Saturday night, long about 7:45 east-Alabama time, after the ESPN talking heads have done their best to stretch 90 seconds of information into an agonizingly redundant recap of everything we know about the just-past college football season, Cam Newton is going to win the Heisman Trophy.
If he does not, it will be the most shocking news in what has been maybe the most shocking Auburn season ever.
The necessary disclaimer: Yes, this an Auburn-centered website. Yes, I see the world through orange-and-blue tinted glasses. But, seriously, folks? This one’s locked up. This one’s as sure a thing as a first down on third-and-short when No. 2 has the ball.
You don’t have to take my word for it. The good folks at Stiff Arm Trophy, who claim to have correctly predicted every Heisman winner since 2002, have Cam as such a prohibitive favorite that at this point, they’re just trying to forecast who will come in second. They’re wondering whether Newton will be the most decisive winner in the good statue’s history.
This trophy presentation isn’t going to be the 2010 Iron Bowl; it’s going to be the 2010 SEC Championship Game.
Not that Newton’s competition isn’t strong. The three finalists who will join him in New York are excellent players with worthy Heisman credentials. Oregon’s LaMichael James – with whom Auburn fans (and, more importantly, the Auburn defense) ought to get familiar in the next month – has rushed for 1,682 yards and 21 touchdowns. He’s averaged a nifty 6.0 yards per carry. He’s rushed for more yards and more touchdowns than Mark Ingram did last year, and in two fewer games. He’s done all this as a sophomore playing for an undefeated team from a major conference. There are many, many seasons, including 2009, in which these achievements would be plenty enough for a Heisman.
Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck is regarded by many as the best pro prospect in college right now. Luck has thrown for 3,051 yards and 28 touchdowns, completing 70.2 percent of his passes, and he’s run for 438 yards and three scores. His quarterback efficiency rating is a dazzling 166.1. These are excellent numbers, posted for a good-but-maybe-not-quite-great Stanford club that went 11-1, losing only to Oregon.
Luck is projected to finish second at Stiff Arm Trophy and by ESPN’s “expert poll” as well. But, honestly, Luck just doesn’t feel like a Heisman winner. He feels like the guy who finishes second or third in the voting, then goes on to become very rich and very successful as an NFL quarterback. Which is a pretty good life to have.
The other finalist is Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore. Moore and the blue-turf Broncos are great stories. If this hadn’t been such an Auburn-centered year, I would have been watching them with great interest all season, and if I hadn’t still been worried about whether Auburn would get hosed out of the BCS title game, I would have been seriously bummed when they lost to Nevada. Moore has better numbers than Luck: 3,506 yards, 33 touchdowns, 71.0 completion percentage, and an efficiency rating of 185.0, second in the nation only to you-know-who. But as you may have heard, Moore’s production comes against somewhat lesser competition. The last time a Heisman winner came from a conference other than the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10, ACC (by which I mean Florida State) or Big East (by which I mean Miami) was … wait for it … 20 years ago, when Brigham Young’s Ty Detmer took home the hardware.. Houston’s Andre Ware won in 1989, and before that you have to go back to Navy’s Roger Staubach in 1963. Moore has had a tremendous season, no question, but he has as much shot at winning the Heisman as a one-loss non-AQ school has of sneaking into a BCS Bowl.
Which brings us to our beloved Cam Newton. The Auburn quarterback’s numbers are flat-out ridiculous: 2,589 yards and 28 touchdowns passing, 1,409 yards and 20 touchdowns rushing.* He’s also the most efficient passer in big time-college history. [Ed. note: if you haven’t read Doc Saturday’s ringing endorsement of Newton, you should] But if you’re reading this website (or, y’know, if you’ve been a partially sentient observer of college football this season), you know that the numbers don’t come anywhere close to telling the whole story – of capturing just how insanely impressive Newton has been this season.
No matter what happens Jan. 10, Auburn fans lucky enough to be alive right now are going to remember this season forever. There’s plenty of credit to go around for that. Gene Chizik. Gus Malzahn. Ted Roof**. The rest of the assistants. Nick Fairley. Lee Ziemba, Ryan Pugh, and the rest of the best offensive line we might ever see in blue and orange. But when it’s all said and done, this has been Cam Newton’s season. And that’s why he’s going to win the Heisman Trophy.
Oh, sure, there are a few clowns who’ve earned some attention for themselves*** by declaring loudly and publicly that they won’t vote for Newton because of the off-the-field stuff we all know about. But those few are far outweighed by the folks who (rightly) have said they plan to vote based on what has happened on the field rather than on some completely unfounded hunch that the recent investigation didn’t uncover some deep, dark wrongdoing.
And what has happened on the field is this: Cam Newton has been the best player on the best team in the toughest conference in the land. Cam Newton has maybe been the best college football player ever. Saturday night, he’ll be handed the trophy that goes with that achievement.
* If Cam were a running back on an undefeated BCS-conference team, his rushing stats alone would have him at least on the edges of the Heisman conversation. But he’s, like, a quarterback and stuff, too?
**Yes, Ted Roof. No one can say his defense was perfect, but it made exactly enough plays to win every game, didn’t it?
***I could link to them, but that would just be playing into their hands, wouldn’t it?
Amorak Huey didn’t go to Auburn, but he did have a fake Auburn ID so he could sit in the Jordan-Hare student section throughout his college years. A graduate of Birmingham-Southern College, Amorak spent fifteen years as a newspaper reporter and editor at papers in Florida, Kentucky and Michigan. Two years ago, he left his job as assistant sports editor at The Grand Rapids Press to take a position teaching writing at Grand Valley State University. He holds an MFA in creative writing from Western Michigan University, and his poetry has appeared in a number of literary journals. He lives in East Grand Rapids, Mich., with his wife and two children. You can find him online at www.amorakhuey.net.
Please tell us you’ve been reading Leaves Of Turf, Amorak’s game-by-game, season-long series of football verse. We’ve been patting ourselves on the back for 13 straight weeks for asking him to do it. Still patting. His latest just happened to be about Cam Newton.