My Heisman ballot:
1. Reggie Bush, USC. Well, duh.
No surprise here. Even if The President hadn't eviscerated Fresno State on Nov. 19-20, he would probably finish first. Vince Young didn't end with a flourish and Bush has been the best player in the country, in my book, for the past two seasons.
|Reggie Bush makes the choices easy. (Getty Images)|
2. Vince Young, Texas A bigger Michael Vick. Can't wait to see him in the NFL.
V.Y. got a lot smarter this year. He didn't try to do too much and audibled brilliantly. Young had an anonymous receiving corps but made borderline stars out of Limas Sweed, Billy Pittman and David Thomas.
What makes him so dangerous is that, when all else fails, he can rely on his running ability, like a six-shooter hanging on his hip.
3. Brady Quinn, Notre Dame: Nine victories wouldn't have been possible if Quinn hadn't bought in. Charlie Weis knew the key to the whole team was a quarterback who was tough and accurate. Quinn is both.
He became Notre Dame's single-season passing leader, putting him on top of a list of legends.
- Best defensive player: Elvis Dumervil, Louisville.
- Best receiver: Dwayne Jarrett, USC.
- Best defensive back: Michael Huff, Texas.
- Best lineman: Dumervil
- Best quarterback: Vince Young, Texas
- Best running back: Reggie Bush, USC
- Best linebacker: A.J. Hawk, Ohio State
What if ...
- A couple of seconds hadn't been added to the clock at Michigan on Oct. 15? With 28 seconds left, Michigan called timeout during its game-winning drive against Penn State. Joe Paterno still hasn't gotten an explanation as to why officials added 2 seconds. The Wolverines snapped the ball on the last play of the game with one second left, allowing Chad Henne to hit Mario Manningham with the winning touchdown pass.
- Notre Dame defensive back Ambrose Wooden had raised his arm, oh, three inches? Wooden didn't and Matt Leinart's fourth-down pass floated perfectly into the arms of Dwayne Jarrett, whose 61-yard catch and run set up USC's dramatic winning touchdown Oct. 15.
- Ohio State hadn't dropped seven in coverage against Texas? The Buckeyes had spent most of the second half on Sept. 10 neutralizing Vince Young with an array of blitzes. On the game's deciding play, the back seven dropped into coverage allowing Young enough time to find Limas Sweed for the game-winning 27-yard touchdown pass with 2:37 left.
- Troy Smith had played the whole game? Jim Tressel was still trying to figure out his best quarterback in that game. Smith eventually won the job, leading the Bucks to a Big 12 co-championship and the Fiesta Bowl.
- D.J. Shockley hadn't got hurt Oct. 22 against Arkansas? Joe Tereshinski III tried mightily in the Florida game on Oct. 29, but Shockley's knee injury that forced him out of the game was eventually the difference in Georgia's 14-10 loss.
- What if Tyrone Prothro hadn't broken his leg? Alabama's offense went south after Prothro went down Oct. 1 against Florida. The Tide were able to sneak by with an excellent defense until LSU won in overtime at Bryant-Denny on Nov. 12.
- What if Matt Leinart had gone to the NFL? Judge for yourself. Does John David Booty beat Notre Dame or Arizona State? From here it looks like USC probably would be in the same position. Booty would have been more than an adequate replacement. The offensive line is still the heart of the team. Reggie Bush is still great.
- What if Stanford hadn't lost to Cal-Davis? The Cardinal (5-6) would have gone to a bowl. But it doesn't matter. Cal-Davis swept the season series by beating Stanford in basketball the other night.
Ranking the new coaches
Ranking 2005's 23 new coaches after their first season:
Charlie Weis, Notre Dame: Restored hope to the hopeless. Gave sight to the blind. Oops, wait. That's Touchdown Jesus.
Weis came close to The Big Guy, though, waking up the echoes and turning Notre Dame into a national contender again. Already, he is the country's best offensive play caller and one of the best game planners.
