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September 26, 2006
Heisman Tracker: It's not all about stats
We know this because a Texas Tech quarterback has never won it, but Eric Crouch did. Sure, stats help make a case for college football's most coveted individual award, but the key to winning is making dazzling plays against high-profile opponents.
Doug Flutie had the Hail Mary pass to Gerard Phelan against Miami.
Desmond Howard had the leaping touchdown catch against Notre Dame.
Johnny Rodgers had the amazing punt return against Oklahoma.
And on Saturday, Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith turned in the signature play for which he may always be best remembered. It was the kind of play Heisman voters like myself surely won't forget.
Locked in a 7-3 struggle against No. 24 Penn State, Smith ran away from a pass rusher, reversed his field and then launched a perfect throw from midfield that Brian Robiskie caught in the end zone for a touchdown. It was a pivotal play in top-ranked Ohio State's closer-than-the-score-indicated 28-6 victory.
That play staked the Buckeyes to a 14-3 lead with just under 13 minutes remaining in the game. The Buckeyes returned two late interceptions for touchdowns to widen the final margin.
"We practice scrambling drills like that all the time," Smith said. "The line gave me enough time to reverse field and put the ball in the air, and Robo just went up and made a great catch. You need moments like that when you're down and out, when things aren't going the way you want them to go."
You also need moments like that – big plays that spice up an otherwise bland performance – to hoist the Heisman. Smith passed for just 115 yards, but his improvisational gem is what most people will remember.
It is also why Smith still remains at the top of my Heisman Trophy ballot, just ahead of Oklahoma's brilliant Adrian Peterson - who could be America's most gifted running back at any level.
Peterson is so amazing that his 128 yards and three touchdowns in a 59-0 rout of Middle Tennessee State almost seem pedestrian by his standards. A junior who almost won the Heisman as a freshman, Peterson has already rushed for 643 yards. One thing that hurts Peterson is that his Sooners haven't played the level of competition that Smith and his Buckeyes have this season.
OU has also faced Alabama-Birmingham, Washington and 13th-ranked Oregon, which the Sooners will tell you is vastly overrated.
However, Peterson will have a chance to rectify that when the Sooners face the Texas run defense, which ranked second nationally going into Saturday's 37-14 victory over Iowa State. The Longhorns held the Cyclones to 21 net yards rushing. If Peterson has a productive day against the Texas defense, he could catapult himself ahead of Smith in the eyes on many voters.
But he'll need more than just a lot of yards. He'll need a memorable play that will be featured over and over on all the highlight shows, just like Smith's big play against Penn State.
Stats alone just aren't enough. If stats were all that counted I'd vote for Northern Illinois' Garrett Wolfe, who rushed for 198 yards on Saturday against Indiana State and has 828 rushing yards thus far.
Well, I'd either vote for Wolfe or a Texas Tech quarterback.
The Heisman Trophy will be awarded on Saturday, Dec. 9. Rivals.com national football writer Olin Buchanan is a Heisman voter, and we'll feature his top 10 list throughout the college football season. For more information on the most prestigious award in college football, visit Heisman.com.