Michigan and Ohio State seem to be forever linked, and so far their rivalry is shaping up to take a different turn in 2010 as their late-November matchup could decide whether Terrelle Pryor or Denard Robinson end up winning the Heisman Trophy.
Pryor, the Buckeyes’ star junior quarterback, and Robinson, Michigan’s sophomore phenom at quarterback in the Rich Rodriguez “Spread n’ Shred” offense, have both put up outstanding statistics and both have been extremely efficient in doing so.
Now, as the teams enter the Big Ten season, the race is on to see which player can continue their hot start to the season long enough to put themselves in position to win perhaps the most famous individual award in sports.
The x-factor in the Terrelle Pryor vs. Denard Robinson Heisman race is whether or not the voters will punish Robinson for being on a team that is likely to lose at least four games because of a shaky defense. The Heisman Trophy is almost always given to a player on one of the best teams in the country: Mark Ingram of Alabama last year, Sam Bradford of Oklahoma the year before that, and Tim Tebow the year before that.
Robinson’s Michigan Wolverines likely won’t finish in the top ten while Pryor’s Buckeyes have a strong chance to make it to a BCS bowl game or perhaps even the title game.
At the same time, however, the stats race could very well end up in Robinson’s favor. Michigan has seen other guys step up on offense, especially the wide receivers, but their emergence will only help him rack up more passing yards and touchdowns to go with this ridiculous rushing stats (681 yards so far on the season).
And Michigan has no choice but to score in bunches in order to win while Ohio State can rely on “Tresselball” to beat other teams with ball control and defense. Robinson has a strong chance to become the first-ever QB in the FBS to run and pass for 2,000 yards in each category and that would be hard to ignore.
But Pryor has the hype and reputation from his days as the number one prospect coming out of high school to back him up along with a likely chance to shine in bigger games which could count even more in the Heisman Trophy race with Denard Robinson.
A Michigan win over Wisconsin for example would be big and would garner a lot of national attention but an Ohio State win over the Badgers could end up being the one that puts OSU in the driver’s seat for a Big Ten title or BCS Title Game berth.
Pryor also has that “man amongst boys” quality about him that Robinson doesn’t have in terms of his size, and because the award goes to the most “outstanding” player by definition, Pryor could have a few moments that make people realize that he is in fact the most rare talent on a football field in America today.
Robinson’s got the speed and the moves, but Pryor has speed of his own as he was recently timed at 4.32 in the 40-yard-dash by Ohio State coaches.
Finally, the voters will also take into account the overall persona of each player, even though they may not admit it. Regional bias won’t be a factor with both guys hailing from the Midwest so this could be a deciding factor in a close race. Pryor is a bit reserved for a guy who doesn’t show a lot of emotion but Robinson is a little more personable with the same kind of youthful exuberance and smile that former Michigan Heisman Trophy winner Desmond Howard did. It sounds meaningless when deciding the winner of a performance-related award but it can’t be understated. He’s also got a nickname “Shoelace” that endears him to the casual fan and the marketing people in New York City.
So, what happens if Ohio State wins the Big Ten and defeats Michigan as expected but Robinson still has a huge game in Columbus?
That’s for the voters to decide, of course, and if that scenario unfolds, it could be one of the closest races in recent history.
But just like in 2006 when Michigan narrowly lost out in the race to play OSU in the BCS Title Game after they were beaten by Florida, Pryor will likely get the slight nod here because of one final factor: Robinson is a sophomore and the traditionalists who vote for the award tend to stick with the older guys.
Whether that’s fair or not is up for debate. For now, however, the race is on. May the Most Outstanding young man win.
Sources: ESPN.com player stats: http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/player/stats?playerId=480237