Heisman Will Be Smith's, Deservedly So

By Adam Caparell - December 09, 2006


As far as suspense goes, this year’s Heisman Trophy race has been about as dull as a butter knife. The quarterback of the No. 1 team in the nation, who performed his best in the biggest games, is on the verge of collecting one of the most prestigious individual honors in all of sports. We've basically seen this coming since September.

But that’s the way it should be. Troy Smith, Ohio State’s steady, dependable, and at times spectacular quarterback, will head home to Columbus after this weekend as the sixth Buckeye to win the award. The only question that seems to be lingering as Saturday night’s announcement quickly approaches is by how much Smith will win by over the two other finalists, Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn and Arkansas running back Darren McFadden.

While voting for the Heisman is about as subjective as it gets when it comes to awards, the definition of the Heisman winner is “the most outstanding college football player” and Smith fits that description as well as anyone.

Some people think the Heisman should go to the best player on the best team in the country. And that’s Smith. Others think it should go to the player with the best stats, the most gaudy numbers, who plays on the biggest stage. And that means a lot of people think Quinn should take home the Heisman.

While Quinn put up better numbers than Smith, played every single game this year on national television and carried more name recognition heading into the season than any other player in the nation, he’s very likely going to come in a distant second to Smith. But if you ask me, I don’t even think Quinn should be one of the three finalists. I think there were plenty of other more worthy candidates that should be in New York right now over Quinn. But if you know the track record of Heisman voters, and politics behind the voting, then you know why Quinn is in New York.

The majority of your roughly 900 Heisman voters have extremely narrowed views of the candidates and can honestly give you a good read on only a few of them, at best. Since Notre Dame is the one team everyone can see and everyone knows about, hears about and reads about, Quinn was bound to garner a ton of votes as long as he didn’t fall flat on his face this year or miss a significant amount of time with injury.

He’s the golden boy, the crown prince of South Bend with the boy-next-door charm who can do no wrong. He’s probably going to be the first quarterback taken in this April’s NFL Draft and he’s got the backing of millions and millions of Irish fans out there that think he’s most deserving of winning the award.

Case in point: we put up a poll on CSTV.com’s football page Friday asking who people thought should be the Heisman winner this year. Smith, McFadden, Quinn and the ambiguous “Other” were the four choices. The winner? Quinn. He’s the fans choice by 15 percentage points over Smith. It’s was even more lopsided Friday evening when Quinn was garnering almost 60 percent of the vote.

It shows you the kind of support the Irish get, but if these fans are truthful and honest with themselves, they know its Smith’s award, by a long shot, for a number of reasons.

In Notre Dame’s biggest games, against Michigan and USC, Quinn had his worst games of the year. And, when it comes down to it, players are judged by their performances in the biggest games. Quinn completed 50 percent or less of his passes against the Wolverines and Trojans and had those three interceptions in the Michigan game. Now he’s not totally at fault for those losses, but in football it starts and ends with the quarterback regardless of whether the assessment is always fair or not. For the most part, he played against inferior competition - not his fault, but a reality we can't ignore - and, of course, his team lost two games. If he’s not at Notre Dame - playing the same schedule at some middle of the road Big Ten or Big East school against – we’d be hearing a lot less about him.

Smith, on the other hand, seemed to rise to the occasion against Texas and Michigan. He was efficient, productive and consistent against a tougher schedule than Quinn. And on the biggest stage, Smith played one of his best games against the Wolverines - who he beat for the third straight year - throwing four touchdowns and 316 yards. He led the Buckeyes to an undefeated season, had a few highlight moments that have resonated throughout the year and has developed into arguably the top quarterback in the country right now.

More than anything, Smith’s a winner as even his peers agree the trophy is going to be Smith’s, and deservedly so.

“You can just see he’s an excellent player,” Florida quarterback Chris Leak said earlier this week. “The way he’s matured as a quarterback over the years, his game has just improved every week and every year. You just admire that about a guy. He’s very accountable to his teammates and at the same time is very humble and knows that he’s been blessed.”

Smith has transformed himself and his game during his time in Columbus. He's overcome some trouble, reined in his running game and became a very good ball distributor.

“You can tell he’s put a lot of dedication and hard work into his teammates,” Leak said. “He’s one of the main reasons why Ohio State is where it is.”

Now his hard work is about to pay off for Smith individually, in a big way. He’s going to join an exclusive fraternity when he holds that Heisman Trophy in his hands this evening. It’ll be a culmination of his great season, of his winning prowess and a well deserved recognition of college football’s most outstanding player.

At least we'll have one set of voters get something right this season.

Posted by Adam Caparell at 11:26 AM on December 09, 2006
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