Where the Heisman race stands

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What to make of this year’s Heisman race?

In my 10 seasons covering the trophy, I’ve never seen a race this unsettled this late in the process.

Every candidate has at least two major drawbacks that in any other year would probably be disqualifying. In the end, it may come down to which candidate ends up dominating his region while appearing on just enough ballots nationwide to eke out a win. I envision the results of this race looking a lot like that of 2001, when Eric Crouch won the Heisman with just one region and 770 points (the lowest winning total since Terry Baker won with 707 points in 1962) while five other candidates totaled over 200.

Let’s do a rundown of what we’re dealing with.

— The tentative front runner, Jameis Winston of Florida State, has a major legal issue hanging over him that could potentially derail his candidacy. That issue is unlikely to be resolved one way or the other before Thanksgiving, which means that the decision could come just as the Seminoles begin preparations for the ACC title game. If he is not charged, then I think it’s likely that enough Heisman voters will give him the benefit of the doubt to enable him to win the trophy. Even then, he’s going to have a hard time benefiting much from what he does on the field from here on out because FSU’s remaining schedule includes the worst Florida team since 1979 and Duke in the ACC title game — hardly the type of matchups that will compel voters to tune in. Of course, if he is charged with a felony, he will likely be dropped from the majority of ballots and voters will look elsewhere.

— AJ McCarron of Alabama seems to be the safest candidate. After all, he’s the quarterback for the No. 1 team and a well-known and proven commodity. But to win he’ll have to overcome his relatively lackluster production and the perception that he’s not really the engine that drives Alabama’s success. Big games in his remaining matchups against Auburn and in the SEC title game could help him change that perception just enough to tilt the race in his direction. I have a feeling that, while he’s likely to appear on a lot of ballots, he’ll need to finish strong in his home region (the South) to have a shot at winning. That means putting distance between himself and Winston and Manziel — a tall order indeed.

— The conventional wisdom is that Bryce Petty of Baylor is now out of the race as a result of his team’s crushing defeat at the hands of Oklahoma State. But Petty has two more games left to add to his still-impressive resume and his one loss may not be that fatal given that none of the other candidates have been able to pull away from the pack either. The narrative aiding Petty until tonight was that he was leading an unstoppable offense on a Cinderella charge to an undefeated season. That’s now gone and all he’s got left are his numbers and, potentially, the best season in school history. But that attribute doesn’t capture the imagination of voters around the country the way it might with, say, a more traditional power. The problem with Petty is that he never got a chance to break out of his status as a quality regional candidate — he lost that shot tonight. But in a really close race with a lot of candidates getting support, it’s possible that he wins his region and remains a viable contender so long as he finishes strong against TCU and Texas.

— Is Marcus Mariota out of the race after throwing his first two interceptions of the season in his team’s second loss, this one a 42-16 drubbing by Arizona? I believe so. But, again, with so many candidates having so many weaknesses and the race likely coming down to hard-core regionalism, it’s still possible that Mariota’s production and name recognition could attract enough voters out West to give him influence over the final outcome. With Oregon now out of the Pac-12 title game, I can’t see a path to victory, but I can see him getting to New York.

— Heismandment No. 9 looks to be safe for another year and I’d venture to guess that if Johnny Manziel can’t overturn it, who will? Johnny Football had perhaps his worst game in his team’s loss to LSU and won’t win that second Heisman, but if he rebounds with a great outing against Missouri, I think there’s enough sentiment in his favor out there to allow him to have a respectable showing in this race. People know how good he is, even if they don’t think he had the most outstanding season this time around. He might end up weakening Winston (assuming he’s not charged) and McCarron in the South region while also sapping Petty’s strength in the Southwest. I think he’s headed to New York and will likely finish third.

