Maybe he's improved a lot since last season?
Quick refresher on how this works-everything here is listed in terms of points versus average performance. For more info you can go here.
Wanted to do an overview of the leading Heisman candidates, look at a few of the interesting fringe candidates, and throw in a few controversial candidates (one especially around these parts).
The defensive candidatesI have struggled with how best to evaluate defensive players. My numbers give every play a value based on the success of the play relative to competition, down and distance and field position. For offensive players its pretty easy to assign value to RB's on running plays and QBs and WRs on passing plays. Sure there is a substantial effort put in by the blockers and fakes and the like, but overall, this works pretty well for offense. For defense, it's a little trickier. The 11 players on defense have a much fuzzier role in the outcome of any given play. A tackle is a tackle in normal stats, whether its after a 20 yard gain or for no gain. What I ultimately decided on was that players should be rewarded for making a play that has a negative value change for the offense. Sure a touchdown saving tackle could be a huge play even if its after a 20 yard gain, but for the most part a play that puts the offense in a worst position should be credited to the defensive player or players who made the tackle/forced the fumble/made the pick. All of this is limited by the quality of the play by play information available to me.
Players are awarded points in two categories, quantity and quality. A big fumble or interception can be worth up 10 points depending on the length of the return and the field position of the offense. That play has huge value, but is somewhat of a fluky hard to repeat type of play. By looking at both the quantity and quality, you are evaluating defensive players based on their ability to consistently make plays (quantity) and their ability to make really big plays (quality).
Obviously the scorching hot candidate this year, currently leading 1st place vote getter.
The rankings tend to favor linebackers, but that didn't stop Mr. Suh from tearing up the numbers. For the season, he was good for 72 negative plays (2nd nationally) and nearly 43 points of lost value on those plays (6th). Overall his total of 115 points (not sure if this is the right way to combine them, welcome to any thoughts) puts him 2nd overall. An absolutely outstanding year for a member of the #2 rated overall defense, worth 12 points a game as a total unit.
The Beast of Mgoblog has obviously not gotten any national attention, but let's look at how his numbers compare nationally.
Graham made 53 negative plays on the season, a respectable 23rd nationally and those plays took away 41 points in value from opposing offenses. 94 points overall ranks him 9th overall.
What becomes debatable is whether this 9th overall rating is more impressive considering Michigan's total defense was ranked 70th in the country or less impressive.
No matter what your take on the team defense issue, it is clear that whether you are looking UFR or By The Numbers, Graham was truly a beast and its a shame that the team's lack of success has limited his exposure.
Wide ReceiversNo Receivers are getting much attention this year, but the ones that are getting a bit of pub seem to be getting it deservedly so.
Danario Alexander, Freddie Barnes and Golden Tate hold the top three spots in my rankings and are 3 of the 4 receivers noted to be receiving votes. The fourth is the scorned Mardy Gilyard who comes in at 28th overall, but is also the key return man on the nation's #2 kick return unit.
Running BacksMy numbers value quarterbacks much higher than they do running backs. The top QBs are directly worth 10-12 points per game above average while the top RBs are "only" worth 4-5 points per game.
With that said, there is a clearcut leader in my tightly backed running back rankings, and it's not the guy who is going to win tomorrow. Toby Gerhart of Stanford is the only running back that has rated out +5 or better on the season.
Mark Ingram comes in at a respectable 7th and is 5th of players from the Big 6 conferences. However, the 2 point per game gap between Ingram and Gerhart is the same as the difference between Ingram and the 75th rated running back in the country. And this is after you account for competition. If you look at the unadjusted numbers, Gerhart comes in second to Donald Buckram of UTEP at nearly +7 while Ingram stays around +3. The gap between them is now as big as the gap between Ingram and the 150th rated RB in the country. If you are going to pick a running back this year, Ingram is a good choice, but Gerhart is clearly the best choice.
For those interested, CJ Spiller only checks in at #25 and stays just outside of the top 5 if you add in his prowess as a kick returner.
QuarterbacksSo I tell you the QBs are where all the action is at but then I put up what feels like a Simmons-esque length before even talking about a single one.
