So…..Montee Ball for Heisman?

In Sports on November 30, 2011 at 8:19 pm

by:  Eric Buenning

Wisconsin running back Montee Ball is putting on a show this season.  He is on the precipice of breaking a single-season touchdown record, held by Barry Sanders.  He is also on the verge of leading his team to another Rose Bowl berth.    There are so many things Montee Ball is doing this season, but one sticks out.  Montee Ball is not seriously contending for the Heisman.  Ridiculous.ESPN currently has Ball slated at sixth in their Heisman Watch.  Being from Wisconsin, I obviously am programmed to believe Ball should be handed the award……like, right now.  But when you take a look at who he’s behind, it’s not really a farfetched thought.  Let’s compare Ball to the people in front of him.


Season Stats:  263 attempts, 1,583 yards, 23 total TD’s

–The first thing to point it is that Montee Ball has more yards (1,622) and total TD’s (34), on 15 fewer attempts.  The attempts differential doesn’t stand out that much, but you also have to consider that Wisconsin has a significantly more balance offense than Alabama does.  The Badgers have another quality running back in James White that Ball has to share carries with, as well as quarterback Russell Wilson who, at one point, was the Heisman front-runner this season.  Who does Trent Richardson have to split time with?  How good is his quarterback?

The other argument for Richardson is that he plays in the SEC, against better defenses.  While this may be true, it’s not like the Big Ten’s defenses are porous.  Michigan State, Penn State, and Michigan rank 6th, 8th, and 9th in points allowed per game, respecitvely.  Granted, Wisconsin didn’t play Michigan, but they’ll see Michigan State twice.  Point is, the Big Ten’s defenses aren’t lying down and letting Montee Ball run freely.  They’re not as good as the SEC defenses, but a 11-touchdown differential between Ball and Richardson can’t just be attributed to what conference they play in.  Ball is having the more productive season.

(Quick side note:  You also can’t say Ball racks up his numbers on crappy teams, and disappears in big games (unlike Richardson, who is pretty consistent).  When Ball played against “quality teams”…

vs. Nebraska–30 car, 151 yards, 4 TD’s

at Michigan State–18, 115 yards, 2 total TD’s

vs. Penn State–25 car, 156 yards, 4 TD’s


Season Stats: 3,170 yards, 70.0 comp. %, 35 TD’s, 9 INT’s

This is a little difficult to compare statistically, because of the difference of positions.  However, does anyone really feel that Andrew Luck deserves the award this year?  It is unfair really, because he is a great kid and talent, but Andrew Luck didn’t really wow anyone this season.  He came in with all this hype surrounding him, and he just performed….normally.  Last time I checked, The Heisman wasn’t handed out to the most important player in college football.  It should be given to the player that is having the best season of them all, and Andrew Luck isn’t doing that.  Montee Ball is doing that


Season stats: 3,678 yards, 72.6 comp. %, 34 TD’s, 5 INT’s

This guy I have a pretty difficult time arguing against.  The only case I can really make is that RGIII is Baylor football.  He makes all the plays and racks up the stats.  Now, that’s not his fault, but it would be much easier for Montee Ball to rack up even more gaudy numbers if Russell Wilson and James White weren’t around.

Also, what is Baylor playing for at this point?  They had a good year, but they’re not battling for a BCS-Bowl berth.  I may be picky, but I prefer my Heisman candidates playing in a January Bowl game.


Season Stats: 4,726 yards, 73.2 comp. %, 43 TD’s, 3 INT’s

Case Keenum’s numbers should definitely not go unnoticed, but they should not be rewarded with a Heisman trophy.  This is where the “who have you played” argument comes to fruition.  Houston did not play a ranked team at all this season (not including this weekend’s C-USA Championship Game).  How can you be the best player in the country if you haven’t faced any of the other best players?

Also, the argument of being a “system” quarterback (or running back, for Ball) is always going to be brought up.  Here is where I believe Ball differentiates himself from Keenum:

Case Keenum is the quarterback of a straight-up system.  The Spread Offense is specifically designed for a pass-heavy attack.  Case Keenum is as good as he is because of that system.

Montee Ball is part of no running system.  Yes, the Badgers are a run-first team, but that’s not a system.  That’s play-calling.  Georgia Tech’s “triple-option” is a system.  The Badgers just happen to have five behemoths making way for Ball.  You can’t knock Ball for benefiting from some home-grown help up front.


Season stats:  3,528 yards, 69.1 comp. %, 39 TD’s, 7 INT’s

And here’s the other guy I can’t really make a strong case against.  Barkley would actually be pretty stiff competition for Ball in trophy race.  Unfortunately for Barkley, he may not get his due credit because of the NCAA-imposed probation on the USC football time, making them unable to play for a PAC-12 title or in a bowl game.  If he had another chance to showcase himself, he might have taken the hardware.

There’s a strong chance that Montee Ball won’t win the Heisman Trophy this year.  He came on too late in the polls, and he probably won’t get enough hype in the remaining amount of time left for the voters.  It sucks, really.  Whether Montee Ball sets the single-season touchdown record or not, what he did this season was unforgettable for Badger country.  Hopefully that admiration can extend as far as Radio City Music Hall, where one of those four chairs in the front row should be reserved for him.


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