6-3. The defense isn't very strong so that puts pressure on the offense, specifically Gerhart, to deliver. And he does. Gerhart is special because he's not only big and powerful, but he is nimble and can make defenders miss. He ran for 223 yards and 3 scores in Saturday's upset of Oregon.
5 - Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, Oregon - Masoli isn't among national leaders in any category. Oddly, that's what makes him special. Masoli can run and pass. He is the heart of Oregon's read option offense. The team is among national leaders. The Ducks are 9th in rushing and 8th in scoring nationally. Masoli is the maestro that makes it all happen. He's run for 9 touchdowns and passed for 9. He only has 2 interceptions. Oregon has scored more than 42 points in 5 of the last 6 games. Masoli missed the only one where they struggled on offense. The Ducks are out of the national title hunt, but Masoli deserves Heisman consideration.