Heisman Goes to a Player in a Second-Rate Conference Who Played a Cheesecloth Schedule

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Do you remember Troy Smith, Chris Weinke, Ty Detmer, or Andre Ware? Do you switch on the TV when Matt Leinart's team is playing -- do you remember what team he plays for? Does your heart beat faster when you think of the pro careers of Danny Wuerffel, Ron Dane, Eric Crouch, Jason White, Gino Toretta, or Charlie Ward? Do you even recognize more than two or three of these names? If so, you're a master of trivia and your category is "Heisman Trophy Winners of the Last Quarter-Century."

We won't know for some time whether Robert Griffin III, who was presented the trophy as "the most outstanding college football player in the country" Saturday night at the Marriott Marquis, will join their ranks. As the Zen master says, we'll see. But if history is any indication, Griffin will be recalled, if at all, as another college hotshot with fantastic stats who couldn't make it in the NFL.

Why do I say that? Because once again, as they have so often done, the Heisman voters weren't really looking to pick the best player -- they were looking for the player with the best story. That was Griffin. The story in this case was that no player from Baylor had ever won a Heisman (nor, it should be added, has any player from Baylor ever deserved one), that Griffin was an underdog (so what?), and that, as the headline to the story by Stewart Mandel on SI.com put it, "Robert Griffin's Heisman Helped Transform Long-Suffering Baylor." (Is that the purpose of the Heisman trophy, to bring relief to beleaguered schools?)

You'd think when information is so easy to access on websites that Heisman voters might do a bit of research before casting their ballots, but year after year, decade after decade, that never seems to be the case. Griffin's statistics have now appeared in hundreds of stories -- he passed for just under 4,000 yards with 36 touchdowns and six interceptions -- and while we're on the subject, Stanford's Andrew Luck, who finished second, threw for 3,710 yards, 35 TDS with nine interceptions.

But how much did all these gaudy numbers really mean? In Griffin's case, the most important single fact was ignored in nearly all the pre- and post- Heisman hype: the closest Griffin came to facing a good defense all year was against Texas Christian in the first game of the season. TCU was the only team Griffin had to throw against that finished in the top 30 in fewest points allowed per game. (The Horned Frogs were 30th, and that was only because they play in the powder puff Mountain West conference and their schedule was littered with such non-powers as Louisiana-Monroe, Portland State, and New Mexico.) That was it. Griffin never had to play against a single good defense the rest of the season.

Luck's situation was similar. In the last game of the season, Stanford beat Notre Dame 28-14; the Fighting Irish were 28th in the country on scoring defense. The truth is that both Griffin and Luck played schedules against teams where the finals seemed more like basketball scores. Luck's Stanford team, for instance, beat Southern Cal 56-48 in three overtimes and lost to Oregon 53-30; Griffin's Bears beat TCU 50-48, Rice 56-31, Missouri 42-39, Oklahoma 45-38, and Texas Tech 66-42. Baylor also lost to Kansas State 36-35, to Texas A&M 55-28, and Oklahoma State 59-24.

And both quarterbacks piled on the numbers against some helpless, beaten opponents just to impress Heisman voters. Why, for instance, was it necessary for Griffin to throw for 285 yards in a 48-0 pounding of Stephen F. Austin? (And why is Baylor even playing Stephen F. Austin?)

There's only one league left in college football where defense is important, and that's the Southeastern Conference. Alabama's Trent Richardson, who was the betting favorite just two weeks ago, never had a chance after Griffin passed for 320 yards and accounted for four touchdowns against a mediocre Texas D in their last game. Richardson, though, put up meaningful numbers against real defenses: 1583 yards, 6.0 yards per try, and 23 TDs running and receiving in 12 games against seven teams that finished among the top 37 scoring defenses in the country -- more good defenses than Griffin is likely to face in his entire college career even if he comes back to play his senior year at Baylor.

Does anyone seriously think that Richardson wouldn't have rushed for something like 2500 yards playing the kind of schedule that Griffin's or Luck's teams played?

Does anyone really think that Robert Griffin III or Andrew Luck would have thrown for nearly 4000 yards playing an SEC schedule -- playing in the conference that has placed nine of its twelve teams in postseason bowls?

Once again the Heisman Trophy was awarded to a player on a team in a second rate conference playing a cheesecloth schedule. And they wonder why some of the past Heisman winners aren't household names in their own households.

