Hyde Could Build Case For Heisman Votes
By Matt Natali
COLUMBUS, Ohio – The 2013 Heisman Trophy race looks quite different than it did a week ago and, quite frankly, it is a bit lackluster in the home stretch of the college football season.
Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel (2012 winner), Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty and Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota were all in the discussion most of the season, but each played their way out of contention with bad losses last week.
Current favorite Jameis Winston probably is most deserving for his play under center for No. 2 Florida State, but potential sexual assault charges loom and he will lose some votes as a result, whether he is ultimately charged or not.
All told, the players who previously were not in the mix are making a push for hardware down the stretch, including Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch and Boston College running back Andre Williams.
Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde is making a late push into that discussion as well.
The senior ball-toter rumbled for 117 yards and two touchdowns last week in a 42-14 win over Indiana on Senior Day, becoming the first Buckeyes running back to eclipse the 1,000-yard rushing mark since Beanie Wells in 2008.
Hyde also became the first running back under head coach Urban Meyer to rush for 1,000 yards — ever.
For the season, Hyde has 1,064 yards on 138 carries with 13 touchdowns for No. 3 Ohio State despite splitting carries with quarterback Braxton Miller (738 yards on 116 carries and five touchdowns), and four other Buckeyes who have combined for 1,337 yards.
Hyde also was named the Big Ten player of the week twice this season. Against then-No. 16 Northwestern, Hyde had a career-high 168 yards and three second-half touchdowns to help the Buckeyes to a 40-30 win over the Wildcats. In a 60-35 win over Illinois, he set a new career high with 246 yards on 24 carries and four touchdowns.
Hyde has tallied his stats in only eight games. Of those eight games, he carried the ball more than 10 times only twice.
But perhaps the most impressive of Hyde’s stats is that he is scoring a touchdown once every 10.6 rushing attempts. Only Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds has a better carries-to-touchdown rate (9.6) in the Midshipmen’s triple-option offense.
Of the last six running backs to win the Heisman Trophy, including Reggie Bush’s vacated trophy season, none have a better carries-to-touchdown ratio than Hyde (Mark Ingram (15.9), Reggie Bush (12.5) Ron Dayne (16.9), Ricky Williams (13.5), Eddie George (13.7), Rashaan Salaam (12.4).
Barry Sanders is the seventh running back on that list and he scored every 10.1 times he touched the ball in 1988 when he won the Heisman.
Of course, all of these Heisman Trophy-winning backs had at least 200 carries and four had more than 300. Hyde would need to average 31 carries against Michigan this week and Michigan State in the Big Ten title game in Dec. 7 to hit the 200 carries mark.
Speaking of “The Game” this week, Michigan has the No. 14-ranked rush defense in the country (116.4 ypg) and No. 11 Michigan State boasts the top-ranked rush defense in the country (59.4 ypg). So, big rushing performances in the next two games could further boost Hyde into the Heisman discussion.
"I'm expecting that team up North to bring their ‘A’ game, and we are certainly going to bring ours,” Hyde said of the Michigan game Saturday following the win over Indiana. “It is going to be an exciting game, my last against them. I'm looking forward to it."
As for the opportunity to play the top rush defense in the country in the Big Ten title game, Hyde said, “I'm looking forward to playing teams that the media hype up so we can really show what our team is capable of."
The elephant in the room for Hyde, though, is the fact that he missed the first three games of the season for some off-the-field transgressions at a night club in Columbus last summer. Even though Hyde was never charged with a crime, Meyer suspended him for three games and he missed three opportunities to solidify himself as one of the nation’s top rushers.
"He’s been handling his business and (running backs coach Stan Drayton) has been doing a good job," Meyer said during the Big Ten teleconference this week. "Sometimes it takes a situation where you think that everything is almost taken from you to take care of and focus on what is important on and off the field. So, he’s been real good."
Based on his stats through eight games played, Hyde projects to have 189 carries for 1,463 yards and approximately 17 touchdowns in 11 games, but that is all hypothetical.
And the fact of the matter is Ohio State started the season ranked No. 2 in the country and dropped to as low as No. 4 after lackluster non-conference wins early in the season. Now, the Buckeyes are 11-0 and on the outside looking in at a chance to play for a BCS national championship behind No. 1 Alabama and Florida State.
Would the Buckeyes still be in the driver's seat for a national title game appearance if they had Hyde for the first three games to earn some extra style points? It is hard to say given the dominant seasons Alabama and Florida State have put together, respectively, but it wouldn’t have hurt to have Hyde on the field for the first quarter of the season.
Most will argue that Hyde is not even the best player on his team (Miller is making a strong case of his own to get back in the Heisman race), but Hyde has been the most valuable player — tangibly and intangibly — on a team that is undefeated and has a nation-leading, school record 23-game winning streak.
All told, Manziel, Winston, McCarron, Lynch, and Williams are the most likely candidates to be be invited to New York on Dec. 14 when the winner of the 79th Annual Heisman Memorial Trophy is announced.
Hyde was not even a semifinalist for the Doak Walker Award recognizing the top running back in the country and he will probably not be in New York in December, but he has a couple of more games to solidify his case as one of the top players in college football this season on a highly-ranked team that is still in national championship contention.