Spiller's numbers aren't adding up

School takes out USA Today ad as last-ditch effort to boost flailing Heisman candidacy

pstrelow@thestate.comDecember 1, 2009 

  • ACC Championship

    WHO: Clemson (8-4) vs. Georgia Tech (10-2)

    WHEN: 8 p.m. today

    WHERE: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla.

    LINE: Georgia Tech by 1

    TV: ESPN (TWC 26/DTV 206/DISH 140) with Brad Nessler, Todd Blackledge and Erin Andrews.

    RADIO: ESPN Radio 93.1 FM with Pete Yanity, Will Merritt and Patrick Sapp

    -------------

    SERIES RECORD: Georgia Tech leads 48-24-2. Clemson has won both games at a neutral site, 23-0 in Augusta in 1898 and 41-5 in Greenville in 1899.

    LAST MEETING: The Yellow Jackets’ Scott Blair kicked a 37-yard field goal with 57 seconds left to win 30-27 after the Tigers had rallied from a 24-0 deficit to lead 27-24.

    FAST FACT: Eleven of the past 14 games in the series have been decided by five points or less, including a six-game stretch from 1996-2001 where each game was decided by three points.

CLEMSON - Rendering a massive mural in New York City is quite pricier than it was in 2001, when Oregon plastered Joey Harrington's likeness on the side of a 10-story building near the site of the Heisman Trophy presentation.

The idea planned as a final plug for Clemson running back C.J. Spiller's Heisman candidacy might be little more than an expensive expression of gratitude.

IPTAY, the athletic department's fundraising arm, spent $128,000 on a full-page, color ad in Monday's USA Today newspaper congratulating Spiller on his accomplishments.

Bill D'Andrea, who oversees IPTAY, said he and athletics Terry Don Phillips decided to place the ad a few weeks ago. They felt it would enhance Spiller's Heisman profile and give Clemson more exposure for its money coming off a heavy travel weekend.

"He has been the face of this university for the last several months, and we felt this would be important for C.J. and show him we're behind him and support him," D'Andrea said. "Looking back at the history of who's won (the Heisman), a lot of them have had to be on national championship or undefeated teams."

This year's Heisman race appears to be following form; the quarterback for two of the nation's top three ranked teams - Texas' Colt McCoy and Florida's Tim Tebow - are believed the front-runners, followed by Stanford running back Toby Gerhart and Alabama running back Mark Ingram.

A handful of national voters interviewed by The State on Monday believe Spiller has slipped from contention but could earn an invite to next week's presentation at the Downtown Athletic Club in New York as one of the finalists.

"Sadly, I think it's done for C.J., even though he probably deserves the trip," CBSSportsline.com college writer Dennis Dodd said. "Heisman voters are lazy by nature, so the words 'all-purpose' probably don't resonate with them.

"I don't think a lot know how good he is or what he means to that team. But that said, it's hard for him to compete with five touchdowns (each) by Tebow and McCoy last Saturday."

The number of finalists can range from three to six; the accounting firm that handles tabulation of the 926 votes determines where the "natural break" in voting occurs.

Voters have to submit their online ballots by Monday, and it remains to be seen what kind of influence Spiller's performance in Saturday's 8 p.m. ACC championship game against No. 12 Georgia Tech could have - especially when the TV audience will have the option of watching McCoy and the No. 3 Longhorns face Nebraska in the Big 12 championship.

Spiller's buzz has dwindled after consecutive games in which he supplied a highlight-reel play but little in the way of statistics.

He followed a 312-yard all-purpose outing against Florida State with 97 offensive yards and one touchdown vs. Virginia.

Then, after opening Saturday's USC game with an 88-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, Spiller was held in check, tallying 18 yards on nine carries and three catches for 19 yards while being limited by toe, stomach and groin ailments. It was Spiller's lowest rushing total since registering 12 yards in the opener against Middle Tennessee, which he sat out for nearly three quarters after sustaining his turf-toe injury.

Andy Staples, college writer for SI.com, thinks Spiller's case will be doomed by his modest rushing numbers compared to the other running backs whom "traditional" voters will consider.

Gerhart has 1,726 yards and 26 touchdowns with splashy showings against Southern California and Notre Dame. Spiller, meanwhile, has barely more than half the rushing yards (912) and 10 fewer total touchdowns.

Staples said perhaps Spiller's only shot to return to the Heisman conversation is two-fold: 1) The Texas game is such a blowout that the audience turns to the ACC contest, and 2) Spiller puts on a show like Reggie Bush did in posting 513 all-purpose yards (294 rushing) against Fresno State late in his candidacy.

"I think the standard voter is going to look at his rushing yards and just say, 'No way,'" Staples said. "Even if he's the most dangerous return guy, his numbers aren't going to work."

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