When Andrew Luck got off to a sluggish start against Oregon State, it looked like a crease was opening up in the Heisman race for Trent Richardson to squeeze on through.
After Alabama’s first series, I thought the Alabama running back was on his way to doing just that.
But, as it turned out, Luck rebounded for another solid statistical performance and Richardson was bottled up by LSU as his team lost a defensive slugfest.
And what looked like a very strong field of Heisman candidates just three or four weeks ago has been whittled away to near nothingness.
So who is left who can beat out Luck for the Heisman?
The loss by Alabama is devastating to Richardson’s Heisman hopes. Not only did he gain just 89 yards on 23 carries, he also lost out on that coveted SEC title game appearance that would’ve given him another chance to put up good numbers in a high profile game. As it now stands, he is on pace to have 1,438 rushing yards and 23 TDs at the time of the Heisman vote. Those are good numbers, but it won’t be enough to win the Heisman. Even if he goes on a tear the rest of the way, I think it will only be enough to get him to New York.
What about Kellen Moore? He is having yet another special season and just threw 5 touchdown passes in a win over UNLV. But while Heisman voters appreciate Moore’s brilliance, they remain unconvinced that he’s a better quarterback than Luck. Unfortunately for Moore, he won’t get the chance to prove himself against top flight competition the rest of the way, although a big performance in a win over TCU on Saturday could make him the likely runner up in the vote.
Case Keenum? His stats are also impressive and he just became the NCAA’s all-time passing leader. But he suffers from the same malady that afflicts Moore in this race–that lack of respect by the voters for his level of competition. However, I think that as other candidates fall by the wayside, his support is coalescing to the point where he may well make it to New York. And that’s not a bad accomplishment.
So again I ask: Who can, or will, beat Luck for the Heisman at this point?
No running back is putting up the numbers needed to post a challenge. Outside of Moore and Keenum, no other quarterback is seen as having a similar combination of statistical dominance and team success.
The only thing stopping me from calling the race for Luck right now is that Stanford’s game against Oregon has yet to be played. This will be next Saturday’s game of the day and all eyes will be on Luck to see if he can lead his team over its last major hurdle toward what could be an undefeated regular season.
Plain and simple: If Luck can survive that game, the Heisman is his.
And by ‘survive’, I don’t mean that his team merely has to win. I mean that he just has to play well and not be seen as the reason his team lost. I believe voters are well prepared to give the Heisman to Luck even if Stanford does not go undefeated, especially with (as they see it) so few valid alternatives to Luck left in the race.
But if Luck plays poorly and Oregon whips Stanford as a result, I think voters will take a really hard look at those other alternatives. Luck will still be the favorite, but such a scenario will open the door for some other candidates to make a late bid.
So it’s not time to call the race just yet. But we are very, very close.