Go to Runnin' Scared for all our latest news coverage.


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31 comments
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Ken
Ken

I couldn't disagree more.  First of all, the Big 12 had more ranked teams for more weeks than ANY other conference in 2011.  Clearly, the SEC has several GREAT teams, but that doesn't mean that every award and every great player has to come from that conference.  In truth, Robert Griffin won the Heisman DESPITE being at Baylor, not BECAUSE he was at Baylor.

Kristan Overstreet
Kristan Overstreet

Obviously only the Southeastern Conference should play football. After all, if only the Southeastern Conference deserves the national title, the Heisman, or any other awards, why should any other college bother?

AT
AT

I think you're right except it is interesting that he beat out Trent Richardson and Tyrann Mathieu in the Heisman votes from the southwest region. Pretty ironic.

Phillip Roscher
Phillip Roscher

Its a collegiate award....period. Their is no correlation  between being the Heisman and being a great NFL player as your opening statement points out. You can not define the success of a Heisman on his NFL career9 or lack there of). Its simply the "Most outsanding playe in college football" that year.

Heybarker5
Heybarker5

You are an idiot. SEC homer who can't see past the tires on his double-wide. Good luck writing in your second-rate blog...loser.

Allenbarra
Allenbarra

Yeah, well, I'm getting paid to do this.  You came here on your own nickel.

EJ
EJ

You obviously never watched RG3 play a full game.  By the way, Baylor's schedule is ranked the 8th most difficult in college football. I guess you forgot to do your research. Hey, Alabama and LSU and maybe even Arkansas are the best teams in college football...but don't think the rest of the SEC measured up.  Even with a sub par defense, RG3 still managed incredible statistics.  His 36 passing touchdowns averaged over 35 yards a throw.

Tank4265
Tank4265

"The rest of the SEC did not measure up."There are nine SEC teams in bowl games and NONE are underdogs, which is saying something since two of them play each other.For good measure, the two incoming SEC teams (A&M and Mo.) also are favored.

Allenbarra
Allenbarra

Yes, he averaged all that against some of the truly crappiest defenes in the country.As I said, the only team he faced that finished in the top 30 in scoring defense was TCU, and TCU only made it because they played such a weak schedule. I would match up every team in the SEC against every team in the Big 12 and feel confident  that they'd win most of the games. 

Cowboydroid
Cowboydroid

There isn't an SEC team that would make it through a Big 12 schedule finishing higher than 30th in yards allowed/game. Texas had the best statistical defense in the Big 12 this year...and it got them a Holiday Bowl.

Hacks like you don't understand the dynamics between conferences. You play defense in the Big 12 by forcing turnovers. Try to play any other way, and you smoked by fast offenses that strike quick. You play defense in the SEC by limiting yards, because the offenses are lacking in quarterback skill and aren't capable of striking quick.

THODGE
THODGE

the Heisman has nothing to do with the NFL...it is given to the most outstanding player in collegiate football. You do not know the previous Heisman winners due to the fact that you are a lousy sports writer. PERIOD

Allenbarra
Allenbarra

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought the NFL drafts its players from the rnaks of college football. As for knowing the names of Hesiman Trophy winners, you can look them up on the Heisman's website. The problem isn't KNOWING them, the problem is REMEMBERING them.

Dean Wixsom
Dean Wixsom

This is the worst article I have read in a long time....

Mediocre Texas D.....

Watching the Georgia LSU game, it seems as though SEC teams could throw for that much if 3/4 of perfectly wide open passes were not dropped.  SEC Defense is so good!  Reality check, SEC Offenses are bad.

Allenbarra
Allenbarra

Yeah, SEC offenses are so bad they've produced Tim Tebow, Cam Newton, Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, Julio Jones ... should I go on?  BTW, Texas was 43rd in scoring defense.

Cowboydroid
Cowboydroid

Who do they have THIS YEAR? A bunch of crappy quarterbacks that can't string together more than 2 completions in a row.

