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Stats Corner: 10ve for Heisman, what is it going to take?

Determining the stats which Jordan Love needs to put up to be in Heisman talk.

NCAA Football: Arizona Bowl-New Mexico State vs Utah State Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Utah State opened the season with a 10ve for Heisman campaign, which is good for both Love and the Aggies. As much as I would love (sorry, had to do that once) to see a Mountain West Conference athlete earn the highest collegiate award, it is unlikely to happen. If Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray had placed on played on any Mountain West team with the same numbers, they would not have won. Case in point, before he coached at Oklahoma, Lincoln Riley was the offensive coordinator at East Carolina University. While he was there he coached Shane Carden at quarterback who in 2013 completed 387-of-549 passes for 4,139 yards and 33 touchdowns. Carden was ranked second nationally in completion percentage (70.5%), fifth in the nation for completions per game and points responsible for per game, seventh overall in passing yards at 4139 yard (he would pass for 4736 yard as a senior), eighth in passing yards per game, ninth in touchdown passes, and generated no Heisman buzz. Carden also had the all-time NCAA reception leader Justin Hardy (387 receptions) and the guy who would break that record Zay Jones (399 receptions) to throw to. When Riley coached them at Oklahoma Mayfield went 285-404 (70.5%) and 4627 yards in one more game, and Murray went 260-377 (69.0%) and 4361 yards. In 2013, Jameis Winston won the Heisman with a lower percentage (66.9%), less yards (4057) and the same number of interceptions (10) than Carden. The numbers are comparable, but because one quarterback was not at a Power 5 school, there was no Heisman talk. But this week on Stats Corner we are going to look at what it will take for Love to do the unlikely.

So what is it going to take for Love to win it all?

The last non-Power 5 or 6 winner was BYU’s Ty Detmer in 1990. Since then there have been few non-Power athletes who have gotten close: Jordan Lynch (Northern Illinois) took third in 2013, Colt Brennan (Hawaii) also took third in 2007, Alex Smith (Utah) took fourth in 2004, and Steve McNair (Alcorn State) took third in 1994.

Being a Utah State Alumni it pains me to write this statement, but we are going to use Ty Detmer as the standard as he was the last person to break through. Detmer did benefit from the fact that the other top quarterbacks that year was David Klingler from Houston and Dan McGwire from San Diego State, meaning he didn’t have major competition from a Power Conference Quarterback. Love does not have that luxury, with front runners Tua Tagovailoa (Alabama), Trevor Lawrence (Clemson), Justin Fields (Ohio State), and Jalen Hurts (Oklahoma) all who play quarterback for Power Schools. Detmer was second in pass completions (361) and attempts (643), both times to Klingler. Second to Stanford’s Jason Palumbis in percentage (64.2). First in passing yards (5188), Klingler had 5140, and third was McGwire at 3833, so huge drop off after second. Finally, Detmer was second in passing yards per attempt (9.2), passing efficiency rating (155.9), and touchdowns (41). In short, Detmer simply just dominated compared to “Major” programs quarterbacks. For completions, Palumbis was sixth with 234 which was 127 fewer, Craig Erickson from Miami was fourth in passing yards at 3363 almost 2000 yards less, Shane Matthews from Florida at 23 passing touchdowns, while he was sixth in the nation he was 18 less than Detmer.

Sometimes dominating simply isn’t enough: in 2013 Jameis Winston won with a line of 257-384, 4057 yard, 40 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Not only did Carden put up comparable numbers that year, but the player who took eighth in the Heisman Voting had much better numbers than both of them. Fresno State’s Derek Carr went 454-659 good for 68.9% completion rate, 5083 yards, 50 touchdowns and only 8 interceptions. Carr had more than 1000 yards over Winston, 10 more touchdowns, and 2 less interceptions, but received 2098 less votes 2205 to 107.

Front-runner Tagovailoa numbers from last year are 245-355 for 69.0% for 3966 yard with 43 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. Love’s numbers last year were 267-417 for 64.0% 3567 yards with 32 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. Love did sit out the second half of multiple games last year, which adversely affected his numbers. For Love to win the Heisman, he is going to need to put up Detmer or Carr like numbers, or simply put, he needs to dominate Tagovailoa’s numbers. I’m guessing 70% completion at least, 5000 yards, 45 passing touchdowns, less than 8 interceptions, 10 rushing touchdowns, and 300 yards rushing, and a rating over 160 (he had 158.3 last year) and more is better, expect interceptions. It is a tall order, and probably unfair, but that is the game.

The Team Aspect

In 1956, Notre Dame went 2-8, that same season Paul Hornung won the Heisman, the only winner from a losing team. Only two winners came from teams with 4 loses Jay Berwanger in 1935 on a 4-4 Chicago team and Steve Owens in 1969 on a 6-4 Oklahoma team. Detmer’s team in 1991 went 10-2, however in 1992 he wasn’t really in the running for a repeat, part of that was BYU who went 8-3-2. Whether or not it is fair (and in my opinion, it is not) team records matter. For a reference Lynch’s Northern Illinois was 12-1 prior to bowl game, Brennan’s Warriors were 12-0 before losing the bowl game, Smith’s Ute’s were 11-0 before winning the bowl game, and McNair’s Alcorn State was 8-3-1. In 2013 Carden’s Pirates were 9-3 and Carr’s Bulldogs were 11-1. Unfortunately Winston’s Seminoles went 13-0 prior to the championship game and were ranked number 1 in the nation.

Therefore the Aggies to win to help Love win. The 2004 Utes absolutely destroyed teams, the closest game was a 49-35 victory over Air Force. They also had victories over Texas A&M (41-21), Arizona (23-6), and North Carolina (46-16). The Aggies will need to go at worse 10-2, but probably better than that. They also have to win against Wake Forest and LSU. The LSU game is a big one for both the Aggies and Love. One might recall another Aggie quarterback for whom Utah State had a Heisman campaign, Chuckie Keeton. As a true freshman he started the first game of the year at defending national champion Auburn. He had a great game in a hostile environment, going 21-30 for 213 yard, rushing for 33 yards and two touchdowns. However, for the national media, because Utah State lost the game by allowing a touchdown, missed an onside kick, and allowed another touchdown Keeton’s national attention was diminished. Even though Auburn won the game, they dropped in the national rankings, but unfortunately Utah State and Keeton didn’t receive the difference. Love’s LSU game is similar to Keeton’s Auburn game. If Love wants to be a finalist he needs a great game and the Aggies need to win, a close loss isn’t going to be enough. If Utah State is going to stumble it cannot be against Wake Forest or LSU.

To get Love on that stage, it is going to be difficult season, with little room for mistakes. The Aggies need at least 10 wins, with wins against both Wake Forest and LSU and Love needs to put up insane numbers 5000 yards, 45 touchdowns, single digit interceptions, and over 70% accuracy. If Tagovailoa or Lawrence has a bad game, they will be given the benefit of the doubt and a second chance. Love will be given no such quarter, Smith in 2004 when 32 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions, but every interception was scrutinized. Love is going to be in the same boat. It is going to be a difficult, but not impossible, campaign. Good luck, guys, we will be hoping for the best.