Hey ’Cats. Once again I’ll be traveling to Duck-land for another column about Chip Kelly and the boys down in Eugene.
But rather than talking about the team, I want to focus on Oregon’s small wonder: its leading running back, the sparkplug of their offense and one of the nation’s leading Heisman Trophy candidates: LaMichael James.
More specifically, this is why I think this is the year we’ll finally see a player wearing green and yellow hoist the ol’ stiff arm later in the fall.
That’s right haters; not only do I think that James will win the Heisman this year, but I’m also willing to spend an entire column outlining, in statistic-based academic terms, why I think he’s a lock to finish first.
I’ve come up with criteria that I believe are the most critical things each candidate needs to fulfill in order to win. In no particular order, they are:
• The candidate must continue to play up numbers consistent with the first half of the season’s output.
• The candidate must have a “Heisman moment” game
• The candidate must play for a nationally ranked team.
• The candidate’s team must not be in the Western Athletic Conference.
• The candidate’s team must continue to win.
• The candidate must be a significant part of that victory.
The top five Heisman candidates are Kellen Moore of Boise State, Terrelle Pryor of Ohio State, James of Oregon, Cameron Newton of Auburn and Denard Robinson of Michigan. For the sake of space, I’m only going to address the first three candidates, in no particular order, and show you why James is a shoo-in to win this season.
In my opinion, Pryor is the only guy poised to challenge James for the trophy this season. He’s put up great numbers so far — to the tune of 1,349 yards, 15 touchdowns and only three picks, and also got it done with his feet, racking up 354 yards and 3 TDs.
However, he’s got gimpy knees (torn posterior crucial ligament at the end of last season that stuck around for a while … ask Dennis Dixon), and Ohio State has a tough schedule ahead. This weekend the Buckeyes are on the road against No. 18 Wisconsin and No. 15 Iowa later in the season.
Also, don’t ever count out Michigan to spring the upset; its rivalry is one of the great ones, and it’s always a toss-up.
Pryor also has yet to turn in a dominating performance against a tough opponent. (Ohio State always front-loads with patsies early in the season.) He may have one yet, but I don’t see it happening.
And of course there’s Kellen Moore. The guy is having a killer season. His TD to interception ratio is 14-1, his team is ranked No. 3 in the country, and it doesn’t look like BSU is going to lose any time soon.
But none of this can dissuade me from the notion that a quarterback playing in the Western Athletic Conference is incapable of winning the Heisman.
I’m sorry Boise lovers, but your conference sucks. Boise may win by 50 points every single game, and Moore may pile up 250 yards or more a game, but it’s against New Mexico, San Jose State and Louisiana Tech. Any moderately talented quarterback could rack up ridiculous numbers and lead his team to a BCS bowl as long as he had at least a decent supporting cast behind him.
BSU just doesn’t have the weight in major voting because its strength of schedule is one of the poorest in the nation.
That brings us to James. He’s picked up a solid 848 yards (second in the nation) and eight touchdowns this season while leading the nation with 169.6 per game. He shows no signs of slowing down and has stayed completely healthy so far. Plus, Oregon has only Arizona and Oregon State left to get through, and Arizona showed just how porous its defense is in a loss last weekend to the Beavers.
The OSU game is always a trap, especially in Corvallis, Ore. but with James Rodgers out for the rest of his senior season, this one is going to be a cakewalk for a Duck defense smothers teams in the second half.
But above all else, James put on a clinic in the game against Stanford, picking up 257 yards and three scores — both career bests.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is a Heisman moment, and when you consider that the last three Heisman winners have all been sophomores, it’s almost eerie how serendipitous this season seems to be for James. All the Ducks have to do is keep winning, and LaHeisman will be carrying the stiff arm to Eugene come December.
Chris Forrer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.