Smokes_Quantity
Smokes_Quantity

If the Big 12 is such a "second rate" conference, and the SEC is superior, then why is the schedule argument ignored when you look at Alabama's schedule? Kent State, North Texas, and Georgia Southern aren't exactly powers. And most of their conference opponents were not very good: Florida, Ole Miss, Miss St., Vandy, and Tennessee went a combined 8-32 in the SEC. I also hope you realize LSU played a D-1AA school (Northwestern St.), Western Kentucky and beat up on Florida, Ole Miss, Miss St, Kentucky, and Tennessee (conference record: 8-30). It's easy to claim the SEC is so superior to everything else, when that's the default position before any games are played and all that needs to happen is for the top teams to keep winning to make you look smart, regardless of how questionable some of the competition is.

Allenbarra
Allenbarra

Boy, do you need some straightening out.  Let me give it a shot:  All teams play a couple of dogs.  But the difference between SEC -- which is a first rate conference -- and the Big 12 -- which is a second rate conference -- is the strength of the schools within that conference.  Of course, some of the schools within the conference are going to have losing records against the major pwoers. Of course, some of the schools are going to lose to the top couple of teams. Arkansas would be a perfect 12-0 if they hadn't lost to No.1 ranked LSU and No.2 ranked Alabama -- and given up 80 points in the process.

Try hard and you might understand why nine of the twelve schools in the SEC have been invited to postseason bowls. And you might have noticed that the SEC has won a few national champsionshps this decade.

Smokes_Quantity
Smokes_Quantity

I forgot, bowls are all about merit and have nothing to do with drawing fans/ratings. I mean, why else would Virginia Tech & Michigan get invited to the BCS over Boise St. and TCU? I mean, it's not like those schools would ever win a BCS game, right?

Also, why is it a foregone conclusion that 'Bama would be 12-0 in any other conference? Absent any on-field test of that theory, it's based entirely on conjecture. Conference strength only goes so far and neither of us has any godly idea who would win the national title if it were settled on the field rather than biased polls and computer models. If we used this logic in college basketball to decide who gets to play for the national title then the Big East would place 3 schools in the Final 4 every year, but obviously the "superiority" of that conference doesn't always show itself in a system that isn't built to protect its interests.

Cowboydroid
Cowboydroid

The Big 12 is 6-1 in bowls so far, with one game left to play. The SEC will finish, at best, 6-3...possibly 5-4. The Big 12 is the clear #1 in the computers for strength of conference., and that includes records like opponents' opponents. It is not subjective, like so many humans tend to be.

Get a grip, and stop swinging from the SEC's sack.

Smokes_Quantity
Smokes_Quantity

All I am saying is that calling the SEC the only legit conference and all others "second rate" is open to debate. Judging by the fact that you have responded to every single comment on this post, it seems like you simply refuse to accept the legitimacy of any other viewpoint. Since that's the case, then why did you even allow comments on this post in the first place?

Allenbarra
Allenbarra

Oh, I get it.  The SEC places so many teams in bowls every year solely becasue of viewership.  But if your analogy holds, why wouldn't schools from the Big East or Big Ten be invited instead of SEC schools?  Of course, no one knows how a playoff system would play out.  But if you're going to write it all off to conjecture, then why argue about it at all?

And argument for the SEC's superiority is not based solely on conjecture. It's based on the fact that year after year they can consistenly beat more out-of-conference opponents than anyone else.

 

Wyankey
Wyankey

Kansas State has one of the best defenses in the Big 12. They were the first team this season to show that RGIII could be shut down and pressured. Did he deserve the trophy, maybe, but probably not. There were better players for sure, but everything is subjective.

Allenbarra
Allenbarra

Saying that you have one of the best defenses in the Big 12 is like bragging you're one of the world's tallest midgets.  Kansas State was 70th among major colleges in points allowed per game with 27.8. 

Cowboydroid
Cowboydroid

Tell me about the scoring stats of SEC offenses...

bl1y
bl1y

Freakonomics did a look at QB stats, and if you throw for more than 400 yards in a game, you lose about 80% of time. Big passing stats usually mean that your running game is terrible (so the QB isn't sharing the workload), and that your team is way behind, so you have to go deep often.

Allenbarra
Allenbarra

Ah, but it's not quite the same in college.  If the other team can't make you pay (with sacks and interceptions) for throiwng a lot, many teams will run up the score on weaker opponents. 

Macsplusmore
Macsplusmore

4000 yards in the SEC...not even in their wildest dreams.

Allenbarra
Allenbarra

I'd say maybe 2500, but as many times as those guys would get knocked down in the SEC they'd probably quit throwing and just start handing the ball off.

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