The tradition of the September Heisman Trophy dates back to 2009, when an unknown freshman named Tate Forcier won two of the five games Michigan won that year with unforgettable performances. Since then, the prestigious award, given to the most overhyped college football hero in the first weeks of the season has not left Ann Arbor. Denard Robinson has two September Heisman trophies on his resume (2010-2011), but a poor performance against the Crimson Tide this year (and being mocked by Michigan State players via Twitter, whose own exploits against Alabama ended statistically worse), Denard fell out of the race.
After USC’s gratifying fourth loss to Stanford in the last four years, Matt Barkley’s candidacy for the September Heisman seemed certain. However, there was one athlete whose hype was so overblown and ridiculous that his fans rewarded him with this coveted award. Ladies and Gentlemen, this year’s September Heisman goes to Le’Veon Bell.
His stats against Boise State were very impressive, given that Michigan State relied on Bell to carry the load with an inexperienced QB and WR core. Boise State gave up 3.5 yards-per-carry last season, and with only four returning starters (five players from the Broncos’ Defense were drafted into the NFL), Bell laid siege to Boise State. His combined size and speed (freak-of-nature talent) made him an instant “dark horse” candidate for the actual Heisman trophy, according to ESPN. Next came Central Michigan University, and after just 78 yards rushing and two trips to the end-zone, Bell exited. We overlooked this performance, since The Angry One would not risk his best offensive player to injury, just to pad stats so early in the season. For Bell and Sparty, this past Saturday represented their first, real test against a quality opponent.
Leading up to the game, ESPN ran several promos for the contest, showing highlights of previous contests between the two (I can watch Little Giants all day, every day, for the rest of my life, to see the looks on Notre Dame fans’, players’, and coaches’ faces), and elevated the stakes. Among the hype, I heard the following phrase uttered by more than one ESPN on-air personality: “Heisman hopeful Le’Veon Bell.” Bell finished with just 77 yards on 19 carries, with no touchdowns. He also caught four passes for 20 yards. Notre Dame represented the first hurdle for the Heisman hopeful, and in true Tate Forcier fashion, he did not live up to the expectations.
In fairness, Notre Dame’s coaching staff is not stupid. They, like every other team that Michigan State will play the rest of this season, loaded up the box with eight defenders and dared Andrew Maxwell and the inexperienced WRs to beat them. And until Maxwell can look more like Kirk Cousins than Andrew Maxwell, that’s not going to change.
Please do not think I’m trashing Bell or Michigan State. I think of October 20th and my head starts to hurt. But can we please stop anointing players as “Heisman candidates” when they’ve not played a defense that lost five players to the NFL or has a direction in its title? Le’Veon Bell is the very good football player, but he’s not Bo Jackson on Tecmo Super Bowl.
So, Sparty, you have your first September Heisman winner. Welcome to the club!