Breaking down the Heisman Trophy, Mathlete style.
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 candidates
I 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).Ndamukong Suh
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.Brandon Graham
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.
No 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.
My 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.
So 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.
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: