NFL Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk is one. NCAA all-time rushing leader Donnel Pumphrey is another. Is Rashaad Penny the next elite Aztec to be snubbed by the Heisman Committee?
Over the past ten years, San Diego State has evolved into an elite NCAA College Football Group-of-Five program. Presently, Coach Rocky Long and company are looking to complete their third straight season with ten-plus wins in a conference loaded with smash-mouth football programs.
The Mountain West Conference, in addition to SDSU, is the home of Boise State, Fresno State, Wyoming and Air Force. During the past few decades these teams and others have been formidable, and capable of defeating their Power Five opponents. You can find less worthy teams in Power Five conferences- teams like Vanderbilt, Boston College and Kansas.
Out-of-conference pairings do afford Group-of-Five teams opportunities to shine, and recently, the Aztecs have fared well. During 2016 and 2017, San Diego State has gone 3-0 against Pac-12 conference contenders California, Arizona State and Stanford. Their dominance has prompted writers to jokingly rank San Diego State being in fourth place in the Pac-12. The Aztecs have won back-to-back Mountain West Championships and decisively won bowl games against Cincinnati and Houston. In a word, they’ve been formidable.
Last season, in the shadow of all-time rushing leader Donnel Pumphrey, running back Rashaad Penny did something unprecedented. He still managed to rush for over 1000 yards, while Pumphrey managed to exceed 2000. This has never happened before in NCAA football. This season, with Pumphrey moving on to the Philadelphia Eagles, Rashaad Penny is no longer in anybody’s shadow, and he is capitalizing on the situation- big time.
Penny is currently the NCAA leader in rushing yards, passing Stanford’s Bryce Love this week. The two have actually gone back and forth this season on several occasions, but with Love now facing ankle problems Penny may stay ahead for the remainder of the season. What’s more, San Diego State fared big wins in preseason against Stanford and Arizona State this year. Penny has proven highly formidable against Top-25 teams.
So why, then, are we expecting to witness another elite player in an Aztecs uniform whose accomplishments are undeniably amazing- to be snubbed yet again by the Heisman committee? Is it that the Aztecs play later than most sportscasters are awake? Is it that many of the committee members are Power Five alumni? Are the Aztecs not considered one of the very best Group-of-Five teams? It would be nice to have an explanation.
This is not a rhetorical question. The San Diego State University student body, along with the Mountain West Conference fan base would like to know why it has become postulation that elite Group of Five players will not receive full consideration for the Heisman. And while we’re at it, we’d like to know why our NCAA all time leading rusher, Donnel Pumphrey, was passed up for Doak Walker award last year.
Has the Heisman committee placed a glass ceiling in between the best of the Group of Five and middling and mediocre Power Five programs? And if so, let’s open the dialogue and ask why. It is an important question because elite players who don’t always garner the attention of Power Five recruiters still excel in the Group of Five ranks, and they prove themselves time and time again when opportunity strikes during Power Five pairings.
When the best athlete is passed up, it is important to question the process. Rashaad Penny is tracking to be the best in his respective position, and he does not deserve to be snubbed by Heisman, Doak Walker or any other NCAA football committees. Aztec great Donnel Pumphrey did not deserve such lack of consideration, nor did NFL Hall-of-Famer Marshall Faulk.