Les Miles, LSU: Should get coach of the year just for guiding the program through a couple of hurricanes. To get the Tigers into the SEC title game was amazing.
Steve Spurrier, South Carolina: We thought he'd go 5-6 -- at best. Spur Dog is a ahead of the curve with the Cocks in a bowl game in his first year. Look out SEC East.
Urban Meyer, Florida: Don't run this guy out of town, Gator fans. Meyer beat the school's three biggest rivals but lost to South Carolina.
That's progress. Meyer is great at adjusting on the fly. Eight victories in his first season in Gainesville with Zook's players and all those injuries are amazing.
Shane Montgomery, Miami (Ohio): Finished 7-4, tied for MAC East title and destroyed eventual MAC champ Akron.
Kyle Whittingham, Utah: Whittingham was in a no-win situation. A Heisman finalist was leaving. Expectations were through the roof after an undefeated 2004.
After a shaky start, Whittingham kept it together by winning three of the last four, including a win over BYU.
Terry Hoeppner, Indiana: The Hoosiers faded down the stretch but Indiana started 4-2 and beat Kentucky. Better times are ahead.
Bronco Mendenhall, BYU: The Cougars started scoring again, which is weird. Mendenhall is a defensive guy.
Bill Cubit, Western Michigan When Cubit's son Ryan was knocked out, quarterback Tim Hiller came in and became MAC freshman of the year.
Dave Wannstedt, Pittsburgh: Wanny did not restore the roar to the Panthers. An 0-3, including a loss to Ohio, degenerated into a 1-4 start that included a loss to Rutgers.
With a bowl bid on the line, Pittsburgh didn't show up in the finale, losing by 32 at West Virginia.
Frank Solich, Ohio: A nationally televised upset of Pittsburgh gave the Bobcats hope. A messy DUI put Solich's job in jeopardy.
Ed Orgeron, Mississippi: By any measure, Coach O's 3-8 debut was a disappointment. Orgeron needs to find a quarterback and develop some toughness in the lines -- his specialty.
Mark Snyder, Marshall: The news is not good for what used to be the most powerful mid-major. Tied for last in Conference USA East. Three of the seven losses for Snyder were by five points or less.
Skip Holtz, East Carolina: If his name wasn't Holtz, would we care? The Pirates won their last two to finish 5-6.
Brent Guy, Utah State: Life as a head coach (for Guy) and life in the WAC (for Utah State) started with a 3-8 thud. Guy was 3-1 against four other coaches on this list.
Tyrone Willingham, Washington: Barely competitive in Ty's first season. Only one win (Arizona) over a BCS conference team. U-Dub is at an all-time low.
Fortunately for Willingham, it was a lot worse at other places. Read on ...
Walt Harris, Stanford: How does a team go from losing to Cal-Davis to leading Notre Dame with 1:49 left? Harris gets low marks just for confusing us.
Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State: A rookie head coach in the Big 12. Not a good combination. Okie State gave up a combined 153 points to the teams Gundy will have to beat to win the Big 12 South -- Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma.
Dick Tomey, San Jose State: Tomey doesn't want to retire and the school doesn't want to drop football, how can we criticize 3-8?
Mike Sanford, UNLV: The spread option produced only 18.8 points. The Rebels (2-9) finished last in the Mountain West.
Ron Zook, Illinois: At least you can't blame Ron Turner anymore. The Illini gave up a school-record 435 points.
Hal Mumme, New Mexico State: A disgraced athletic director (Boston McKinley) hired a disgraced coach. Oh-for-12 was the logical result.
Greg Robinson, Syracuse: Sometimes you make life choices that are horrifically wrong. For Robinson, a career assistant until a 1-10 debut at The Cuse, there's always the NFL.
Ranking the leagues
Big Ten: Seven bowl teams. Two BCS teams. The resurgence of Penn State. Three teams with at least nine victories.
