It appears from much of the discussion on the major sites and in Twitterland that (unless someone else does something amazing) the Heisman will come down to Gerhart, McCoy and Tebow. I think Gerhart has been fantastic this year, but he’s going to struggle when it’s all said and done. He’s on the west coast, so many of the voters haven’t seen him. Plus, Stanford is 8-4 with a loss to a very mediocre Wake Forest team. This doesn’t mean I’ll ignore his candidacy this week, but I think there’s a pretty good chance that it will come down to McCoy and Tebow for the trophy.
McCoy’s got great numbers and for those voters that will just pull their stats lines, he’ll be their guy. I think McCoy is a very good quarterback. But I think his level of competition merits scrutinizing those stats of his. I’ve written before that Tebow’s numbers come from this year’s coaching philosophy, not some failure on his part. The Gators have become a team focused on running the ball first and rarely throwing it down field. They also play in the very defensive minded SouthEastern Conference. Say what you want about a “down year,” but the SEC still plays the best defense in the nation.
Total passing yards McCoy beats Tebow hands down. But when you look at things like total interceptions, Tebow has fewer than half the interceptions of McCoy – again because of the offensive mindset. But what about efficiency and effectiveness at the position. When you do attempt a pass, how many yards do you average? How frequently do you throw a touchdown? How infrequently do you throw costly interceptions? And how do you perform when you play the best opposition?
Overall, both players have played effective, efficient football. Their best stat line is 12-0. However, how did they contribute to being there?
Tebow has the better passer rating, TD percentage, Interception percentage and more total touchdowns. He also has a significantly better passer rating and yards per attempt. Most importantly, he’s faced far better overall pass defenses.
But how have they both performed while under pressure? How much do those overall numbers change when you focus on just their best competition. I looked at the same stats for games against only the Top 40 pass defenses. (Note: when I first published this article, I was asked almost immediately “Why Top 40 pass defenses?”. The inference was that I am cherrypicking good numbers for Tebow. I chose 40 because that is the exact ranking of the second best pass defense Texas played. They didn’t play another pass defense in the Top 70. Once you get to the bottom 50 pass defenses, I can no longer justify it as checking stats against the “best competition”.)
The difference between the quarterbacks becomes far more pronounced when you look at these stats. Tebow’s numbers are virtually identical to his full season numbers. McCoy’s drop substantially. In fact, McCoy’s average stat line for these games plunges – 196 yards passing, 1 TD, 1 Int.