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December 14, 2007

Fans already looking ahead to 2008 Heisman

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com and a Heisman voter.
Previous mailbags
Dec. 7: What about
Nov. 30: The home stretch
Nov. 23: Something to prove?
Nov. 16: What's the difference

A sophomore won the Heisman Trophy for the first time this season, and the wait for another might not take too long. There were several impact freshmen in 2007, and if they continue to progress, one could be named the nation's most outstanding player in 2008.

Which one could win it is a good question. Whether any of them one day could be involved in a "plus-one" game for the national championship might be a better question.

Both of those issues and a few more are addressed in this week's mailbag.

OLIN'S MAILBAG
Plus one possibilities

Do you feel the "plus-one'' concept would be a positive step in determining the two BCS participants or would we have more controversy? In most years, I suspect, there would be no true resolution.

Bob in Orlando
-----

Hey, I'm with you. The plus-one concept - which would stage another game after the bowls - would be interesting, but still comes off as just adding another patch on a worn-out tire.

Let's say all the top two-loss teams this season won their bowls. Wouldn't we still be debating which teams should play for the national title? Fans still will feel as if their teams were cheated.

But I don't believe the college presidents who make the rules for football really care about the fans. They know you will go to the games, no matter what. They often refuse to acknowledge that the fans who buy tickets and watch games on TV, by and large, want a playoff system.

That's probably not going to happen, though. If a "plus-one' concept is adopted and that's likely a few wrinkles will be ironed out, but there still will be problems.

I'd like to see an eight-team playoff in which the champions of the main six conferences are included. That would put added importance on winning a conference championship.

Then, have a committee select two "at-large" teams similar to basketball. After determining the field, seed the teams and let the better-seeded team host a first-round game.

The next two rounds could be incorporated into the current bowl format if the bowls are willing. If not, just go on without them. It would be a great success similar to March Madness.

Do you Know(shon) when?

When do you think Georgia's Knowshon Moreno will be a Heisman hopeful? He is only a freshman, has done an outstanding job and already has positioned himself among the top running backs.

Michael in Camden, Ga.
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There seemed to be more impact first- and second-year players this season than in most. As a result, there are more than a dozen returning players who figure to have realistic shots at winning the Heisman next season.

Moreno, the nation's second-leading freshman rusher, definitely could qualify. He has rushed for 1,273 yards this season and exceeded 100 yards in five of the six games in which he had at least 20 carries.

In addition, he gained more than half of his yardage in the second half of the season, and his performance against Florida was among the best individual efforts of the season.

If Georgia coach Mark Richt gives Moreno a sufficient amount of carries, it is not out of the question that Moreno could get in the Heisman discussion next year.

Locker talk

What are your thoughts on the Pac-10 freshman of the year, Washington's Jake Locker, and do you feel his name will be mentioned in the Heisman voting next year? Some are calling him the "Tim Tebow of the West."

Andre in Seattle
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Upgrade the talent around Locker, and I think he could raise his national profile significantly. He's already an excellent running threat and a solid passer, though he does need to improve his accuracy.

Locker definitely is the type of player a team can build around, and I expect he will lead the Huskies to better fortunes in the upcoming seasons. I don't think he'll enter the 2008 as a "leading" candidate. But keep in mind that Dennis Dixon wasn't a leading preseason candidate this season, and might have won the trophy if not for his knee injury.

I know Huskies fans hoped for more this season, but you should be encouraged and optimistic for the future because you already have the right quarterback in place.

Backing Bradford

Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford is the most unassuming player in college football today. He wasn't even considered the favorite for the (starting job). Upon getting the nod, he commences to set record numbers and show patience beyond his years. Why has not one single person spoke of him in the same breath as Tim Tebow, Chase Daniel, Pat White, Colt Brennan or Dennis Dixon? I assure you that, barring injury, this young man will be the best quarterback Bob Stoops has had.

Steve in Oklahoma City
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Stoops coached Jason White, the 2003 Heisman recipient. If Bradford proves to be the best quarterback Stoops coaches, then Bradford likely will win the Heisman, too.

And he just might.

I'll admit that back in August, I had Texas as the favorite in the Big 12 South because the Longhorns returned quarterback Colt McCoy and OU's quarterback situation appeared unsettled.

Well, Bradford obviously settled in nicely. He had a tremendous season in leading the Sooners to another Big 12 championship.

But I will disagree on one point. After getting off to a fast start and playing superbly in a victory over Miami, Bradford surfaced on several Heisman lists and was being listed among the top quarterbacks in the country. He remained in the discussion until he had a poor showing in an upset loss to Colorado, in which he completed fewer than half of his passes and threw two interceptions. Bradford also played poorly in a close win at Iowa State, then got hurt in the loss at Texas Tech.

Still, he had an outstanding season. He usually was excellent and only sometimes inconsistent, which likely is a result of simply being a freshman.

If Bradford continues to improve, he will be a serious contender for All-American honors and maybe even the Heisman Trophy in the next two or three seasons. At the least, he should make a run at being Stoops' best quarterback.

Surprise, surprise

What's been the biggest surprise this year?

Christian in Louisville
-----

That's a tough question. That's like asking what baseball player used steroids there are just too many answers.

To me, the single biggest surprise was the first one: Appalachian State beating Michigan in the season-opener. But there could be different answers in different categories. We'll break it down this way:

  • Most surprising team (good): Illinois. Some might argue Kansas, but Kansas had a better season in 2006 than Illinois. In addition, Illinois played a more difficult schedule this year and posted a more impressive victory by beating Ohio State in Columbus. Anyone who said they predicted Illinois would post nine wins and play in the Rose Bowl is lying.

  • Most surprising team (bad). Louisville was thought to be a legitimate national championship contender. A 6-6 record won't win a championship in any nation.

  • Most surprising player: Oregon's Dennis Dixon was a solid but unspectacular player for three years. This season, he blossomed into a great quarterback and was the Heisman frontrunner until his season-ending knee injury.

  • Most surprising game: That takes us back to the Michigan-Appalachian State upset, but there are so many others that could be considered, too. How about Louisiana-Monroe beating Alabama, Stanford beating USC or Pittsburgh over West Virginia? Take your pick.

  • Hopeful Hokies

    Do you think Virginia Tech has a good chance at running the table next year with (freshman quarterback) Tyrod Taylor developing and (tailback) Branden Ore healthy? Keep in mind Virginia Tech returns several defensive players, not to mention two or three guys on the offensive line. In addition, the backups who will be returning got a good amount of playing time.

    Matt in Richmond, Va.
    -----

    The Hokies won't be playing LSU next season, so that has to help.

    Taylor is dangerous and Ore is a good tailback, but there are a lot of seniors on the defense the Hokies will miss.

    Frank Beamer's teams always are strong and that should be the case again next season. But I wouldn't go out on a limb and say the Hokies will go undefeated. That's hard to do even if every player comes back.

    Still stinging in Arkansas

    How can you and many others ignore the fact that (Arkansas tailback) Darren McFadden had the stats of Bo Jackson and Herschel Walker, who everyone says are the best backs ever to play college football? They won the Heisman Trophy, so I don't understand how you and others voted against McFadden. You are biased with the big-named schools.

    Robert in Arkansas
    -----

    I won't deny that McFadden was worthy of winning the Heisman Trophy, I just felt Florida's Tim Tebow was more deserving, which is why I voted him first and McFadden second.

    And I always thought Arkansas was a big-name school.

    Olin Buchanan is the senior national college football writer for Rivals.com. Click here to send him a question or comment for his Friday Mailbag.



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