When I first sat down to write this week's Watch, I had placed Dennis Dixon at No. 1 and Tim Tebow No. 2. Before finishing I must have switched the two maybe two or three times. After the events of last week -- Matt Ryan's three-interception game and the A-plus efforts of both Dixon and Tebow -- the race for the stiff-armed statuette could not get any closer at the top.
The ballot if the season ended today:
Last week: 22-of-27 passing, 281 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT; 6 rushes, 35 yards, 2 TDs in a 49-22 victory against VanderbiltSeason: 151-of-223 passing, 2,228 yards, 21 TDs, 4 INTs; 144 rushes, 598 yards, 14 TDsHeisman-o-meter: On one run near the goal line in the third quarter, after lowering his shoulder and burying a hopeless Vandy tackler, Tebow got up, tapped his right shoulder three times and gave Florida fans the OK sign to let them know his supposedly bruised wing is fine. We'll have to trust Tebow that the shoulder is not a problem, but there's no questioning this stat: Before the injury he ran the ball 17.9 times a game. Since the injury? 9.5. He's not a worse quarterback because of the shoulder, just a different one. The leader by a hair.Up next: Saturday at South Carolina
Last week: 13-of-22 passing, 189 yards, 4 TDs; 11 rushes, 57 yards in a 35-23 victory against No. 6 Arizona StateSeason: 167-of-246 passing, 2,074 yards, 20 TDs, 3 INTs; 103 rushes, 549 yards, 8 TDsHeisman-o-meter: Dixon had perhaps the best opening 16 minutes of any player this season with three touchdown passes, before cooling off through the air and then leaving in the fourth quarter with a strained knee that's not serious. After this mega-effort, I expect many to crown Dixon the frontrunner, but, while I think this is a virtual dead-heat, I'll stick with Tebow. In my opinion, Tebow has been a slightly better runner and passer this season, and, even though his team has lost two more games than Dixon's, Tebow played well in those losses. It was not as if he cost them those games. Still, this race is as close as two can get.Up next: Nov. 15 at Arizona
Last week: 35 rushes, 321 yards, 1 TD; 1-of-1 passing, 23 yards, 1 TD; 1 reception, 4 yards; 2 kickoff returns, 30 yards in a 48-36 victory against No. 23 South CarolinaSeason: 223 rushes, 1,314 yards, 12 TDs; 2-of-3 passing, 65 yards, 2 TDs; 14 receptions, 97 yards; 9 kickoff returns, 171 yardsHeisman-o-meter: Welcome back, D-Mac. After slipping down the list in the past month, McFadden had arguably the single best performance of any Heisman contender all season, all the more remarkable considering he had 260 of his rushing yards in the last 32 minutes (and after Gamecocks safety Emanuel Cook absolutely lit him up in the first half, forcing a fumble). He's back in the race, but, in this opinion, he needs to produce in each of the next three games to make up ground on Dixon and Tebow, who have been brilliant more consistently.Up next: Saturday at No. 22 Tennessee
Last week: 15 rushes, 110 yards in a 28-24 victory at Michigan StateSeason: 215 rushes, 1,188 yards, 12 TDs; 7 receptions, 43 yardsHeisman-o-meter: Playing sparingly on that injured right ankle, Hart gutted through his first game in three weeks, getting most of his yardage on two long runs. But he limped off the field twice against the Spartans, and ABC showed more shots of Hart on the sideline than him with the ball. I love that he has produced every week he has been able to play, but that ankle injury looks as if it will bother Hart the rest of the season.Up next: Saturday at Wisconsin
Last week: 26-of-53 passing, 415 yards, 2 TDs, 3 INTs; 9 rushes, 30 yards in a 27-17 loss against Florida StateSeason: 243-of-409 passing, 2,848 yards, 21 TDs, 11 INTs; 33 rushes, 46 yards, 1 TD; 1 reception, 1 yardHeisman-o-meter: One week after rising to No. 1 on this list, Ryan most likely cost himself the Heisman with a three-pick performance in a loss to the 'Noles. Saturday's game was a microcosm of Ryan's season and showed both Ryan's good and bad sides: the big arm that makes big plays downfield, nice touch on his first touchdown pass and, unfortunately for him and the Eagles, some poor decision-making on the interceptions (particularly the first two). He's still my quarterback in the 2008 NFL Draft, but, barring some unforeseen collapses by all of the above, he's not my Heisman winner.Up next: Saturday at Maryland
Last week: 26-of-44 passing, 421 yards, 5 TDs, 1 INT; 6 rushes, 24 yards in a 55-10 victory at ColoradoSeason: 254-of-370 passing, 2,954 yards, 23 TDs, 9 INTs; 69 rushes, 233 yards, 3 TDsHeisman-o-meter: Daniel threw an interception on his first pass and then proceeded to have the best game, arguably, of his career, passing for a career-high 421 yards. (The five TDs tied a career best.) And these weren't just a bunch of underneath dump-offs either; he averaged 16.2 yards per completion. After the game Buffaloes coach Dan Hawkins said, "Chase Daniel is pretty darn good." Agreed.Up next: Saturday vs. Texas A&M
Last week: 21 rushes, 99 yards, 1 TD; 2 receptions, 26 yards, 1 TD; 5 kickoff returns, 122 yards in a 35-23 victory against No. 6 Arizona StateSeason: 177 rushes, 1,142 yards, 10 TDs; 16 receptions, 98 yards, 1 TD; 19 kickoff returns, 527 yardsHeisman-o-meter: Stewart played wingman to his running mate and was pretty much a non-factor on the ground until breaking off a nice touchdown run in the second half as he sidestepped two potential tacklers and then plowed through two more. Dixon's still the catalyst for the offense, but if Stewart keeps playing well, there's the possibility he could steal some votes away from his backfield partner.Up next: Nov. 15 at Arizona
Last week: IdleSeason: 91-of-130 passing, 1,070 yards, 9 TDs, 2 INTs; 96 rushes, 656 yards, 9 TDsHeisman-o-meter: "How can you have Pat White on the list??!! His stats are terrible!!" is something I've read a few times recently. But you must remember that he was hurt against South Florida and Syracuse, and players get a pass here for injuries so long as they don't sit out too long. On Thursday we may see White air it out a bit more considering he's facing a Cardinals pass defense ranked 96th in the country.Up next: Thursday vs. Louisville
Last week: 14 receptions, 214 yards, 1 TD; 1 rush, minus-9 yards, 0-of-1 passing in a 31-20 loss at Iowa StateSeason: 90 receptions, 1,222 yards, 8 TDs; 5 punt returns, 264 yards, 2 TDs; 3 rushes, minus-7 yards; 2-of-4 passing, 45 yards, 2 TDsHeisman-o-meter: His team may be 5-4 and may have just lost to Iowa State (Iowa State?), but it's not because of Nelson. He ranks second in the nation in both receptions and receiving yards, and regular Watch readers already know I think the leader in both of those categories, Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree, is not the catalyst for that offense. (Quarterback Graham Harrell is.) In addition, Nelson's averaging an unbelievable 52.8 yards per punt return.Up next: Saturday at Nebraska
Last week: 9 solo tackles, 19 total tackles, 2.0 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 1 fumble recovered in a 38-17 victory against WisconsinSeason: 34 solo tackles, 85 total tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 5.0 sacks, 2 interceptions, 1 pass broken up, 1 fumble recoveredHeisman-o-meter: Three weeks ago, before the Michigan State game, Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel was asked whether he believed any of his players deserved Heisman consideration. He said no. I'm wondering if Tressel feels the same way this week after Laurinaitis had a career-high 19 tackles and stopped Wisconsin's punter on a fake when the outcome was still in doubt. Some may believe running back Chris (Beanie) Wells or quarterback Todd Boeckman belong here, but Ohio State has been winning behind its No. 1-ranked defense and this linebacking animal has been the best player on that defense this year.Up next: Saturday vs. Illinois
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