After a career-high completion total and three touchdown performance against lowly Arizona, Matt Leinart has emerged as one of the frontrunners for the award, but to come away a winner, he needs a lot of help from that elusive character who resides high above the turf, offensive coordinator Norm Chow.
Chow has done an outstanding job this season spreading the ball around to the Trojan's immense talent, and when all is said and done he could have both a 1,000 yard rusher and 30 touchdown passer. Over the past two weeks, Chow has practically spoon-fed Lendale White hundred yard performances by giving him a total of 41 carries over the last two victories against Oregon St. and Arizona.
Lendale needs 141 yards to break the 1,000 yard mark and should do so in the finale against UCLA. However, Lendale's ankle is still in pretty poor shape, and last time the coaching staff played an offensive weapon on a bum ankle, Steve Smith cracked his fibula against Berkeley. Considering both Lendale White and Reggie Bush's new found fumbling issues, it's time to put the ball in the hands of Matt Leinart and push him to the forefront of this wide-open Heisman race. If Chow, as he has done in the past, inflates his quarterback's statistics late in the season, USC fans may be celebrating a sxth overall Heisman winner. In the final weeks of Carson Palmer's 2002 Heisman campaign, Chow made sure that back-to-back USC victories over UCLA and Notre Dame were nothing but the Carson Show. Palmer threw four touchdown passes in each game and threw for 425 yards against Notre Dame, which at the time was the most ever thrown by a quarterback against the Irish. Chow put the ball and USC's BCS hopes in Carson's hands and Palmer excelled while attempting a career-high 46 passes.
Chow needs to place a similar trust in Matt Leinart when Ty Willingham and the Irish come to town next weekend, and insure a 300 yard, four touchdown performance for the junior Heisman hopeful. And what better time to do it? College football's greatest intersectional rivalry will be available to nearly every home across the country, and will certainly be watched by a majority of the Heisman's near 1,000 voters, giving Leinart the necessary stage to show what he can do. Leinart could knife through Notre Dame's pass defense, which ranks 104th of 117 teams in Division I-A and made Pittsburgh quarterback Tyler Palko look like Payton Manning as he threw for 331 yards and 5 TDs in a three point Panther win last weekend in South Bend.
An MVP-type showing against Notre Dame could push Leinart to a statistical number that is key to Heisman trophy voters; 30 touchdowns. Once Carson Palmer hit threw his first touchdown pass against Notre Dame in '02, he legitimized himself as the front-runner for the award. Because Heisman voters don't get a chance to see every player play in every game, they end up looking at stat lines. And considering USC's record number of night games this season, all that east coast voters know about Matt Leinart are the statistics they read in the Sunday New York Times. Leinart's career record of 24-1 at USC will mean very little if he only throws 29 touchdown passes.
Right now, Matt has thrown 23, and if he attempts 35 passes per game over the next two, like he did last week, he just might get to that sacred number. Lendale White already has 13 touchdown runs this season, and although the Trojan's have struggled with pass inside the 10 yard line this season, Chow needs to place trust in his Heisman hopeful.
There is one key factor that Heisman voters won't see that makes Leinart's Heisman run so exceptional; Leinart has been throwing the football to a group of receivers who probably wouldn't see much playing time if numbers 1, 2 and 4 were on the field for USC this season. Dwayne Jarrett and Dominique Byrd have stepped up big time since Steve Smith's injury, and Chris McFoy has come out of nowhere to have a very solid season. Even Jason Mitchell was a key target in the 49-9 win over the University of Arizona. But with Williams and Lewis as his top two targets, Leinart would have surely thrown for 30 touchdowns by this time of the season.
Considering Adrian Peterson's shoulder injury, Jason White's betrayal of Heisman voters last season, and Cal's loss to USC (effectively removing both Aaron Rodgers and JJ Arrington from serious consideration), this award is Leinart's for the taking. The possibility of Troy gaining its sixth Heisman winner, however, is out of the candidate's hands; the West Coast genius upstairs must repeatedly dial number 11 against Notre Dame and UCLA, and lead his newest protégé to Heisman glory.
Note from author - "Last week's article on Dominique Byrd included a phrase that many loyal WeAreSC posters found offensive; "General education-flunking Whitney Lewis." Although never confirmed, it is likely Whitney Lewis does have a learning disability and this statement was in no way an attack on this disability. Twice, Whitney failed a Religions of Asia general education course at USC. As a sophomore, I took a similar course named East Asian Societies and I have spoken with friends who took the Religions of Asia course last fall. Whitney's problem has been rumored as something close to dyslexia, but course reading, while necessary for a grade of A or B in these types of courses, is not essential for passing the course. Attending class lectures and discussions regularly is essential, and numerous sources informed me that was something Whitney did not do. As a journalism major at USC, we dissect articles and comments and discuss whether they should or should not be printed in newspapers and online journals. Because of the reasoning provided above, I felt the statement regarding Whitney Lewis in the Dominique Byrd story was acceptable. I will apologize to anyone who was personally offended by the comment, but I stand by its inclusion in the story. Thank you, and if you would further like to discuss the comment, feel free to contact me at email@example.com."