October 19, 2009

Jimmy Clausen for Heisman

Since Steve Sailer has had two recent pieces at Takimag focusing on football, I feel emboldened to write on the topic as well.  As of now, Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen should be the frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy.  He is certainly the best college quarterback in the country right now.  These are his cumulative statistics:  124 completions out of 191 pass attempts, with 14 touchdown passes and only 2 interceptions, with a passer efficiency rating of 166.4 and an average of 300.7 passing yards per game.  And since the second quarter of the Michigan State game, he has been doing this with turf toe, which has noticeably hobbled him at times and caused him to sit out for over a quarter against Purdue.

This past weekend, Clausen went up against USC’s pass defense, the best in the country, which had not given up a passing touchdown before playing Clausen.  As you may have heard, USC won, 34-27.  But Clausen threw for two TD passes and ran for one more, and would have had a third if his intended receiver hadn’t slipped on the final play of the game.  And one of these passes was just extraordinary, a 55 yard pass into double coverage that could not have been more on target.  You can see that pass here, at 2:42 minutes in.  (You can also see the catch on the final drive that I thought was a touchdown, even though the refs disagreed, at 5:28 minutes in).  USC never intercepted Clausen, who didn’t throw a pass the Trojans had a shot of picking off all day.  In fact, Clausen has become an excellent decisionmaker this season, rarely throwing a bad pass.  And how have some of Clausen’s Heisman competitors fared against top defenses?  Tim Tebow’s Florida Gators scored only 13 points against LSU and Colt McCoy’s Texas Longhorns put up just 16 points against Oklahoma, with Tebow and McCoy each having one touchdown and one interception.  Florida and LSU won those games because their defenses are better than Notre Dame’s, not because their quarterbacks are better.

Of course, it’s possible that Clausen’s performance will fall off, and Barack Obama is likely to win the Heisman anyway.  But if the Heisman were handed out today, Clausen should win it.

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