Two weeks ago this post would have been more relevant, and because there is little drama in tonight's show, I'll explain why Reggie Bush would have won the Heisman even without bonkers performances against Fresno State and UCLA.
To have an understanding of Heisman outcomes, it helps to look at how the various Heisman regions perform, and extrapolate that onto a slate of candidates.
CFR's expected revisionist Heisman region outcomes (top five candidates) assuming Reggie Bush hadn't gone nuts against Fresno State and UCLA and both he and Young quietly finished their seasons:
- Mid Atlantic-Bush,Young,Leinart,Robinson,Quinn
That's 5 out of 6 Heisman regions for Reggie Bush, a solid win.
Here's how it would have happened:
- Vote doctoring out West-In any year it happens. A region's home candidate not only gets first place votes, his rival ends up third or left off ballots. This certainly would have happened in the Southwest in Young's favor, but the Western voters are particularly notorious for this. Simple math dictates that Reggie Bush would run away out West, while also eating into Young's Southwest cushion because very often we'd see a Western ballot go Bush-Leinart-Young or Bush-Olson-Young whereas in the Southwest it's a risky proposition to have Bush any worse than second. Bush gains votes using this practice and it would have been possible in a close race because ...
- Loaded slate of candidates out West-Because there are over 900 Heisman voters, there's very little criticism when voters play homer and put someone like a Jerome Harrison or Drew Olson or Brodie Croyle high on their ballot. This year, the Western region had a plethora of candidates to bump Vince Young with: Drew Olson, Maurice Drew, Matt Leinart and Jerome Harrison. It's counter-intuitive, but a loaded Western field greatly aided Bush because he was such a clear-cut #1 Western candidate. Again, Young lost a lot of vital Heisman points under this scenario.
- Notre Dame-Notre Dame holds a special prestige when it comes to the Heisman. The school owns seven such awards, and has helped USC achieve its last two (and soon-to-be three tonight) when Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart had memorable late-season performances against the Irish. Additionally, USC and Notre Dame own 13 (14 after tonight) Heisman trophies.
- USC/Notre Dame-The USC/Notre Dame game was the most televised college football game in oh, forever. It also happened to be a great game where Reggie Bush became the lead Heisman candidate this year, rushing for 150 yards and three memorable touchdowns. He also did that little "Bush Push" thing.
- Surprise victory in the South-The last time a USC Heisman candidate went up against a Southwest candidate, he ended up carrying the South. Matt Leinart had a solid points edge over Adrian Peterson in the South last year. Southern voters have rewarded USC Heisman candidates of late. I hunch this is because they still remember USC going down to Auburn and winning a much-hyped game early in the 2003 season.
- Mid Atlantic memories-The Mid Atlantic region has never seen Vince Young up close. It has, however, seen Reggie Bush. In another much-hyped game, Reggie Bush scored all three of USC's touchdowns to sneak out a victory over Virginia Tech in the 2004 season opener. Advantage: Bush.
- Northeast memories-Reggie Bush was a finalist for the 2004 Heisman ceremony. He got a lot of publicity in New York last year even though Matt Leinart would eventually win the award. He's a telegenic kid, and only helped his 2005 cause by earning Heisman votes the season previous (ask Matt Leinart about this). Heisman voters have long memories, and the ones in the Northeast know Vince Young wasn't in New York City last year.
- The Midwest effect-USC and Texas both played games in the Midwest this year, Texas against Ohio State early in the season, and USC against Notre Dame a little later in the year. Young led his team to a victory with an impressive final scoring drive and touchdown pass. Reggie Bush carried the USC offense in South Bend, scoring three crucial touchdowns. I remember seeing a poll on ESPN.com a few days before the USC/Fresno State game asking what player deserved to win the Heisman Trophy. The results were mixed across the country, but in Ohio, a state that had seen Vince Young up close, the voters were leaning by a good margin towards Bush. I knew right then that Bush had a very strong shot at claiming the Midwest and the Heisman. The fact that his game in that region came later in the year, was seen by more television viewers, generated more buzz and appeared to have convinced even the people of Ohio, says something about his carry in that region.
- The Bush Push-Very few college football players enter the public lexicon the Reggie Bush did when he assisted teammate Matt Leinart on a touchdown run against Notre Dame. The play, and the term, became water-cooler material across America, pushing Reggie Bush further into legendary status and into the American consciousness. The same simply cannot be said for anything about Vince Young at this point in his career.
When you factor all these things in, it's pretty clear that Reggie Bush was probably headed to a convincing Heisman victory, straw polls be damned.
But, then he went out and had two fantastic games against Fresno State and UCLA, one of them historic and so heavy on the buzz factor that ESPN did nothing but talk about Bush the Monday after that game, then rebroadcasted it on its "Classic" network. FoxSports' cable units also did the same.
All this means there is little doubt about the Heisman outcome a few hours from now. Reggie Bush should even win the Southwest region, according to this analysis by StiffArmTrophy.com.
All that's left to consider is how certain regional players perform and how big will Bush's win be. Will Jerome Harrison and Drew Olson make the West's top five? Will A.J. Hawk be 5th in the Midwest, or Michael Robinson? Can DeAngelo Williams sneak into the South's top five? We'll soon find out.