The HP Heisman Watch, Week 13

It’s time to break down where we are in the Heisman race after week 13.

At this point, you can’t analyze the Heisman race without having an understanding of the makeup of the voting regions.

When you see commentators claim that so-and-so has wrapped up the Heisman at this point, it’s mostly poppycock. They aren’t thinking about who is voting, where the voters are located and what the voters are looking for. That is all that matters when it comes to the Heisman.

Remember, there are 145 voters in each of the six regions, plus 55 former Heisman winners. First place votes get 3 points, second place gets 2 points and third place gets 1 point. It could well be that this year’s winner does not get the most first-place votes, but is carried to the trophy by virtue of being placed on the most ballots.

We are one week into the Heisman voting process. Last year, there were 17 ballots cast in the first week, 164 in week two and 705 in week three. That race was a blowout, so I expect that a close race like this year’s will result in a greater percentage of votes in the final week (in 2009, 90% of ballots were returned at the end).

This Heisman race is still very much up in the air, but there are definitely some distinct advantages for a couple of candidates.

Let’s look at the regions and how it breaks down now:

Far West: Luck remains the strong favorite in this region. If I had to guess, he’ll get upwards of 350 points here (he had 198 last year to Cam Newton’s 347). The emergence of Matt Barkley will eat into some of his first place votes, but Barkley will also serve to bump Robert Griffin III and Trent Richardson off of some ballots, which will benefit Luck by hurting their point totals.  (1) Luck (2) Barkley (3) Griffin III

SouthWest: It appears to me that this once crowded region is starting to coalesce around Griffin III, but his win here won’t be as dominant as Luck’s will be out West due to the presence of Case Keenum, Brandon Weeden, Justin Blackmon, Landry Jones, etc., who will all pick up varying levels of support. I would expect Trent Richardson to do okay here due to the presence of Arkansas (and hence, SEC) voters in this region, but that could be offset by the Colorado voters who are now more in touch with the Pac-12. The battle for third in this region could be an underrated factor in the final outcome of this race. (1) Griffin III (2) Keenum (3) Luck/Richardson

South: Just as Luck will dominate out West, Richardson will dominate the South. He should get a good 350 points here. What’s more there’s not a whole lot of other competition to drain votes away. I expect Griffin III to take second, with Luck a distant third. A few scattered votes for Tyrann Mathieu might be a factor, but it won’t hurt Richardson, only his competition. (1) Richardson (2) Griffin III (3) Luck

Mid-Atlantic: I see Richardson as being the slight favorite in this region since portions of it share a cultural affinity with the South and SEC football. Plus, Richardson performed well against Penn State, whose media are in this region. However, this was Luck’s third best region last year and that was before Stanford beat up on Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl (thus giving ACC voters a close up look at the Cardinal QB). Stanford’s game against Duke could also play a factor. I give Richardson the nod here, but not a strong one. There will also be some votes for David Wilson of Virginia Tech and Sammy Watkins of Clemson scattered around, which could help decide the point totals. (1) Richardson (2) Luck (3) Griffin III

MidWest: This is one of the two key regions to deciding the Heisman vote. Right now, its status is in flux due to the continuing emergence of Montee Ball. Can he win the region? I think he can and should if he plays well this coming week against Michigan State. So that leaves a battle down the ballot. This was Luck’s second-best region last year and, surprisingly, he was almost as strong here as he was out West. Beating Notre Dame is definitely a boon and I think it bodes well for some strong Luck support yet again. How will Richardson do? I think the rise of Ball is what, in the end, could kill Richardson’s Heisman hopes, as I think having two running backs to choose from in the race dilutes his support a bit. Will Midwest voters choose an SEC running back over a Big Ten back? I doubt it. Should be tough going for Bama’s back here. (1) Ball (2) Luck (3) Griffin III

