McMurphy's Law: BCS's effect on Heisman field may change

by | CBSSports.com College Football Insider
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Are Luck's Heisman chances dependent on Stanford going unbeaten and winning the Pac-12? (Getty Images)  
Are Luck's Heisman chances dependent on Stanford going unbeaten and winning the Pac-12? (Getty Images)  

There have been plenty of reasons to love -- or loathe -- the Bowl Championship Series. Since 1998, the BCS has paired the Nos. 1 and 2 teams in the final BCS poll in a bowl game each January for the BCS championship.

This allowed college football fans to get a chance to see the top two ranked (BCS) teams pair off in a bowl game.

Well, there seems to be another unintended consequence that has resulted in the past 11 years -- the BCS pairings also have greatly influenced who has won the Heisman Trophy.

The Heisman used to be awarded to the best player in college football. Remember Barry Sanders? Now it's become the best player on one of the nation's best teams.

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Nine of the last 11 Heisman Trophy winners were either from a team that was ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in the final BCS poll. The only exceptions were Florida's Tim Tebow in 2007 and USC's Carson Palmer in 2002.

Tebow also is the only Heisman winner since 1999 who did not play in a BCS bowl the year he won the award. The Gators, 9-3 in the 2007 regular season, went to the Capitol One Bowl.

The Heisman ballots are due a few days after the end of the regular season and the BCS title game pairing is announced.

How much has the BCS rankings influenced the Heisman? Seven of the last eight Heisman winners came from the BCS' No. 1 ranked team.

The simple reason for this is the constant pounding of the drum in the media for the player(s) on the top ranked BCS teams. It's simply impossible to avoid it.

Will this trend continue this year? Maybe not.

Stanford QB Andrew Luck is the front-runner and his Cardinal are ranked No. 4 in the BCS. Are Luck's chances dependent on Stanford going undefeated and winning the Pac-12 title, or would a loss to Oregon on Saturday bring him back to the pack?

Who knows, but one thing appears certain: if current No. 1 LSU remains at No. 1, the Tigers do not have a legitimate Heisman candidate.

However, the teams ranked two through five all have candidates -- Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden, Alabama running back Trent Richardson and Boise State's Kellen Moore -- whose chances could improve drastically if their teams continue to climb in the BCS rankings over the season's final month.

Would any of these players have a chance to win the Heisman Trophy if they played for a team ranked outside the Top 5? Not likely.

Just look at Houston senior quarterback Case Keenum. He ranks No. 1 nationally in total offense, passing yards, passing touchdowns and TD-to-interception ratio and No. 2 in passing efficiency. He's also set four NCAA records this season.

Realistically, though, he has no shot -- his team isn't ranked high enough. Some argue the reason Keenum isn't higher is that the Cougars haven't played as tough a schedule as the top teams in the BCS. Others may argue it's because he hasn't received the same media attention as the players on teams at the top of the BCS rankings.

There have been a number of players since 2000 -- TCU's LaDainian Tomlinson, Purdue's Drew Brees, Pittsburgh's Larry Fitzgerald and Arkansas' Darren McFadden -- that could have easily won the Heisman Trophy if their teams were higher ranked.

Heisman Trophy winners since the BCS started pairing No. 1 and No. 2 teams in a bowl game:

Heisman Winners and BCS ranking
Year Heisman winner BCS
2010 Cam Newton, Auburn No. 1
2009 Mark Ingram, Alabama No. 1
2008 Sam Bradford, Oklahoma No. 1
2007 Tim Tebow, Florida No. 12
2006 Troy Smith, Ohio State No. 1
2005 Reggie Bush, USC No. 1
2004 Matt Leinart, USC No. 1
2003 Jason White, Oklahoma No. 1
2002 Carson Palmer, USC No. 4
2001 Eric Crouch, Nebraska No. 2
2000 Chris Weinke, Florida State No. 2
1999 Ron Dayne, Wisconsin No. 7
1998 Ricky Williams, Texas NR

BCS Bowl Projections

BCS Title: LSU vs. Oklahoma State. The Tigers got past Alabama so it should be clear sailing to New Orleans -- as long as they don't stumble Nov. 25 against Arkansas or in the SEC title game. Oklahoma State is three wins away from its first BCS bowl -- and first BCS national title game appearance. The last one won't be easy: Dec. 3 against Oklahoma. Should both teams come through unscathed, however, an Oklahoma State-LSU title game would have special meaning for Les Miles, who left Oklahoma State in 2004 for LSU.

Rose: Stanford vs. Wisconsin. The Cardinal continue to annihilate the opposition, but they still need help to reach the BCS title game. Yes, Wisconsin lost to Michigan State -- I should know, I predicted a MSU win -- but I still think the Badgers catch Penn State in the Leaders division and win the Big Ten title.

Fiesta: Oklahoma vs. Boise State. Will the Fiesta replace Oklahoma State with what would be a two-loss Oklahoma? Probably so. Awaiting Oklahoma will be undefeated and unappreciated Boise State with Kellen Moore playing his final game for the Broncos.

Sugar: Alabama vs. Oregon. With its loss to LSU, Alabama is now pretty much guaranteed a trip to New Orleans as the SEC West runner-up. With Notre Dame's slim BCS chances now all but officially squashed, the Sugar looks for the best available at-large team. At 10-2, Oregon would probably rate higher than anything the Big Ten could offer.

Orange: Clemson vs. Cincinnati. Despite the upset at Georgia Tech, the Tigers are my pick to win the ACC title. Clemson's reward is an Orange Bowl berth against the Big East champion. At this point, it appears to be Cincinnati, the only undefeated team in league play. Of course, expect that to change, oh, half-a-dozen times before the end of the season.

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