Mike Hart for Heisman? Is it becoming a
possibility? Before you get your hopes up, it’s probably not
going to happen. There’s a better chance of Chris Webber
showing up for Michigan basketball’s home opener than Hart
taking home the coveted college football hardware.

Daniel Bremmer
Freshman running back Mike Hart ran for 206 yards against Purdue. (JASON COOPER/Daily)
Daniel Bremmer

But the fact that Hart’s recent performance could make you
actually consider that Heisman statement for a second means
something.

Entering the season, Mike Hart was an unknown — a question
mark, at best. Coming from Syracuse, N.Y., people were skeptical
about his ability to play in a big, physical conference like the
Big Ten. Hart wasn’t supposed to be rushing for 200 yards
total this season, let alone be doing it in consecutive games (a
feat which only one other Wolverine in history — Jon
Vaughn — has accomplished).

Lately, Hart has been turning heads. He was honored yesterday as
both the Big Ten co-offensive player of the week (along with
Minnesota’s Marion Barber) and the Cingular/ABC Sports
All-America Player of the Week (as voted by fans nationwide).

Sure, Hart deserves this praise. He’s been playing as well
as any other running back around. But have his numbers been
Heisman-caliber?

This got me thinking: How does the 5-foot-9, 194-pound true
freshman stack up against the nation’s best in terms of
yardage and productivity?

I decided to take a look at two true Heisman contenders –
Oklahoma freshman sensation Adrian Peterson, and Texas senior
Cedric Benson, both of whom are on ESPN’s Heisman watch
— to see how Hart stacks up.

Right off the bat, Hart’s at a significant disadvantage
here. The freshman saw limited action in Michigan’s first two
games — a victim of the Michigan running back carousel. This
put him in a big hole compared to Peterson and Benson, who have
both been getting the majority of their team’s carries all
season long.

While Hart has been able to make up the difference in total
rushing attempts — he has carried the ball 187 times this
year, the exact same amount as Benson and 10 more than Peterson
— he was able to amass just 37 total yards in
Michigan’s win over Miami (Ohio) and loss at Notre Dame in
the first two games of the season.

But once Hart broke out for 121 yards against San Diego State,
he never looked back.

So, to level the playing field among the three backs, I just
looked at their last six games. For Hart, that meant starting with
San Diego State and continuing through Saturday’s win over
Purdue.

Looking at just their last six contests, (and I emphasize, their
last six games) Hart’s numbers have been as good as anyone in
the country, including those two Heisman candidates.

Over his last six games, Hart has arguably outplayed the
6-foot-2, 210 pound Peterson. It’s true that Peterson has
carried the ball 18 less times for a total of 24 more yards (161
carries for 923 yards vs. Hart’s 179 for 899 yards).

But Hart’s all-purpose numbers give him an edge. Adding
Hart’s 16 catches for 148 yards and a åtouchdown into
the equation gives the Michigan back a nearly 120-yard advantage in
total offense. Hart’s five touchdowns (four on the ground,
one in the air) are just one less than Peterson’s six.

The comparison with the 6-foot, 225-pound Benson is a little
harder to judge, and the Texas senior may take the overall edge. In
their last six games, Benson has outrushed Hart by 76 yards, but
Hart has totaled 70 more receiving yards. Adding those stats up,
Benson tops Hart by six yards, but has also added three more
touchdowns (eight in his last six games).

The best part of Hart’s game, aside from the obvious lift
he has given the Michigan offense, is the
jump-out-of-your-seat-and-high-five-your-roommate ability he has.
Watch a replay of the second half against Purdue if you don’t
know what I’m talking about.

I love watching Hart run. He’s exciting. He always hits
the hole. He never falls backwards when he gets hit at the line.
And he’s rarely brought down by the first guy to get to
him.

At the start of the season, people didn’t even know who
Mike Hart was. Now, you compare his numbers to a bunch of valid
Heisman candidates, and Hart holds his own.

Okay, back to reality. I know what you’re thinking —
those comparisons I made above only reflect the teams’ last
six games, and Michigan, Texas and Oklahoma have all hit the field
more than six times.

It’s true — Michigan has played eight, Texas and
Oklahoma seven a piece. Looking at their seasons as a whole, Benson
and Peterson both have måore yards and touchdowns than
Hart.

But these stats aren’t meant to be an indication of my
Heisman ballot — they’re merely an illustration of how
far Hart, and Michigan’s running game, have come in the past
eight weeks.

So while his total season stats may not be as impressive as
Peterson’s or Benson’s, it doesn’t matter for the
Maize and Blue.

Hart’s numbers have definitely been good enough for
Michigan this year.

And who knows — with a few more seasons under his belt,
maybe this Heisman talk for Hart won’t be just a crazy column
idea.

 

Daniel Bremmer would like to thank Michael Salmonowicz for
his thought-provoking e-mail yesterday. He can be reached at
href=”mailto:bremmerd@umich.edu”>bremmerd@umich.edu.

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