Editor in Chief of Chirp City
Host of the Ball Hogs Podcast
Member of Ball State Sports Link
This week, my eyes were opened and the curtain was pulled on the craziest (and smartest) college football playoff theory of all time (in the two years that it has existed). It’s incredible, and so believable. Everyone has biases, and those shape our judgments and decisions, that’s just human nature.
I’m going to be honest, I’m from Oklahoma, the heart of Big 12 country, so that video got spread like wildfire throughout the week as angry fans trumpeted “CONSPIRACY” from the rooftops like JFK had just been shot again.
I was so ready and prepared to write a long and critical review of the CFP process and why it’s unfair, but then this crazy little thing called “life” happened. And from this experience came a revelation toward college football and the Heisman trophy race.
I went a a concert for Chris Young here at Ball State. Innocent enough. It was almost as much fun as all of the college girls’ Instagram pictures made it seem like it was (but not quite).
As is the case with every concert, he had a few warm up acts come on before him to warm the crowd up. But the performance put on by Eric Paslay stopped me in my tracks. He was incredible. He could sing, he could dance, he could play guitar, and in the back of my mind I’m thinking “how is this guy not a superstar in country music?”
Every song he sang was a hit. There were the ones I knew were his from the radio like “Song About a Girl,” “Friday Night,” and “She Don’t Love You.” But what amazed me was that he was the song writer behind three other #1 hits in “Barefoot Bluejean Night,” “Even If It Breaks Your Heart,” and “Angel Eyes.” But the casual country fan isn’t going to credit those songs to Paslay, since they were performed and made famous by other artists (Jake Owen, Eli Young Band, Love and Theft respectively).
That’s when I stumbled upon a truth that is looking more and more universal. You can be a stud, with all the talent in the world, but that doesn’t make you a star.
Paslay came out in a plain dark-colored shirt, jeans, and a ball cap. To be honest, I”m not sure how many casual country music fans would’ve even been able to pick him out of a police suspect line. He’s got a beard, he’s white, and looks “country,” but those are three adjectives that could be used on 98% of the country music stars in the world. He doesn’t have a “thing.”
Growing up as a WWE fan, I knew all about the importance of having a “thing,” or having a character. In a world where there are dozens and hundreds of wrestlers, any newcomer needed a gimmick so that the fans would remember you, so they could recognize you from the crowd. A catchy entrance music, a signature weapon, something like that.
Where would Elvis be without his costumes? Michael Jackson without his moonwalk? Would Lee Corso still have a job if he didn’t do the headgear??
Try to name a celebrity that doesn’t have, or didn’t start out with a signature. It can be anything at this point, from dress to catchphrase to backstory. Eminem had the white rapper market cornered until Macklemore started wearing huge fur coats and riding a scooter around.
Marketing isn’t just the most important thing. In many cases, it’s the only thing that separates the good from the great from the legendary. Did you know historians aren’t even sure that Thomas Edison invented the lightbulb? He was just the best at self-promotion and marketing himself.
Have you seen the new “Steve Jobs” movie? Here’s a guy that failed on his product for twenty years, but remained a genius in the public’s eye because he promoted his products in such a way that he convinced people that they were revolutionary and would change the world (it helps that they actually were in the long run).
After the CMAs, the hottest new artist in country music is Chris Stapleton. This guy got the message about having a unique style. He’s got the “John Lennon and a Geico Caveman had a child who then roamed in the wilderness for twenty years” look going on. Don’t believe me? Here’s photographic evidence:
You really only need to see this guy once to remember who he is, and while you still might mistake him for a homeless person on the side of the road, as soon as he starts singing you become a fan, because “oh yeah I remember this caveman from the CMAs!”
Eric Paslay needs that. I mean even his name, his name, is too close to another country legend in Brad Paisley.
My point in saying all of this is to get you to understand: the cream doesn’t always rise to the top. The most talented people out of a group aren’t always recognized for their talent. This is true about country music, inventing light bulbs, grown men riding scooters, and most importantly college football.
So yes, the College Football Playoff system is flawed. But with all that attention on the playoff system and “who’s in” and “who’s out,” one race that hasn’t gotten as much publicity and has flown under the radar is the race for the Heisman trophy. A great football player is going to receive this award, but I’m not sure it’s going to go to the best player in the nation. Instead, I got my money on the guy who markets himself the best.
