Heisman out of reach, but Bernard will get other recognition
Posted November 11, 2012
Updated November 12, 2012
Giovani Bernard for Heisman? It won't happen, but it does merit at least some consideration before the politics of Heisman voting kill the idea.
North Carolina handed out posters on Saturday touting Bernard's various award candidacies, including a bullet point for the most prestigious award in college football. Officials in Chapel Hill aren't naive about Bernard's chances in the Heisman race, but they aren't going to shy away from publicizing his achievements this season.
And rightfully so. The North Carolina tailback is putting together a heckuva season in Chapel Hill. Marinate on these averages: 208.75 all-purpose yards per game ranks third nationally, 126 yards rushing per game ranks eighth nationally, 7.1 yards per carry and 12.75 points per game.
Bernard went over 1,000 yards rushing for the second straight season (a first since Natrone Means) as the Tar Heels came up short in a shootout with Georgia Tech. He leads the ACC in rushing despite missing one half of football and two full games with an ankle injury. Bernard's two touchdowns against the Yellow Jackets pushed his season total to 17, which leads the ACC and ranks second nationally.
All of this is good enough to make Bernard a semifinalist for the Doak Walker Award, which recognizes the nation's top running back. Bernard is an obvious front-runner for ACC Player of the Year. But the Heisman? It's out of reach for predictable reasons. Only quarterbacks and running backs on traditional powers in the middle of national title contention will get a legitimate shot at the award.
While Bernard has put up numbers worthy of consideration, the Tar Heels have been a mainstream afterthought thanks in large part to NCAA sanctions and a pedestrian record. Heisman candidates like Oregon's Kenjon Barner thrive on nationally televised high stakes contests. The best Bernard can do is show up on an ESPN "Top Ten" highlight package since North Carolina seems to have the permanent early slot on the ACC Network regional game.
Regardless, the lack of Heisman shine shouldn't discourage appreciation for what Bernard is doing for North Carolina. He's simply fun to watch on the football field and fans likely have one more opportunity to see him run inside Kenan Stadium before he heads off to the NFL.