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Handicapping the Heisman

By Seth Doria
Arizona Daily Wildcat
August 31, 1998
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Arizona Daily Wildcat

Seth Doria

With the first weekend of college football gone, so is most of the preseason hype.

Michigan State lost at home and Nebraska let a receiver from Louisiana Tech set an NCAA record for receiving yards with 405.

So now polls and bowl forecasts are forced to rely on actual game play rather than a mix of statistics from last year and a couple preseason camp reports.

But, there is one race that hasn't started yet, leaving it free game for a final preseason analysis.

I'm talking about the race for the Heisman Trophy.

The main candidates this year come from a typical variety of places. There is Kentucky quarterback Tim Couch, who threw for 3,884 yards and 37 touchdowns last year. There is Texas running back Ricky Williams, who ran for 1,893 yards and 25 touchdowns last season.

And there are a couple Pacific 10 Conference candidates in UCLA quarterback Cade McNown and ASU tailback J.R. Redmond, though it should be noted a Pac-10 player hasn't won the award since Marcus Allen did it for Southern Cal in 1981.

Other possible Heisman hopefuls include Wisconsin running back Ron Dayne and Kansas State quarterback Michael Bishop.

Unfortunately, more goes into selecting the Heisman than just individual numbers. In addition to the stats, voters always look at performances in the big games and overall team success.

Another factor, though I'm sure not too many voters would agree with this, is the hype surrounding a player. All you need to do is look at Charles Woodson last year for an example of that.

So, who's going to win it this year?

Well, I know who my pick is, but first I'll dismiss the others.

Ricky Williams deserves a lot of credit for coming back for his senior year when he could have easily made millions in the NFL, but he plays for Texas, which has road games against UCLA, Kansas State, Texas Tech and Nebraska. That's four losses right there, and their season finale against Texas A&M won't be any easier. The good news is that Texas' offensive line is extremely talented. The bad news is that the Longhorn passing game won't be worth a damn without quarterback James Brown. So, sorry Ricky, but breaking Earl Campbell's career rushing marks at Texas will have to be enough.

Tim Couch is the best passer in college football, but the Heisman very rarely goes to a non-national power. Then again, University of Houston quarterback Andre Ware won the award in 1989, though I'm sure Couch would like to have a pro career longer than the three weeks Ware lasted. Unless he has huge games at Florida and at Tennessee, there's no way Couch is getting the award.

Michael Bishop is interesting in that Kansas State has an easy-as-hell schedule and gets Nebraska at home. Toward the end of last season, Bishop was getting a lot of hype for his ability to make athletic plays out of nothing, but that overshadowed the fact he only had a 45.2 completion percentage. Couple that with his touchdown to interception ratio (17 TD, 9 INT), and you've got an athlete playing quarterback, not an athletic quarterback. Either way, he's not winning the award.

The cover of the ASU media guide totes J.R. Redmond as a Heisman hopeful and head coach Bruce Snyder is even letting Redmond double as a defensive back in an effort to capitalize on Woodson's popularity as a two-way player last year. Fact is, though, that Redmond split time as the feature back last season with the departed Michael Martin. How many Heisman-caliber players do you think have had to split time with another player at their position? Besides, I would never pick a Sun Devil to win the Heisman.

So that leaves Cade McNown and Ron Dayne.

On numbers alone, Dayne should win the award. He's huge, his offensive line is huge and his fullback is huge. Put that all together and 2,000 yards is not out of his reach. Wisconsin plays a tough schedule, but it's manageable with the exception of a road game at Michigan. Still, though, the thought of the Heisman going to a Wisconsin running back is something I don't think the voters can stomach. Especially when you have a California golden boy playing at UCLA.

So there it is, Cade McNown is my pick for the Heisman. UCLA has a hard schedule with games at Miami, Arizona and Washington, but it can win each of those games and impress the voters. An added bonus is that at least three, and probably more, UCLA games will be televised nationally. McNown has already proven he is a great quarterback by finishing last year with the best passing efficiency rating in the country (168.6) and throwing 24 touchdowns with only six interceptions.

The Heisman is all about hype and talent walking hand in hand, and look no farther than UCLA for both.

Seth Doria is a journalism senior and the sports editor for the Arizona Daily Wildcat and can be reached at He will never forgive himself for putting in print that a UCLA quarterback should win the Heisman Trophy.

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