Heisman odds still not in Woods’ favor

first_img“Sellin’ the Sizzle” runs Wednesdays. To comment on this article, visit dailytrojan.com or email Jonathan at jkendric@usc.edu. Five games into the college football season, the nation’s best players are building their cases for the sport’s biggest award.The race for the Heisman Trophy, given annually to the most outstanding player in college football, is watched almost as closely as the battle for the national title.Top target · Through five games, sophomore wide receiver Robert Woods has caught 55 passes for 757 yards and six touchdowns. He has not, however, garned much consideration for the Heisman Trophy. – Mannat Saini | Daily TrojanPreseason Heisman favorites like Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, Alabama running back Trent Richardson and Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones have solidified their candidacies with strong starts.Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III and Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson have put their names into the mix with eye-popping statistics.Here in Los Angeles, Robert Woods leads the country in receptions (55) and receiving yards (747), while his six touchdown catches are second best in the nation.Despite his early season success,  the sophomore wide receiver is not considered a serious Heisman contender. Sports Illustrated and ESPN release weekly Heisman watch lists, ranking the top 10 candidates for the award after each slate of games. Woods has yet to appear on either list.It begs the question: What more does Woods have to do to put himself into the national conversation about the most outstanding player in college football?He’s already broken USC’s record for most catches in a game, 17 against Minnesota, and came only five yards short of the school’s all-time single game high of 260 receiving yards against Arizona last weekend.The Carson, Calif., native is on pace for 132 catches and 1,792 yards in 2011, totals that would be good for seventh and eighth place, respectively, in the NCAA record books.Woods’ situation is the perfect case study of what the Heisman Trophy has become. Instead of honoring the nation’s best player regardless of position or team success, Heisman voters nearly always choose the quarterback or running back of one of the nation’s best teams.For one, Woods’ position on the field doesn’t lend itself to Heisman campaigns. Only two wide receivers have ever won the award: Tim Brown of Notre Dame in 1987 and Desmond Howard of Michigan in 1991.Since the turn of the new millennium, nine of the 11 winners have been quarterbacks. The other two — USC’s Reggie Bush and Alabama’s Mark Ingram — were running backs.Voters usually give extra weight to quarterback play because of the importance of the position: They touch the ball on every play and direct the offense.Players like Woods, however, can transcend the traditional position description and force defenses to account for them on every single play.USC coach Lane Kiffin has dubbed this phenomenon “the Robert factor,” referring to the way defenses send two or three defenders toward Woods on a regular basis, creating opportunities for other players to get open.During one play in USC’s road loss to Arizona State, Woods lined up in the backfield, causing frantic pointing and shouting from the Sun Devil defense about whom should account for him. As the ball was snapped, Woods ran to his right, drawing all of Arizona State’s attention as Marc Tyler ran the opposite way, gliding 10 yards untouched into the end zone.More and more in recent years, award voters have made team success one of the primary qualifications for individual accolades.Nine of the past 11 Heisman winners played in that year’s national championship game, including the last three. All six of the top-ranked teams in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll have nationally recognized Heisman candidates.Griffin, who quarterbacks the No. 25 Baylor Bears, had to complete 82 percent of his passes and throw 18 touchdowns to only one interception this season to get noticed.Though USC will always earn more than its fair share of media attention no matter its record, the Trojans no longer have the nation’s respect like they did five or six years ago.Currently unranked and unable to play in a bowl game, USC would have to put together an extraordinary second half of the season to even sniff a top-10 spot in the Associated Press Poll, hindering Woods’ Heisman case.If that weren’t enough for Woods to overcome, the Trojans’ NCAA sanctions and postseason ban provide a whole different set of challenges.The Heisman Trophy is no stranger to USC’s Heritage Hall. Six trophies are proudly displayed on campus.It’s the most recent winner, however, who gave Trojan athletes another hurdle to deal with, one unique to their situation.The fact that Woods plays for the only program to ever give back the Heisman following NCAA sanctions won’t help his case with some of the voters.It’s safe to say that short of rewriting the entire receiving portion of the NCAA record books, Woods won’t win the Heisman this year.Then again, as opposing coaches have been telling their defenses all season, you better you keep your eye out for No. 2 in cardinal and gold. He’s likely to surprise you.last_img read more

