What are the Davey O'Brien Award Voters Thinking? Their Omission of Christian Ponder is Inexcusable

If you follow college football for a living, you know who Christian Ponder is.  If you're an NFL scout, you definitely know who Ponder is.  And if you can use a computer to look at the national leader-board for quarterback performance, you know about Florida State's Junior signal-caller.  But it appears that the voters for the Davey O'Brien award are computer-less and without TV's as well.  Yesterday, the Davey O'Brien award committee released its list of 15 semi-finalists for the award.  That list, from which they will select the winner of the award given to the best quarterback in the country, left off 2009's best quarterback, Christian Ponder.  

Maybe you didn't realize just how good Ponder really is.  That's alright, not everyone in the media gets it yet.  A few do, and I'll recognize them at the end of this article.  For now, let's check out the performance of the finalists and Ponder.  To make sure everyone is evaluated on a reasonably similar slate, I am going to look only at games against BCS conference opponents.  That means a team like Penn State with a cupcake laden schedule isn't getting a big boost here.  There's no bonus here for crushing a Sun Belt conference team or a 1-AA ("FCS") opponent.  The three quarterbacks from non-BCS conferences are not included, because they don't play a large enough sample set.  And I am using per game performance to make sure that someone who has played more games than another isn't getting an unfair advantage.  How do you think Ponder will stack up? 

A good place to start is Quarterback Rating


Ponder is in Garnet.  Click the image to enlarge.  That's right, against BCS conference opponents, Ponder's QB rating is 25 points higher than Tim Tebow.  It's almost 30 points better than Colt McCoy.  That's to say nothing of Jake Locker or Ricky Stanzi.  Davey O'Brien committee, do you care how a QB plays on the field? 

How about Yards Per Pass?  Not yards per completion, but yards per pass:


Ponder produces about 10% more per attempt than Tebow, Pike, Reesing, and Clark.  30% more yards per throw than Locker and Stanzi.  And 40% more yards per pass than Colt McCoy!  Think about that.  Against major conference opponents, Ponder produces 40% more yards per throw than McCoy. 

But there's more.  A lot more. 


And he's deadly accurate.  Davey O'Brien committee, do you think Completion Percentage matters? 


Click to enlarge.  The guy they left off is 2nd on the list in completion percentage!  Amazingly, they included two quarterbacks who couldn't even hit 55% of their passes, and two more who couldn't hit 60%.  Only 3 are completing their passes at more than a 65% clip- and they left one of those off the list.


Speaking of accuracy, what about Interception Avoidance? Because each candidate has thrown a different number of passes, the best way to measure this is to show the percentage of their passes that they threw for interceptions.


Click to enlarge.  Then get your magnifying glass out.  Ponder has thrown 1 interception in 196 pass attempts against BCS conference competition.  Miami's Jacory Harris, who is on the list, has thrown 8 in 139 pass attempts.  That's a pick every 17 throws!  What about Tebow and McCoy?  Tebow tosses an interception every 23 throws, and McCoy once every 29.  Again, Ponder throws one every 196 passes.  Yet he isn't in the discussion as the best quarterback in the country?


What about TD/ INT Ratio?  People seem to love this measure. 

Player TD/ INT
Christian Ponder 10/1
Zac Robinson 8/1
Jimmy Claussen 12/2
Tony Pike 7/2
Bill Stull 10/3
Darryl Clark 9/4
Todd Reesing 9/5
Ricky Stanzi 8/6
Jacory Harris 10/8
Colt McCoy 6/5
Matt Barkley 6/5
Jake Locker 9/8
Tim Tebow 3/4

Oh, look at that.  Ponder is again the best.  Yet the O'Brien selection committee, comprised largely of lazy sportswriters who don't watch much football or pay attention, instead voting based on some pre-season list and throwing in a few QB's on teams with a good record, passed up the top quarterback in the country. 

