The Heisman Trophy will be presented at 8 PM ET, and the Notebook weighs in with its choices. The Player of the Year decisions here are done first by conference and then narrowed down to the top player nationally. My standard rule is to stick to skill players, because except for some rare cases they are the only ones we have statistical evaluation to go by. In a perfect world we’d have coaches break down game film and give the awards to the players who graded out the highest, regardless of position, but the world is far from ideal, so within our limitations, here’s the Notebook picks…
ACC: Virginia Tech running back David Wilson may have had a disappointing ending in the ACC Championship Game, but it can’t overshadow his excellent season. With the Hokies breaking in a sophomore quarterback in Logan Thomas, Wilson rushed for 100-plus yards in seven of the eight regular season games and 82 in the other. In mid-season it looked like this award would go to Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd, but his November struggles and by extension those of his top receiver Sammy Watkins (a Notebook favorite) gave the edge to Wilson.
Big Ten: When a judge has a vested interested in a case before the bench, he recuses himself. On the day of the Wisconsin-Penn State season finale, I was in the stands with a friend, decked out in Badger garb and singing Frank Sinatra’s New York New York, in an effort to promote Montee Ball’s campaign to get the Heisman presentation (he did indeed get the invitation to NYC). In other situations I’ve often argued that having a case with two elite players (in this case Ball and quarterback Russell Wilson) has to be an argument against both, since they have each other to lean on. Does Ball’s amazing 34-touchdown season do enough to mitigate that, or should we look at someone like a Kirk Cousins? I’m recusing myself from the case (For the record, Ball wouldn’t be my pick for the Heisman tonight, although I’d make no apologies for picking him over Trent Richardson or Andrew Luck).
SEC: I’m not a huge Richardson fan, but his 203-yard showing against Auburn puts him over the top within the conference against worthy opponents in quarterbacks Tyler Wilson (Arkansas) and Aaron Murray (Georgia).
Big 12: This conference should be getting a lot more love, as there were some tremendous individual performances, particularly in the case of quarterbacks who can both throw and run and carry their teams. No one did it better than Baylor’s Robert Griffin III and Kansas State’s Collin Klein. I’d have invited both of them to New York City and Griffin gets the nod here.
Pac-12: Andrew Luck is the top NFL prospect and I’d pick him over Richardson, but I’d also give USC’s Matt Barkley a slight edge based on performance this season. Barkley threw for 3500 yards to Luck’s 3100. Barkley didn’t have the same support from the running game—in fairness, this can explain away the passing yardage difference too, but it also put Barkley under much more pressure to produce. The Trojan quarterback didn’t zero in one specific receiver either, turning both Robert Woods and Marqise Lee into 1,000 yard receivers.
Other notable individual performers include...
Case Keenum (QB, Houston): The prolific Cougar quarterback pushed his team to 12-0 before a bad loss to Southern Miss derailed his team’s Sugar Bowl hopes and his own Heisman campaign.
Chandler Harnish (QB, Northern Illinois): A two-threat QB in the mold of Griffin and Klein, Harnish was the best offensive player in the MAC this season.
Kellen Moore (QB, Boise State): If a career Heisman could be given, this is the kid to give it to. The best lefthanded fastball this side of Clayton Kershaw.
The final choice? I’m going with “RG3” as Robert Griffin III is casually known by. But at 8 PM ET tonight I’m setting objectivity aside and rooting for Ball.