America’s Greatest Football Conference needs to go up-tempo if it wants to present out-going CBS announcer Verne Lundquist with one last going-away Heisman.
The venerable Verne, we hear, is tired of receiving trinkets at every stop this season. His home in Steamboat Springs (Co.) is already stuffed with commemorative jerseys and he’s telling friends if he gets one more he’s going to jump a chair lift and scream “Ingemar Stenmark!” on his way to the craggy bottom.
Sources close to Gary Danielson say Verne is becoming so cranky at production meetings he is thinking of dropping the “goodness” from his “goodness gracious” call.
Let’s face it: Verne is spoiled. The SEC has won Heisman hardware five times since 2006 in an unprecedented run starting with Tim Tebow in 2007.
Alabama, which had never won a Heisman before 2008, claimed its first in 2009 with tailback Mark Ingram and its second last year in tailback Derrick Henry.
The SEC also won in 2010, with Auburn’s Cam Newton, and in 2012 Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Most years, Verne and Gary get to choose their front runner.
Last year, they went into the Alabama-LSU game touting Leonard Fournette as the obvious choice until he was shut down by the Crimson Tide defense. Instantly, Verne and Gary switched huddles and threw their weight behind Alabama’s Henry.
It was a brilliant pivot.
Things this year, though, are looking very, very dodgy.
Worse than that, there is an ugly scenario developing in which Tennessee’s quarterback could defeat Alabama but go on to lose the Heisman to a defensive back from Michigan.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
In 1997, of course, Peyton Manning heinously lost the trophy to Charles Woodson, helped along by Brent Musburger’s powerful ABC play-by-play prodding during Michigan’s win over Ohio State that year. Interestingly, Musburger now calls games for the SEC Network.
Tennessee fans are still outraged Manning was denied by a Michigan defensive player—and now it could happen again?
Tennessee hosts Alabama this weekend in SEC’s featured 12:30 p.m. matchup on CBS. Verne and Gary will be on the promotion.
A win over Alabama would put Tennessee right back in the national title race. The Vols have been one of this year’s most exciting teams, rallying five times from double-digit deficits.
Last week’s comeback, unfortunately, fell short in an overtime loss at Texas A&M. That said, Tennessee only dropped to No. 9 in the AP poll.
A virtuoso performance in victory against Alabama would likely re-stoke the Heisman hopes for quarterback Joshua Dobbs.
If you don’t play for Alabama, beating Alabama is the next-best way to win the Heisman. Ask Newton and Manziel.
Meanwhile, in Ann Arbor, Michigan’s diabolical Jim Harbaugh is stirring up this year’s version of Charles Woodson. His name is Jabrill Peppers, the Wolverines’ multi-purpose superstar linebacker.
Peppers showed his versatility in last week’s 78-0 romp over Rutgers by rushing for 74 yards, with two touchdowns, on three carries.
“Hyperbole” Harbaugh took no time in comparing Peppers to Jim Thorpe, which must have really hit the Swedish-descended Lundquist right in the meatballs.
Thorpe won the Olympic decathlon at the 1912 Games of Stockholm. He received his medal from King Gustav V, who reportedly said “You sir, are the greatest athlete in the world.”
To which Thorpe responded, “Thanks King.”
Harbaugh’s comparing Peppers to Thorpe had to have been a subtle dig at Lundquist and the SEC. Harbaugh doesn’t say anything without a needle, or a purpose.
“There’s nothing he can’t do,” Harbaugh said of Jabrill Thorpe, er, Peppers. “It’s the damnedest thing I’ve ever seen. In my humble opinion, I think we’re looking at a Heisman Trophy winner.”
Not to make Jim’s case for him, but the SEC is short on rebutting candidates.
Alabama is No. 1 but all Heisman tapped out. The Crimson Tide has been so efficient in its destruction this season no one person has been able to stockpile numbers.
Quarterback Jalen Hurts is a true freshman, which probably dooms his Heisman chances. Besides, he only ranks No. 37 in NCAA pass efficiency. Leading rusher Damien Harris ranks only 51st nationally, with 478 yards and only one touchdown, while star receiver Calvin Ridley is No. 53 in NCAA receiving.
If not Dobbs, then who?
A recent survey by Campusinsiders.com has only one SEC player ranked on its list of top 10 Heisman candidates—Texas A&M quarterback Trevor Knight.
That makes sense, given Knight has a shot to win at Alabama on Oct. 22. Otherwise, Knight’s numbers are not glossy as he only ranks No. 87 nationally in pass efficiency.
The consensus SEC-less, Heisman top five headed into week seven: Lamar Jackson (Louisville), Deshaun Watson (Clemson), J.T. Barrett (Ohio State), Peppers (Michigan) and fast-charging Washington quarterback Jake Browning, who leads the FBS nation in pass efficiency and touchdown passes (25).
There is a lot of pressure on Tennessee this weekend.
"Win it for Verne," now THAT would look nice on the back of a jersey.[/membership]