Tim Tebow

A not-so-surprising Heisman Trophy first in NFC Championship Game

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The NFL’s conference championship weekend is set with another bout between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in the AFC and the top two teams in the NFC, Arizona and Carolina, going toe-to-toe for the NFC championship. While there will be plenty of attention given to yet another meeting between Manning and Brady, the NFC Championship Game is making some history with a college football twist. With Cam Newton of the Panthers and Carson Palmer of the Cardinals set to start in the NFC Championship Game, we will see the first NFL postseason meeting between two Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks.

At first glance, that comes across as a surprising factoid to consume, but it should not come across as a major shock. Given the track record of Heisman Trophy winner sin the NFL, we already know the Heisman Trophy is far from a guarantee for sustained NFL success. This is especially true for quarterbacks, although the jury is still out on a number of the more recent Heisman-winning QBs (Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota offer some good promise, and who knows if there is still time to save Robert Griffin III, for example). Also keep in mind that for the majority of the history of the Heisman Trophy, running backs were the dominant position before the turn of the 21st century gave way to quarterbacks taking control of the award more often than not.

Take a look through Heisman history and look at the quarterbacks who have won the stiff-arm trophy over the years. Just two quarterbacks won the award in the 1960s, Navy’s Roger Staubach and Notre Dame’s John Huarte. Staubach went on to have a stellar career. Huarte? Not so much. Two quarterbacks won the Heisman in the 1970s, and once again the careers of Jim Plunkett of Stanford and Pat Sullivan of Auburn took drastically different paths. Of the three quarterbacks to win the Heisman Trophy in the 1980s (Doug Flutie, Andre Ware, Vinny Testaverde), only Miami’s Testaverde proved to have a sustained NFL career, which included a couple of solid runs here and there, but he almost never faced another Heisman-winning QB during his lengthy career.

The 1990s saw four quarterbacks win the Heisman Trophy. Ty Detmer was essentially a career backup. Gino Torretta‘s run in the NFL was brief. Danny Wuerffel did not fare too much better. And Charlie Ward went on to play in the NBA instead of the NFL. Ward may have been the best NFL QB out of that bunch had he focused on the NFL instead.

Even the quarterbacks to win the Heisman Trophy since 2000 have been farther from competing for an NFL conference championship more often than not. This weekend, 2002 Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer just won his first postseason game as a starting quarterback since blowing out Iowa in the 2003 Orange Bowl. 2000 Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke has an NFC Championship ring, but that came as a backup. 2001 winner Eric Crouch played four years in the NFL with three teams and ended his playing career in the short-lived UFL with the Omaha Nighthawks. 2003 winner Jason White was not even drafted and stepped away due to bad knees. 2004 winner Matt Leinart never lived up to his perceived potential in Arizona and moved on to Houston, Oakland and Buffalo before getting into TV. 2006 winner Troy Smith was a career back-up, for the most part, behind Steve McNair and Joe Flacco in Baltimore. Sam Bradford has been plagued by injuries and Robert Griffin III is looking to rejuvenate his career in a new situation in 2016. And I’m even going to spare you the talk about Tim Tebow and Johnny Manziel.

One more piece of information to keep in mind was the AFC and NFC Championship Game structure was not utilized until 1970 when the NFL merged with the AFL. For an award that was first handed out in 1935, that cuts out a number of quarterbacks from even having the possibility to play in an NFL conference championship game (Davey O’BrienAngelo Bertelli, Lee Horvath, Johnny Lujack, Paul Hornung, Terry Baker).

So yes, it is surprising we have not seen a matchup of Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks in an NFL postseason game before, but it is not at all shocking given the history of the Heisman Trophy. And no, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady never won the Heisman Trophy either.

Nebraska, Big Ten top FWAA’s 75th Anniversary All-America Team

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This topic might cause some differences of opinion.

To honor its founding back in 1941, the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) Thursday announced its 75th Anniversary All-America Team.  A total of 41 schools and 75 players are represented on the first, second and third teams, with 56 of the 75 already inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Nebraska, with six, placed the most players on the three teams, followed by Ohio State and Pittsburgh with five each.  Alabama, Oklahoma and Texas were next with five apiece, while Georgia, Michigan and USC netted three each.  The only other schools with more than one player were Florida, Miami (Fla.), Notre Dame and UCLA, all with two.

Based on where the schools currently reside, the Big Ten leads all conferences with 19 players.  That does include Nebraska’s six, even as all six of those came from the Cornhuskers’ time in the Big Eight/12.  The ACC was next with 15, although it should be mentioned that Pittsburgh’s five players all played prior to the Panthers’ move into that conference.  The SEC, Big 12 were next with 13, 10 and seven, respectively.  The most for a Group of Five league was Conference USA’s three.

One of the biggest points of contention that I’ve seen on Twitter when it comes to this team has been the running back position, specifically with the inclusion of Archie Griffin on the first team.  While the former Ohio State star is the only two-time winner of the Heisman Trophy, and whom I’m in no way dismissing as he was a tremendous talent, I, personally, would take Pittsburgh’s Tony Dorsett (second team), Oklahoma State’s Barry Sanders (second team) or Auburn’s Bo Jackson (third team) over Griffin any day of the week and twice on Saturday.  In fact, there’s no way I could whittle my first-team running back down to just two out of these four: Jackson, Dorsett, Sanders and Georgia’s Herschel Walker (first-team along with Griffin).

