If Trent Richardson deserves to be a Heisman finalist, LMJ does too.
And LaMichael James should win the Doak, again, if voters are paying attention.
This is not a homer Duck fan viewpoint. And LMJ shouldn't earn the status just because he's the nation's leading rusher, or because he ran for more yards in fewer games than Richardson: He's earned his yards against tougher opposition than Richardson.
Heresy, you say! Not so. The proof is in the numbers. And, before SEC Guy screams "SUPERIOR SEC DEFENSE LOUSY PAC12 DEFENSE", look at the numbers broken down by opponent's NCAA rush defense ranking.
Details after the jump...
Against Oregon's top 4 opponent run defenses -- which averaged a NCAA run defense ranking of 17th (lower numbers are better) -- LMJ averaged 4.8 ypc and scored 5 TDs.
Alabama's top 4 opponent run Ds had a NCAA rank average of 27th -- ten places worse than Oregon's; against those Ds, Richardson did marginally better, averaging 5.3 ypc and scoring 5 TDs.
So, Richardson, in his top games, performed only 10% better than LMJ, against defenses that were about 35% worse.
Go to the next tiers:
- LMJ's middle 4 opponents: avg run D rank 58th, 7.7 ypc, 4 TDs
Richardson's middle 4: avg rank 65th, 5.6 ypc, 8 TDs
Again: James ran for a higher average against tougher competition. Yes, Richardson had more TDs, because Bama has limited weapons on offense, and he's the primary goal line option.
- LMJ's bottom 3 opponents (missed 2 games): avg rank 85th, 7.6ypc, 5 TDs
Richardson's bottom 4: avg rank 104th, 7.0 ypc, 7 TDs
The Little Sisters of the Poor provided scant opposition for either player, but again, LMJ's yard average was superior, against statistically tougher opposition.
At every level of competition, LMJ had a higher per-carry average than Richardson, and the run defenses Oregon faced were significantly tougher than Alabama's opposition. The conventional wisdom, that LMJ has run up his numbers against inferior defenses, is a canard of the highest order. (Yes, Richardson's per-carry average against LSU was slightly higher than James, but Bama played that game at home -- and James at least crossed the goal line once.)
If *one* voter for either the Heisman or Doak Walker awards reads this and thinks about his vote before casting it tomorrow, I will be happy as a pig in sherbet.
And the breakdown --
Now, the rankings above are for team net yardage allowed. You say "Oh, but yards per carry ranking would be more meaningful!" Yes, you may be right! And if you use that, LMJ looks even better, outperforming Richardson in every category (pretty much dead even against the top 4 opponents, but big advantage LMJ against the middle and bottom tiers).
In conference, Richardson didn't play Georgia (#9 run D) or South Carolina (#49 run D) or Kentucky (#85); James missed Utah (#8), ASU (#38) and Colorado (#81), making "teams missed" essentially a wash.