— All the chaos of the day opens up the door for perhaps the most unlikely Heisman candidate in recent memory. I’m talking running back Andre Williams of Boston College. I don’t think he was on anyone’s radar until this weekend and I think most voters still don’t know who he is. But I suspect that is about to change (BC will need to give him a boost). After all, he’s now eclipsed the 2,000-yard rushing mark with one game yet to play. With so many flawed candidates arrayed against him, I think voters might be more inclined to overlook his team’s 7-4 record — keep in mind Toby Gerhart of Stanford was on an 8-4 team in 2009 and he was the runner up in the vote by the closest margin in Heisman history. And it helps that his recent rushing explosion has spurred his team to a four-game win streak. There’s a possibility that Williams captures the vote in the Northeast and does well in the Mid-Atlantic as well. Again, in a close race spread out over several candidates, the winner might not need to capture more than one region. (Note: I think it’s interesting that the ACC could have two Heisman finalists this year after not having a single one since 2000)

— There are definite cases to be made for Jordan Lynch and Derek Carr, but I don’t expect them to be able to get enough national support to make it to New York. Ironically, Lynch and Carr did not benefit much from today’s meltdowns since the lack of a consensus Heisman front runner is more likely to depress their vote totals.  The presence of a clear cut winner usually makes it easier for a voter to take a flyer on a player like Lynch or Carr by putting them in the 2nd or 3rd spots on their ballot. But with so many options still remaining and voters still undecided on a leader, they are likely to be crowded out a bit by the remaining group of contenders. I expect Lynch to influence who wins the MidWest, while Carr will obviously be a factor in the West, but I can’t see either winning their region.

Yes, there are still games to play that will decide this thing. It seems that anything that can happen will happen, which is why we might end up with one of most suspense-filled races in Heisman history before all is said and done.

How would the race go if the vote was held right now? I think it would look something like this (don’t quote me…it’ll probably change next week):

1. Jameis Winston

2. AJ McCarron

3. Johnny Manziel

4. Bryce Petty

5. Andre Williams

6. Marcus Mariota

7. Jordan Lynch

8. Ka’Deem Carey

9. Derek Carr

10. Tajh Boyd

Former Bowling Green head coach among two new USC hires

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The remaking of Clay Helton‘s USC staff continues.

The Trojans on Tuesday announced the hiring of two new assistants coaches, one each side of the ball.

Chad Kauha’aha’a has been hired away from Boise State as defensive line coach, and Mike Jinks has been announced as running backs coach.

Kauha’aha’a has coached in college football since 2005, almost exclusively as a defensive line coach. His previous stops include Weber State, Utah State, Utah, Wisconsin and Oregon State. He worked just one season at Boise, where his Broncos front ranked 10th nationally with 3.0 sacks per game and 23rd nationally in rushing at 122.9 yards per game allowed.

Jinks was most recently the head coach at Bowling Green, but prior to that served on Kliff Kingsbury‘s Texas Tech staff as running backs coach, which he did from 2013-14.

Prior to that, Jinks spent a decade and a half as a high school football coach in Texas, the last seven as the head coach at Cibolo Steele High School in the San Antonio area.

Ohio cop on Courtney Smith allegations against ex-Ohio State WR coach: ‘She’s petrified and I really believe her’

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Zach Smith no longer works for Ohio State and Urban Meyer is on his way out, but the controversy that consumed the two men — and, thus, the university that employed them — isn’t over.

The Columbus Dispatch on Monday got its hands on thousands of pages of documents relating to Courtney Smith‘s allegations against her ex-husband. At the core of the Dispatch‘s Tuesday report was video of an interview Smith conducted on Oct. 26, 2015, with Powell (Ohio) police officer Ben Boruchowitz, in which Smith describes how Zach Smith had shoved her the night before, and how the previous night’s incident was but another episode of domestic violence she had experienced.

In the video, recorded on body-cam footage and released to the paper after a months-long public-records complaint, Smith described how Zach had previously cut her hand on a tobacco can during an argument, how he had picked her up by her throat during an argument on a Dominican Republic vacation and how he had thrown her across the room while she was pregnant during the time they lived in Florida — all allegations that have since become public knowledge but were not so at the time.

Smith also described to the police officer how she had confronted Zach about an alleged affair and how he responded, “I’ll (expletive) kill you, I’ll destroy you.”

The video shows Boruchowitz going back and forth from the interview room to a phone, where he spoke with prosecutors. From the Dispatch:

In one of those phone conversations, Boruchowitz expressed his concern to a prosecutor for Courtney Smith’s safety due to Zach Smith’s alleged threats to kill her.

“She’s petrified, and I really believe her,” he said. ”… Based on the degree of violence that he’s done against her, you and I both know when there’s strangling and choking and those kinds of violence, (they) are pretty good indicators that there’s a high chance he may actually follow through with it.”

