FRESNO -- Hawaii might be heaven with its high waterfalls and crashing waves, but it's also a Heisman hell.
Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan has found that out this season. Brennan, whose team will host Fresno State on Saturday, has the Heisman Trophy-worthy statistics, but he's a long-shot candidate.
"Short of the people in front of him really tanking," said St. Louis Post-Dispatch beat writer Graham Watson, a Heisman voter, "... it's really hard to envision him in the top three."
Brennan, leader of 8-0 Hawaii, knows where he stands: in the top 10, but not among the top five for the award given to the nation's best collegiate football player.
"I've just got to keep winning," Brennan said. "If I lose one game everything's over with. ... We only win when I put up good numbers. So if we are 12-0, I'd assume my numbers would be really good by the end of the year and I'd assume by then that I may have something to say to argue myself to New York."
Kirk Bohls, a columnist for the Austin American-Statesman and Heisman voter for more than 25 years, said Brennan's chances are slim.
Several factors explain why voters lack confidence in him: limited television exposure as he plays home games too late at night for Eastern and Central time zone voters, lackluster performances, and a pass-happy offense. What could hurt him the most, though, is the Warriors' schedule.
Hawaii's schedule is considered to be one of the weakest in the nation. The Warriors play in the Western Athletic Conference, which features teams such as Idaho (1-9) and Utah State (0-9). Their nonconference schedule included two Division I-AA teams, Northern Colorado and Charleston Southern, along with UNLV (2-7) and Washington (3-6). Hawaii coach June Jones said Michigan State (5-5) was signed to play Hawaii this season, but paid Hawaii $300,000 to get out of contest.
"What's hurt him and the team (in the polls) the most is the schedule," said SI.com senior writer Stewart Mandel, also a Heisman voter. "There's a tremendous backlash against that team. Whereas people rooted for Boise State
to get to a BCS game last season, there's a universal resentment (against Hawaii) because of their ridiculously weak schedule ... that feeling rubs off on
Colt Brennan as well."
Mandel said he takes into consideration the Warriors attempts to play better competition than the two Division I-AA opponents, but said Brennan and the team have to be judged on who they play, not who they tried to play.
Even Brennan recognizes the disadvantage the schedule places on him compared to other Heisman candidates such as Oregon's Dennis Dixon (considered the Heisman leader at this point) and Florida's Tim Tebow.
"What they do, they do against some of the best football teams in America," Brennan said. "Unfortunately, I don't have that opportunity."
Some voters count the Warriors' run-and-shoot offense against him. In seven games played, Brennan has completed more passes than Tebow has attempted and nearly as many as Dixon has attempted.
So far this season Brennan is 225 of 328 for 2,820 yards and 26 touchdowns. Twenty-four quarterbacks have attempted more passes than Brennan, but only three have more touchdown passes. Eight quarterbacks have more passing yards.
But Brennan can go out shooting these last four games and still make an impact. It's his toughest stretch of football as Hawaii plays Fresno State, at Nevada, Boise State and Washington.