The Heisman Case for Texas' Colt McCoy

Football may be the ultimate team game, but sometimes the exploits of particular performers are worthy of praise. The Heisman trophy remains the most prestigious award designated to go to the most outstanding college football player. For 2008, those talents are largely clustered in the South—both regionally and divisionally.

Fully fair or not, much of the time the Heisman is awarded to a player considered the most valuable on a team at or near the top of the national scene. In recent years especially, that's been the quarterback, a position that has claimed seven of the last eight Heisman winners.

This season, though the leading candidates look to be all quarterbacks as well, it's hard to dispute their deserving of this sometimes super-hyped hardware.

One player with credentials virtually on par with anyone, Texas Tech's Graham Harrell, has been eliminated due to a singular, horrendous evening. When excellence abounds, you have to switch your casual gaze for a microscope in order to whittle away the competition.

Three leaders of giants still remain in contention—defending Heisman winner Tim Tebow of Florida, Colt McCoy of Texas, and Sam Bradford of Oklahoma.

If you watch any game involving Florida, or the SEC for that matter, you're guaranteed to hear gushing of Tebow, much of it well placed. This kid is truly a "do it all" performer, even being referred to as a modern day Bronko Nagurski, the old-timer who was a two-way dominator of legendary proportions. Few doubt Tebow could excel somewhere on defense as well, as his no holds barred play at the supposedly pristine quarterback position attests. Watching his competitive spirit just makes you feel good.

But for all such accolades given to Tim Tebow, Colt McCoy of Texas brings those to the table on equal terms, and though he's received praise for such, he sometimes appears to be just a bit underappreciated in that sense. One who recognizes it, Kirk Herbstreit, beamed one evening, "He's (Colt's) been on the ropes all night, but look at him, he is willing his team to a victory tonight."

Yet no one's arguing Colt for the Heisman solely due to his boundless will to win. If you want numbers, they're available in abundance, starting with his NCAA record-shattering completion percentage of 78%. You won't need to stretch or rationalize them to build his case.

How does he compare to Florida's Tebow? The Gators' 2007 Heisman winner arguably has better weapons at his disposal, but Colt—despite playing one less game—has slightly more rushing yards, which further supports the notion of his own fortitude and versatility. The Longhorns' leader also whips Tebow in total offense (4021 yards to 3079), again despite one less game, and even accounts for more scores (42 vs. 40) than "Touchdown Tim."

College football fans can debate the merits of Tebow as one of the game's all-time greats, perhaps, but this year he's not even the best player, fantastic as he's been. Beyond the better numbers, the "real" McCoy has done everything Florida's signal caller has to put Texas in the national title picture—he just couldn't overcome an arbitrary system that somehow trumped his and his team's on-field accomplishments.

Colt's crowded out of that title picture, however, by a player equally as splendid, one who does it week-to-week as well. And Sam Bradford can't provide the Oklahoma Sooners—Florida's competitor for the national crown—any more than he's provided.

Bradford has racked up even more total yards and touchdowns than his counterpart Colt this season, though he's had an additional contest to do it in (somewhat mitigated by a modest amount of bench time in blowouts).

Both quarterbacks have led their team to one-loss seasons that include frequent blowouts (note Texas' three 52-10 non-conference wins combined with several thumpings of Big 12 opponents, while Oklahoma regularly puts up 60). Both possess tremendous individual numbers, and both receive overflowing doses of praise by teammates and opponents alike.

So, does Sam Bradford, who's led Oklahoma to the doorstep of the national championship and has overall slightly better numbers than Colt, deserve the nod in the end?

Not necessarily. Again, it's a team game, and most believe this year's Oklahoma owns better surrounding talent than Texas. The Longhorns, in fact, weren't even projected in many corners to be better than third in their own division, behind the Sooners and Red Raiders.

Oklahoma has justified expectations, but Texas has exceeded them. When you consider that Colt is his team's rushing leader as well as record-setting passer, it reminds just how critical his greatness is to Mack Brown's program.

And while the UT triggerman's receivers Quan Cosby and Jordan Shipley have been outstanding, OU counters with Juan Iglesias, Manuel Johnson, and super-freak Jermaine Gresham.

The Sooners also boast a backfield tandem—DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown, both over 1,000 yards on the ground—that Texas can't come close to matching, witness quarterback McCoy's team leading figure of 576 rushing yards. The Longhorns, in fact, don't have a back show in the top 100 nationally, while supposedly groundless Texas Tech lists two. Oklahoma, to boot, has a mammoth, seasoned offensive line that's clearly more talented and experienced than the group protecting Colt.

Like with the conference race, little is clear cut. To this point, we acknowledge Bradford's slight statistical edge, yet have to concede he also benefits from a better supporting cast.

You can look at the numbers, the opposition, the team results, the intangibles, the surrounding cast and still come away scratching your noggin. How do we break the deadlock?

That deadlock was decided between the two quarterbacks' equally close teams, Oklahoma and Texas, by a mindless measure that ignored their head-to-head result. Led by McCoy, Texas prevailed on a neutral field over a top-ranked OU squad that boasted the nation's top-rated pass defense, 45-35.

Sam Bradford was stellar that day in Dallas in his own right. But Colt McCoy was triumphant.

Afterward, Gerald McCoy, the Sooners' standout defensive tackle, lamented, "He beat us with his arm. He beat us with his feet." Brian Jackson, Oklahoma's cornerback, confessed, "Colt just took over. We couldn't stop him in the second half…He just dominated."

C'mon, Heisman voters, you have the opportunity to get it right. Let the head-to-head results break the tie this time.


Horns Digest Top Stories