Northeast: This is the only region without a dog in the hunt and, therefore, it is the most perplexing to predict. This region has a lot of nationally-minded journalists and TV voters (it is the home to ESPN, Sports Illustrated, CBS, etc.), while the other regions are comprised mostly of beat writers and editors with more parochial interests. There are no college football powers around to command strong loyalties or to dominate local media reports and the NFL presence is very strong. Historically, it is a region that has tended to go for the hot candidate at the end of the season. There are arguments for why Luck, Griffin III and Richardson could all win this region, and why Barkley and Ball could pick up significant support. My gut tells me that the emergence of Ball could hurt Richardson’s chances of winning here (though I could be wrong, or Ball may lay an egg next Saturday, too). This leads me to believe that Griffin III has the best chance of winning here, although how he does against Texas will obviously affect things–he is no lock. (1) Griffin III (2) Luck (3) Richardson

The Heisman Winners: There are 55 Heisman winners who have a vote and it’s actually somewhat easy to make an educated guess as to which way they will choose (I will have a more detailed post on this later this week). For instance, you know that USC’s six Heismans are going to vote for Barkley. The various SEC Heisman winners are likely to go Richardson’s way. Unaligned running back winners will prefer Richardson or Ball, while unaligned quarterbacks will probably go for Luck or Griffin III. Since this is a voting block that does not keep up with the intricacies of the race that much, so I believe that Luck holds the advantage by virtue of having the most name recognition. This group of voters may well decide the race, though it’s going to be impossible to quantify.  (1) Luck (2) Richardson (3) Griffin III

It all adds up to a very close race with three candidates all potentially topping 1,000 total points (keeping in mind that one more weekend could further shake things up).

Griffin III’s and Richardson’s support is more intense, while Luck’s is more broad. However, I believe Griffin III’s support is broader than Richardson’s. Which leads me to believe that:

Luck leads one region strongly, is second in three others (strongly in two). He also leads among Heisman winners.

Griffin III leads two regions (one comfortably, the other narrowly), is a strong second in one other.

Richardson leads two regions (one strongly, the other moderately), no other seconds.

So here’s how I think the vote would go if it were held today (with approximate vote totals)

1. Luck (1,250 points)

2. Griffin (1,100 points)

3. Richardson (1,000 points)

4. Ball (500 points)

5. Keenum (400 points)

6. Barkley (250 points)

7. Russell Wilson (100 points)

8. Brandon Weeden (100 points)

9. Tyrann Mathieu (80 points)

10. Kellen Moore (40 points)

Obviously, this race is close enough to where any of the top three could win this. If this estimation is accurate, this would mean that Luck, Griffin III, Richardson, Ball and Keenum are headed to New York.

There’s one week to go, so this isn’t gospel, but I think it’s where the race stands right now.

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Chris Huston, A.K.A. ‘The Heisman Pundit‘, is a Heisman voter and the creator and publisher of, a site dedicated to analysis of the Heisman Trophy and college football. Dubbed “the foremost authority on the Heisman” by Sports Illustrated, HP is regularly quoted or cited during football season in newspapers across the country. He is also a regular contributor on sports talk radio and television.

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26 Responses to The HP Heisman Watch, Week 13

  1. GT Class of '76 November 28, 2011 at 6:56 am #

    My top choice remains Andrew Luck. He finished second in the Heisman last year but decided to stay one more season even though he could have become an instant millionaire. He has led his team to a BCS Bowl and a 4th place finish. Notre Dame threw everything they had at him and he answered with four touchdown passes. If you take Luck away from Stanford, they do not make the top twenty.

    But If you take Trent Richardson away from Alabama, they are still in the BCS championship game based on their devastating DEFENSE. Even Alabama fans know that Nick Sabin would simply plug in another running back. In fact, after Trent Richardson’s big run against a weak Auburn defense in the 4 th quarter, Sabin put in a backup that proceeded to gallop twenty yards for a touchdown. I minimize Trent’s performance in that game because Auburn has been quitting in their losses all year. Coming into the Alabama game, Auburn was losing by an average of 28 points in their losses. And three of their seven wins were against the likes of Utah State, Florida Atlantic and Samford. Auburn should not be ranked in the top 40.

    Montee Ball, on the other hand, appears to be making a big difference in Wisconsin’s fortunes and has been facing stiffer competition recently. If he gets it done this weekend, I would give him Second Place.