Anything you can do to get people talking about you will boost your Heisman bid. Cam Newton had his pay-for-play scandal in 2010, Robert Griffin created the “RG3” persona in 2011 and made everyone buzz by saying “I think I just won the Heisman!” after stunning Oklahoma (Argumentum ad populum), “Johnny Football” was like a Kardashian brought to big time football with his drama on and off the field in 2012, and “Famous Jameis” had his crab legs incident and the jumping on tables and yelling explicit things in the middle of campus. Even plain old Marcus Mariota, would he have won if he didn’t play for flashy Oregon and he wasn’t from Hawaii??
Just a handful of players who didn’t win the Heisman in those years:
Andrew “Definition of a Non-Sexy Pick” Luck, AJ “Katherine Webb’s Boyfriend” McCarron, and Manti “I Wish My Girlfriend Existed” Te’o. They may have had the best seasons, but talk about players who are hard to vote for!
This season, 2015, the most impressive college football player in the country is Corey Coleman, but he’s not going to win the Heisman. No way.
Reason 1: He’s a Wide Receiver
For starters, eight out of the last nine Heisman winners were quarterbacks, which is ridiculous. I’m not going to argue that QB is the most important position in football, but Heisman is supposed to go to the player who is “most outstanding” and “exhibits the pursuit of excellence and integrity” according to the Heisman website.
While this is just a whole lotta corporate speak, the award is still meant for the best player in the country, who has had the best season, and who is most valuable to his team. Right?
If so, then I can’t figure out why the Heisman is almost exclusively given to quarterbacks and running backs. Oh wait, now I remember! Those are the flashy positions, those are the players people talk about.
But could a wide receiver be doing much more for his team? Corey Coleman has, at time of writing, 1229 yards and 20 touchdowns through nine games. There’s still a chance he may break Troy Edwards’ single season receiving touchdowns record, though he took a hit this week by not catching any touchdowns against Oklahoma.
He started the season on an absolute tear with a ridiculous eleven touchdowns and 560 yards through four games. But all I kept hearing on TV was how good Seth Russell was, how he deserved the Heisman, how he could do it with anyone.
Russell went down for the year with a neck injury, yet Coleman continues to shine.
Speaking of which, if a quarterback doesn’t have any good receivers, how much more do we value that QB’s ability to make plays?
And yet Coleman is now playing, and putting up monster numbers, with a backup quarterback who’s a 19-year-old true freshman. Isn’t it harder from his position to adjust to a backup than for a quarterback?
Despite what the color commentator says, I think Coleman did most of the work here.
While it’s nearly impossible for a wide receiver to carry a team, he’s doing about as close to that as is possible. Out of the total 3111 passing yards Baylor has had this season, Coleman accounts for 39.5% of them. And that’s without noting the fact that the Baylor roster is constructed like the “Mean Machine” from the Longest Yard movies! Every player on this team is a freak! Coleman is fighting for targets with this man.
Last season Amari Cooper was a finalist for the award. His stats: 1727 yards, 16TDs. Great year, but Coleman is more than likely going to smash those numbers. Which begs the question, can a wide receiver even win the Heisman??
There have technically been three players listed as wide receiver who have won the trophy. However, Johnny Rodgers in 1972 was also a running back. Desmond Howard (1991) was also an unbelievable punt returner (who created buzz about himself when he struck the famous Heisman pose in the endzone after a punt return touchdown).
That leaves Tim Brown in 1987. From everything I’ve seen and gathered about Tim Brown and the Notre Dame football program in the late ’80’s, they had no problem garnering buzz and hyping up their team and players. I mean Lou Holtz was the coach for goodness sake (insert lisp joke here).
If you want to make fun of Tim Brown a little bit more, check this clip out from “The U” documentary.
That’s it. 78 Heisman awards have been handed out and those are the only three cases of wide receivers winning the big one. So sorry Corey, the odds are against you.
Reason 2: He Hasn’t Had a “Heisman Moment”
A widely believed criteria for the Heisman trophy: the team must be in the hunt for the national championship.
