Will MIZZOU play whipping boys in Big 12 Championship?

Chase DanielThey might have finished the 2008 season with a winning record for the second time in a decade, but by all accounts this year has been a major letdown for a Kansas team coming off a fantastic 2007 campaign. But with their 40-37 win over rival Missouri on Sunday, the Jayhawks have plenty to smile about.

KU quarterback Todd Reesing actually out dueled Heisman candidate Chase Daniel, throwing for 375 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. Daniel was equally impressive, throwing for 288 yards and four touchdowns, but it was Reesing who found Kerry Meier with 27 seconds remaining in the game to propel the Jayhawks to victory.

I realize the Tigers didn’t necessarily need this game – they were going to appear in the Big 12 Championship with a win or a loss – but how flat did they look in the first half? They were playing a Kansas team that had struggled mightily against top competition this year, but they just appeared to want it more. This is supposed to be a major rivalry and while the game was exciting in the second half, the Tigers were surprisingly uninterested.

You hate to assume anything in college football (or draw conclusions from one game), but it’s easy to think that either Texas or Oklahoma would roll all over MIZZOU in the Big 12 Championship Game. Kind of ironic to think that the best conference this year in college football might produce a dud for its championship game.

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Is Colt McCoy the best quarterback in the Big 12?

Here’s a fluffy conversation to start everyone’s day-after Thanksgiving recovery: Who’s the best quarterback in the Big 12? Jimmy Burch of the Star-Telegram writes that Texas’ signal caller Colt McCoy holds the honors, even if the Heisman voters don’t eventually think so.

Colt McCoyIn short, McCoy is the league’s MVP. He is more valuable to the Longhorns as a rusher, passer and leader than any player on any other roster in the Big 12.

McCoy drove home that point against A&M. He threw for 311 yards and two touchdowns. He rushed for 49 yards and two scores. He picked up his 31st career victory as a starting quarterback, passing Vince Young for most in Longhorns’ history.

Most important, McCoy jump-started the Texas offense — time and again — on a night when the Longhorns (11-1, 7-1 in Big 12) struggled early to rack up the style points they needed to blow away BCS voters.

Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford? He hands off to three players who could start ahead of any member of the Longhorns’ current tailback tandem. He is protected by a huge, veteran offensive line.

Texas Tech’s Graham Harrell? He throws to Michael Crabtree, the nation’s best receiver and a certifiable first-round NFL draft pick.

McCoy keeps the wheels spinning behind an offensive line that is good but not as dominant as others in the league. Most of McCoy’s most telling tosses wind up in the hands of Jordan Shipley and Quan Cosby, two undersized and underappreciated guys who won’t wow any NFL scouts with their measurable qualities.

McCoy has my vote, too. I loved him as a freshman, believed last year was just a small setback and think he’s currently having the best season of any quarterback in the nation. Bradford is an absolute stud and Harrell executes Tech’s offense better than any quarterback before him. But McCoy does so much for the Longhorn offense in terms of passing and running that he deserves (at this point) to be the frontrunner for the Heisman. But I think we should wait to see how this year plays out before drawing any conclusions. What if he struggles in the Big 12 Championship Game or stumbles in the title game if UT makes an appearance? Those games ultimately should decide the value of a player – not the ones at home against Texas A&M on Thanksgiving night. (Although it’s also fair to judge a player’s entire body of work throughout the season, not just one game.)

Comment starter: Who do you think is the best quarterback in the Big 12?

This just in: Chase Daniel is freaking good

Chase DanielMissouri quarterback Chase Daniel completed a school-best 20 passes in a row to help the Tigers crush Buffalo 42-21 on Saturday. Daniel finished 36 of 43 for a career-high 439 yards and two touchdowns to help No. 5 Missouri stay undefeated.

It was over when… Chase Daniel hit Chase Coffman on a 4-yard TD pass to put the Tigers up 40-21 in the fourth.
Gameball goes to… Daniel, who threw for two touchdowns and a career-high 439 yards.
Stat of the game… 20. Daniel set a Big 12 record with 20 straight completions.

After getting harassed last year by Okalahoma, voters are waiting to see how Daniel will fare against better defenses. Missouri is off next week, but Daniel will get his first big test two weeks from now when the Tigers travel to Nebraska. Two weeks after that, Missouri plays the Longhorns in Texas, so he could essentially win or lose the Heisman next month.

I know outside of Illinois in the opener, Daniel hasn’t faced a team with a quality secondary, but he looks phenomenal.

Chase Daniel takes lead in Heisman race?

Gene Menez of SI.com breaks down the Heisman race as college football enters Week 4 of the season.

