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Published: Sunday, 9/12/2010

Does keeping your shoes tied really matter?

Has anyone ever taken a close look at the Heisman Trophy? Are the little guy's bronze shoes tied?

A few weeks ago, Ohio State's quarterback, Terrelle Pryor, was a leading preseason candidate for college football's top award. Meanwhile, at that school up north, there seemed to be considerable uncertainty over who would be lining up behind center.

It turns out that Denard Robinson won the job at Michigan. Now, two weeks into the season, a kid who was best known for playing football with his shoes untied is, perhaps, now known as the most dynamic player in the nation.

The Heisman almost always goes to a quarterback or a running back. In Michigan's offense, Robinson is both. He leads the nation in rushing (227.5 yards per game) and in total offense (442.5 ypg) and has completed 43 of 62 pass attempts.

There is an outfit called Stiff Arm which has, since 2002, had considerable success in predicting Heisman winners. In the past, it has assembled Heisman voters, including yours truly, for some off-the-record balloting over the month leading to the trophy presentation.

This year, Stiff Arm decided to start its information gathering during the preseason and to do a week-by-week poll of willing panelists. The way it's being done is far from scientific, but it's interesting and will provoke discussion. Fans can follow the bouncing ball atwww.stiffarmtrophy.com.

Pryor was No. 2 on the preseason list behind reigning Heisman winner Mark Ingram, the running back at Alabama who has subsequently missed the first two games because of injury. Robinson, understandably, wasn't among the top 25 players.

After the first week, Pryor had moved up to No. 1 and Robinson made his debut at No. 13 after setting a Michigan quarterback rushing record with 197 yards in an easy victory over Connecticut.

On Saturday, Robinson had a stunning performance and produced the winning touchdown with 27 seconds left in a close win at Notre Dame. The Wolverines compiled 532 yards of offense, and Robinson had a direct hand in a whopping 502 of them — 258 yards rushing (a Big Ten record for quarterbacks) and 244 yards passing.

So, it's going to be enlightening to see Stiff Arm's ratings later this week.

Pryor did nothing in particular to help his standing in the Buckeyes' 36-24 win over No. 12 Miami on Saturday at Ohio Stadium. But he did little to hurt it either.

He was 12 of 27 for 233 yards and one touchdown and ran for 113 yards and another score. He threw some passes that were every bit as wobbly as his completion percentage and, on the flip side, hit on 62-yard and 18-yard passes for a two-play touchdown drive after OSU had fallen behind 10-3. So he was bad and he was good.

Coach Jim Tressel, looking for a positive spin, guesstimated that 80 of Pryor's rushing yards came on called passing plays and added, “Part of passing is deciding when not to pass.”

Part of the Heisman, meanwhile, is winning. That may be what ultimately separates Pryor and Robinson when all is said and done.

Both teams are 2-0 but only one of them is considered capable of maintaining the “0” part. Meanwhile, another concern with Robinson is his ability to stay healthy considering the number of plays in which he is involved and the number of hits he is taking.

So far, though, he has been a blast to watch. No one is playing better or producing more, shoes tied or not.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at:dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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