Ehhhh, that’s not completely true. Just recently, Johnny Football and RG3 won the big one without sending their teams to the title game.
Sure they were a combined 23-3, but no rational college football expert would’ve told you that they were even contending to be the best team in the nation (final rankings of #9 for Texas A&M and #12 for Baylor).
Still, this criteria alone doesn’t discount Coleman’s bid. Baylor is currently 8-1 and is still in the playoff hunt, and as long as you’re around the conversation, getting people talking, you’re fine.
The key, relevancy.
It’s really not even about winning football games so much as playing in football games that people want to watch. Every Heisman trophy winner has to have a “Heisman Moment.”
In a game where every college football fan is watching, Heisman candidate X turns in an amazing performance, complete with one or more incredible highlights.
Now their highlights can be replayed over and over again on Sportscenter, we can ask the host of talking heads why candidate X is so good. Throw in a crazy post game interview? Icing on the cake.
Coleman hasn’t had a Heisman Moment yet. He had a chance against Oklahoma this past weekend, but turned in his worst performance of the season with 51 yards and no touchdowns.
Still, the box score won’t show the fact that the entire game was played in the driving rain, and quarterback (reminder: backup and true freshman) Jarrett Stidham didn’t look Coleman’s way at all in the second half for no reason.
The rest of Baylor’s games have been low profile, and more importantly to his case they’ve been regionally televised. You want the Heisman, you gotta get more eyeballs on you.
The good news for Coleman is that the final three games of the season for Baylor are Oklahoma State, TCU, and Texas. All three will be nationally televised, all three will have big audiences. If Coleman can put on a show the rest of the way, he might have his “Heisman Moment.”
Reason 3: His Attitude
From all accounts and stories I’ve read, Corey Coleman seems like one of the nicest and most humble kids in college football.
He has to be, because of where he came from. Here’s a great profile on him.
Listen, I’m not saying kids with good attitudes can’t win the Heisman. I mean, Tim “Jesus Himself” Tebow won this thing in the not-too-distant past.
Think Chris Stapleton. Think marketing. Think unique.
Tebow may have been humble, but he couldn’t have made himself more high profile. He was almost on a Lebron-like level of publicity.
Leonard Fournette is the Heisman favorite, even after his dud against Alabama. Listen, the kid is incredible, just check out his highlights. But you know what else he has?
When Fournette was in high school, and became the best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson, his parents were smart enough to realize they had the chance to market their son. The family literally sat down together and came up with “BUGA” Nation.
The acronym, which means “Being United Generates Attitude,” but it doesn’t matter what it means. All that mattered was that now anyone who was a fan or a supporter became part of BUGA Nation. When he committed to LSU, on national TV, his parents made sure they were wearing BUGA Nation t-shirts standing right next to him.
Wait hold on, wouldn’t selling those shirts be illegal?? The NCAA is investigating Fournette’s family for it, but the publicity and marketing is done.
And it will more than likely land Fournette the Heisman.
The craziest thing Coleman has ever done is show up to a press conference without a shirt on. This is the type of stuff we need!!
“Corey Coleman admits to being a nudist.” I can see the headlines now! Corey, listen, I know you’re reading this. We can still win this thing, but it’s time to take dramatic action!!
If you take a look at my criteria, the 2015 Heisman is going to be:
A) Leonard Fournette (see above)
B) Baker Mayfield: he’s a quarterback (check), he had a “Heisman Moment” last week against Baylor (check), and everyone can’t stop talking about his swag after this dance video dropped earlier this year.
(On the real though, respect. Dude has moves for a white boy).
C) Derrick Henry: running back (check), had “Heisman Moment” against LSU (check), plays for Alabama (additional check), trains by pushing cars? (Wait what? CHECK CHECK)
The biggest stud in college football is undoubtedly Corey Coleman.
Unfortunately, the Heisman trophy goes to the biggest star, not the biggest stud.
Oh and P.S. Eric Paslay hit me up if you need an image consultant! But I’ll warn you, you may need to consent to growing a four-foot long beard or wearing fur coats or riding around on a scooter. You know, the basic stuff.
By Matt Craig
Leave your thoughts and comments below!