Chase Daniel1. Chase Daniel, Missouri, QB, Sr.
Last week: 23-of-28 passing, 405 yards, 4 TDs; 1 rush, 12 yards in a 69-17 victory over Nevada.
Season: 65-of-90 passing, 973 yards, 10 TDs, 1 INT; 10 rushes, 58 yards.
Heisman-o-meter: Daniel has been a regular on this list for three years, but he has never been No. 1 — until now. The Tigers’ triggerman has been mind-boggingly productive in his first three games as the Missouri offense has rolled. (In the last two he has played just four quarters total and has seven touchdowns against six incompletions.) How he plays in the Tigers’ tough October stretch (at Nebraska, Oklahoma State, at Texas, Colorado) will go a long way in determining if he stays at No. 1.
Up next: Saturday vs. Buffalo.

2. Sam Bradford, Oklahoma, QB, Soph.
Last week: 18-of-21 passing, 304 yards, 5 TDs; 1 rush, 1 yard, 1 TD in a 55-14 victory at Washington.
Season: 64-of-81 passing, 882 yards, 12 TDs, 2 INTs; 4 rushes, 4 yards, 1 TD.
Heisman-o-meter: In other Big 12 news, the Sooners have the conference’s — and country’s — No. 2 candidate for the stiff-armed statuette. Bradford plays so smoothly when he’s rolling out of the pocket and hitting receivers on the run, and he has Oklahoma’s offense humming. The task of separating Daniel and Bradford (Does Daniel benefit from having better receivers? Does Bradford have a better offensive line, running game and defense to get him the ball?) could go into early December when the Big 12 title game is played.
Up next: Sept. 27 vs. TCU.

3. Tim Tebow, Florida, QB, Jr.
Last week: Idle.
Season: 30-of-49 passing, 393 yards, 3 TDs; 22 rushes, 92 yards.
Heisman-o-meter: As Daniel, Bradford and others have made early-season cases for the Heisman, the incumbent has yet to be the Tebow we know. For Saturday’s game at Tennessee, it will be interesting to see if the Gators’ rushing attack has improved since the Miami contest and who’s doing the heavy lifting. None of Florida’s tailbacks were effective against the Hurricanes, forcing the running load onto Tebow’s legs, which could prove great for a Heisman repeat but not so good for the Gators’ long term goals.
Up next: Saturday at Tennessee.

Daniel has been the best quarterback of this young season and his play at the end of the opener against Illinois was fantastic. But even though the Illini proved to be a tougher opponent than many thought, Daniel’s first true test comes next week when the Tigers travel to Nebraska and take on an improved Huskers program.

Unfortunately college football fans have to wait two more weeks before Bradford faces his first real test. After TCU this week and at Baylor next Saturday, Oklahoma hosts Texas and Kansas in back-to-back weeks. Bradford might have the chance to win or lose the Heisman in those weeks.

Breaking down the 2008 Heisman Trophy hopefuls

After becoming the first underclassman to win the Heisman Trophy in 2007, the conventional wisdom is that Florida quarterback Tim Tebow is the favorite to win college football’s prestigious award again this year.

But should he be the favorite?

Below is a breakdown of 10 Heisman Trophy candidates and reasons why they will or won’t win the award this season.

1. Chris Wells, RB, Ohio State
Why he’ll win: Barring injury, “Beanie” Wells should be the true favorite to win the Heisman this year based on his role in Ohio State’s offense, his talent and his team’s schedule. Jim Tressel loves to pound the ball on the ground, which should mean big numbers for Wells, who’s arguably the best back in the nation. It also doesn’t hurt that the Buckeyes won’t face many tough defenses this year outside of USC and possibly Penn State, who both had excellent run defenses in 2007. A 2,000-yard season certainly isn’t out of the question given Wells’ durability and strength.
Why he won’t win: Voters tend to remember if players don’t perform well against top competition, so Wells could blow his Heisman chances if he produces a dud against USC in early September. Outside of that, an injury or just a terrible year, what’s to stop Wells in 2008-09?

2. Tim Tebow, QB, Florida
Why he’ll win: Tebow is arguably the best player in the country and certainly the most versatile. He also is the offensive centerpiece for a powerhouse program that should contend for a national title this year and his 2007 performance is still fresh in the minds of voters.
Why he won’t win: The Gators offense should be even better in 2008, which in theory means that Tebow won’t be counted on to do quite as much as he did last year (again, in theory). Obviously he’ll still have a huge role in the offense, but Florida will have one of the most balanced attacks in the nation, which is great for wins but not for Tebow’s final numbers. He’ll likely not only have to produce a tremendous season, but also lead the Gators to a national championship, which is never easy playing in the tough SEC.

3. Chase Daniel, QB, Missouri
Why he’ll win: Stats. Given the offense the Tigers run, Daniel is going to have the opportunity to match the 4,000-plus yards and 30-plus touchdowns he compiled from a year ago. Like last year, Missouri is a contender for the national title, which only helps Daniel’s chances.
Why he won’t win: Stats aren’t going to be a problem, but wins against top competition might be. Daniel will likely have to lead Mizzou to victories against Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma (or whoever) in the Big 12 Championship to even sniff a decent finish in the Heisman voting. That’s one tall order for not only Daniel, but the Tigers as well.

4. Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia
Why he’ll win: It’s scary to think that given how productive the freshman Moreno was last year (1,334 yards, 14 TDs, 5.4 YPC), that there’s even more room for growth. Outside of Wells, Moreno is the most talented back in the nation and he also plays for the preseason No. 1 favorite so he’ll receive plenty of attention. He’s already drawing comparisons to Herschel Walker and Garrison Hearst.
Why he won’t win: Mark Richt has already indicated that he wants to get other backs involved (i.e. redshirt freshman Caleb King) in the offense, which could eat into Moreno’s touches (and thus, his stats). The offensive line also features some youth and might take time to gel, which usually doesn’t bode well for running backs. UGA quarterback Matthew Stafford also figures to be in the Heisman mix this season, and thus stealing some of the spotlight from Moreno.

5. Pat White, QB, West Virginia
Why he’ll win: Despite being one of the most electrifying players in the nation, White also has several factors working in his favor. One, West Virginia plays a favorable schedule and will likely contend for a national championship. Two, White doesn’t have to share the spotlight with Steve Slaton anymore, which should only increase his Heisman value. (Although Noel Devine looks like Steve Slaton Jr., so that second point might be moot once the season starts.)
Why he won’t win: With Rich Rodriguez now in Michigan, White and the Mountaineers have to adjust to having a new head coach (even though the team is familiar with new front man Bill Stewart from last year’s Fiesta Bowl victory). White has also struggled with injuries and one loss to a sub-par opponent will crush his Heisman chances. And with Slaton now in the NFL, defenses will likely key on White and build their game plan around stopping the dynamic QB.

6. Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech
Why he’ll win: Crabtree’s stats should be impressive across the board in terms of touchdowns, receptions and yardage. Given the offense he plays in and the quarterback he plays for, Crabtree is going to have every chance to be the most productive receiver in the nation. (Stat-wise, at least.)
Why he won’t win: Crabtree will have the same problem as teammate Graham Harrell in that he plays in an offensive system designed to produce outrageous numbers. Heisman voters will expect big numbers out of Crabtree, so he and Texas Tech will likely have to produce a few upsets in order to turn heads.

7. Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma
Why he’ll win: If it weren’t for an injury suffered against Texas Tech late in the year, Bradford would have made some noise in the 2007 Heisman race. His numbers were extraordinary last year (8 INTs compared to 36 TDs), so if he can stay healthy, produce similar stats and lead OK to another Big 12 Championship, his Heisman chances are excellent.
Why he won’t win: Losing receiver Malcolm Kelly hurts and like several other players on this list, Bradford has a teammate in DeMarco Murray that could steal some of his spotlight. Will the Sooners have to compete for a national title in order for Bradford to truly be recognized by voters? Or will a Big 12 Championship be enough?

8. DeMarco Murray, RB, Oklahoma
Why he’ll win: As a backup last year, Murray produced 13 touchdowns, so the sky is the limit this season. He also plays on a dynamic offense and a program that should compete for a national title. A few key performances against Texas, Kansas and possibly Missouri in the Big 12 Championship, would be huge for Murray.
Why he won’t win: As previously mentioned, only one underclassman has ever won the Heisman and that was Tebow last year. Murray also has to share the limelight with teammate Sam Bradford and he’s battled a knee injury in the past. Back up Chris Brown is also likely to steal some of Murray’s carries.

9. Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia
Why he’ll win: Stafford has developed into one of the best quarterback prospects in the nation and a future top 5 draft pick. He also plays on the most talked about team in the nation and if Georgia can cash in on all the preseason hype, Stafford is going to get major recognition from voters.
Why he won’t win: Playing in the SEC East is brutal. Stafford and UGA will have to face Florida, Tennessee, Alabama, Auburn and LSU this year, which is daunting to say the least. It also doesn’t help that Stafford plays in the same backfield as Moreno and will face Florida’s Tebow – two of the Heisman’s top candidates. Stafford could essentially lose the race if Tebow outperforms him in early November.

10. Graham Harrell, QB, Texas Tech
Why he’ll win: Similar to Chase Daniel, Harrell should produce eye-popping numbers in the Red Raiders’ high-powered offense. It also doesn’t hurt having a solid offensive line and an explosive weapon in fellow Heisman candidate Michael Crabtree. Depending on how you look at it, the Red Raiders’ schedule could help or hurt Harrell’s chances. Road games against Oklahoma and Kansas could sink Harrell’s Heisman stock. But if he could pull off a couple of upsets, his chances will obviously rise.
Why he won’t win: History. Despite producing great numbers on a yearly basis, Texas Tech quarterbacks typically don’t fair well in Heisman voting. System quarterbacks have a hard time earning Heisman votes; Hawaii’s Colt Brennan was the latest example.

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