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Muller: Heisman Trophy Means Nothing Anymore

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Montee Ball. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Montee Ball. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

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By Shawn Muller-

(CBS) As you already know, my patience with major college football is wearing thin.

I hate the BCS.

I am tired of scandals.

I am tired of biased reporting.

I am just tired of all of it, which is really a sad thing for me to admit, because college football is my favorite sport to watch.

But how could I not feel this way?

All of the fun is being taken out of the game.

Teams are being rewarded with the championship game and BCS bowl berths (yes, I am still looking at you Alabama, and you too Virginia Tech and West Virginia).  Certain conferences get preferential treatment (I won’t name names).  The recruiting is dirtier than politics.  And now the Heisman Trophy, one of the few post season awards that I actually used to have respect for, is about to fall into the same pit of ridiculousness?

Make it stop!

Just like the BCS system was supposed to reward the two most deserving teams, the Heisman Trophy is supposed to be awarded to the most deserving player, or should I say the “most outstanding player in college football” based on their entire body of work during THAT particular season.

Not what a player did the prior season.

Not how much time a school dedicates to a Heisman campaign.

Not because some sports entertainment company tells us who should win it.

Not because a player plays for a particular team.

Not because a player plays in a particular conference.

None of these reasons should matter or come into play with Heisman voters. But we all know the reasons stated above are the main reasons why a lot of players win the award over other candidates with much more impressive numbers.

It happens all the time.

For example: Stanford running back Toby Gerhart should have won the award over Alabama running back Mark Ingram in 2009.  Pittsburgh wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald should have won the award over Oklahoma quarterback Jason White in 2003.  San Diego State running back Marshall Faulk deserved it in 1992 over Miami quarterback Gino Torretta.  Notre Dame’s all-everything Raghib Ismail should have beaten out BYU’s Ty Detmer in 1990.

So who’s to blame for the Heisman Trophy “problem”?

The sports writers who vote for the award, that’s who.

Now, don’t laugh, but according to Heisman.com, sports journalists are to be the determinants of the award since they are, “informed, competent, and impartial,” in making their selections.

I will say that again:  sports journalists are voters for the award because they are believed to be “informed, competent, and impartial”.

Does anyone really believe that sports journalists are incapable of having bias play in to their decisions or are completely “informed” about all candidates?  That is the most absurd thing I have ever heard.  Contrary to popular belief, sports writers are probably the most biased group of voters and some of the least informed individuals the Heisman committee could have possibly picked to help select the trophy winner.

Sports writers don’t have “favorite” players?

Sports writers see EVERY game of EVERY candidate?

Come on: That’s complete bull.

If this were truly the case in 2011, of the five finalists that were named for the award this week: Alabama running back Trent Richardson, Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, and Wisconsin running back Montee Ball, Montee Ball would win the award going away.

That’s it.

No one else need apply.

People are in love with Robert Griffin III and they should be.  He finished the season with 3,998 passing yards, 36 touchdowns and six interceptions.  He led the nation in passing efficiency and has also rushed for 644 yards and 9 touchdowns.

Plus he plays for Baylor. That alone should get him the hardware.

But Griffin’s numbers can be a little misleading because he played in the pass happy Big XII conference.

Just look at the numbers.

-          Two quarterbacks in the Big XII completed over 70 percent of their passes, with another completing just under 69 percent of his, and yet two more completed 65 percent of theirs.

-          Three Big XII quarterbacks threw for over 4,000 yards, with Griffin next, followed by yet another who threw for over 3,500 yards.

-           Five quarterbacks threw over 28 touchdown passes.

-          Four Big XII teams averaged over 40 points per games, and three Big XII teams averaged over 500 yards per game with three others averaging over 475.

To put it another way:  Griffin’s stats are great, but they are also the product of playing in a pass-happy, no defense Big XII.  In fact, the only thing that separates what Griffin did differently compared to other Big XII quarterback is play for Baylor.  That’s it.

