OT: Ndamukong Suh for Heisman

Submitted by Tim on December 8th, 2009 at 12:17 PM

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

Utah Utes.gifFor 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.



December 8th, 2009 at 12:27 PM ^

This has to do with college football and is therefore on topic.

We have to exterminate unnecessary OTs like Asian Carp before they reach Lake Michigan.

-Non-OT OT haters are the new Grammar Nazis.


December 8th, 2009 at 12:41 PM ^

First of all, totally agree with you Tim, Suh was the best player in CFB this year and Rittenberg's analysis leaves alot to be desired. IMO, Suh would have won the Heisman if he had blocked that kick at the end of regulation. He deserves it anyway, but that would have been his Heisman moment that all the voters could point to and say, "you know what? he IS a beast." Too bad that didn't come to pass, but I don't know that I've ever seen a more athletic defensive lineman in all my years of watching CFB.

Wolverine In Exile

December 8th, 2009 at 12:52 PM ^

winners, N. Suh has been quite simply the most dominant defensive lineman I have ever seen in my 31 years on this planet in a single year of college football. This year with the dearth of record setting QB's on big teams, Tebow having a down year, and no stand out RB's (2000 yd rushers), this would be the year to give the award to a truly dominant D player. Suh fits the bill in my book. To say that he did that as a DT much less, instead of the gaudy DE stat machines is even more impressive. Add as well that the big offenses he played (Tex, Kansas, OU, TexTech) are spread offenses where theoretically the DT shouldn't get much of a chance to make tackles, and a bigger case can be made for Suh.


December 8th, 2009 at 1:04 PM ^

I don't have much to add, other than watching him against Texas on Saturday was a revelation. The guy was constantly in the backfield. How can McCoy and Tebow be in the same group with him? This isn't even a close decision, but sadly, we all know what the Heisman lemmings will decide.


December 8th, 2009 at 1:08 PM ^

Not sure I would vote for him, but Suh and Gerhardt would be my top-2...I have no idea how to separate them.

But, when I think back to the 2009 season nationally, I wont recall Ingram, Spiller, or even MCCoy or Tebow specifically.

But, I will remember Toby trucking fools in the Pac 10 (with me betting on a lot of their games) and Suh just destroying people. They leave me as having provided the top images in the show stopping performances of the year.

They should be 1-2 in some form on everyone's ballots, IMHE. It's too bad we could not get a Nebraska/Stanford bowl game in the two middle tier Pac 10 vs Big 12 games.

Suh was a beast Saturday. Everytime I thought, ok now McCoy has time to throw, Suh's hands would appear out of nowhere and throw McCoy's ass on the ground like he was a sack of Alpo


December 9th, 2009 at 10:07 AM ^

The guy is a workhorse back on a team that's winning with its defense. He's benefitting from the "marketable player on a good team," "Alabama's never had a Heisman Trophy winner," SEC, and latency-effect biases.

He doesn't have a serious Heisman highlight, he doesn't have a "critical play where everybody in the stadium knew he was going to get the ball and he still made the play."

He ran for 179 yards combined in three of his conference games (including 30 against a rival) and his team played an absolute crap OOC schedule. He has scored eleven fewer touchdowns than the national leader.

The guy is a good back on a good team and he moves the chains. That's not Heisman material. I saw Reggie Bush, Vince Young, Matt Leinart and Toby Gerhart play - live and in person as well as on TV. Charles Woodson too. This guy is just not in their league.


December 8th, 2009 at 1:30 PM ^

I grew up in Nebraska in the 90s. And so I try to watch as many of their games as I can, it is safe to say that they are my "other" team.

There is no doubt that this guy deserves the Heisman.

Ask yourself what you think the role of a DT is? Then look at what he does in comparison to those players... So let's compare his gaudy stats.

Lucky, we have an easy choice, Alabama DT Terrence Cody who has been gushed about so many times on CBS Broadcasts this year:

Cody has 25 tackles this year, and two big FG blocks. He has had a nice season, even contributing a bit on Offense as a FB. He also has 5 tackles of a loss, a few QB hurries, and no sacks.

Think about that, then think about Suh. Then think about the difference between Ingram and Gerhart, or Tebow and McCoy. They are in each others respective company of talent. I would say that Suh has had a year that dominated Cody.


December 8th, 2009 at 1:45 PM ^

If I read Rittenberg correctly, he votes Gerhardt #1 and CJ Spiller #3.

While I agree with your defense of Suh and dont like seeing people automatically dismiss him as a candidate, I dont think you can say Rittenberg is downgrading Suh because of his own prejudices against players on 3- or 4-loss teams.


December 8th, 2009 at 2:09 PM ^

I don't think that's the sole reason he voted Suh down (as I tried to make clear, but obviously didn't) but it has to be a factor.

How else can he justify "didn't perform in biggest games" when that exactly when Suh was at his best?


December 8th, 2009 at 3:20 PM ^

I dont know what is on Rittenberg's mind or anyone at the WWL, for that matter.

But, your argument for Suh is strong on its merits. I'd expand your argument and not really worry about making an argument to counter anything Rittenberg said.

My ballot would read Suh-Gerhardt as 1-2, just not sure what order. By far, the two players I had the most fun watching this season, for whatever thats worth


December 8th, 2009 at 2:55 PM ^

I see your point but there's a huge part of me that can't root for a defensive player to win the Heisman let alone someone from Nebraska who has caused us so much pain in the last 12 years (I'd point out the 2 gut checks but you all know what I'm talking about). I don't want to share anything with Nebraska and that includes the list of defenders to win the Heisman trophy.

Call me bitter all you want, that's fine, but it's no worse than wishing 0-12 on all the teams you don't like.