Both finalists are obviously big name quarterbacks for name schools. They had good years, but neither had individual seasons that I would deem Heisman worthy.
Colt McCoy finished the regular season at +9 which is good for 9th nationally. Tim Tebow was good for +7 (19) on the season and that is factoring in his top 10 quarterback rushing rank.
So who does that leave left?
I think if Tony Pike from Cincinnati didn't get hurt midseason, this award would be all his. The combined QB play from the Bearcats was worth 10 points a game and would have ranked 5th overall if it would have come from a single player. Case Keenum from Houston (+12, 1st) and Max Hall from BYU (+10, 4th) had outstanding years for quality mid-major programs but they couldn't get the defensive help they needed to get the wins required to garner the national interest. Kellen Moore of Boise (+7, 16th) had a highly efficient season but his competition was too weak to keep his numbers high enough. Jimmy Clausen (+9, 5th) did all he could to give us more Weis but quarterbacks don't win the Heisman going 6-6. But there was one name that really surprised me that was at the top of the rankings all year long. Ryan Mallett. Before adjusting for competition, he had a very respectable +8 and 12th overall rating. But when you factor in the SEC defenses he did it against, his rating leaps to +12, a sliver below Case Keenum. The Michigan transfer put up one of the least talked about great seasons in recent memory. In SEC play, he played 7 of the top 35 pass defenses in the country and still he managed one of the top seasons by either traditional or modern statistics. Ryan Mallet posted a nearly 150 quarterback rating facing the number defensive strength of schedule in the country.
My Ballot(s)If I had a ballot here is how I would rank the 5 finalists.
If I had a ballot (and balls) this is what it would look like:
I know news organizations like to lionize college athletes who are also successful in the classroom - see Myron Rolle - but this is still pretty cool. You kind of hope that schools like Northwestern, UM, and ND also appeal to kids like this - smart guys who are good athletes but also realize that even if they play pro ball, they still have 40+ years of their lives to live once they hang up their cleats, and studio analysts positions aren't a given.
Opening disclaimer: I already thought Rittenberg was... non-thorough, this is but the latest confirmation. If there was a chance Brandon Graham was in this discussion, I would be doing such an analysis for him, too. Graph credit to EDSBS.
I've been beating this drum for a little while, but a recent post by ESPN's Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg really steamed me, so I can't help but post about it. Forgive me. Here's the offending passage:
Ingram and Spiller sparkled in the spotlight Saturday, and both men have had huge performances all season long. Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh also stepped up in the biggest game of his season, and it was great to see him get an invite to New York City. But in the end, my decision came down to the player who consistently produced week in and week out against top competition.
We'll ignore the fact that Ingram wasn't even always the best back on his team (he was pulled from a couple contests for lack of production, and Trent Richardson had to step in), and look at the accusation of Suh.
So, he didn't step up "against top competition," eh? That's thinly veiled code for "A team that loses 4 games should not produce the Heisman winner." While that may occasionally be true, it's not like any of Nebraska's 4 losses were really Suh's fault. Here they are:
Virginia Tech 16, Nebraska 15
In their home stadium, the Hokies were held to 278 total yards, and would have lost but for a miracle 81-yard pass late in the game that Suh cannot be held accountable for. Only Alabama and North Carolina held the Hokies to fewer offensive yards. Without that pass, Virginia Tech is held to 197 yards, and Nebraska starts the season 5-0.
In that game, Suh had 8 total tackles, including 1 sack. He also broke up 4 passes (this is a defensive tackle, people!).
Texas Tech 31, Nebraska 10
The Red Raiders were the only team to score more than 20 points on the Huskers. In scoring 31, however, they were held to just 259 total offensive yards, as Nebraska was the only team to hold them below 350 yards offense, and one of a select few to hold them below 400 (something Texas couldn't do). In that game, Nebraska fumbled inside the Texas Tech red zone, and the Red Raiders returned it for a score. That's a 10-14 point swing on a single play, and with the momentum it created (Texas Tech led 21-0 before Nebraska scored a single point), it could have meant the difference in the game. The Huskers also missed a field goal in this game, in addition to their 2 turnovers.
In that game, Suh had 4 total tackles, including 2 for loss. Every stop he made was solo. He also added 4 QB hurries.
Iowa State 9, Nebraska 7
The Cyclones notched only 239 yards of total offense, but won the game due to 8 turnovers for the Nebraska offense. The Cyclones' scoring drives covered 4 and 83 total yards. Without a 4-yard scoring drive for the opponent, Nebraska wins this game. If Nebraska doesn't fumble the ball on the opponent's 38-, GOAL-, GOAL-, and 5-yard lines (yes, they fumbled into the endzone twice, and another time in the redzone), or even throw picks on three possessions, including one in the red zone, the Huskers should have run away with this game. It is CLEARLY Suh's fault that Nebraska lost.
In that game, Suh had 8 total tackles, including a solo sack for a 6-yard loss. He also hurried the quarterback 3 times, and blocked 2 FUCKING KICKS IN ONE GAME.
Texas 13, Nebraska 12
This game was like, 3 days ago, so it should be fresh in all of our minds. Texas gained 202 yards, by far their season-low offensive output. But for an unfortunate kick out of bounds and a horse collar penalty on the final Texas drive, Nebraska would have knocked the Longhorns out of the National Championship discussion. This is clearly not what Rittenberg meant by performing against top competition.
In that game, Suh had 12 total tackles (10 of them solo). He made 4 solo tackles for a loss and assisted on 2 others, for a total of 22 yards. He made 4 solo sacks and assisted on another, for a loss of 21 yards.
The Whole Package
For the year, Suh made 50 solo tackles and 82 total tackles, leading the team. He is a defensive tackle. He led the team in total tackles. He plays on the interior of the defensive line. I will keep repeating this until it gets in Adam Rittenberg's unintelligent little brain. He made 19.5 tackles for loss (tied for 14th in the nation), and 12 total sacks (9th in the nation). He made an interception. He defended 10 passes (from the defensive tackle spot, people!), forced a fumble, hurried the quarterback 21 times(!), and blocked 3 kicks. None of Nebraska's losses, except maaaybe the Texas Tech game, can be attributed to some deficiency by the Huskers' defense that Suh could have prevented.
He obviously did this against inferior competition, as well. Let's look at Nebraska's opponents this year:
- Florida International: #22 nationally in total offense (held to 3 points)
- Arkansas State: #95 nationally in total offense
- Virginia Tech: #55 nationally in total offense
- Louisiana-Lafayette: #74 nationally in total offense
- Missouri: #32 nationally in total offense (held to 12 points)
- Texas Tech: #7 nationally in total offense
- Iowa State: #75 nationally in total offense
- Baylor: #86 nationally in total offense
- Oklahoma: #28 nationally in total offense (held to 3 points)
- Kansas: #26 nationally in total offense (held to 17 points)
- Kansas State: #86 nationally in total offense
- Colorado: #105 nationally in total offense
- Texas: #20 nationally in total offense (held to 13 points)
Nebraska's defense was #11 nationally against the run, #3 nationally in pass efficiency, #9 in total defense, and #2 in scoring defense. Suh was its unquestioned star. If you wonder about his role in the #3 pass defense, remember his 10 PBUs, 12 sacks, and 21 QB hurries.
What does a guy have to do to earn the Heisman defensively, Rittenberg? And why do you make an argument ("production against top competition") that is the EXACT OPPOSITE of what the truth is?
last, and most importantly, his name is HOUSE OF MOTHERFUCKING SPEARS.
Normally Sports Illustrated isn't too far off the farm but this guy, wow, he, realistically, thinks that Tebow, McCoy and Keenum are NOT in the top 8 in the hunt for the Heisman - riiggghhhtttt....
He's even got a Domer on the list! haha
ESPN's Heisman Predictor has Tate at the third most likely to win the Heisman this year (with the very minor caveat that all Michigan would have to do to get Tate a serious shot at it is go undefeated).