What If Cam Newton Played For Akron?

NEW YORK - DECEMBER 11: Cam Newton quarterback of the Auburn University Tigers speaks after being awarded the 2010 Heisman Memorial Trophy Award on December 11 2010 in New York City.

Here in the MAC we don't get a whole slew of Heisman chasers. We can dream and we can make goofy posters supporting such a campaign, but the trophy never comes 'round here. In the history of the conference there have been nine top 10 Heisman finishers — eight if you don't include LeShon Johnson (and we shouldn't). So it's only a pipe dream to imagine a Heisman winner would do had he played for a MAC team. This is why we have simulators. To shatter dreams and turn them into more workable, practical case studies.

You know that MAC Dream League I've been simulating? That same simulation tool also has the ability to construct your own team and swap out players from any other team in the last 15 years. Since I'm being asked to pontificate about what it'd be like for a Heisman winner to be on "my team" — and in this case my team is the MAC — I'll use WhatIfSports to put Cam Newton on one of the more memorable whipping boys, the 2010 Akron Zips who went 1-11. They're not the worst team ever but they did struggler more than most on offense, especially at the quarterback position.

I could've also used Buffalo or EMU for this experiment, but I picked Akron, OK? It also works because Rob Ianello was heralded as such a good recruiter, that maybe there was a 0.01% chance he could've lured Newton into Northeast Ohio.

So then. Here are Newton's raw Heisman stats from that magical 2010 season:

185-for-280, 2854 yards, 203.8 yards/game, 66.0 completion percentage, 30 TD, 7 INT; 182.0 QB rating
264 rushes, 1473 yards, 20 TD

Meanwhile, the illustrious 2010 Akron football season:

G Date School Opponent Conf Pts Opp
1 Sep 4, 2010 Akron Syracuse Big East L 3 29
2 Sep 11, 2010 Akron Gardner-Webb Non-Major L 37 38
3 Sep 18, 2010 Akron @ Kentucky SEC L 10 47
4 Sep 25, 2010 Akron @ Indiana Big Ten L 20 35
5 Oct 2, 2010 Akron Northern Illinois MAC L 14 50
6 Oct 9, 2010 Akron @ Kent State MAC L 17 28
7 Oct 16, 2010 Akron @ Ohio MAC L 10 38
8 Oct 23, 2010 Akron Western Michigan MAC L 10 56
9 Oct 30, 2010 Akron @ Temple MAC L 0 30
10 Nov 6, 2010 Akron @ Ball State MAC L 30 37
11 Nov 17, 2010 Akron Miami (OH) MAC L 14 19
12 Nov 26, 2010 Akron Buffalo MAC W 22 14
Provided by Sports-Reference.com/CFB: View Original Table
Generated 7/6/2012.

I think we can safely assume that even without Newton, if Akron had that Gardner-Webb game back it would be a win. We can't simulate games in the FCS with this tool, so we'll generously give that win to them. That already doubles the wins! We'll do the rest now, and for completion sake I will use the same temperature/conditions mentioned in each box score.

Another liberty I took was that, for custom teams, it doesn't load EVERYBODY from the existing team; just the major players. So we took some other Akron players from surrounding years to fill out the depth chart. It shouldn't affect the results THAT much.

Here are the results and Newton's stats per game:

vs. Syracuse: Lost 14-24
Newton: 17-for-20, 183 yards, TD; 29 carries, 74 yards, TD

@ Kentucky: Lost 17-34
Newton: 12-for-12, 146 yards, TD; 23 carries, 80 yards

@ Indiana: Lost 20-31
Newton: 16-for-25, 206 yards; 34 carries, 72 yards

vs. Northern Illinois: Lost 16-24
Newton: 9-for-17, 72 yards, INT; 23 carries, 83 yards

@ Kent State: Lost 10-42
Newton: 13-for-21, 231 yards, TD, INT; 27 carries, 101 yards

Even worse than the 28-17 actual loss. Huh.

@ OHIO: Lost 7-31
Newton: 8-for-13, 148 yards, INT; 26 carries, 93 yards, TD

vs. Western Michigan: Won 26-17
Newton: 8-for-11, 127 yards; 22 carries, 74 yards

Well that's a stark contrast from losing 56-10. Oh what a difference a move-the-chains quarterback does.

@ Temple: Lost 14-31
Newton: 12-for-20, 206 yards, TD; 30 carries, 94 yards, TD

@ Ball State: Won 37-20
Newton: 15-for-20, 201 yards, 2 TD, INT; 26 carries, 93 yards, 2 TD

No double-overtime for you!

vs. Miami: Won 27-24
Newton: 10-for-14, 92 yards, TD; 25 carries, 95 yards, TD

They almost won this game the first time around.

vs. Buffalo: Lost 15-25
Newton: 16-for-22, 174 yards, TD; 27 carries, 64 yards

Oh, so when simulated again you lose the one game you won. OK then.

Cam Newton's Akron numbers, albeit with three fewer games:
136-for-195, 1786 yards, 69.7 completion percentage, 8 TD, 4 INT; 292 carries, 923 yards, 6 TD, 156.1 passer rating

So with Newton instead of Nicely, Akron went from a 1-11 (1-7) team to, presumably, a 4-8 (3-5) team. So they wouldn't have gone bowling, but they would have beaten Miami, which would have put them at 6-2 in a tie for first with OHIO, and then OHIO would've won the head-to-head tiebreaker in the East, sending them to the MACCG instead. Then this perhaps would've kept Mike Haywood at Miami, who then doesn't get into a fight with his baby mama and then ... oh, man, think of all the good things Newton could've done had he gone to Akron!

It doesn't make a terrible team good, but a two- or three-win improvement is rather sizable. I bet if I did this for other teams in the MAC that, say, sat around .500, I'd see a consistent improvement. They'd become bowl teams, bowl teams would become ranked teams, and so on. But one player cannot win you a championship; it's a team effort. A Heisman winner is not made out of nothing; it is nurtured out of a strong team. It's the byproduct of a sound football program.

This post was sponsored by EA Sports NCAA Football 13. Check out the video for the game below.

EA SPORTS NCAA Football 13: "Tiger" (via EASPORTS)

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