So Stetson Bennett is headed to New York for the Heisman ceremony. Everyone's head is exploding, and Tennessee twitter has melted into a beautiful puddle of orange sherbet rage. We've seen the back and forth all week, most of the national media is either against Bennett being invited or at the very least, think Hendon Hooker should be there with him. Cases have been made and stats have been cherry picked. I'm not trying to both sides this thing, but I totally get all the arguments. They make sense for the most part. Ultimately, I really don't think it's all that complicated from the following perspective. Three weeks ago I would have rolled my eyes at the idea of Bennett as a Heisman candidate, but early last week the idea didn't seem quite so preposterous when I asked one simple question about the other candidates.
What did you do the last time we saw you? Here are the answers for all the candidates headed to NYC and we'll even throw Hendon Hooker in for good measure.
- Caleb Williams, USC: Solid effort playing through a couple of injuries, but ultimately fell yet again to three loss Utah. That makes two losses to Utah on the season, and this time it was a blowout in the Pac 12 title game. USC was the favorite, but Williams was unable to cash the check he wrote on his fingernails. This game also ended USC's playoff bid.
- Max Duggan, TCU: With a heroic effort down the stretch and into overtime, Duggan nearly had TCU undefeated as they head into their first playoff appearance. But even with his 110 rushing yards, TCU lost to Kansas State despite being a slight favorite in their second matchup of the season. TCU did still manage to make the playoff as a three seed.
- CJ Stroud, Ohio State: Solid numbers in yet another blowout loss to Michigan, but this time it was AT HOME. Yes, the Buckeyes lost by three touchdowns to their biggest rival, and the offense led by Stroud, only managed three points in the second half. Stroud also threw two interceptions after halftime. Ohio State ended up with a backdoor playoff bid after failing to qualify for the Big Ten Championship.
- Hendon Hooker, Tennessee: His team was demolished on the road by a four loss South Carolina team, and he was outplayed head-to-head by Spencer Rattler. Going into the game, Rattler had thrown more interceptions than touchdown passes. While it's true that Hooker can't control his defense giving up 63 points it is more than fair to expect him to lead his offense to a better output. Tennessee scored 66 points the previous week against an outmanned Missouri team who beat this same South Carolina team on the road just two weeks prior. I know, I know, the transitive property is bullshit in college football, but in this case it's at least worth a mention. Hooker threw 3 touchdown passes in both of those games, but his completion percentage dropped from 71.4% against Missouri to 59.5% against USC. Adding injury to insult, Hooker sustained a season ending ACL tear. Our last look at him was in the injury tent with his team down by 18 points, and let's not forget that the USC loss also dashed Tennessee's playoff hopes. These are bad optics.
- Stetson Bennett, Georgia: Four touchdown passes in a blowout win over LSU on the way to becoming the MVP of the SEC Championship. Georgia also earned the number one seed in the CFB Playoff after an undefeated season. Not much else to say.
Final impressions can be the most important ones when it comes to college football post season awards. One year ago today you wouldn't have been able to find a bigger Stetson Bennett detractor than yours truly. I didn't think he could win Georgia a title. I was happy to be proven wrong and I wear that L. Now he's headed to the Heisman ceremony, and while not everyone will agree he deserves to attend, it's really not that hard to understand why he's attending. Prominent players on the best teams have always received Heisman bumps. Anyone who doesn't know that is either brand new or lying to themselves.
- Josh Heupel, Hendon Hooker's coach at Tennessee, came in second for the 2000 Heisman. He threw for 3392 yards, 20 touchdowns and rushed for 7 touchdowns that season. As fate would have it, those numbers are almost identical to Stetson Bennett's this season. After 13 games Bennett stands at 3425 yards, 20 touchdown passes and 7 rushing touchdowns. Heupel played one less game than Bennett, but he also padded his stats pretty heavily against Texas-El Paso, Arkansas State and Rice. In those games he combined for 7 touchdowns and nearly 900 yards through the air, plus 3 scores on the ground. For reference, Bennett did not pad his stats against cupcakes this season as he added under 600 yards, just 1 touchdown pass and 2 rushing scores against non P5 opponents. For what it's worth, Heupel would go on to lead Oklahoma to the BCS National Championship that season.
- If anybody tries to make the dumbass argument that it's not fair that Stetson Bennett is 25 years old, remind them that Hooker will be 25 in January. Oh, the guy who beat Heupel out for that 2000 Heisman? None other than 28 year old Chris Weinke.
I wonder how the Vols like them apples? Or I guess I should say oranges because that's the bowl they're headed to.
Edited by Craig Lawson