Remember when Juice Williams had a website hyping his Heisman chances?
Big Ten players haven't been close to the Heisman radar since big Shonn Greene ran roughshod over everyone a couple years ago, But let's be honest - No Big Ten star is going to win the prestigious award in 2010. And frankly, who cares? It's a formulaic award picked by half-awake columnists. The final voting always reflects regional bias, which is charming, but incredibly annoying when voters admit they didn't watch the West Coast games of Toby Gerhart last year and thus couldn't vote for him. You're a Heisman voter; find a DVR, drink some coffee, make it work. And that formulaic nature I mentioned? Here are the teams of the past 20 Heisman winners:
Alabama, Oklahoma (2), Florida (2), Ohio State (2), USC (3), Nebraska, Florida State (2), Wisconsin, Texas, Michigan (2), Colorado, Miami (FL), BYU
Save for Colorado, BYU, and Wisconsin, these are are blue-blood, "Top 10 of All Time" programs...or the most successful programs of the last 20 years. You win the Heisman via hype and being the best offensive player on a top team. LawBuck calls it the "most predictable award in sports."
But that's a time worn discussion, so instead let's talk about the Big Ten players most likely to insert themselves in the Heisman race in 2010. This short list starts with Terrelle Pryor and ends with John Clay...I want to talk about Adrian Clayborne as much as the next guy, but he plays defensive line. And no D-Linemen has ever won the award. Which again makes no sense (from the Heisman website - "Most Outstanding College Football Player in the United States").Evan Royster is going to see stacked lines and isn't a home run hitter. Kirk Cousins will put up some stats, but the defense has to help out this year, plus he's got no hype surrounding him. Greg Jones...defense.
Why Pryor? His team is the most likely to win 11 or more games and he's the most recognizable player in the conference. Why Clay? His stat-stuffing potential is pretty good, while Wisconsin has a ton of returning starters and could easily win 10 games.
Why won't they win? Pryor and his passing yips, plus the incredibly talented Buckeye defense, have made OSU a pretty conservative team offensively. During the 2009 game in Ann Arbor, Tressel called off the dogs offensively because he knew that Michigan couldn't score on his D...and he also didn't want Pryor giving the game away with turnovers. You've got to have stats to win the Heisman ON TOP of a few memorable moments. Look at Vince Young though - He had some yips early on, but after the offense was simplified, he put up Playstation-worthy stats. Although Young's success could give TP some Heisman hope, a) he played in the Big 12, where the defenses are probably not as solid and b) he was farther along passing wise than TP.
John Clay will be a victim of the "Death of the Workhorse Back" Phenomenon. Mark Ingram won the Heisman while only getting 19 carries per game. Even the heavily worked Clay only got to 22 carries per game in 2010. Running backs used to be able to pick up 30 carries a game and pad those stats. No longer; third down backs and spread offenses decry constantly pounding one man into the line. Plus Scott Tolzien is good enough to save Clay from those body destroying 35 carry games. Running backs at the highest competitive college level now have to do something special (i.e. return punts, catch the ball out of the backfield a lot) now to win the Heisman...unless your team is undefeated and there aren't any other intriguing candidates, then the award might default to you.
But hell, in 2009, where no Big Ten player cracked the Top 10 of Heisman voting or even registered a blip on the national scale, the conference picked up huge bowl wins and ended with four top 20 teams and three top 10 teams. So individuality be damned, we've got some big-time teams making noise.