It’s hard to believe that a player from tradition-rich USC is flying under the Heisman radar — we can think of one who wishes he was, though — but that’s the case with Cody Kessler.
In a game that kicked off after nine ET on a weekday so most of you likely missed it and partially explains the under-the-radar thing, Kessler played a significant role in leading USC to a 38-30 win over Cal Thursday night. Kessler completed over 70 percent of his passes (31-42) for 371 yards and four touchdowns.
Yes, Kessler threw an interception, but its was just his third of the season in 339 attempts. Just three other quarterbacks — Northern Illinois’ Drew Hare (1 INT, 207 attempts), Oregon’s Marcus Mariota (2 INTs, 277 attempts), Cal’s Jared Goff (4 INTs, 419 attempts) –have a comparable interception percentage among quarterbacks with at least 200 attempts.
On the season, Kessler has now tossed 29 touchdown passes; he entered Week 12 tied for eighth in the country with 25. His passing efficiency of 168.2 was fourth behind only Mariota (184.6), Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett (172.9) and Colorado State’s Garrett Grayson (171.7).
Kessler is now completing just over 70 percent of his passes on the season for 2,919 yards, 29 touchdowns and three interceptions with two games plus the postseason to go. How does that compare to USC’s last two Heisman-winning quarterbacks? Very favorably, actually.
- Carson Palmer: 63.2 completion percentage for 3,942 yards, 33 touchdowns, 10 interceptions on 489 attempts in 2002
- Matt Leinart: 65.3 completion percentage for 3,322 yards, 33 touchdowns, six interceptions on 412 attempts in 2004
Again, Kessler compares very favorably statistically to Leinart and Palmer, and yet Bovada doesn’t even give him Heisman odds in its latest release. Why? Kessler’s Trojans are 7-3 and haven’t been ranked in the Top 25 since mid-October. Palmer’s Trojans spent the last half of the 2002 season — when the Heisman hype train really starts chugging along — inside of the Top 10 in a two-loss season that would ultimately result in an Orange Bowl appearance and No. 4 final ranking.
Leinart and his teammates were on another level in 2004, going wire-to-wire as the top-ranked team in the country.
The team success, to go along with the brash and bravado that personified Pete Carroll‘s USC teams, is something Kessler simply doesn’t have and can’t replicate. He does, though, to deserve at least some spot in the Heisman conversation.