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August 28, 2008
Roundtable: Who will win the Heisman?
At the College Football Roundtable each week, we ask each member of the coverage staff for their opinion about a topic in the sport.
Who is your pick to win the Heisman this season?
Anytime you go about picking a Heisman favorite, you need to think about the process as much as you do the talent. It isn't just about who's the best, but what position they play, what statistics they're going to have, where they go to school and will their school be in contention for the title.
That's why Chris Wells will bring home the bacon in 2008. He's not only a running back, one of the two positions that have a chance to actually win the award, but he is the best running back in the country. He will be an offensive star who will pile up a ton of rushing yards at one of the most high-profile schools in the country – a school that will be playing for the national championship. That's a hard combination to beat.
Ohio State boasts six Heisman recipients and Buckeyes running back Chris Wells figures to make it seven. Wells will benefit from playing in an experienced offense that returns four line starters and a passing game that opponents will have to respect. Last season, Wells rushed for 1,609 yards - with more than half of that production coming in the last six games. Those numbers didn't come against weak defenses, either. In that span, Wells faced five of the top 38 defenses in the nation – with a sore foot. Completely healthy now, he'll get more carries against weaker teams (only four attempts vs. Kent State last season), which will make him a threat to reach 2,000 yards.
An early marquee game against USC helps, too. If he has a solid performance in that game, the trophy could be his to lose right away – much the way it was for Buckeyes quarterback Troy Smith after an excellent early performance against Texas in 2006. And if all that isn't enough, he has the added motivation of trying to prevent Florida quarterback Tim Tebow from joining Ohio State legend Archie Griffin as the only two-time Heisman recipient.
It looks like a five-man race between Florida's Tim Tebow, Missouri's Chase Daniel, West Virginia's Pat White, Georgia's Knowshon Moreno and Ohio State's Chris Wells. If USC is as good as everyone thinks, you can count on a Trojan (Mark Sanchez?) getting in the hunt. And don't discount Texas Tech's Graham Harrell from making a push. In the end, I think Wells wins.
The Buckeyes will have the requisite gaudy win-loss record, Big Ten title and lofty poll ranking to augment Wells' cause. (Has any individual trophy ever been more tied to team performance? It's not right, but it's reality.) And, of course, Wells will do his part by rushing for more than 2,000 yards as the centerpiece of Ohio State's offense. The Buckeyes will overtake Notre Dame as the leader in Heisman winners with eight, won by seven players. And, it's time for a running back to win again; only one (USC's Reggie Bush) has turned the trick this decade.
I don't like going with the pack, but I can't stick my neck out to pick someone else. I'm going with Chris Wells. He's not just an ultra-productive running back on a national title contender who plays for a school that has won seven Heisman Trophies. He won't split the regional vote like all the candidates in the Big 12. After years of setting precedent, I doubt Heisman winners will pick another sophomore or another repeat winner.
That leaves Wells, who, like a good presidential candidate, has national appeal. He can win a heap of West Coast and national votes with a strong performance against a dominating USC defense. He already has credibility in the Southeast after rushing for 146 yards against LSU in the national title game. And despite ending the season two weeks before the rest of the field, Wells will finish the regular season with statement games against Illinois and Michigan. Simply put, he is the perfect Heisman candidate.
I'll go with Ohio State's Chris Wells for a couple of reasons.
First, he's talented and might be the best player at his position in the nation.
Second, he's going to have big-time stats.
Third, his team is going to win at least 10 games.
Fourth, he'll be on TV often.
Fifth, he's getting a ton of preseason publicity, which helps.
Add all that up, and Wells takes home the trophy.
The tempting choice is to pick Florida quarterback Tim Tebow to match former Ohio State running back Archie Griffin as the only two-time Heisman Trophy winners, but I'm guessing Tebow's statistics won't be quite as overwhelming this season. The Gators have improved their tailback situation enough that Tebow might not have to make quite as many touchdown runs this season, which could cause Heisman voters to look elsewhere. That's why I'll go with Chris Wells of Ohio State.
Wells rushed for 1,609 yards in 2007 and closed the season with a 230-yard performance against Michigan and a 146-yard effort against LSU. Wells can deliver a statement Sept. 13 when Ohio State travels to USC. If Wells rushes for more than 150 yards and Ohio State stays competitive, he could establish himself as the front-runner even if the Buckeyes fail to win the game.