December 8th, 2009 at 3:33 PM ^

I've always loved being able to say "Woodson is the only defensive player to win the Heisman" and I would like to continue to say it, but the best player deserves to win this award, and in this case, that is probably Suh.


December 8th, 2009 at 4:52 PM ^

according to the projections by StiffArmTrophy (who have been quite accurate in the past). Ingram holds a slim lead, with Gerhart in second. Suh has the most first place votes of anyone recorded on there right now though.
Just last night Gerhart was projected first and Ingram second, so it's completely possible that their projection will change before the presentation.



December 8th, 2009 at 6:46 PM ^

Tebow and McCoy aside... Suh of Nebraska and Gerhart of Stanford are clearly the most outstanding players in college football this year. Wins often matter, but if we're talking just about individuals, those are the two guys. One bonus is that Ingram and Tebow may split the south... though McCoy and Suh are in the center of the country and Gerhart on the west, depends on how the east coast bias breaks. Should be interesting on Saturday.

Tim Waymen

December 9th, 2009 at 11:34 AM ^

I find some--here goes--irony in rooting for a defensive player from Nebraska to win the Heisman, but if he's the biggest contributor of the season, he should win it. Hey, at least we know that we won't have to listen to Billy Sims obnoxiously try starting the "Boomer! Sooner!" chant...or will he?


December 9th, 2009 at 3:35 PM ^

Well I know one thing I'll be rooting for....Suh for Lions defensive line next year. Has there ever been a more obvious pick for a specific team? Good thing Millen isn't around anymore to screw it up.


December 9th, 2009 at 3:56 PM ^

Stipulation: his performance against Texas (only the third Nebraska game I've seen this year) was about as ferocious a performance as I've seen in some time.

Additional stipulation: he is a great player, looking at his statistics (again, I only watched 3 games of his).

- It is really, really impressive he lead the team in tackles considering he's a DL. That still does not put him in the Top 100 in the nation in total tackles (and he played 13 games, more than most). Is Neb just a team that spreads tackles around? It seems with their weak offense, there should be many opportunities to record a lot of tackles.
- His 21 hurries are huge, but I'm not sure about the QB Hurries stat and how it's kept. Case in point - care to guess how many Hurries our own Brandon Graham had? Would you believe one? Me neither. So I'm not sure what to do with Suh's (or anyone else's) stats in that area.
- How is his year definitively better than Graham's? Graham had more sacks, TFLs, and 1 more forced fumble in one less game; Suh had (many) more passes defended, 1 more blocked kick and twenty more tackles. (I'm disregarding hurries unless someone can prove to me Brandon only "hurried" the passer once this year).

Suh is great. Graham is great. I'm OK if Suh wins the Heisman, considering no offensive player had a fantastic (a la Barry Sanders or Sam Bradford) year. But it's weird for me to read Suh is the most "dominant defensive player of the past several seasons" (Mandel, today) when I can't say he's better than Graham this year.

Thanks for the interesting breakdown on Suh, Tim!


December 9th, 2009 at 6:45 PM ^

A couple points. Being the top tackler *is* huge for a DL-man. Normally on a run play it's usually a linebacker whose job it is to ultimately bring the runner down. The DL is expected to collapse lanes, push back/occupy the OL, and generally get in the way but tackles are gravy. Also consider that the DL generally can't get tackles that the LBs can in pass plays.

Is his year better than Grahams? Well, by stats perhaps not. But keep in mind they play different positions. Generally you expect a lot more sacks from an edge rusher - to see a interior lineman put up sacks comparable to one of the top DEs in the nation is insane.

And as Doc Sat said (paraphrased): The fact that an interior DL player is even seriously in consideration is a sign that the Heisman should be his.


December 10th, 2009 at 3:16 PM ^

Graham put up his stats from Defensive End which means he is on the outside of the line and typically faces a single offensive lineman with the occasional double team (although the double team probably happened more often with Graham than most DEs). Suh on the other hand plays Defensive Tackle which in the traditional sense often demands double and even triple teams.

Often, a great DT will have next to no measureable statistics because his primary job is to occupy blockers to free up his DEs and Linbackers to make the tackles/sacks. The fact that Suh was able to put up those overall stats is amazing in the context of his position which is why I believe he's a freak of nature. If he put up the same stats from LB or even DE, they would be merely great. Just my take. I'm not a football coach, but I've watched stats enough over the years to know that Defensive Tackles, even the really good ones, don't normally do this.

Sextus Empiricus

December 9th, 2009 at 5:59 PM ^

but he turned into a monster. It is good to remember that good young talent can mature into such great accomplishment. He has my vote.

He had the sort of athleticism and frame that Big Tex shows in his film.


December 9th, 2009 at 6:52 PM ^

I'd like the Lions to sit their 4 or 5 competent players for the rest of the season so that we don't get a fluke win and disqualify ourselves from the Suh sweepstakes. I was fortunate enough to have been in the stadium in '97 for all of Woodson's performances, and I haven't seen a defensive player dominate the game like he did until this year with Suh. The guy is quite honestly special. Graham is awesome and should've been an All-American in my book, but Suh is at a whole different level IMHO.


December 11th, 2009 at 11:06 PM ^

There is a certain amount of truth in the vicious cycle of the bottom dwellers - i.e. finishing sixth-worst every year and not getting the best player who turns it around. So it may be worth it to throw some games at the end of the season, why the hell not? The problem, though, is that Lions seem to not be able to draft the best players even when they consistently have top-five picks. Sometimes it's a matter of character ("I Blew Everyday" anybody?) and sometimes they are just Joey Harrington and can't play in the big leagues.

Getting Suh would help, but not enough. The Lions are going to be bad for a long time.