Ness Notes (Heisman Update / College Hoops Begin)

 


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As I've been saying for weeks now, this year's Heisman winner will be won by one of two QBs, Ohio State's Troy Smith or Notre Dame's Brady Quinn. Quinn has the much better numbers lately but it shouldn't go unnoticed that the Irish haven't exactly faced “Murderers Row. " Since Notre Dame was beaten badly by Michigan back on September 16 (47-21), Quinn has rebounded (he threw three INTs vs the Wolverines and lost a fumble that was returned for a TD) by leading Notre Dame to six straight wins, as the Irish have averaged 34.8 PPG.

The Irish are now 8-1 and ranked No. 9 in the latest BCS standings. During that stretch, Quinn has completed 66.7 percent of his throws while averaging 302 YPG through the air. He's thrown 19 TDPs and been intercepted just once (216 attempts). The catch is, Notre Dame's six wins have come over teams with a combined winning percentage of just .375 (21-35)! Notre Dame plays at Air Force this week and then home to Army on the 18th (not much competition in either of those games, either), before finishing with USC on November 25.

Ohio State's Troy Smith has been the “leader in the clubhouse" since the season's first weekend but he sure has “left the door open" for Quinn recently. Ohio State looked like it was ready to cruise to another easy win last Saturday, as the Buckeyes opened their game with Illinois by driving 80 yards on 14 plays for a 7-0 lead on their first possession. However, a 17-0 halftime lead never grew and Illinois scored its only TD of the game with 1:40 remaining (to close to 17-10) and the Buckeyes were forced to hang on for dear life from there.

Smith had his least-productive game of the season, completing just 13-of-23 passes for 108 yards with no TDPs and one INT. He ran 11 times for 37 yards (would have been more if not for three sacks) and has shown more running ability the last seven games, averaging 31.4 YPG rushing and 5.4 YPC. Smith's thrown for 22 TDPs this year with just three INTs and is completing 66.7 percent, while Quinn's numbers are 25 TDPs (four INTs) and a completion percentage of 63.9. Quinn however, has thrown for 2,579 yards (286.6 YPG) with Smith throwing for 2,006 yards (200.6 YPG).

Smith has been brilliant in two career games against Michigan (I'll preview the Michigan/Ohio State game next week) and he can probably wrap up the Heisman with a great performance against the Wolverines. If he does not play well and especially if Ohio State loses, Quinn will have a chance to “state his case" when Notre Dame visits the Coliseum on November 25.

More RBs have won the Heisman than any other position but no RB will win this year. Michigan's Mike Hart may get an invitation to New York, as he plays for the nation's 2nd-ranked team and he's been as consistent (although not spectacular) as any back in college football. He's topped 100 yards in eight of Michigan's 10 games this year and has 18 career 100-yard games, with Michigan going 17-1 in those 18 games. A ‘monster’ game by Hart against the Buckeyes would almost insure Hart a ticket to New York. A win would be nice as well.

West Va's Steve Slaton saw his dark-horse Heisman chances end last Thursday night in Louisville, along with West Va's hopes of playing in the national title game. Slaton fumbled on consecutive touches in the third quarter against the Cardinals, with his second fumble getting returned for a TD. It was all downhill for the Mountaineers from there and with the loss, West Va fell from No. 3 in the BCS standings to No. 10. Other backs worthy of mention are Cal's Marshawn Lynch, Boise State's Ian Johnson, Rutgers’ Ray Rice, Wisconsin's PJ Hill and Arkansas’ Darren McFadden (in no particular order of preference).

The two Colts

While a QB will win this year's Heisman, he won't be named Colt. However, Texas QB Colt McCoy and Hawaii QB Colt Brennan, deserve mention. McCoy, a red-shirt freshman, threw for a career-best 346 yards in Texas’ 36-10 win over Oklahoma State last Saturday. He threw three TDPs, giving him 27 for the season, which sets a new Texas single-season record (Vince Young had 26 TDPs last year).

In leading Texas to eight straight wins since the team's 24-7 loss to Ohio State (9/9), McCoy has completed 71.3 percent of his passes while throwing 23 TDPs and just three INTs. Texas has averaged 41.1 PPG in the eight-game streak and over the last four games, McCoy has averaged 274.3 YPG passing. The freshman record for TDPs in a single season is held by Nevada's David Neill (he threw 29 in 1998) and McCoy is sure to break that mark easily!

Colt Brennan threw six TDPs in Hawaii's 63-10 win over Utah State last Saturday, giving him 39 on the year (has just six INTs). That breaks the Hawaii single-season record of 38, set by Timmy Chang in 2004. Incredibly, Hawaii still has four regular season games remaining (all at home) and Saturday's win garnered them an invite to host this year's Hawaii Bowl, meaning Brennan will have five games left to go after the all-time single-season record for TD passes in a year.

Houston's David Klingler threw 54 TDPs for the Cougars back in 1990 and Brennan's current pace of 39 through nine games (4.3 per game), has him “on pace" to toss 60 in what will be a 14-game season for the Rainbows! It should be pointed out that Hawaii is 19-8 SU and ATS its last 27 home games during November and December. So, with five more home games to go, Brennan should sure have a real shot at Klinger's record.

College basketball is back, as a quick check of Tuesday's schedule shows two games being played in College Park, Maryland, as the Coaches vs Cancer Classic tips off the 2006-07 college basketball season. Florida, last year's national champs, will begin this season No.1 in both the AP and Coaches’ preseason polls.

Florida was unranked at the beginning of last season and finished the regular season as the AP's 11th-ranked team. However, the Gators won five of their six tournament games by 12 points or more (the exception was their 57-53 win over Georgetown), to become just the fourth team to capture the national championship, after beginning the season unranked. The three others to do so were, Texas Western in 1966 (now UTEP), Villanova in 1985 and Syracuse in 2003.

As most know, the Gators return all five starters from last year's championship team, just the second title team to do that in at least 40 years! Arizona won the title in the 1996-97 season and returned all five starters in 1997-98, but lost to Utah that year in the Regional Finals. North Carolina is No. 2 in both polls and Kansas comes in No. 3 in both polls as well.

As for last year's other three Final Four teams, UCLA (which lost to Florida in the championship game) is No. 6 in the AP and tied for fifth with Pitt in the Coaches’ poll. LSU is No. 5 in the AP and No. 7 in the Coaches’. Last year's “Cinderella team, " George Mason, got just one 25th-place vote in the AP poll and totaled just six points in the Coaches’ poll, which places them 42nd.

Pitt's No.4 ranking in the AP poll, matches the school's highest-ever preseason ranking with the 1987-88 team. Ohio State, which most believe has the nation's best incoming freshman class (although Greg Oden will not be available until January, due to an injury), is No. 7 in the AP. Texas A&M is ranked No. 13 in the AP, the school's first appearance in that poll since November 30, 1980.

Duke opens the year at No. 12 in the AP poll, the school's 186th consecutive appearance in the poll. It's the longest active streak of any school and the second-longest streak of all-time. UCLA appeared in 221 straight AP polls from 1966 through 1980. U Conn (No. 18 in the AP's preseason poll), has the nation's second-longest active streak behind Duke, with 59 consecutive appearances. Kansas (No. 3) and Kentucky (No. 22), own the two longest active streaks of appearing in the AP's preseason poll, as both schools have appeared in every preseason poll since the 1991-92 season.

Unlike college football, which features just 119 Division I-A schools, college basketball has 325 school playing at the Division I-A level. There will be 61 schools this year featuring a new head coach. It's the most new coaches in any year since 1998 and the third-biggest turnover since the NCAA began tracking coaching changes in 1950. The Big 12 alone has six new head coaches, a 50 percent turnover rate. Of note, Oklahoma's Kelvin Sampson will be in Indiana this year, while former Cincinnati head coach, Bob Huggins, takes over at Kansas State.

Tying in both Indiana and the Big 12, I'll note that Texas Tech's Bob Knight needs just 11 more wins to pass Dean Smith as college basketball's all-time winningest coach. And who says good things don't happen to good people?

Larry Ness is a documented member of the Professional Handicappers League. Read all of his articles at http://www.procappers.com/Larry_Ness.htm

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