Auburn quarterback Cameron Newton has gone from junior college transfer to Heisman Trophy winner in one year. He will join Pat Sullivan (1971) and Bo Jackson (1985) as the third Auburn Tiger to win the award. He sealed the deal by leading the epic comeback against Alabama a week ago. This Saturday in the SEC Championship game, Newton put an exclamation mark on his campaign. His stat line: 17-28 (60.7%), 335 yards, 4 TD, plus 14 rushes, 73 yards, and 2 TD.
Since November started, only one player really had a shot at Newton. LaMichael James made a push, but Newton proved to be too much. James had 134 yards on 28 carries, and added 2 TDs, against Oregon State this week. Perhaps, James biggest setback in the Heisman race was teammate Kenjon Barner. Barner was right behind James with 133 yards rushing last Saturday. James split significant time with Barner the last two weeks. James could have pushed the 200 yard mark the last two games, which would have caught every voters' attention.
If I had a vote, here is how my ballot would look. Remember, all Heisman voters are supposed to vote for a first, second, and third place.
1. Cam Newton, Auburn, QB
STATS: 165-246 (67.1%), 2,589 yards, 28 TD, 6 Int., 188.2 Passer Rating
242 rushes, 1,409 yards (5.8 ypc), 20 TD
2 receptions, 42 yards, 1 TD
WHY: Newton has essentially duplicated Tim Tebow's Heisman season from 2007. He has joined the 20-20 club (20 TD passes, 20 TD rushes). Newton has roughly the same number of passing and rushing yards as Tebow did going into the Heisman ceremony (3,998 for Newton and 3,970 for Tebow). On top of that, Newton leads the nation in pass efficiency. At 188.2, that is over 7 points higher than Sam Bradford when he won the Heisman two years ago. Newton has been a dominating force. He takes over games. He has rallied his team back from enormous deficits, and he punishes the opposition to build a commanding lead. In one year, he has taken Auburn from an 8 win team to 13 wins and the number one ranking.
As far as the allegations about pay-for-play, the NCAA has made a ruling. Whether you like it or not, that decision has to be respected and upheld the same way a judge's ruling in the court of law would. The NCAA is the one entity with the authority to rule on this matter.
The integrity card? I don't think voters should play that card. The integrity issue this year has been cleared, as noted above. If you are going to reach back into the past, then we have to be fair and do it for all. I am sure we could pull up all kinds of dirt on most candidates. Besides, this award is for the "most outstanding player," in other words, play on the field should be the driving factor in who wins the award. Just as people are concerned that vacating a second Heisman Trophy winning in less than a decade will scar the award, so will withholding the award from a player who is heads and shoulders more outstanding than the rest.
2. LaMichael James, Oregon, RB
STATS: 281 rushes, 1,682 yards (6.0 ypc), 21 TD
13 receptions, 169 yards, 1 TD
WHY: James has more rushing yards this year than anyone else, even though he missed the first game of the season. He has more rushing yards and more rushing touchdowns than 2009 Heisman winner Mark Ingram did last season. James has been very reliable he has nine 100 yard rushing games (three of which were 200+), and he never rushed for less than 91 yards in a game. He scored at least one touchdown in every game but one.
3. Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State, WR
STATS: 102 receptions, 1,665 yards, 18 TD
4 rushes, 77 yards, 1 TD
WHY: Blackmon averages 151 yards receiving per game. That's better than Michael Crabtree in 2007. He never had less than 105 yards in a game, and he scored at least one touchdown in every game. His 18 touchdowns is the best in the nation. If he could have showcased his outstanding talents one last time against Nebraska in the Big XII Championship game, maybe he would have moved up to number 2.
No Andrew Luck
Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck has gotten a lot of support from media and fans for the number 2 spot. In fact, he even got enough voters to vote for him to be flown out to New York as a Heisman finalist. As you can see, he wouldn't even make my ballot. Luck has done nothing "outstanding" in my judgment. He does not have "outstanding" stats (245-349, 70.2%, 3,051 yards, 28 TD, 7 Int, 166.1 passer rating / 51 rushes, 438 yards, 3 TD). Four other quarterbacks have a higher completion percentage (as well as 2 in 2009, 3 in 2008, 4 in 2007). Quarterbacks have been passing for 3,000 yards for well over 30 years, including 20 others this year. A 166 passer rating is merely good, nowadays. The best stat Luck has going for him is the 4:1 TD to Int. ratio. Then again, at least 10 other quarterbacks had that same ratio or better, including Cam Newton. I know it is a nice story that Stanford is having its best season in a really long time, and Luck could be the number one pick in the NFL draft. Those two things, however, don't mean a quarterback with good stats should get a Heisman vote.