Is Tebow Deserving of All of the Heisman Hype?

If you check the latest rankings for the favorites for this year’s Heisman Trophy, the name at the top of the list is Florida’s Tim Tebow.  While that does not pose as much of a surprise to anyone who has paid attention to college football the last four years, the statistics for Tebow and many others who are not on the watch list may be a bit of a surprise.

Tebow's charisma, not his overall performance, may be influencing Heisman voters (google images)

Tebow's charisma, not his overall performance, may be influencing Heisman voters (google images)

Going into the 2009 season, the three favorites to bring home the coveted award were the top three finishers in last year’s voting, Heisman Trophy winner, Sam Bradford from Oklahoma, Texas Longhorn quarterback Colt McCoy and Tebow.

Bradford’s chances at a repeat fell dramatically when he was knocked out of the first game of the year and subsequently missed the next three games with a sprained shoulder.  McCoy has again put up solid numbers, but he has seen a bit of a dip slightly from his stats from a year ago.  McCoy could make a strong impression this weekend in front of a national television audience in the Red River Shootout against the hated Oklahoma Sooners, but as of now, he is second on the Heisman list to Tebow, according to most experts.

A closer look at Tebow’s stats this season, however,  begs the question:  Is the Heisman Trophy supposed to go to the best player or the most popular one?  While the Florida Gators have been the number one team in America since the preseason, Tebow’s stats are a far cry from elite, not only in the country, but in his conference and even in his own state.

Tebow’s 155 passing yards per game rank him 96th in the FBS, and eighth in his own conference.  In fact, the only great statistical game Tebow has managed was against Troy, where he completed four of his seven touchdowns on the year.  If you take out both cupcakes, Troy and lowly Charleston Southern, and focus on the three SEC opponents the Gators have faced (Tennessee, Kentucky and LSU), Tebow is averaging 124 yards passing a game with two touchdowns and two interceptions. 

On the ground, he is averaging 4.1 yards per carry and 79 yards per game.  There are 59 quarterbacks in the FBS that are averaging more than that just in passing yards.  That is an average of 203 yards of total offense. 

Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen has led an Irish team with a very average defense to a 4-1 record this season.  He is averaging 308 yards per game with 12 TDs and two interceptions, and he has kept the Irish in every one of their games, including the last second, heart-breaking loss to Michigan in week two.  

Finally, Tony Pike is getting some serious Heisman consideration (google images)

Finally, Tony Pike is getting some serious Heisman consideration (google images)

Until this week when ESPN’s Robert Smith discussed it, very few experts had mentioned Cincinnati’s Tony Pike as a threat.  Pike has led the Bearcats to a 5-0 start and is averaging  just under 300 yards per game through the air with 13 TD’s and only three interceptions.

What may be the most surprising is that Tebow is statistically a far cry from the being the best QB in the state of Florida.  Miami’s Jacory Harris has quietly led the Hurricanes to a 4-1 start.  Harris has been great in every game except the monsoon in Blacksburg when the Hokies held him to 150 yards.  In that game, not only did Harris face one of the best defensive coordinators in the country in Bud Foster, he also had to deal with Mother Nature.  The entire game was played in monsoon-like conditions with steady rain and gusting winds.  Still, Harris has 25th in the nation in yards per game.

The other QB that may surprise a lot of people due to his team’s record is Florida State’s Christian Ponder.  Through the Bobby Bowden retirement soap opera and the ‘Noles’ travesty of a defense this season, many outside of Tallahassee have not recognized what the junior signal caller has done thus far. 

Ponder currently ranks 11th in passing yards per game with 9 TD’s and only one pick.  He has added another 123 yards on the ground and more importantly, Ponder has kept his team in every game this season, despite an inconsistent running game and one of the nation’s worst defenses.

Finally, ESPN has Jimmy Clausen, Tony Pike and Jacory Harris on their watch list, but they may want to check the stats before the put Tebow on top again.  Unfortunately, the very mediocre stats will be downplayed by ESPN and the rest of the media and Tebow’s leadership and charisma will be brought up. 

What should be considered instead is who is the best college football player in the nation.  Who does more for his team and does more in big games?  The stats don’t lie, but if the season plays out like it has and the Heisman race plays out like it looks like it may, ESPN’s Erin Andrews may want to see if she still has eligibility left.  Her popularity may make her next year’s Heisman front-runner.

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