TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – This season's race for the Heisman Trophy is uglier than houndstooth pants.
When the glamour boy quarterbacks aren't getting hurt, they're playing below expectations. The trend of the spread offense and platooning running backs has limited the big, eye-popping rushing stats that used to win you glory in New York.
If there was ever a year where the Heisman wasn't decided by marketing campaigns and group think, when football acumen and honest to goodness impact could win out, why not this season?
Why not have a defensive player, heck, a defensive lineman, wait, even better, an historically anonymous interior one (a "big ugly") win the famed trophy?
"Yeah, that'd be cool," Terrence Cody said wistfully, perhaps considering the ceremony getting crashed by a mountain stuffed into a suit. "A defensive lineman should win the Heisman. Why not, right? Why not?"
Perhaps the Downtown Athletic Club better order more food for the awards dinner because in this rather unlikely season here's your most unlikely Heisman candidate – Mount Terrence Cody.
The voters can't say an interior lineman doesn't impact a game; the man blocked two field goals Saturday in Alabama's 12-10 victory over Tennessee. The win moved the No. 1 Tide to 8-0 and continued their march toward the BCS title game.
They can't claim they missed him – he's the 6-5, 354-pound nose guard in the middle of a stingy Crimson Tide defense that's allowing an average of 11.3 points a game.
They can't say Cody isn't clutch; his second block Saturday came with four seconds left and UT attempting a 44-yarder to win the game. The big guy lined up in 'Bama's "max block scheme," got in his stance and thought, "It's game time. I'm going to block this kick."
He then stood UT lineman Cory Sullins up, threw a left arm into the air and won the game.
The voters certainly can't say they never heard of him, weren't they listening when 90,000-plus Alabama fans were chanting "Cody, Cody" as he walked off the Bryant-Denny field, overcome with emotion?
"I looked up and everyone was still in their seats," he marveled. "I knew after I blocked it, I was the big hero of the game."
Yes, the nose guard was the big man on campus – both figuratively and literally.
" [Usually you hear about] cornerbacks making game saving plays, linebackers making big plays, running backs, receivers, quarterbacks," Cody said. "You don't hear about defensive linemen or offensive lineman making plays to save the game.
"It puts the spotlight on the big guys."
Only one defensive player has ever won the Heisman, Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson in 1997 and he had to moonlight as a receiver and kick returner to do it. On only a few occasions has a defensive lineman come close in the past few decades.
The guy on the trophy, after all, is carrying the football.
That's enough to confuse the voters. The ballot simply asks for the "most outstanding college football player in the United States." The voters, on their own, apply all sorts of hidden agendas. He has to play offense. He has to put up numbers. He has to play for the best team.
It's made the game's most celebrated trophy into a heavily financed political campaign. Not surprisingly, it's produced a litany of what-were-they-thinking winners.
Can't one time, one year, everyone open their mind and consider that the best player might not play a high-profile position?
Cody doesn't put up the kind of stats to build a candidacy around, of course. That's the nature of a nose guard. He had just two tackles Saturday.
Anyone who has watched Alabama play the last couple of seasons though knows the impact of the senior from Fort Myers, Fla. This year, when he's dropped more weight and improved his conditioning, it's even greater.
Offenses have to assign two blockers to him and he routinely clogs up the middle anyway. He forces running backs into other tacklers' arms and opens up rushing lanes for teammates.
Tide coach Nick Saban is a disciple of the New England Patriots' Bill Belichick, who covets the monster in the middle that allows him to play a 3-4 defense. Belichick has ridden giants Ted Washington and Vince Wilfork to three Super Bowl titles this decade.
That's Cody; that's the guy who allows Saban to play four linebackers and still hold Tennessee to just 76 net rushing yards.
He's the one who saves a game with a bull rush that everyone in Tuscaloosa was coming and no one could stop. Least off all poor Sullins who had been beat earlier in the game too.
" [When I lined up] he's probably thinking 'oh snapper here we go again,'" Cody said with a laugh. "He probably thought a lot of things. I'd be scared of me too."
If nothing else, Cody could win it in recognition of the entire ferocious 'Bama defense; the way quarterbacks do on high-powered offenses. He could win it in honor of all the lineman out there – offense and defense – who never get a trip to New York (the last runner-up was Ohio State's John Hicks way back in 1973).
If he has to do something offensive, well, Saban joked about putting him on the kickoff return team to be the middle of the blocking wedge.
"The guy coming down who would have to block him would not be too happy about that," Saban joked.
Or Terrence Cody could win it just because he makes the game-winning plays that you expect the most outstanding college football player in the United States to make. There have been worse reasons guys have held the trophy up.
"Great teams have great players that can make plays in critical moments of the game," Saban said.
Let the campaign begin, bring the Mount to Manhattan.
- Terrence Cody
- Heisman Trophy