A crazy weekend of games had a profound impact on the Heisman race…
— The big winner from this weekend when it comes to the Heisman was Andrew Luck. Losses by Wisconsin and Oklahoma dealt severe blows to his two major quarterback challengers, Russell Wilson and Landry Jones. Had OU and/or Wisconsin gone undefeated, it would’ve provided a powerful incentive for some voters to pick those players over Luck. Now, their road back to the top is much tougher.
— Some are going to be tempted to conclude that Trent Richardson’s 77 yards rushing against Tennessee is somehow harmful to his Heisman hopes. It was not. What matters to his Heisman hopes right now is how he performs two Saturdays from now against LSU. The past is merely prologue to that clash of the titans.
— What about players like Kellen Moore and Case Keenum, who both hit NCAA marks this past weekend? Do they have a chance to win right now? Sorry, but they really don’t. It’s the unfortunate reality of the Heisman that players from non-BCS schools tend to get overlooked. However, Moore and Keenum are well-known, well-respected players who will probably get a considerable amount of Heisman support (one or both could even make it to New York) but just not enough to actually win.
— Every year we see late-breaking runs at the Heisman. They are rarely successful, but they often result in invitations to New York and a nice set up for the next season. Who can make it to New York (but not win) with a strong second half? Outside of the candidates we’ve been talking about (and who can still win), here’s my list of players with the best shot at a late run to the Big Apple:
Kellen Moore, Boise State
Tajh Boyd, Clemson
Tyrann Mathieu, LSU
Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State
LaMichael James, Oregon
Case Keenum, Houston
If I had to guess right now who’s going to New York, I’d say: Luck and Richardson are the only sure things. That’s how fluid the race is at this point.
— What about a Heisman race reset? Is that possible?
For those who haven’t been reading this blog over the years, the ‘reset’ is a scenario in which all the candidates from all the teams hit a road bump, assumptions about the field are adjusted and the race is ‘reset’ to a new state.
This scenario occurred several times in 2007. Teams just kept losing, players kept having disastrous outings, and in the end, a true sophomore on a team with 3 losses (at the time of the vote) was able to win. Mind you, that year was a year where the national champ had 2 losses, so having a Heisman winner on a 3-loss team wasn’t as drastic by comparison.
We are partially to a ‘reset’ as we speak. Landry Jones and Russell Wilson’s teams have suffered losses. So, too, has Robert Griffin III’s. Oregon’s candidates have fallen by the wayside. The only unsullied candidates with a real chance to win are Luck and Richardson. What if both these players have an off game and Stanford and Alabama both lose? That could open the way for a chaotic last month and the emergence of a dark horse.
However, I still think that Luck would easily survive one loss on his resume, assuming no other player tops him in that area, as well as statistically. Stanford would probably need to fall at least twice for Luck to lose this one, that’s how strong he has positioned himself at this point.
— The current race almost always produces a front runner for the following year. We know Luck is gone, win or lose. I think it’s a safe bet that Richardson, LaMichael James, Jones and several other potential candidates will head to the NFL.
Assuming they return for another year, I see the following players as the front runners for 2012:
Robert Griffin III
— Lastly, he’s not going to win the Heisman, but how about some accolades for perhaps the most underrated player in college football, Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein? It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a player improve as much as he has from last year to this one and the result has been a 7-0 start for the Wildcats. He’s always been a pretty good runner, but this year he has been masterful directing the KSU offense and he’s already got 670 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground to show for it. In the passing game, it’s like night and day compared to last season (when he had just 138 yards passing), as he’s thrown for 934 yards with 8 TD passes and just 3 picks. If K-State can survive the next three weeks, he may have as good a Heisman case as anyone…