Nothing could have put me in a better mood today than lunch with eight other members of the SEC Roundtable at Longhorn Steakhouse, unofficially the 113th different destination at which we’ve convened.
It was all great – the food, the conversation and the 10-minute drive back to the office, listening to Hotel California from start to finish on XM Radio’s ‘70s on 7. What a classic!
I’ve got very few pleasures in life but nothing is more satisfying than thinking you’ve lost something and then finding it. That was the case Thursday with my Heisman Trophy ballot.
I was beginning to think I might have been dropped from the list after hearing that a fellow Roanoke Times voter had been reprimanded by the Heisman Trophy Trust for revealing his vote before the announcement.
I didn’t reveal my vote today. For one thing, I haven’t made it. But, I thought it would be a good idea to go around the table (it actually was round) and see what everybody thought.
Three of the guys are Virginia Tech graduates and we also had a UVa graduate (not me). There was another UVa fan, in addition to the graduate, and we also had representatives of Tennessee, West Virginia and Auburn.
The Auburn fan was a Purdue fan for a while but conveniently switched back to Auburn recently.
The first name anybody mentioned was Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston.
I think WFIR talk-show host Greg Roberts pitched Winston but later came back and challenged me to go with Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron.
Roberts’ sidekick, Justin Ditmore, immediately blurted out Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch but later started pushing Boston College running back Andre Williams.
There was also some discussion of whether Winston should be eliminated based on allegations of sexual battery, although those charges were thrown out Thursday.
I’VE ALWAYS LOOKED for players whose performances have taken their teams to a level not usually attained.
That’s one of the big reasons I voted for Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, the eventual winner, last year.
(The older of my two sons, a rabble-rouser who goes by the twitter handle “rowdydowdy,” tweeted recently that I once voted for one-time Texas Tech quarterback Kliff Kingsbury. I have no recollection of having voted for Kingsbury, though one of my daughters says he’s a real heartthrob).
But, who does meet those qualifications?
You start out with the surprise teams in the country:
Auburn, currently ranked No. 3, was unranked for the first seven weeks. Missouri, ranked fifth going into the SEC title game against Auburn, was unranked for the first six weeks.
Tenth-ranked Michigan State, which meets Ohio State for the Big Ten championship, was not ranked until the 10th week.
What are the other surprise teams? Arizona State, Central Florida, Northern Illinois, Duke? Oklahoma State was ranked all season long but stands sixth after dropping as low as 22nd.
OF ALL THOSE TEAMS, the only marquee players I can name are Lynch from Northern Illinois and Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall, a one-time University of Georgia cornerback who took the Cam Newton route and went to junior college for one year before transferring to Auburn, which recruited him as a quarterback.
I thought I’d check out Marshall’s stats and they were somewhat revealing, at least for somebody who hadn’t followed the Tigers much. His passing numbers were nothing special, but he rushed for 922 yards and 10 touchdowns in 10 games.
Marshall also passed for 1,627 yards and 11 touchdowns, compared to five interceptions. Combining rushing and passing, he accounted for 2,549 yards and 21 touchdowns. I’m not saying that I would pick Marshall but compare his numbers to McCarron’s: 2,404 yards and 23 touchdowns.
Virtually all of McCarron’s numbers came through the air: 2,399 yards, 23 touchdowns, five interceptions. He completed 68.6 percent of his passes, compared to Marshall’s 59.2, but Marshall was more capable of breaking off a 45-yard touchdown run, as he did against Alabama.
AS A BIG FAN OF statistics, I can’t resist a look at the NCAA stats. Here are some of the more impressive numbers to me:
Of all the quarterbacks mentioned above, only Manziel ranks among the top 10 in passing yardage. He’s seventh at 3,732, well back of No. 1 Derek Carr of Fresno State (4,462).
First in rushing is Boston College’s Williams at 2,102, which is 327 yards ahead of second-place Bishop Sankey of Washington. Lynch is third at 1,755, including an NCAA-record 321 last week against Western Michigan.
Carr is first in total offense, followed by SMU’s Garrett Gilbert, Manziel and Lynch.
Carr leads the nation in passing TD’s with 45, followed by Oregon State’s Sean Mannion with 36 and Winston with 35.
I WOULD BE REMISS in not checking out this Carr guy. Is he related to former Fresno State gunslinger David Carr? Sure thing, he is. And, how good were the Bulldogs? They were 10-0 before losing to San Jose State 62-52 in Week 11. Can’t blame Carr for that.
Not saying I’ll vote for Marshall or Carr, but at least now I know a little bit more about them. Even if I had made my choice, I wouldn’t reveal it, but with too many candidates still playing this weekend (Lynch, Winston, even Marshall) , I’d be remiss not to wait till Monday.
If I’m missing anybody, feel free to let me know.