Another point of contention?  The quarterback position, of course.

From first to third team it went Roger Staubach (Navy), Tim Tebow (Florida) and Tommie Frazier (Nebraska).  How Frazier is behind anyone, let alone those two — again, no disrespect to either — is the great unknown.  Not only that, but one could also question how the likes of, among others, Tennessee’s Peyton Manning, Stanford’s John Elway, Florida State’s Charlie Ward, Ole Miss’ Archie Manning, Stanford’s Andrew Luck, BYU’s Steve Young and, despite playing just one season, Auburn’s Cam Newton couldn’t find inclusion.

A couple of other things: Ohio State’s Chris Spielman would be a lock as a second-teamer on my team, although I do think the FWAA absolutely nailed all four spots in the secondary.

One final quibble on my part: Florida State’s Sebastian Janikowski should’ve found a spot on one of the three teams.  Case closed, end of discussion.

FWAA 75th Anniversary Team

Finally, if you were wondering how the teams were compiled, the FWAA explained it in its release:

A nomination ballot with selected players from all FWAA All-America teams was sent to the entire membership this spring. The popular vote was then taken into consideration by a Blue Ribbon Committee of FWAA past presidents, current board members and officers. That committee put the finishing touches on selecting the 75-man team. In order for a player to be considered for the FWAA’s 75th team, he had to be on a previous FWAA All-America team.

Some thoughts on Ohio State and being No. 1

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The last time Ohio State opened a season as the top-ranked team in college football was in 2006. That should change this September when the defending national champions from Columbus start the new season in Blacksburg against Virginia Tech, the only team to hand the Buckeyes a loss last fall. With all of the talent coming back to the squad this season, Urban Meyer should see Ohio State receive its first No. 1 ranking since his arrival that did not come at the end of the postseason.

Ohio State won the national championship last season despite never being the top team in the AP Top 25 at any point during the season. That may sound odd, but it is not quite as rare as you might think.

In 2010, Auburn was close to pulling off the same feat. The Tigers, with Cam Newton at quarterback, worked its way up the polls all season long. The Tigers were given the No. 1 ranking by the Associated Press only after defeating Steve Spurrier and his South Carolina Gamecocks in the SEC Championship Game. Auburn carried that number one ranking to the BCS Championship game against Chip Kelly and the Oregon Ducks. Oregon had previously been ranked No. 1 by the AP voters, yet lost the top spot to Auburn despite not losing. Florida pulled off a similar feat in 2007, with Meyer’s Gators (and Tim Tebow) grabbing the top spot in the poll after knocking off the previous No. 1, Alabama, in the SEC Championship Game.

But when was the last time a national champion earned the top AP ranking only after winning it all? You only need to look back to the 2011 season.

Alabama entered the 2011 season ranked No. 2 in the AP poll, and it seemed the Crimson Tide were destined to be in that position. Preseason No. 1 Oklahoma had not lost a game but slipped to No. 2 in the polls behind Alabama’s division rival, LSU. LSU took over the top spot in the poll after defeating three top 25 teams in its first four games (including No. 3 Oregon on a neutral field and road games against Mississippi State and West Virginia). Alabama moved down to No. 3 but moved back up to No. 2 to set-up that season’s edition of the Game of the Century against the Tigers, which turned out to be a field goal kicking contest (we know Alabama does not fare well in those). Alabama stayed in the hunt though and managed to sneak into the BCS Championship game to face the SEC champion LSU Tigers, and the rematch went the way of Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide. Alabama was given its first No. 1 ranking in the AP poll at the conclusion of the season, the first time they held the top spot in the poll all year.

Ironically enough, this also happened a few years prior and it did so with an Ohio State and Urban Meyer connection.

In 2006, Ohio State entered the year as the preseason No. 1 in the AP poll. Jim Tressel and his Buckeyes proved worthy of the top billing all season long, knocking off two No. 2 teams in the process (Texas and Michigan) and a pair of other top 25 programs (Penn State and Iowa) while Troy Smith went on to win a Heisman Trophy. Meanwhile, Meyer had something special brewing in Gainesville, with Florida floating around inside the top 10 all season long, just waiting to strike. After putting away Arkansas in the SEC Championship Game (and No. 2 USC was upset by UCLA), the Gators chomped on Ohio State’s championship dreams in the BCS Championship Game. The victory earned Florida a postseason No. 1 ranking from the AP, the only time all season Ohio State had not held down the top spot.

So what did Florida do the next season? The Gators started the next season ranked No. 9 by the AP voters and finished the season 9-4. But that Florida team was not quite as loaded as Meyer’s Buckeyes should be entering this upcoming season. If Ohio State finishes this upcoming season with just nine wins, it would be a complete shock.

