The case for Case
Last Saturday, Case Keenum tied a career-high with six touchdowns in the Cougar’s 63-28 win over Marshall to improve to 7-0, UH’s best start since 1991. Case Keenum also set the NCAA all-time record for total offense. By all rights Keenum should be a Heisman candidate — the experts say otherwise.
According to the latest ESPN Heisman Watch Experts’ Poll, Keenum has received only three votes and is not considered a top five candidate.
But how can the experts overlook such a record-smashing quarterback for the Heisman? Here are some common complaints:
UH plays in Conference USA — a non-BCS conference — and a mediocre one at that.
Of the 12 teams in Conference USA, only five have winning records: Southern Miss in the East Division; UH, Tulsa, SMU and UTEP in the West Division. And according to ESPN, of the 11 major conferences in the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision, Conference USA ranks eighth. The conference has only two nationally ranked teams: the No. 17 Cougars and No. 25 Southern Miss. Compared to the Big 12 and the SEC, Conference USA looks like an intramural league.
But by the same token, so does the Mountain West Conference, which has only four teams with winning records (Boise State, TCU, Wyoming and San Diego State) and only one, Boise State, which is nationally ranked. The Broncos are currently fifth in the AP and USA Today polls, and fourth in the BCS. Boise’s Kellen Moore is ranked fourth in ESPN’s Heisman Rankings.
Why does Moore get so much consideration and Keenum so little? Which team is better is a different debate, but their situations are nearly identical. And as such, Keenum should be considered as the sixth-ranked candidate behind Griffin—at least.
Another common complaint is that the Cougars’ schedule is so weak that anyone could get Keenum’s stats.
This is somewhat valid. One of the Cougar’s four non-conference opponents is a Football Championship Series program (Georgia State), and the combined record of the other three (UCLA, North Texas and Louisiana Tech) is a meager 9-13. The combined record of the Cougars’ conference opponents is a paltry 24-34, having faced or will face three programs with winning records and all are from the west (UTEP, SMU, Tulsa).
Should the Cougars win the division, it is possible the Cougars will face another winning program — Southern Miss — should the Golden Eagles win the East.
Non-conference records aside, why should Keenum pay the price for the terrible play in Conference USA?
This is the chief argument for bailing on the future MWC and C-USA football alliance. The schedules will likely stay the same, with perhaps the exception of schedule one or intra-alliance games. It does not change the fact that the quality of the teams the Cougars have to play is not up to snuff. It is an entire conference that holds Case Keenum back; the only way you can stop him.
Then there is the classic complaint, “He’s a system quarterback. You could put me at quarterback and I could throw for 5,000 yards and 20 touchdowns in that system.”
First off, no you could not throw for 5,000 and 20 in any system — unless you are Case Keenum. Second, how is that fair when compared to the other contending quarterbacks? Stanford’s Andrew Luck benefited from the system developed by former NFL quarterback and Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh, now the coach of the San Francisco 49ers. Baylor’s Robert Griffin has had the benefit of having a coach who was once deemed a “system” coach himself — former Cougars head coach Art Briles. Briles coached another great Cougars quarterback, Kevin Kolb.
Kolb, who finished his college career in 2006 with nearly 13,000 passing yards and at the time was the school’s all-time leader in total offense, was also labeled a system quarterback by many in the national media, and never taken too seriously for Heisman consideration.
Now Briles coaches Griffin at Baylor, and Griffin is touted as a Heisman hopeful, not a “system” quarterback. In a recent chat session aimed at non-Automatic Qualifier programs, which are programs that cannot automatically qualify for the BCS, ESPN blogger Andrea Adelson was asked a question that posed the same dilemma.
“It is all about perception,” Adelson said. “I think they see some of the things RGIII (Robert Griffin, III) does and believe it is his talent and not the system that has gotten him his numbers. The non-AQs generally get labeled in this manner.”
That may be true, but how does that make it right?
Kolb was labeled a system quarterback because he played for UH, but Griffin is labeled a Heisman candidate because he plays at Baylor in the Big 12, despite the fact that they were coached by the same man with the same system.
What about Moore then? Where is his “system quarterback” label? He plays at a non-AQ school, just like Keenum does at UH, so what makes him so special?
Is it because despite getting shafted for national championship considerations, Boise State consistently makes a BCS bowl? Is that what it takes to get a Heisman in this town? Despite the nomination, Moore likely will not win, considering he is going up against perhaps the leading Heisman winner in Luck, who plays in a BCS conference.
It is a matter of class warfare. And in this case, it is the BCS class versus the non-AQ class. Keenum’s talents are not being recognized because he plays in a lower class program — lower class compared to four of the five BCS-conference front-runners. The paradox is that UH wants to go into an upper-class conference, for better money and chances at winning Heisman Trophies and going to BCS bowl games, despite what this system does to cheat guys like Keenum, or even Moore for that matter, out of deserved recognition.
One man a football team does not make, nor are his achievements a school’s legacy. But the achievements of that one man deserve to be honored for all to see, and yet many of the only ones to truly appreciate his talents are right here at home — and that is just fine with us.
Aaron Manuel is a broadcast journalism senior and may be reached at [email protected].