POINT/COUNTERPOINT: Heisman Favorite
Brian Curtis and Eric Sorenson slug it out over the most pressing football questions
|Brian Curtis, CSTV Senior Editor||Eric Sorenson, CSTV.com Analyst|
LEINART. "Ladies and Gentlemen, it is an honor and pleasure to welcome to the podium, two-time Heisman Trophy winner, Matt Leinart."
Get used to this introductory phrase, because Leinart will join Archie Griffin as the only two-time winners come December. Don't believe me? Look at his case.
Let's start back in New York City in December 2004, when Leinart accumulated 1,325 votes to win the award, ahead of Adrian Peterson, Jason White, Alex Smith and Reggie Bush, who came in fifth with 597 votes. Well, Peterson has been injured off-and-on this year and isn't even on the radar; White and Smith have moved on from the college scene and Bush, well, Reggie is still as good as ever, but not better than Leinart. I know, I know, we can add Vince Young to the list, because what he has done in 2005 is remarkable. But better than Leinart? Against competition lesser than USC?
The stats tell us that Leinart is having another great year. With three games remaining, he has passed for 23 touchdowns and only thrown six interceptions. He currently leads the nation in passing efficiency and directs a USC offense which sits No. 4 in passing offense. Leinart is averaging 9.69 yards per pass. Looking at things game-by-game (view stats), how about the three TDs against Hawai'i, the four against Arkansas, the three against Oregon and the additional 13 in the next six games. OK, so Hawai'i and Arkansas are not the greatest. But throwing for over 300 yards against Notre Dame ain't bad; nor was his performance on the road against the Ducks.
As much criticism as Leinart took after the Notre Dame game, does anyone really believe that USC would have won that game without him? Sure, Bush was the star, but how about the fourth down pass late in the game? Or the game-winning QB sneak? How many other players are truly winners? So even if you move away from his impressive statistics, here's the most impressive thing about Leinart - he wins. In fact, Leinart hasn't lost a game in a long, long, long time (view streak). Whatever it takes, he finds a way to win. And the schedule is not easy. By the end of the regular season, USC will have faced six teams who are, or have been, ranked in the Top 25.
Now, I believe Bush is the most exciting player in college football. When he touches the ball, he can turn a mundane two-yard run into a highlight reel film. But how many times does Bush touch the ball versus his teammate? Think of Bush's spectacular punt returns? Now understand that he currently ranks 40th in the nation in punt returns. 40th! You can bash his punt coverage teams all you want, but 40th? And in all-purpose yards, Bush sits behind DeAngelo Williams of Memphis. Again, this is taking nothing away from Bush, but Leinart has proven himself worthy.
Two final things to keep in mind. I had a discussion a few weeks back with a colleague who suggested that if USC wins a third title, Leinart may go down in history as the best college football player ever. Now, certainly that's debatable, but the mere fact that it is under consideration is more than enough justification to award him a second Heisman. Secondly, when I ask Leinart over the summer what it would mean to win a second one, he told me he would much rather see Bush win it, than he, and would certainly take a third championship over another Heisman.
He is the reigning award winner, and has done nothing to lose his grip on it. He keeps putting up impressive numbers and keeps winning. As for the voting, there could be an anti-USC contingent or theories about Bush and Leinart splitting the vote. I think Vince Young actually comes in second, ahead of Bush.
Maybe so, Leinart better get used to …
"Two-time Heisman Trophy winner, Matt Leinart …"
Forget for a moment that this guy is electricity in a Mason jar. Forget that he's the most dangerous kick-returner in the country (when he is actually kicked to). Forget that he is also the most versatile offensive player around. Forget that his 8.3 yards per carry is freakin' sick. Forget that every running back recruit in the country is being promised that he'll be the "next Reggie Bush."
Let's remember one thing: Reggie Bush is simply the best football player in the country.
He's just a great football player. I reiterate.
No one brings the crowd to its feet like Mr. Bush. As the old writer in the Coliseum press box told me after a short gain in last week's Stanford game, "That was about the most exciting four-yard run I've seen."
Depending on your definition of who should win the Heisman, Reggie Bush meets almost all criteria. He's the best player on the best team in the country. He's got the numbers to back up his production as he is currently second in the nation in all-purpose yards (view stats). And he's got the highlight reels spinning each and every Saturday night.
About the only criteria he doesn't have is that because of the talent around him, he's not the most valuable player to his team - admittedly that would go to Vince Young of Texas.
But let's look at the one thing that pushes Reggie beyond any challenger - he makes the biggest plays in the biggest games.
- Down 13-0 at Oregon, Bush ignited the 45-point onslaught with a 19-yard TD catch midway through the second quarter. He capped his day with a Heisman-worthy reverse-of-direction 11-yard touchdown run.
- Bush played double-duty hero at Arizona State with second half touchdown runs of 24 and 34 yards, the second being the game-clincher with under five minutes left. He finished with 158 yards on 17 carries.
- In his best game, Reggie scored three touchdowns on the biggest stage of the college football world, once again rallying the Trojans from a precarious position at Notre Dame with a pair of go-ahead scores. It was with three seconds left that he pulled off a true Heisman moment. It won't show up in any box score, but he helped to push QB Matt Leinart into the end zone for the winning touchdown. Be it legal or not.
The one big thing that separates Bush from his closest Heisman challengers, Leinart and Young, is that it hasn't been his mistakes that have dug the Men of Troy into the deficits that have caused his team to have to rally from behind to win games. Reggie's just gone out and performed at another level when necessary - the proverbial making big time plays in big time games.
Like the hero in an epic movie, Reggie Bush has merely loaded the Trojan horse on his back and led them to victory time and time again when they've needed it most. Sort of like the same thing Brad Pitt did in the movie Troy.
Ya' know, just thinking about it here … forget the Heisman, have you seen Reggie Bush and Brad Pitt in the same room at the same time lately?