I thought I’d add my little morsel of opinion to the avalanche of hype and hysteria that is surrounding Saturday’s LSU-Alabama showdown.
So much is at stake in this game, including the outcome of the race for the 2011 Heisman Trophy.
At the moment, Alabama running back Trent Richardson is Andrew Luck’s main challenger.
Luck remains the overwhelming favorite for the trophy, but Richardson has an opportunity to wrench the race in his favor with a huge game against No. 1 LSU.
I believe that for Richardson to overtake Luck, he must have the game of his life. I’m talking: 150-plus rushing yards, multiple touchdowns and big plays at key moments in the game. That’s the kind of performance that would get people talking.
In short, Richardson has to be seen as the primary reason for Alabama beating LSU.
Can Richardson have the kind of game Mark Ingram had against Florida in 2009 and still overtake Luck? By which I mean a standard 100-yard game without much flash to show for it?
I don’t think so.
I think that a good game by Richardson draws him close to Luck, a great game puts him even, and a stupendous game overtakes him.
Of course how he comes out of it will be in the eye of the beholder. The hype surrounding the game will certainly play a factor in determining how well he did. It could be that this game has so much importance attached to it that any positive impact by one of its participants gets magnified many times over.
This is really Richardson’s best chance to connect with voters. Up to this point, he’s been seen as this brutish, no-nonsense running back sparking the Alabama run game. The best player on the best team, etc. Voters have yet to see him dominate against a major opponent this season.
The default choice for the Heisman is Luck. Voters feel safe with him and they know they can’t go wrong choosing him. They know that they are voting for a guy who is a future NFL star at quarterback (or so they have been told). If they are going to pick someone else besides Luck, that guy has to prove himself to be clearly the most outstanding player in college football.
Richardson’s path to prove that begins Saturday. Dominate against LSU and he’ll be the front runner.
If Bama loses, or if Richardson is ineffective, then Luck will basically clinch the Heisman.
Recapping the scenarios:
1. Huge game by Richardson (150 yards-plus, multiple TDs) and Alabama wins = overtakes Luck in the Heisman race.
2. Good game by Richardson (100-plus yards, but not overly spectacular) and Alabama wins = draws even with or comes within striking distance of Luck in Heisman race.
3. Poor game by Richardson in any circumstance = Luck clinches Heisman.
4. Plays well in Alabama loss = remains alive in race, but a long, long shot to win.
What do I think is going to happen?
I think Richardson will have a very good (but not amazing) game and that Alabama will win.
And, as a result, the Heisman race will become that much more interesting as November unfolds.