The interview ended with Boruchowitz stating he could charge Zach Smith with disorderly conduct, which she declined. Still, the Powell Police Department recommended charging Zach Smith with felonious assault and domestic violence, but the Delaware County (Ohio) prosecutor’s office declined to present the findings to a grand jury.

“We didn’t present it because after going through everything we went through, we didn’t find any felony charges that we thought we could prove,” Delaware County Prosecutor Carol O’Brien told the paper.

Smith remained employed at Ohio State through the 2015 season and the next two before he was fired days before training camp for the 2018 season began.

Ole Miss OC among Mack Brown’s new offensive hires

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Yet again, Mack Brown continues to outperform expectations among his staff hires.

After swiping Army’s Jay Bateman to run his defense, the new North Carolina head coach has hired Ole Miss offensive coordinator Phil Longo to run his offense. Assisting Longo on the offensive staff will be new wide receivers coach Lonnie Galloway and offensive line coach Brandon Jones.

“Phil Longo, Lonnie Galloway and Brandon Jones are three outstanding coaches, recruiters, teachers and mentors of young men,” Brown said in a statement. “Phil has been one of the most successful play callers in college football for many years and at every level. Lonnie and Brandon have tremendous ties to the state of North Carolina and will continue to build on their strong relationships with the great high school coaches in this state. I am so excited at how our coaching staff is taking shape and look forward to announcing the final pieces very soon.”

Longo has spent the past two seasons running the Rebels’ offense, where his 2018 unit ranked among the top 10 nationally at 510.5 yards per game. Longo’s hiring indicates Brown intends to bring the Air Raid to Chapel Hill.

Longo’s departure means Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke will have to replace both coordinators after his first season as the Rebels’ full-time head coach. Defensive coordinator Wes McGriff has already been replaced by former Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre.

Galloway has spent the past four seasons coaching wide receivers at Louisville but has plenty of experience in the Land of Flight. He played quarterback at Western Carolina and deposited coaching stints at Elon, East Carolina, Appalachian State and Wake Forest.

Jones spent the past two seasons as the offensive line coach at Texas Tech, his alma mater, and previously coached offensive lines at Cal and East Carolina.

Boston College extends Steve Addazio through 2022

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Throughout the past month, it seemed up in the air whether Boston College would fire head coach Steve Addazio or extend him. Now, two and a half weeks after Boston College concluded its regular season, we have our answer.

BC AD Martin Jarmond on Tuesday announced the school has extended Addazio by two seasons, keeping him under contract through 2022. In a letter written to BC supporters and released to the media, Jarmond wrote:

After every season we evaluate all aspects of our programs to make sure they are aligned with the core mission and principles of the Boston College athletics department.

While all of us wish our regular season in football had ended with more victories, we took important steps in the right direction this year: returning to the national rankings for the first time since 2008, capturing the nation’s attention with ESPN’s College GameDay on-campus, being in the running for the conference championship in November and playing in another post-season bowl.

In addition, our football student-athletes remain great ambassadors for our University and also continue to achieve tremendous success in the classroom, graduate at one of the highest rates in the country, and become successful leaders.

To continue building on our football program’s progress and promise, we are extending Coach Steve Addazio’s contract for two additional years through the 2022 season. Steve and I are committed to taking the next steps to enhance competitive excellence in Boston College football.

With Addazio under contract only through 2020, Boston College was in a rare position where the school really did have to either fire him or extend him. With another two years on his contract, Addazio can now credibly tell BC’s 2019 recruits that he is under contract through the length of their 4-year eligibility…. but not one season longer.

As far as endorsements from your AD go, this one is about as lukewarm as they get.

Boston College heads into the SERVPRO First Responder Bowl (Dec. 26 in Dallas) at 7-5 on the season. The Eagles started 7-2 and rose as high as No. 17 in the AP poll but lost their final three games: 27-7 to No. 2 Clemson, 22-21 at Florida State and 42-21 to No. 19 Syracuse in Chestnut Hill.

Addazio is an even 38-38 in six seasons at Boston College; his teams have never won more than seven games, and never gone better than 4-4 in ACC play (they’re 18-30 overall in conference).

So, while 2018 was not exactly a make-or-break year for Addazio at Boston College, 2019 definitely will be.