There's more.  I don't like yards per game because it penalizes QB's who don't throw as often as others, but mouth-breathing voters go wild for easy to understand measures like this:

Click to enlarge.  Oh, look at that.  Ponder is 2nd in the country. He's more than doubling Tebow, and only one of the BCS conference quarterbacks selected by the committee broke the 300 yard per game marker.  Ponder beats most of the list by 100 yards per game.  And it's not like he throws the ball a lot more often than the others.  He doesn't (see master chart below).

At this point, a few might say "what about rushing?"  Even though this is a quarterbacking award, I think that's a relevant question.  A quarterback's legs are an important part of some college football offenses.  Let's take a look:

Player Rush Attempts Yards/ Rush
Tim Tebow 106 3.7
Darryl Clark 33 3.7
Jake Locker 69 2.7
Zac Robinson 29 2.5
Todd Reesing 28 1.4
Christian Ponder 45 1.2
Colt McCoy 39 1.2
Bill Stull 2 1.1
Tony Pike 13 0.5
Matt Barkley 21 0
Ricky Stanzi 30 -1.4
Jimmy Claussen 36 -1.4
Jacory Harris 15 -5.3

Tebow is the best runner, no doubt, but is 3.7 yards per carry really anything special?  It's not as if he is lapping the field.  Not that I would expect the committee to factor this in, but Ponder battled an MCL strain for 2 games- the only games in which his running was down. 

So now we've looked at both passing and rushing.  When you combine them, you get total yards per game:


Click to enlarge.  Ponder blows everyone away except Reesing.  Ponder has put up 20% more total yards than every other candidate from a major conference (including Claussen, Pike, Locker, and Barkley).  40% more total yards per game than McCoy, Tebow, Stull, and Stanzi (who really should not be considered for any performance based award).  Also, Ponder accounts for a grater proportion of his team's yards than any other quarterback on the list.

If you want to have a look at the data in non-graph form, here you go:

Player TD/ INT Attempts Yards/ Attempt Completion % Passing Yards/ Game Attempts/ TD Attempts/ INT QB Rating Runs Yards/ Rush Rush/ Game Rush Yards/ Game Total Yards/ Game
Christian Ponder 10/1 39 8.5 70% 331 5.1% 0.5% 157 45 1.2 9 11 342
Zac Robinson 8/1 27 8.2 64% 223 7.3% 0.9% 155 29 2.5 7 18 241
Jimmy Claussen 12/2 35 8.2 64% 289 5.7% 0.9% 149 36 -1.4 6 -8 281
Tony Pike 7/2 36 7.7 65% 278 6.5% 1.9% 147 13 0.5 4 2 280
Bill Stull 10/3 25 8.8 68% 223 7.9% 2.4% 162 2 1.1 2 2 225
Darryl Clark 9/4 29 7.7 59% 226 6.1% 2.7% 138 33 3.7 7 24 250
Todd Reesing 9/5 46 7.7 64% 351 4.9% 2.7% 139 28 1.4 7 10 361
Ricky Stanzi 8/6 30 6.5 54% 196 4.4% 3.3% 117 30 -1.4 5 -7 189
Jacory Harris 10/8 28 9.1 62% 253 7.2% 5.8% 150 15 -5.3 3 -16 237
Colt McCoy 6/5 36 6.1 72% 217 4.2% 3.5% 130 39 1.2 10 12 229
Matt Barkley 6/5 28 9.2 58% 261 4.2% 3.5% 142 21 0 4 0 261
Jake Locker 9/8 36 6.7 55% 245 3.5% 3.2% 117 69 2.7 10 27 272
Tim Tebow 3/4 19 7.9 63% 147 3.2% 4.3% 132 106 3.7 21 79 226


Is this reward really given to the finest quarterback in the country?  Really?

While the Davey O'Brien Award Selection Committee seems to be asleep at the wheel, others have not.  Pro scouts are starting to take notice.  They have been flocking to Tallahassee over the past few weeks to see the Junior signal caller who offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher calls the best in the country. 

