Quarterback Jason Gesser's status as a Heisman contender this year made him a media darling after the Coug's victory over Nevada at Seahawk Stadium on Aug. 31. (CF.C/Greg Witter)
Individual stats will go far in determining the winner, but history shows that Cougar contender Jason Gesser's chances will reside in large part on how well his teammates perform -- particularly in the much-anticipated nationally televised show down at Ohio State on Saturday.
Indeed, of the last 13 Heisman winners, 11 played for teams that won at least ten games. And the two that didn't -- Texas' Ricky Williams in 1998 and Houston's Andre Ware in 1989 --- came from clubs with nine wins to their credit.
If you look at the last two winners -- Nebraska's Eric Crouch and Florida State's Chris Weinke -- you see widely different individual stats. Crouch had 1,500 passing yards and seven touchdown strikes to go along with 1,115 rushing yards 18 rushing TDs. Weinke, by contrast, had a whopping 4,167 air yards , 33 TD passes and virtually nothing on the ground.
Yet while they had widely different, yet impressive, seasons, they did share one stat: 11-2. Both of their teams went 11-2.
With Heisman voters showing a willingness to reward two vastly different types of quarterbacks, here are the scenarios that could put the Heisman hardware in the Hurlin' Hawaiiain's hands later this year:
THE HUSKER WAY
A running game to end all running games. Crouch led a team with two rushers who averaged at least 90 yards a game and a third who averaged more than 50. With that type of ground attack, defenses had no way to key on Crouch or the air game. The combination had many pundits thinking this team would go 13-0.
While such numbers may be lofty for the WSU running corps, there is no arguing that Jonathon Smith, Jermaine Green and John Tippins, when healthy, can be solid producers -- especially so playing behind WSU's seasoned offensive line.
WSU's very own Timm Rosenbach came out of nowwhere in 1988 to place seventh in Heisman balloting in large part because Steve Broussard and Rich Swinton, playing behind a stout OL, each racked up more than 1,000 yards on the ground. That freed Rosenbach to work his passing and scrambling magic, and the Cougars wound up at 9-3.
THE SEMINOLE WAY
Weinke's gaudy stats were aided in a big way by a phenomenally deep group of receivers led by Marvin Minnis. For Gesser's statistics to rise to the Weinke level, he'll need Collin Henderson, Scott Lunde and his backs and tight ends running precise routes underneath while Jerome Riley, Devard Darling and Mike Bush are stretching the field for those big air strikes that get you into the record books real quick.
Ryan Leaf and his Fab Five receiving corps ran this route to perfection in 1997. The Cougars cruised to a 10-2 record and Leaf finished third in Heisman voting -- the second-highest showing ever by a player from a Pacific Northwest school (Oregon State QB Terry Baker won the Heisman in 1962).
When asked recently on a national sports show about Gesser, Cougar head man Mike Price said, "(Gesser) is on pace to become the best Cougar quarterback in history, statistically, and that says something, because we've had some pretty darn good quarterbacks here."
That legacy of passing excellence won't hurt Gesser's chances, either. In addition to Leaf and Rosenbach, two Cougar signal callers in the modern era have attracted serious attention from Heisman voters, Drew Bledsoe (eighth in 1992) and Jack Thompson (ninth in 1978), both of whom found their acclaim in the Seminole Way.