Troy Smith

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

2 Comments

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.

Some thoughts on Ohio State and being No. 1

63 Comments

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.

Now that Oregon has a Heisman winner, what power schools are still looking?

11 Comments

The Oregon Ducks have risen as a football power over the last decade, and now the program has a Heisman Trophy winner to brag about. Quarterback Marcus Mariota brought an end to the Oregon Heisman drought. No longer in search of a Heisman Trophy to add to its football pedigree, Oregon now shifts its sights on winning its first national championship in the College Football Playoff.

The Heisman pursuit continues for 34 other programs from traditional power conferences. Some of the programs may be surprising at first glance. Among them, Tennessee, home to future Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning. Manning came in second in the Heisman voting to Charles Woodson of Michigan in 1997.

Clemson, Georgia Tech, Michigan State and West Virginia are among the other notable programs without a Heisman Trophy.

Here is a list of schools from power conferences, listed by conference, still waiting for the first Heisman Trophy winner. Also included is a mention of the last Heisman Trophy winner from each power conference. The Big Ten has the longest Heisman drought going right now.

ACC: Clemson, Duke, Georgia Tech, Louisville, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest

Last ACC Heisman Trophy winner: 2013, Florida State QB Jameis Winston

 

Big 12: Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Texas Tech, West Virginia

Last Big 12 Heisman Trophy winner: 2011, Baylor QB Robert Griffin III

 

Big Ten: Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan State, Northwestern, Purdue, Rutgers

Last Big Ten Heisman Trophy winner: 2006, Ohio State QB Troy Smith

 

Pac-12: Arizona, Arizona State, California, Utah, Washington, Washington State

Last Pac-12 Heisman Trophy winner: 2014, Oregon QB Marcus Mariota

 

SEC: Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Missouri, Ole Miss, Tennessee, Vanderbilt

Last SEC Heisman Trophy winner: 2012, Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel

Ohio State will honor Troy Smith before Michigan game

3 Comments

Ohio State will honor one of its greats from the Jim Tressel era of Buckeyes football. Prior to the regular season finale against Michigan, Ohio State will honor Troy Smith‘s No. 10 jersey number and display it in Ohio Stadium. The number will not be retired, but will be the eighth number put on display around Ohio Stadium.

Smith, the 2006 Heisman Trophy winner, was 3-0 against Michigan, so honoring him before a game against the Wolverines seems appropriate. Smith was one of the bets players to play during Tressel’s career as Ohio State head coach, and he was the quarterback of some of Ohio State’s best teams of the past 15 years.

“It’s time to honor one of our all-time greats,” Gene Smith, university Vice President and Director of Athletics, said this week. “Troy’s playing days are over. His accomplishments and achievements as an Ohio State Buckeye are legendary. And we are so proud to be able to recognize this young man by honoring his name and number in Ohio Stadium.”

Smith’s uniform number is currently being worn by freshman defensive end Jalyn Holmes. Holmes will continue to wear the uniform number, as the number is not being retired.

“Being recognized like this from such a prestigious university like The Ohio State University usually doesn’t happen until later years down the line,” Smith said in  statement shared by Ohio State. “So this is a special time in my life and an important time.”

Former OSU QB doesn’t want Braxton Miller to be a ‘glorified Denard Robinson’

18 Comments

Troy Smith knows what it takes to be a successful, Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback at The Ohio State University. He also makes sure to take every opportunity to slam that team up north.

When asked about current Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller, Smith told Cleveland.com, “I don’t want him to be a glorified Denard Robinson. I want to see him be a quarterback. I know he loves to be a quarterback, regardless if when he runs the football he looks like a superhero. I think he loves to throw the football, but that takes time.”

During Robinson’s career with the Michigan Wolverines, the quarterback was as much of a running threat as he was a passer, if not more so. Robinson was eventually drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars to serve as a hybrid running back/wide receiver.

Smith is concerned with Miller’s development as a passer and how effective the senior can be at the NFL level.

“With this spread offense, I think hopefully he gets a chance to understand what he really needs to do as a quarterback to still be a quarterback,” Smith said. “Sometimes, to me, when I watch Braxton, his athleticism is his downfall at times. He’s so athletic, he’s so fast, he’s so strong, I think he takes away, sometimes, from being that guy that can just understand and maintain that the pocket is your savior.

“I didn’t get the whole gist of what happened with Braxton and his shoulder, but to me, it’s a product of the hits over the years, possibly. I truly believe in his ability to throw the football, his decision making and I know he’s the guy to lead us to a national championship.”

While Smith had a tremendous career at Ohio State — he was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame Friday — he didn’t exactly have the type of professional career to critique Miller’s potential. Smith spent four uneventful seasons in the NFL as a backup quarterback with the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers. He’s been a part of the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes since 2013.

But Smith does have a point about Urban Meyer‘s offensive scheme. Previous quarterbacks under Meyer — Bowling Green’s Josh Harris, Utah’s Alex Smith and Florida’s Chris Leak and Tim Tebow — didn’t exactly make a big impact at the NFL level. Only Alex Smith is still in the league leading a team.

The key for Miller at this point in his career is getting healthy. The Ohio State quarterback required a second surgery on his throwing shoulder in August. Miller still has eight months before the 2015 NFL draft to get healthy and continue to work on his throwing mechanics and footwork in the pocket if he decides to leave Columbus.

The injury may have been exactly what Miller needed to improve in the areas Troy Smith identified.