Sports

College Football Analysis: Houston's Case Keenum Gets No Respect

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If you looked up the date October 27, 2011 you will find four memorable events that occurred on that day in sports; the Cardinals defeating the Rangers 10-9 in extra innings to force a game seven of the World Series, the Winnipeg Jets and Philadelphia Flyers combining for a total of 17 goals, and Scott Boras announcing his client, Robinson Cano, was demanding a new contract. All three events are worthy of a SportsCenter lead-in, but it was the fourth event that day that grabbed ESPN’s attention: Case Keenum threw for 534 yards and nine touchdowns against Rice.

At the end of the NCAA regular season, Case Keenum leads the nation in yards (4726), touchdowns (43), and yards per game (393.8). His 73.2% is .1% from leading the FBS in completion percentage too. In 467 attempts he has thrown just three interceptions.

Case Keenum now holds several NCAA career passer records; 18,312 passing yards, 150 touchdowns, 1427 completions, and 37 games with over 300 yards passing. With the Conference USA championship game and a bowl game left to go, those records will increase.

Because of Keenum, the Houston Cougars lead the nation in offense; averaging 52.7 ppg, 632 points total, 86 total TDs, 49 passing TDs, 449.7 passing ypg, and 5396 total yards.

Keenum made the most of his opportunities and as we all know eventually won the job.  But what most people don’t realize, his job came in jeopardy again in 2008. Former Houston Cougar head coach, Art Briles loved this dual threat quarterback prospect named Robert Griffin III.  Griffin was ready to come to Houston until Briles took the job with Baylor in 2008. Griffin then followed Briles to Baylor and started as a freshman 11 out of 12 games in the Big 12. Briles thinks a lot of Griffin and he may have changed Keenum’s career if the both of them had stayed at Houston.

The question surrounding Keenum is the level of play that he faces week in and week out. A lot of talk surrounding him has been that he’s a system quarterback and the numbers come from running that system.  Case missed most of the 2010 season with an ACL injury and when he went down against UCLA the Cougars were 2-0. Houston went on to lose that game and going 3-6 for the remainder of the year without him. After the NCAA granted Keenum a 6th year of eligibility he’s taken back over that 5-7 team and has them 11-0 and inside the Top 10.” – NFL Scout, Jayson Braddock

Yes, there are critics that will tell you Keenum flourishes in a system that allows him to put up “video game stats”.  He doesn’t play against the same level of competition as Andrew Luck, Brandon Weeden, or Robert Griffin III. Those statements cannot be ignored. But his career “video game stats” cannot be ignored either. For most of the season, the sixth-year senior was overshadowed by not only the aforementioned QBs, but also by Boise State’s Kellen Moore and Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson.

But something has changed in college football media. Suddenly, Keenum is not only being appreciated for being one of the most prolific passers in college football history, he is being recognized. Days after his performance against Rice, Keenum was named a semi-finalist for the Maxwell Award, given to the Collegiate Player of the Year. Earlier this week he was named a finalist for the Davey O’Brien awarded to the best quarterback in college football. In the next week he should be receiving an invite to the Heisman Trophy presentation in New York City.

He has the numbers and he has the records, but he won’t have a BCS Title and he won’t have the Heisman. He won’t even be a top pick in the draft, even though he has blown Andrew Luck’s stats out of the water.

“Keenum uses quick decisions, a fast pace, and precision passing to lead the Cougars up and down the field with ease. The Houston defense is putrid and hasn’t stopped anyone for the full six years Keenum has been there. That reason is why Keenum has to lead this offense to the #1 passing attack and scoring offense. It’s no secret that Conference USA isn’t the top tier of college talent but he’s still been highly effective against the likes of UCLA, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma State. Keenum led the Coogs past the Dez Bryant led Oklahoma State Cowboys a few years ago while they were ranked 5th in the country.

I believe that if you place Keenum behind center in any of the major conferences that he’ll still be effective. His pin point passing would succeed in any conference. Obviously his numbers wouldn’t be this outstanding but he would still be one of the nation’s top passers. If the Cougars win their next game, we should all see how good he can be against one of the best teams in the country.

Case is mobile and creates on the run when the pocket breaks down. The concerns from scouts surround how he’ll perform when he doesn’t have an offense that’s undoubtedly faster than the opposing defenders and the talent level jumps from Conference USA defenses to the NFL. He also stands under that 6’3 / 6’4 prototypical height that you would like to see out of quarterback prospects. The biggest concern is switching to a pro-style offense that requires him to hold on the ball longer and consistently go through the full route tree. They’ll want to see how strong that arm is and if he’s capable of routinely getting the ball to the 15 yard out before NFL caliber cornerbacks can jump the route.” – Jayson Braddock

There is a definite difference between Keenum and Luck or Matt Barkley; he doesn’t play in a pro-style offense. He won’t be a starting QB in the NFL right out of the gate. He excels in a system that allows him to be successful at this level. Critics said the same about Tim Tebow two years ago (except Tebow wasn’t in a pure passing offense, and he is 5-1 as the Denver Broncos starting signal caller this season

He’ll never have the opportunity to have a BCS conference line or receivers. He’ll never be able to play for a National Championship. He may never have the chance to start in the NFL.

But is the argument for “best QB” based on what could have been or what will happen, or is it based on what he has already done?

If it is the latter, then hand him the Heisman, the O’Brien, and name him a Maxwell finalist.

As far as the BCS National Championship, the two best teams, LSU and Alabama should end up in New Orleans in a re-match of their November 5th contest. Both SEC powerhouses have defense built like NFL teams with powerful defensive linemen, linebackers that are tackling machines and secondaries that are ball hawks. Just because you are 12-0 or 13-0 doesn’t mean you deserve to be there, and sometimes it’s better to leave some things be and end your career on a high note with records that will take years to break.

Dory LeBlanc, covers Gator sports for Gators First and BourbonMeyer.com. Not just a college sports enthusiast, Dory is also a fan of NFL, NHL, NBA, and MLB. Born outside Philly, she moved to Tampa, and now resides in Illinois, giving her a broad perspective on the sporting world. You can follow Dory on twitter @DoryLeBlanc
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