December 07, 2009
Heisman Trophy ballots are due today. I don't have an official one, but I can offer some last-second procrastinators (I'm looking at you, Rashaan Salaam) a cheat sheet before they send their form to New York:
1. Ndamukong Suh. DT, Nebraska
Pass rushers generally make their living from the edge, but like so many physical laws of nature, that doesn't apply to Mssr. Suh:
At 6-foot-4, 300 pounds, Suh is an immovable run stuffer (Nebraska was 11th nationally against the run), a pass-rushing terror (he was fifth nationally with 12 sacks, including 4.5 Saturday on Colt McCoy) and middle linebacker (he led the team in solo and total tackles) in one Hulk-like visage. In two big, national showcase games -- on a Thursday night at Missouri in October and Saturday against Texas -- he was like a live bomb in the middle of the line of scrimmage and left all the national pundits fanning themselves on both occasions.
Think of it this way: He helped a team with the nation's 102nd-ranked offense come within one second of winning the conference championship in a game in which its quarterback finished with an efficiency rating of 17.2 and the team didn't score a touchdown. As a general rule, if you're good enough to build a groundswell of genuine support as an interior lineman, you should win.
2. C.J. Spiller. RB, Clemson.
The most electric all-purpose dynamo since Reggie Bush went for 300 all-purpose yards in three different games -- including Saturday's Herculean 301-yard, four-touchdown effort in the Tigers' ACC championship loss to Georgia Tech -- and would have easily hit the rare 200-yard-per-game mark for the season if they hadn't held him to five touches against Coastal Carolina (or if he hadn't played at all in that game). He accounted for touchdowns by every available means -- rushing, receiving, kick return, punt return, passing -- and emphatically cast off the "underachiever" label with a career-best rushing season.
3. Rolando McClain. LB, Alabama.
McClain is the heart and especially the brain of the nation's best defense, one of the most dominant in recent memory -- 'Bama goes into the BCS championship ranked first or second nationally in every major defensive category, having just run over one of the most revered offensive players of the decade. As the prowling pacesetter in the middle, McClain leads the team in tackles, tackles for loss and All-America prospects, and still seems to show up in every running lane, inside and out.
4. Toby Gerhart. RB, Stanford.
Gerhart's numbers -- 10 100-yard games, three 200-yard games, a national-best 26 touchdowns -- would be impressive enough, but the sheer violence he brings to the Cardinal attack with his chiseled frame puts him in his own class as a power back. Defensive backs coming up for a tackle look like they should disintegrate into a trillion little pieces as he comes charging through, and that's not always too far from what actually happens:
Against the Cardinal's crucial November stretch against Oregon, USC, Cal and Notre Dame, Gerhart averaged 29 carries for 186 yards and scored 13 total touchdowns for an offense that exploded for 45 points per game in the process of crushing its most high-profile competition. Plus if you don't vote for him, Jim Harbaugh will track you down in your sleep.
5. Mark Ingram. RB, Alabama.
Ingram has held up as the requisite workhorse on these lists for two solid months, over which he hit 100 yards on the ground in eight of nine games and occasionally -- as with his backbreaking, 69-yard catch-and-run on a first half screen pass that set up his own touchdown and seemed to set Florida permanently on its heels Saturday -- as a receiver, as well. Docked for the disappearing act in a huge game (and near defeat) at Auburn, but has been the most consistent premiere player on one of the best teams in the country for two months.