History on the line for USC and Alabama

first_imgThis upcoming Saturday the Trojan football team will face its most significant litmus test in years in Arlington, Texas. Opening up against the Alabama Crimson Tide, USC has a chance to see how they measure up with the best of the best.Tal Volk | Daily TrojanTides of change · A football game between USC and Alabama in 1970 was pivotal in the desegregation of the Alabama football team. Now, one of the biggest controversies facing college football players is compensation.Twelve years ago, USC was in Alabama’s position. Coming off of a national title, they started the season against Virginia Tech at another NFL stadium. USC beat Virginia Tech in a closely fought battle. Though the Hokies lost, their valiant effort set the stage for a successful 10-win season and a Sugar Bowl appearance.While no Trojan fan is looking for moral victories against Alabama, the game offers a template for success, win or lose. With that being said, USC is certainly more talented than that Virginia Tech team and has the ability to beat Alabama. With strong line play on both sides of the ball, USC can win on Saturday.It seems the best way to beat the Crimson Tide is to turn the game into a shootout with exceptional performances from a quarterback or tailback. Ole Miss, Oklahoma and Ohio State have all demonstrated the controlled and measured game plan it takes to outscore the imposing Tide.It will be a tall task for redshirt junior quarterback Max Browne in his debut as a starter, just as facing off against Auburn was for former Heisman trophy winner Matt Leinart. With a stellar offensive line and a stable of great running backs and receivers, it’s possible that Browne can recreate history 12 years later and beat another excellent SEC foe.While this game is a national headline of two storied programs facing off in the newly minted cathedral of football, its implications will probably be limited to the college football landscape. This was not the case 46 years ago, when USC faced off against the Tide in Alabama in 1970. That game reverberated well beyond the confines of the gridiron, catalyzing a monumental shift in race relations for the Alabama football team.In that game, USC brought an all-black starting backfield into Alabama and pummeled the all-white Tide team, winning 42-21. Led by fullback Sam “Bam” Cunningham, the Trojans were too big and too fast for the Crimson Tide. Many attribute that game as the seminal moment and tipping point for coach Paul “Bear” Bryant of Alabama integrating his football team.In Alabama, this was a monumental step for race relations. In a place where football is a religion to many, such a significant shift transcended the sport and echoed across the social stratosphere.Last semester, I had the pleasure of watching the documentary that chronicles this event in Professor Jeff Fellenzer’s Sports, Business and Media course. In addition, we also heard from some of the key figures in that game: Cunningham, as well as former linebacker John Papadakis. I was stunned and amazed by the sheer magnitude of impact that one game had on an entire culture.Sitting in that class, I also thought about how this year’s game could have been a platform for players to initiate progress in a different realm. While not nearly as pernicious or widespread as segregation, the exploitation of college football players is a serious issue.Last year, sports agent and lawyer Donald Yee, wrote an op-ed before the college football championship. He suggested that if players were to boycott the game, they could instigate cascading effects of social and economic change. He even referenced the 1970 game between USC and Alabama as evidence of the power sports have to accelerate progress in society.Obviously, his advice was not implemented before that game, nor will a boycott probably take place on Saturday. The incentives are not just there for the majority of players who are fringe NFL prospects at best. There are too many tangible immediate reasons not to boycott, with potential remote benefits too far in the future for players to justify such a move.While a game like Saturday’s, and many in the upcoming future, provides the perfect platform for such a courageous act, boycotting would deprive many players of an opportunity for national exposure.I’m uncertain about a definitive solution to fix this exploitation of college football players. I’m not solely talking about college sports as a whole, or even including basketball. Football alone generates millions of dollars for cable networks, conferences, schools and, of course, the NCAA. Players put their bodies and futures on the line for entertainment and don’t even receive a fraction of the proceeds. I don’t have the solution, but if you get enough of the brightest minds in the sport together, I’m sure something can be worked out.I understand the need for amateurism in some sports, but NCAA football is not an amateur sport. If I was a star player at USC and generating millions of dollars for the school, I would be irate that I didn’t receive monetary compensation. A scholarship and stipend is great, but there needs to be more.It probably won’t be Saturday, but sometime soon, a player or players will take the brave stand to sacrifice for the future of their sport. I don’t think I could do it if I was a player, but there are those out there with the conviction and fortitude to bring awareness and scrutiny toward this issue. Much like how the Missouri football team last year served as the tipping point for change, so too can a team ruin a national broadcast and hit the bottom line of the networks and the conferences.This college football season, I hope for two things: For USC to beat Alabama and start a run toward the playoff and for someone or some team to catalyze a new progressive era. It may not change social institutions like the USC-Alabama game did 46 years ago, but such an action would have a profound impact and ripple across the college football landscape for years to come.Jake Davidson is a senior majoring in accounting. His column, “Davidson’s Direction,” runs Mondays.last_img read more