Other Recent Close Calls

Florida State’s 2013 national championship season did not see the Seminoles ranked atop the AP poll until the ACC Championship Game, where newly crowned No. 1 Florida State took over the throne from snake bitten Alabama (Kick-Six!) just before facing Duke in the ACC Championship Game.

In 2012, Alabama held the top spot in the polls for the majority of the season until Johnny Manziel and SEC newcomer Texas A&M stunned the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa. Alabama reclaimed the top spot in the polls after demolishing Notre Dame in the BCS Championship Game.

SEC Network analyst Tim Tebow to sign with NFL’s Eagles

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In honor of CFT’s all-time comments record being shattered, and because it’s one of those offseason slooowww Sunday news cycle, I’ll just go ahead and offer up an update on the playing career of the subject of the previous record-holder.

FOXSportsJay Glazier and ESPN‘s Adam Schefter are both reporting Sunday evening that Tim Tebow has essentially finalized a contract that will make him a member of the Philadelphia Eagles — coached by former Oregon head coach Chip Kelly, if you’ve forgotten.  Tebow had worked out for the NFL organization last month, but most observers of that league felt that there was a slim-to-none chance he’d be signed by the version of Kelly who wears the personnel-boss cap.

As has ofttimes been the case at this level and at the collegiate one, though, most underestimate Chip and how capable he truly is of not giving a spit or a duck (get it?) about your conventional wisdom.

Aside from Tebow winning a Heisman Trophy (2007) and helping to lead the Florida Gators to a pair of national championships (2006, 2008), how this relates to college football is that he is currently an analyst on the ESPN-owned SEC Network.  Tebow was hired for that role in December of 2013 and, to be honest, he’s actually good at it.  Surprisingly good, from my vantage point.

Tebow hasn’t played at any level since an “interesting” season with the New York Jets in 2012, so he certainly faces a difficult row to hoe just to grab a roster spot.  One thing is certain: there won’t be anyone on that roster who outworks him.

Speaking of which, joining Tebow on the Eagles’ quarterback depth chart (at the moment) is a veritable who’s who of recently successful college players: Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford, the 2008 Heisman winner who was the No. 1-overall pick of the 2010 NFL draft; USC’s Matt Barkley, a four-year starter who holds most of the school’s all-time passing records; and USC’s Mark Sanchez, who left the Trojans early for the 2009 NFL draft after one season as the Rose Bowl-winning starter, opening the door for Barkley to emerge as the starter as a true freshman.  Not only that, there remains the possibility that Kelly could decide to trade up and nab 2014 Heisman winner Marcus Mariota, who Kelly recruited to Oregon and served as his head coach during the All-American’s first season as the Ducks’ starter in 2012.

As an aside, it’s at this point in the program where I remind readers that I really miss Kelly at the collegiate level…

Ezekiel Elliott named winner of prestigious Sullivan Award

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Three months after their title-winning season came to an end, the honors continue to roll in for Ohio State football.

Sunday afternoon, running back Ezekiel Elliott was named as the winner of the AAU James E. Sullivan Award, one of the most prestigious honors in amateur sports.  Elliott was one of 16 semifinalists for the 85th edition of the award, with former Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota serving as the only other college football player up for the honor.

Here is the description of the award from the award itself:

Known as the “Oscar” of sports awards, and older than The Heisman, the AAU Sullivan Award honors the outstanding amateur athlete in the United States. It has been presented annually by the AAU since 1930 as a salute to founder and past president of the Amateur Athletic Union, and a pioneer in amateur sports, James E. Sullivan. Based on the qualities of leadership, character, sportsmanship, and the ideals of amateurism, the AAU Sullivan Award goes far beyond athletic accomplishments and honors those who have shown strong moral character.

Elliott is the second consecutive college football player to win the award as Penn State’s John Urschel claimed last year’s trophy.  Elliott becomes the eighth college football player to claim the Sullivan, joining Urschel, joining Felix “Doc” Blanchard (Army, 1945), Arnold Tucker (Army, 1946), Charlie Ward (Florida State, 1993), Peyton Manning (Tennessee, 1997), Tim Tebow (Florida, 2007) and Andrew Rodriguez (Army, 2011)

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Other former winners include golfing great Bobby Jones (1930, first year of the award), track legend Wilma Rudolph (1960), swimmer Mark Spitz (1971), decathlete Bruce Jenner (1976) and swimmer Michael Phelps (2003).

UPDATED 4:54 p.m. ET: Below is a quote from Elliott sent out by OSU’s sports information department.

“First and foremost I’d like to thank the AAU Sullivan Award for representing the outstanding amateur athlete for the past 85 years, and secondly I want to congratulate all the finalists. I feel somewhat undeserving of this award with all these great athletes up here and all their tremendous accomplishments. I can’t even imagine what it would feel like to win an Olympic gold medal so I want to congratulate all for being here.

“I’ve got to thank my parents for pushing me to being the person I am. They demand excellence out of me and that drove me to be the person I am today.

“I also want to thank Ohio State University for this and for all the opportunities it has presented me. And I want to thank my coaches and my teammates for making this opportunity possible. Football is a team sport and I’m nothing without my boys around me. Thank you!”