All the quarterback talk this season has been about juniors Jake Locker, Jimmy Clausen, Sam Bradford and Jevan Snead. But in a 30-27 win over North Carolina Thursday night, Florida State's Christian Ponder made an argument to join the discussion as the top NFL quarterback prospect.

Entering the game, the Tar Heels were first in nation in pass defense. How did Ponder respond? By completing 33 of 40 passes for 395 yards and three touchdowns.

It's been an incredible year for Ponder. In seven games, he has 2,176 yards passing, 12 touchdowns and only one interception. On the season, he's completing a sparkling 70 percent of his passes.

As a prospect, Ponder's arm might not be as strong as Locker's or Snead's, but it's just as good as Clausen's and Bradford's.

He also has plenty of athleticism for a quarterback. It's great that Locker can run a 4.4 40-yard dash, but how relevant is that to the position?

During the game's broadcast, ESPN's Jesse Palmer said Ponder runs the fastest shuttle on Florida State. For the position, that means he can elude pressure well, which he did nicely of in the second half.

Ponder's football intelligence is clearly optimal. He's been given the freedom to check down at the line of scrimmage and change plays.  Unlike most of today's college quarterbacks, he doesn't lock onto one receiver. Sure, he's guilty of that on occasion, but it's a correctable problem.  MockingTheDraft.com

And national writers as well:

Amidst an otherwise miserable season for Florida State, quarterback Christian Ponderhas been sensational. The junior, who was 33-of-40 for 395 yards and three TDs in Thursday night's comeback win at North Carolina, has completed 70 percent of his passes for 2,176 yards, 12 TDs and just one pick. Amazingly, it took the 'Noles nine years to find a decent quarterback -- and now that they have, they're 3-4. _Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel

With virtually no threat of a running game against the best defense FSU will face before the finale in Gainesville, Ponder hit his last 16 passes, three for touchdowns, and finally pulled off the game-winning heroics in the final minute that eluded him on last-ditch drives against Miami and Boston College. I felt for Ponder when Jarmon Fortson couldn't hold on to his game-winning throw into the end zone to beat the 'Canes on Labor Day, and again last week, when he led six touchdown drives and finished with a ridiculous 201.8 pass efficiency rating against Georgia Tech, only to stand by while the defense allowed seven touchdowns and couldn't get the Jackets off the field in the last four minutes to give Ponder another chance in a 49-44 loss. It was big for him to finish the comeback in Chapel Hill. In fact, it struck me as something of a one-man show, which -- when you consider that Ponder continues to lead the ACC in passing yards and completion percentage and owns the nation's best touchdown:interception ratio (12:1) after his sixth straight game without a pick, despite the total absence of a consistent running threat and a parade of must-throw situations opposite the conference's worst defense -- basically describes Florida State's offensive philosophy for the season: (insert Chart showing Ponder accounts for a greater percentage of his team's total offense than any other O'Brien candidate.  Dr. Saturday (Matt Hinton, Yahoo Sports)

And from ESPN's Bruce Feldman, Via his Twitter account:

BFeldmanESPN Thinking about this week's Heisman top 5 and am torn between Golden Tate, Suh and Ponder.


Additionally,  How can the Selection Committee justify the exclusion of Mr. Ponder?  Their website states that the award honors the nation's best college quarterback and includes, among other factors, academics. Given the facts above and that Mr. Ponder received his undergraduate degree in Finance in 2 1/2 years, graduating summa cum laude (and is about to complete his Master's degree), I encourage the members of your Selection Committee to do some soul searching.  (Thanks to reader Rob for that).

What can you do?  Perhaps there is still hope.  E-mail this article to Info@DaveyOBrien.org  Also, consider sending it to the members of the selection committee (google them for their e-mail addresses).  Perhaps the O'Brien committee will do the right thing and amend their list.  If this award is really given to the best quarterback in the country, Christian Ponder must be on the list.

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