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Devils Advocate: Casey Keenum as a Heisman Favorite

Posted By Bradley Ross On Nov 25 2011 @ 11:52 am In Conference USA | No Comments

Casey (“Case”) Keenum is the most outstanding player in Division I College Football.  He’s putting up incredible stats, is nearly perfect (135.2 QB rating on the NFL scale), has led his team to a perfect record, & may not even be in the top 5 for the Heisman Voting.  Why?  The Heisman has changed over the years.  While it’s description is it being for”The outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity”, that’s no longer accurate.  If it was accurate, why is a QB who is having an all-time great season be only 5th? Because the award has become a de-facto MVP award for college.  The Heisman is an award given to best player on one of the best teams.


Think this is crazy talk?  9 out of the last 11 Heisman winners have played in the National Championship game and the rest played on teams in BCS Bowls.  7 of the last 9 Heisman winners were picked in the first round and 3 were picked 1st overall.  Outside of Ty Detmer and Andre Ware, they have also all been from big schools or schools in big conferences.  Before them, the last smaller school Heisman winner was Roger Staubach back in ’63.


Keenum is putting together one of the greatest quarterback seasons in college football history.  He is on pace to set the FBS record for highest QB rating in a season.  Not only that, but he is on pace for 43 Touchdowns and almost 4700 yards, and a 73.4 completion %.  Out of the Heisman contenders, Brandon Weeden is the next closest in stats & he is on pace for 6 less TDs and 300 less yards.  Kellen Moore is the most efficient QB after Keenum but he does not throw for the kinds of yardage that Keenum does.

The Arguments against Keenum (versus the front-runner, Luck):

1. He doesn’t play in a big conference and has an easier strength of schedule.  

It is true he plays in the Conference-USA & the Pac-12 is better.  What matters is how these teams stop the pass.  While it may seem that the Pac-12 teams run away with this one, it is not so.  The average D Luck has faced gives up 245.8 yards per game with a completion % of 61.3.  The average D that Keenum has faced gives up 253.5 yards per game with a completion % of 61.7.  Keenum has passed for 1,328 more yards than Luck.  That difference in yardage equals a difference of 11 yards per game for the average D.  The Pac-12 passing Ds are no better than the ones in Conference-USA.


2. He plays in a system designed to fit his strengths.

Houston does run a very pass-happy offense.  However, beneficial systems are not uncommon in college football.  Trent Richardson and Kellen Moore benefit from great offensive line play and Weeden plays in a pass happy offense with Justin Blackmon.  Luck is  in an offensive system that greatly benefits him.  Luck is not the only QB Harbaugh has turned into a success.  Harbuagh put a system around Josh Johnson that launched him into the NFL.  Harbaugh is also working magic right now in making Alex Smith look very efficient. Andrew Luck consistently has tons of time to throw because of the talent up front, which includes two future first rounders.  Houston may not have two draftees total outside of Keenum.


Case Keenum is not getting the recognition he deserves.   Keenum’s aggregate placement when combining some Heisman trackers out there is 5th.   The biggest similarity of all the players in front of him? They all play for bigger named schools.  Moore at Boise State is now in that category because BSU is a perennial powerhouse.  But shouldn’t it say something about how outstanding a player is that he is leading a non-powerhouse team to a 10-0 record?  This is a team that went 3-7 in 2010 once he got injured.


The Heisman trends show that the voters seem to care about how good your program is and how good your project into the pros.  They rarely vote for guys like Keenum who play for smaller schools and in systems that benefit them.  Pro potential seems to be as big of a factor as college production, when  it shouldn’t be.  Luck will eventually win not because of how impressive he has been, but because he will be picked high in the draft.

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