The Week 11 wrap-up edition of Three & Out focuses on a deserving Heisman Trophy contender, an all-time performance from a Rebel and solid defensive performance from a not-so-solid defense.
For the last decade or so, it seems that the Heisman Trophy has evolved from an award for "the most outstanding player in college football," as it states on the ballot, into the best quarterback on one of the best teams in college football. Mark Ingram's performance thus far in 2009 should buck that trend. Sadly though, it probably won't.
The sophomore running back from the Alabama Crimson Tide solidified his spot in New York, rushing 18 times for 147 yards and two touchdowns in Saturday's 31-3 thrashing of the Mississippi State Bulldogs in Starkvegas. Ingram leads the SEC with 1,297 rushing yards and is tied with Florida quarterback Tim Tebow for the SEC lead with 10 rushing touchdowns.
Ingram has been steady all year long for the Tide, even while quarterback Greg McElroy has suffered through inconsistency throughout his first year as a starting QB. Whether you define "most outstanding college football player" as the guy that puts up to most attractive numbers or the guy that is the most valuable to his team, Ingram fits the bill.
I still believe that Texas quarterback Colt McCoy will leave New York City with the Heisman Trophy. Part of that has to do with the fact that he is one of the best quarterback's in the country on one of the best teams in college football. Part of that also has to do with voters giving McCoy some sort of "lifetime achievement award," since it is his last crack at the hardware. That would be a shame. If the Heisman Trophy wants to remain true to the parameters it has set for itself, Ingram is the guy.
Of course, one could also make an argument for Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh or Tennessee safety Eric Berry. But after the Charles Woodson/Peyton Manning traveshamockery of 1997, that's not gonna happen.
A GLIMPSE OF WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN
Ole Miss running back/wide receiver/wildcat quarterback Dexter McCluster had a pretty good weekend in the Rebels 42-17 woodshed beating of Tennessee Saturday afternoon in Oxford. Final line: 282 rushing yards and 324 all-purpose yards – both of which are Ole Miss records. His rushing performance was good for the fourth-best single game rushing performance in SEC history behind Arkansas' Darren McFadden (321 yards), South Carolina's Moe Williams (299 yards) and Alabama's Shaun Alexander (291 yards). This begs the question – where was he earlier in the year?
The Rebels entered 2009 with unprecedented hype, following a six-game winning streak to close out 2008 that saw the Rebel offense explode behind McCluster and junior quarterback Jevan Snead. The Rebels climbed all the way to No. 4 in the rankings, before heading to Columbia in late September and falling to the Gamecocks. Even with Snead struggling, McCluster was virtually non-existent until the fourth quarter of that game. In a 22-3 loss to Alabama in mid-October, McCluster only received six carries and caught only three passes.
Then, the light came on in the head of Houston Nutt.
In the last four games (which includes a game vs. Northern Arizona in which he didn't accumulate any stats), McCluster has rushed for 591 yards and five touchdowns and caught 15 passes for 196 yards and a score.
The 2009 Ole Miss season is going to be viewed as a disappointment. Early in the season, Houston Nutt fell in love with Jevan Snead, and it cost the Rebels dearly. The last four games have given Rebels fans a glimpse of what might have been. That tease may be more difficult to stomach than the offensive ineptitude that the Rebels displayed early in the season.
GREAT TIME FOR A TURNAROUND
If you just watched the first quarter of the Auburn vs. Georgia game Saturday night, you would have thought that Auburn won in convincing fashion. The Tigers rolled up and down the field for 145 first quarter yards, and carried a two touchdown lead into the second frame.
They wouldn't score another offensive touchdown.
The Georgia defense, led by maligned defensive coordinator Willie Martinez, tightened up for the final three quarters, allowing Gus Malzhan's high-octane offense only 208 yards for the remainder of the game. It was a performance that Georgia fans have been screaming for, and one that came at the exact right time.
This was a game that Georgia had to win. A loss would have meant that the Bulldogs would likely finish the season 6-6, and visiting beautiful Shreveport in late December. Had Georgia's defense waited just one more quarter to wake up, the Auburn game would likely have been out of reach, and the season would have been lost.
The turnaround won't save Martinez's job. The Bulldogs have given up 37 or more points in a game nine times since the start of 2008. That's unacceptable, and Mark Richt knows it. But Willie had one solid performance left in Athens, and it came against one the SEC's best offenses.
Barrett Sallee covers the SEC for www.CollegeFootballNews.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at
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