In the wake of Louisville's first loss to Kentucky in five years, I wrote that Brian Brohm's run at the Heisman Trophy had been completely derailed just three weeks into his senior season.
It's the second weekend in October and the AP Top Ten looks like it was drawn out of a hat. There are no major standouts on the nation's top team, and preseason player of the year candidates are falling out faster than Billy Joe Meth Addict's teeth.
If ever there was a year for the Heisman Trophy to actually be awarded to the best player in college football as opposed to the player with the best stats on the nation's top team, this would be it.
So who is this player? I suppose the introduction and title of this post has given my opinion away.
What separates Brian from the rest of the non-undefeated candidates at this point is the fact that he has been sensational in defeat. Not even the most minuscule of this team's now infamous problems can be blamed on its front man. You can't convince me that there is another college quarterback in the country who could have guided this team to four victories, and kept its three defeats in single digits.
The latest showcase of the talents that will make Brian Brohm the first quarterback selected in the 2008 NFL Draft came Saturday night, when No. 12 gave arguably his finest performance in a Cardinal uniform. Against a defense that had picked off 16 passes in six games, and on a night when Brohm was consistently hit, pressured and flushed out of the pocket, he completed 28-of-38 passes for 350 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Statistics that, amazingly, could have been better had it not been for multiple drops from his receiving corps.
Playing without one or both if his top receivers in three of seven games, Brohm is completing 67.4% of his passes, averaging 395 yards per game, and has thrown 23 touchdown passes to just four interceptions.
But to truly appreciate these numbers you have to see the man producing them in action. You have to see him drop a 33-yard pass perfectly between a safety and a corner and into the arms of a streaking Harry Douglas. You have to see him rifle a 15-yard touchdown pass in between two defenders and into the chest of Brock Bolen. You have to see him stand in the pocket and deliver a deep strike to Scott Long despite knowing that the instant after the ball left his hand, that blitzing linebacker three yards away would be laying on top of him.
Seeing is believing, and Brian must make Heisman voters and the national media see when Louisville plays West Virginia and South Florida on back-to-back November Thursdays. The college football world has already written off the Cardinal defense as abysmal, so it doesn't necessarily matter if U of L wins (although it wouldn't hurt), but Brian has to give a pair of performances that give even the biggest skeptic no room to argue when it comes to the topic of who the nation's top signal caller is.
Handing the Heisman Trophy to a guy playing for a team that doesn't appear to be heading anywhere better than Birmingham or Toronto is a hard sell, but once November rolls around, the lack of a real superstar on the teams competing for a trip to New Orleans is going to force the voters to throw team records out the window and ask themselves who they think the best overall player in the country is. Brian Brohm stands to benefit greatly from this.
To fully understand just how wide open this race is, you have to look at the other eligible candidates:
Matt Ryan, QB, Boston College
Ignore the national pundits who are trying to sound insightful by "breaking the news" that there's a "sleeper candidate" in New England, because Ryan is without a doubt the front-runner right now. He's big, he's smart, he's got a quick release and a huge, accurate arm. The only issue is that he's been able to get by since the GT game despite his lack of a supporting cast, but it won't be so easy in the next five games against Va. Tech, Florida State, Maryland, Miami and Clemson. If he stays stellar and the Eagles run the table, then the trophy's his, but I can't see them making it through this stretch any better than 3-2, and I can't see him not having at least one very poor performance.
Andre Woodson, QB, Kentucky
Despite not being overly impressive in the process, leading his team to a triple overtime win over the number one squad in the country likely made a lot of people forget about his poor showcase performance against South Carolina the Thursday before. When Braxton Kelly made the game-clinching tackle on 4th and 2, Woodson instantly got a second chance at Heisman glory. If he can put on a show this weekend in Florida and then keep UK in the SEC race until the end of the season, he figures to at least get an invite to New York. As obnoxiously ignorant as Kentucky fans are, I really like Woodson and think it would be awesome if two Kentucky quarterbacks were in the final five for the most prestigious individual award in sports. While I can't cheer for the kid for obvious reasons, him getting to New York would be one of the few positives I'd be able to take away from Kentucky's success.
Mike Hart, RB, Michigan
You get the feeling that Hart is the nation's sentimental choice because of the way he handled all the adversity at the beginning of the season. He's carried UM back into the Big Ten race, and if they stay in the Rose Bowl hunt into November then you can bet he stays in the Heisman race. He did suffer an ankle injury on Saturday against Purdue, and if he's sidelined for multiple games then his chances will take a significant hit.
Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas
This was the player who stood to benefit the most from this crazy season before he ran for just 43 yards in Arkansas' 9-7 loss to Auburn. It's hard for folks to overlook the fact that your team sucks when you aren't putting up gaudy numbers.
DeSean Jackson, WR, California
Had the chance to become a legitimate front-runner before catching four passes for five yards in Cal's loss to Oregon State.
Dennis Dixon, QB, Oregon
He's putting up some big numbers for a team that looks like it still has a good shot at the BCS, but remember that he impressively led the Ducks to a 6-1 record at this point last season, and finished the year watching Brady Leaf take the snaps from the sideline.
Glenn Dorsey, DT, LSU
You might think that the ass-backwardsness of the season would open the door for the nation's best defensive player to take home the Heisman, but lackluster performances in consecutive weeks have probably doomed Dorsey's chances.
George Selvie, DE, South Florida
If there is a defensive player who deserves to have his name thrown into the mix, it's Selvie. The sophomore beast of a defensive end leads the nation in sacks and tackles for loss, and is one of the main reasons USF is ranked second in the BCS Standings. The longer USF is the talk of the college football world, the better the chances are that the Selvie campaign could pick up some steam. He'd have my vote as of right now.
Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma
I know Oklahoma isn't going to lose again, you know Oklahoma isn't going to lose again, but even with solid numbers, is Bradford really impressive enough to overtake guys like Brohm, Ryan, Woodson and Hart?
John David Booty, QB, USC
The likely preseason favorite is done son. As each week passes it becomes more and more apparent that no one from USC has a shot at even being invited to New York.
Colt Brennan, QB, Hawaii
I thought it was insane that Brennan was even a preseason candidate, because if you can't win it in a year where you throw 58 touchdown pases, can you really expect to win it the next year? His four interception performance against San Jose State means that he's going to have to throw for about 700 yards and ten touchdowns against Boise State in a month if he wants to have a shot at an invite to the Big Apple.
Graham Harrell, QB, Texas Tech
If a Texas Tech QB hasn't won this thing by now then it's never going to happen.
Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech
If a Texas Tech quarterback has no shot, then a Texas Tech receiver really has no shot.
Tim Tebow, QB, Florida
The Gators can still win the SEC East and Tebow still has plenty of time to turn the heads of Heisman voters. A solid performance in a road win over Kentucky this Saturday would be a good start.
Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Illinois
The Iowa game really ended this campaign before it even had the chance to get started.
Steve Slaton, RB, West Virginia
WVU is a top-ten team again and suddenly that abysmal performance against USF looks like it may not have been the crowning blow to a promising Heisman run. They're still working from behind, but both Slaton and Pat White have the chance to win a conference title and make a big impression on voters in the next month and a half.
Pat White, QB, South Florida
Ray Rice, RB, Rutgers
Hasn't been overly impressive in defeat. Done.
P.J. Hill, RB, Wisconsin
Things aren't going to get better for the Badgers, and the same can be said for P.J.'s already long shot at the Heisman.
It's as wide-open a race as I've ever seen, and I truly think that team records are going to matter far less than they have in any Heisman race in recent history.
Brian Brohm for Heisman.