He already looks so comfortable in green and gold... (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
The task of us for this post promoting the launch of NCAA Football 2013 was to pick a Heisman winner- any Heisman winner - and put him on our favorite team. In theory, I could take Roger Staubach and put him on the 2002 Irish or Reggie Bush and place him back in the 40's (good luck tackling him, folks), but that seemed way too broad. Limiting the exercise a bit, what if you had to pick a Heisman winner and put him on the same Notre Dame team as the year he won the award? If you go back through history, there are plenty of excellent options, but why not just mosey into the past twelve months and put 2011 Heisman winner Robert Griffin III on the 2011 Fighting Irish?
I should confess before getting too far that I've had a giant football crush on RGIII since his freshman year in 2008, when he routed a terrible Washington State team on a random Friday night game (moved because of a hurricane, I believe) and everyone got to talk about how he was a track superstar, high school class president and all-around amazing kid. He just kept putting up awesome numbers, not even letting an ACL tear in 2009 slow his ascent. RGIII also evolved into the ultimate video game quarterback, a lethal NCAA weapon that was almost unfair to play as (although the Baylor defense helped balance things out). When he eventually took over the 2011 season and won the Heisman trophy, I felt like a proud father, whose son had managed to balance ridiculous stat lines and superhero socks.
So how would the 2011 Notre Dame team have looked with RGIII at quarterback instead of the Crist/Rees/Hendrix platoon? Well, as far as the offense goes, it would have been otherworldly, with Michael Floyd and Tyler Eifert immediately becoming your Biletnikoff and Mackey favorites. With RGIII's ability to run, it would have opened up the spread to its full capacity, improving the gaps for Cierre Wood and Jonas Gray, giving them even better seasons. With the talent around him and an assumed reduction in turnovers from the quarterback position (RGIII had six picks last season, which would have been...nice*), the Irish offense would have been one of the most prolific in the country.
* RGIII had seventeen career interceptions at Baylor. Notre Dame quarterbacks had seventeen interceptions last season. Where is my bourbon...
With the offense much improved, what would have ND's record looked like? I feel comfortable saying swapping in Griffin III wouldn't have cost them any wins, and likely would have bumped up the margins of victory in a few of the games (Pitt, Boston College, Wake). I am also very comfortable saying that the reduction in turnovers means that the razor-thin losses to South Florida and Michigan become victories, so really it's just debating what would have happened if a blue and gold RGIII was quarterbacking against USC and Stanford.
I'm obviously a homer here, but when you consider how close the USC game was to being tied before the fumble sadness, I like Notre Dame's chances there at home. And the Stanford game was actually pretty competitive despite the quarterback carousel, with the Irish defense holding Andrew Luck to his worst QB rating of the season. When you factor in that the Cardinal's two losses last season came to teams running a highly-efficient and deadly spread (Oregon and Oklahoma State), it's not unreasonable to imagine that the Irish win the regular season finale, even with the game being played on a few blades of wet grass lightly attached to patches of mud.
This exercise - which I thought would be fun but really turned kind of depressing - really just goes to further illuminate and reaffirm how important quarterback play is at the college level. With three-quarters of RGIII last year, Notre Dame definitely goes 10-2 and likely gets to at least 11-1. With the inconsistent play they got from the position, they were a few plays from 6-6. So there is an easy fix for Brian Kelly and the Fighting Irish: Just find your own RGIII, or someone who can operate at about 80% Heisman. The defense is there and the supporting talent on offense is willing and ready, so just limit turnovers and find a playmaker and we can all enjoy the spread as it is meant to be performed.
So if you could magically transport a Heisman winner to a certain Notre Dame team, who would you choose?
This post was sponsored by EA Sports NCAA Football 13. Check out the video for the game below.
EA SPORTS NCAA Football 13: "Tiger" (via EASPORTS)