Heisman Challenge: Case Keenum vs Robert Griffin III


Perhaps it's that I currently reside in Houston that I feel especially attuned to the today's matchup in the Heisman Challenge. Though, one does not need to even be a Texan to have heard about the phenomenal statistical campaign that Case Keenum has had this year. I doubt that college football fans have watched many UH games this year (more on this in a minute), but between the highlights on television and the little effort it takes to see his name atop many individual statistical categories, it's easy to see why Keenum is being brought up amongst the Heisman contenders. The easy detraction from this the schedule he has faced, and while we will get to that in a minute, there's a little secret that nobody seems to be discussing with regards to Keenum vs RGIII...

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The very first thing that should be noted from Table 1 is that both Keenum and Griffin have had fantastic years statistically. When further comparing the two, we see that while Griffin looks marginally better in the rate stats [YPA and QB Rating], Keenum's greater attempts have him looking better by a larger margin in the counting stats. However, the little secret about this table is that it is biased against Griffin's production this year because it completely ignores his production via rushing. Given that the Heisman is for most outstanding player and not most outstanding passer (though you would be forgiven for thinking that given the voting over the past 10 years), let's take a look at what happens when we combine rushing and passing statistics for the two players:


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All of a sudden, the differences between the two players looks pretty small. I would argue that the numbers are basically the same for the two, which seems surprising given the amount of attention Keenum has received for his 'historic' stats this year. Still, you may be asking, "What's the big deal? You've just shown that Keenum and RGIII are equals?" Well, about that strength of schedule I mentioned...


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In this chart I have averaged the ranking of each opponent that Baylor and UH have played as measured by Sagarin, FEI and S&P (the last two are from FO). This is the best visual representation I could come up with of how bad UH's schedule has been. UH has only played 2 schools that rate better than Texas Tech and most of their opponents fall into the same realm as two of Baylor's worst opponents: Rice and Kansas.

Robert Griffin III has put up the same production as the 'historical' season from Case Keenum, but done it against a tremendously more difficult schedule, including 6 teams in ranked in the top 30. And while Keenum gets a lot of credit for leading his team's offense to incredible heights and UH leaning on this great offense to achieve their 12-0 record...this ignores the fact that Baylor's offense grades out better by schedule-adjusted statistics. FEI has Baylor's offense ranked as the best in the country, while Houston's ranks a still respectable 6th. However, the gap between #1 Baylor and #6 Houston as measured by FEI is the same as the gap between Houston and #36 Iowa.

When factoring all of this in, it's clear that Keenum's votes for Heisman need to be relegated to a (much) lower position on the ballot.

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