Philadelphia, PA – The five finalists for the Heisman Trophy were announced this past week. Of the five young men that will make the trip to the Big Apple this weekend, one is a household name and the preseason frontrunner, two are from the SEC and the other two are wildcards that burst on the scene this season.
The Heisman shouldn't go to the most recognizable player, or the best player on national title contenders, but rather to the one player in the country that had the best season.
Based solely on that criteria, it should be a two-horse race between Baylor's Robert Griffin III and Wisconsin's Montee Ball.
The early tabulations are in and while it looks like the voters are getting half of the equation correct (Griffin leads in the voting as of today), Montee Ball's amazing 2011 has gone without much Heisman support (currently last in the voting).
Something has to be wrong with the system if a guy that leads the nation in rushing and scoring is a distant fifth in the Heisman balloting.
Griffin has been a great story. He wasn't highly recruited at the quarterback position and while he was thought of as more of a running quarterback early on in his career at Baylor, he has emerged as a complete signal-caller this season, leading the nation in pass efficiency (192.3), completing 72.4 percent of his throws, for 3,998 yards, with 36 TDs against just six INTs.
Those numbers on their own are better than Andrew Luck's, so that should rule out the Stanford signal-caller and soon-to-be first overall pick in the next NFL Draft come Saturday.
Next in the Heisman hierarchy line are the two players that will be showcased in the BCS National Championship Game.
Alabama's Trent Richardson is a beast in the backfield for the Crimson Tide. He is fifth in the nation in rushing yards per game (131.9), sixth in rushing yards (1,583) and tied for fifth in scoring (23 touchdowns). None of those numbers are tops in the country.
Tyrann Mathieu is the defensive back/return specialist for the LSU Tigers. The "Honey Badger" is a tremendous playmaker, perhaps the best in the country at what he does, but his Heisman candidacy may be more a product of an SEC bias than anything else. Also, an early season suspension is awfully hard to ignore. There is an award for the best defensive player in the country (Bednarik) and he may win that (announced on December 8th) if the suspension doesn't stand in the way.
That leaves Montee Ball. The Wisconsin Badger has managed to put together one of the great seasons by a tailback in recent memory. He leads the nation in rushing yards (1,759) and scoring (17.5 ppg, 38 touchdowns) and ranks fourth in rushing yards per game (135.3).
It is the 38 touchdowns which should elevate him to the top of the Heisman list, not just an invite to New York City. He didn't do it against the Little Sisters of the Poor, but rather against a Big Ten slate that included Nebraska, Penn State, Ohio State and Michigan State (twice). The Badgers won 11 games, will play in the Rose Bowl and Ball played a huge role in that.
With a touchdown against Oregon, he will tie Barry Sanders' single-season record for TDs, a record viewed by many, up until now, as untouchable.
Yes, Sanders did it in 11 games and Ball will have 14 on record. However, Sanders also did it on 395 touches (344 carries, 19 receptions, 21 kickoff returns, 10 punt returns).
In comparison, Ball comes into the Rose Bowl with 295 touches (275 carries, 20 receptions).
If Griffin ends up taking home the Heisman this weekend, I guess I can't complain too much, considering he did have one of the best seasons by any player in the country.
My only gripe would be that "one of the best", isn't the same as "the best."
That masterpiece, in my opinion, was delivered by the tailback in Madison.