I don’t know what is worse: Trent Richardson winning the Doak Walker Award as the nations “best running back, or him being named not only a finalist, but one of the favorites for the Heisman?  He was MAYBE the third best running back in the country this year, behind Montee Ball and Oregon’s LaMichael James.  Can someone please remind me again as to why I am supposed to be blown away by Richardson, because I just don’t see it. 1583 rushing yards (not even top five in the nation) and 23 total touchdowns.  Ok, solid numbers, but nothing I haven’t seen before.

And please, save the “he has to play against SEC defenses every week” comments, ok?  Richardson is good, but he isn’t Heisman Trophy season good in 2011.

Andrew Luck is a great quarterback, but again, he is not having a “Heisman-type” of season any more so than other quarterbacks like USC’s Matt Barkley, Boise State’s Kellen Moore, Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden, or Houston gun-slinger Case Keenum.  Luck has thrown for 3,170 yards 35 touchdowns (against nine interceptions) and is fifth in the nation is passing efficiency, but his numbers were better last season.  Last I checked, the Heisman isn’t supposed to be a career award, so I am sorry Mr. Luck, I guess you will have to go make your millions without the hardware.

Tyrann Mathieu—also known as the “Honey Badger”—is a big-play cornerback for the top-ranked LSU Tigers.  He leads the team in tackles (70), has forced six fumbles, and has two fumble returns for a touchdown, along with being a dynamic return man for the Bayou Bengals.  Good stats?  Yes, but Mathieu’s problem was his suspension this season for smoking synthetic marijuana.  Anyone suspended for any reason doesn’t deserve the trophy.

So that leaves us with Montee Ball.

Why should Montee Ball win the award?

For starters, he is going to break Barry Sanders’ touchdown record of 39 set in 1988.  Ball has 38 heading into the Rose Bowl, and I would be shocked if he doesn’t score at least twice against the Oregon Ducks Jan. 2.

But didn’t Barry Sanders score 39 times in 11 games as opposed to the 14 it will take Ball to break the record?  Yes he did, but even though Ball will have played in more games than Sanders, the Wisconsin running back will have had roughly 80 less touches than Sanders. Here’s how it breaks down:

-          Sanders: 373 carries, 19 catches, 39 TDs (or one every 10.05 touches)

-          Ball: 275 carries, 20 catches, 38 TDs (one every 7.76 touches)

No one is saying that Montee Ball is or will ever be as good as Barry Sanders, but when looking at Ball’s “Heisman resume” the numbers don’t lie.

If Ball were to have had the same amount of touches as Sanders did back in 1988, theoretically, he would have been on pace to score 50.52 touchdowns in 2011.  Think about that for a second.  50 touchdowns!  He is also just one of four players in the history of the Big Ten to surpass 2,000 yards from scrimmage in a season.  He shattered the single season touchdown record (Eddie George’s mark of 25) by a margin of half of what it was prior to this season.

And he accomplished all of this while not playing in the fourth quarter six times in Wisconsin’s 13 games.

Ball has had the most impressive season this year flat out and he deserves to win the Heisman Trophy.  Sadly he will not, but it won’t be due to his lack of numbers.  It will be due to the fact that the “informed, competent, and impartial” sports writers failed to take their blinders off for a second and realize that Ball has been the “most outstanding player in college football” in 2011.

Just as the trophy says.

shawn muller 2 9 Muller: Heisman Trophy Means Nothing Anymore

Shawn Muller

Shawn Muller has lived in the great city of Chicago for 7 years. He is a 2002 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and, in October of 2010, Shawn received his certificate in radio broadcasting. In his free time, Shawn enjoys spending time with his wife Melissa and 3 year old daughter Ava, catching any live sporting event, and traveling. Check out his radio show, Grab Some Bench with Muller and Bangser” every Thursday night at 8:30 P.M., at www.blogtalkradio.com/spmuller24. Read more of his blogs here.

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