Pac-10: Going into the final weekend, three top 11 teams. USC has a 34-game winning streak. By Saturday, it will have the last two Heisman winners and three of the last four. Half of the league's members are in bowl games.
SEC: The best defenses in the country are on display here but the league slipped overall. All 12 teams lost at least two games.
ACC: Florida State slumped badly. Virginia Tech had two bad losses to end the season. Miami lost to Georgia Tech. Virginia Tech was the only national contender by November.
Big 12: A one-team league (Texas). The North Division is a national joke. Gary Barnett has won the division four of the last five years and might get fired.
Big East: Not as bad as you thought. When Rutgers gets to a bowl game, that's good news. South Florida is on the rise too. West Virginia should begin 2006 in the top 10.
Conference USA: Quality at the top with Central Florida, Tulsa and UTEP.
Mountain West: TCU was the best mid-major at 10-1 but the only loss was to SMU. After that, a lot of mediocrity. The other eight teams each lost at least five games.
WAC: Fresno State played the game of the year (arguably) at USC. Four teams won at least seven games, including surprising Nevada (8-3).
MAC: The league took a huge step back this year. Akron won the league at 7-5. Bowling Green was a disappointment at 6-5. Few signature non-conference victories.
Sun Belt: It is, what it is -- a conglomeration of schools operating on the periphery of I-A.
Blurring of positions: The NCAA's record-setting tight end (Tulsa's Garrett Mills) wasn't on the watch list for the nation's best tight end (Mackey Award).
Safeties play up like linebackers. Defensive linemen drop back in coverage. Fullbacks are a dying breed.
Coaches are loosening up, allowing great athletes to make great plays.
Spread option: The spread is spreading like ivy. Even the most conservative teams use spread principals, thanks mostly to Urban Meyer and his success at Utah.
The spread traces its roots back to the triple option and wishbone. It's just as entertaining to watch.
Scheduling patsies: Mostly an SEC problem. The perception of playing an easy non-conference conference schedule kept Auburn out of the Orange Bowl last year.
League teams keep saying that the conference schedule is so tough it can't afford to schedule better in non-conference. Don't tell us, tell the BCS.
Strength of schedule has to get better. The league's 12 teams scheduled a combined 13 teams from either I-AA or the Sun Belt, I-A's lowest-rated conference.
The death of parity: The weak need not apply because brand names still rule the landscape.
USC has won 34 in a row, Texas 19. Since 1998, those schools have won four of the past eight Heismans.
Notre Dame committed at least $30 million and 10 years to its coach after seven games. Because it could.
Five teams from the moribund Big 12 North are going bowling. The Big 12 and Big Ten have accounted for 15 of the 56 bowl teams.
The BCS helped draw the demarcation line. In the eight years it has been in existence, exactly one team (Utah) from outside the power conferences has played in a BCS game.
Those secret ballots
As promised, the coaches voting in the coaches' poll released their ballots. Just so we're in agreement on the best way to choose a national champion, here are some lowlights:
- Colorado's Gary Barnett gave Texas one of its seven first-place votes. Good choice since his team was outscored 112-20 by the Longhorns in two humiliating losses.
- SMU's Phil Bennett voted 10-1 Oregon 15th.
- Bobby Bowden voted the Seminoles 23rd. Son Tommy voted them 21st. The coaches' consensus was No. 22.
- Perhaps not wanting to give USC bulletin-board material, Mack Brown voted his Longhorns No. 2 behind the Trojans.
- Boise State coach Dan Hawkins put his team in the poll at No. 25. The Broncos were unranked in the final poll.
- After blowing a chance to clinch the Big 12 North for the second consecutive year, Dan McCarney voted his Cyclones (7-4) No. 25.
- Arkansas' Houston Nutt forgot to rank 10-1 West Virginia.
- Rutgers' Greg Schiano gave the Scarlet Knights their one and only vote, at No. 25.
- Steve Spurrier ranked Notre Dame 14th. Former Temple coach Bobby Wallace voted the Irish 13th.