Commentary

Comparing Heisman résumés

Evaluating how the best players fared against different levels of competition

Updated: November 30, 2011, 1:15 PM ET
By Brad Edwards | ESPN Insider
Montee BallJeff Hanisch/US PresswireMontee Ball's performance against top defenses sets him apart from other candidates.

As a Heisman voter, this is the week of the season when I take a few hours to drill deeper inside the numbers, just to be sure I'm not missing any important information about the players I deem to be the leading candidates.

Although I never judge these players on statistics alone, I do believe stats should be considered in some form or fashion, and I also feel that context is important when looking at numbers. Rather than just accepting cumulative statistics and rankings at face value, I prefer to focus on players' performances in the biggest games and against the best defenses.

With there being 120 teams in the FBS, the defensive competition can easily be broken down into thirds. I classify the top 40 teams in the total defense rankings as "Tier 1," teams 41-80 as "Tier 2," and the bottom 40 teams as "Tier 3."

For starters, I choose to ignore any strong performances a player has versus Tier 3 teams. If a defense is ranked that low, it's because a lot of players are putting up big numbers against it, which means a legitimate Heisman candidate should either have gaudy numbers in those games or have relatively few attempts because of a blowout score.

I also ignore all games against lower-division opponents because, with very few exceptions, FCS defenses are equivalent to Tier 3 defenses or are even worse.

There is no set formula for analyzing the rest of the numbers. The goal is discovery, and this exercise almost always reveals something -- either good or bad -- and this year is no exception.

As stated earlier, this is only part of how I evaluate the field. The best players affect their teammates and their opponents in ways that don't show up in the box score, and that must also be considered. But from a purely statistical standpoint, below is how my top 10 candidates stack up, starting with a guy who isn't getting nearly enough Heisman consideration.

(Note: Yards per touch for running backs accounts for both carries and receptions, and yards per game and touchdowns per game for quarterbacks include both passing and rushing totals.)



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