GAINESVILLE -- In Tim Tebow's sophomore season, he won the Heisman Trophy based upon his stats and despite playing on a team that lost three regular-season games.
In 2008, Tebow again had good numbers but watched Oklahoma's Sam Bradford, a guy with better stats, win the award. Bradford played for a one-loss team during the regular season. Florida lost to Ole Miss.
In 2009, Tebow's numbers are down compared to 2007 and 2008 but this time he's on an undefeated team. Will that be enough to earn him his second Heisman Trophy. Will it be enough for him to at least receive an invitation to New York for the ceremony? Tebow will likely be invited but whether or not he wins his second Heisman is still to be determined.
Four things determine the winner of the Heisman Trophy: hype, stats, season and sportswriters. Does Tebow have the hype? Check. Does Tebow have the stats? No, not if you're comparing them to his sophomore and junior seasons. Does Tebow have the sportswriters? The verdict is still out on that one. Are sportswriters suffering from Tebow overload? Yes, some writers are probably are sick of hearing about Tebow. Is there a Tebow backlash? Yes, there are certain regions of this country where voters will be looking for reasons not to vote for Tebow.
Whether you agree with this or not, Tebow's stats this season are going to be compared to his stats in 2008 and 2007. Tebow's touchdown total in 2007 was one for the ages. He accounted for 55 scores and was the first person in the history of major college football to throw and run for at least 20 touchdowns. In 2008, his touchdowns were down slightly but still impressive. In 2009, Tebow's scoring totals have been steady but the Gators' haven't been blowing teams out.
Tebow's passing numbers in 2007: 350-234-6-32; 3,286 yards
Tebow's passing numbers in 2008: 298-192-4-30; 2,746 yards
With three games remaining in the 2009 regular season, Tebow has completed 124 of 198 attempts for 1,730 yards, 12 touchdowns and four interceptions.
Tebow's rushing numbers in 2007: 210-895 (4.3 ypc.), 23 touchdowns
Tebow's rushing numbers in 2008: 176-673 (3.8 ypc.), 12 touchdowns
With three games remaining in the 2009 regular season, Tebow has rushed for 604 yards on 171 attempts (3.5 ypc) and 10 touchdowns. Now, if you factor Tebow's sacks out of his rushing stats, those numbers improve significantly. Tebow has been sacked 23 times for minus-125 yards. Take away the sacks, and Tebow has rushed for 729 yards on 148 carries (4.3 ypc).
On Tuesday, Florida coach Urban Meyer defended his quarterback and told reporters that Tebow should still be considered for the Heisman Trophy despite Tebow's drop in statistics, which -- and this is just my opinion -- are directly related to Florida's lack of receivers.
"The Heisman goes for the best player," Meyer said. "I'd be hard to argue that he's not one of the best players in college football. Because he didn't throw for as many yards as another guy? I've never really looked at it (that way). I always look at the win-loss. How do you evaluate a player, especially a leader. Do you win games? That's No.1. It's always been No.1."
Six teams remain undefeated entering the 12th week of the season. Of those six teams, three quarterbacks are being mentioned in the Heisman discussion: Tebow, Texas' Colt McCoy and Boise State's Kellen Moore. If the Heisman was based strictly on stats, records and quarterbacks, then Moore would be the clear favorite. He has thrown for 2,558 yards, 32 touchdowns and three interceptions. Comparatively, McCoy has throw for 2,628 yards, 19 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Of course, the Heisman isn't just about stats and records. Don't forget the hype factor. Does a sophomore quarterback from Idaho really have any chance of winning the Heisman? Probably not.
That brings us back to Meyer's quote about looking beyond Tebow's stats compared to other quarterbacks. A quarterback, it seems, is no longer the favorite to win the Heisman. Who would have predicted that at the beginning of the season?
Alabama running back Mark Ingram is having a fine season. He has rushed for 1,297 yards and 10 touchdowns in addition to catching 25 passes for 225 yards and three scores. Those are solid numbers and will likely earn Ingram a trip to New York. Since this is a Gators blog, we would be remiss if we didn't point out that Tebow has the same number of rushing touchdowns as Ingram. Will voters consider that statistic when filling out their Heisman ballots? We'll see.
At this point, the Heisman race is too close to call, but if I had to guess who the finalists would be at the end of the season, I'd pick Tebow, Ingram, McCoy and Moore. Barring injuries to either Tebow or Ingram, I'm still of the opinion that voters in the Southeast will wait until after the SEC championship to make a decision. When was the last time a late-season injury factored into the Heisman? In 2007, Oregon quarterback Dennis Dixon suffered a knee injury during the 11th week of the season. Dixon's injury made Tebow the favorite.
The Heisman Trophy isn't a career-achievement award but the voting is so subjective that nominations might be handed out based on Tebow's entire body work. At season's end, he will be the SEC's all-time leader in touchdowns. That's quite an accomplishment. Of course, if you're going to vote for Tebow based on his career, then you can just as easily make a case for McCoy, Texas' quarterback who finished second in the Heisman voting in 2008. The logic in voting for McCoy? Tebow already has a Heisman, so let's give McCoy one.