    • mike quinn November 28, 2011 at 11:54 am #


    • Bama Kirk November 28, 2011 at 4:26 pm #

      In the Northeast, Penn State voters will all vote for Richardson. Out of respect for SABAN and the BEAR.
      The toughest conference…. not a basketball conference, not a part-time football conference with half-empty stadiums, but the toughest conference top to bottom in USA having won the last SEVEN BCS championships in a ROW. If you dominate in this conference and run over it like TRENT RICHARDSON has, then don’t even think about a quarterback who would be on his back in the SEC if he played for, say, Tennessee, Miss. State, Ole Miss. Luck is good, but put him in the SEC and his numbers would be half, same for Keenum and the Conference Sandlot league. We have high schools in Alabama that could beat half the teams in Conference USA, including UAB. Richardson should not suffer Yankee or West Coast bias because those areas need to take lessons from the TOUGHEST CONFERENCE in COLLEGE FOOTBALL HISTORY.

  2. CM November 28, 2011 at 7:39 am #

    Notre Dame threw “everything” they had at Andrew Luck? Funny…obviously ND doesn’t have very much to throw.

    It’s absolutely silly to punish Trent Richardson for being on a great team. Andrew Luck has maybe played one or two defenses all season long that even had a pulse. He came in 2nd last year and returned to school. So what? I’ve watched the guy play in their 3 biggest games this year- USC, Oregon, and Notre Dame. No…he doesn’t deserve the Heisman. In fact, I’d put Matt Barkley as 1st team QB in the All-Pac 12.

    RG III was hurt and left the Tx Tech game. If Trent Richardson had gotten hurt in the first half of the Auburn game, he would be written off on this site. RG III has thrown for a ton of yards…as ALL big 12 QBs do. His backup came in on Saturday and put up numbers similar to what RG III would have done. So the argument about “if you take RG III away Baylor sucks” isn’t necessarily true…based on actual evidence and not just pie in the sky conjecture.

    Trent Richardson has faced twice as many top 50 defenses as any other candidate. He’s faced the best competition and should be rewarded for it. He should win the heisman. That 58 yard run vs Auburn yesterday was a pure Heisman moment…complete with a Heisman-like stiff arm during the play.

    • GT Class of '76 November 28, 2011 at 12:46 pm #

      “Notre Dame threw “everything” they had at Andrew Luck? Funny…obviously ND doesn’t have very much to throw. ”

      Maybe…but they have more than Georgia Southern (Div 1AA) and a beaten down Auburn. By the way, I agree with you that Trent should not be punished for being on a good team,

      But I doubt if any of the last two teams TRENT faced could have beaten any of the last four teams that LUCK faced (one of which beat LUCK).

      “That 58 yard run vs Auburn yesterday was a pure Heisman moment…complete with a Heisman-like stiff arm during the play”

      That “play” was against a team that was hopelessly beat and exhausted. The stiff arm almost looked choreographed. A “Heisman Moment” occurs when the plays matter., like LUCK’s drive to put the USC game into overtime after he threw a PICK-SIX.

      Anyway, thanks for your comments.

      • JS November 29, 2011 at 5:52 am #

        Trent all the way. He ran for over 100 yrads againts the best team in the nation and over 200 yards against Auburn at Jordan-Hare in Auburn. The Iron Bowl (Alabama/Auburn) IS the biggest rivalry in the nation so you’d think he would have had less yards. Trent’s in the top of the race and I hope he wins.
        God Bless and Roll Tide Roll!!!!!!!!

        • Bama Bruiser December 2, 2011 at 8:30 pm #

          Except he didn’t run over 100 yards against LSU. He ran for 89.

          Also, a rivalry game has nothing to do with statistics when the rival is not playing well. As a Bama fan you should remember the 2008 Iron Bowl, when the Tide outrushed the Tigers 234-57 on the way to a 36-0 victory.

          This year, Auburn gave up 174 yards rushing to LSU, 176 yards rushing to Arkansas, and 304 yards rushing to Georgia, all of which pass the ball a lot. Even Jeremiaha Gates of mighty Samford had 119 yards rushing against Auburn. The FCS Bulldogs had 149 yards on the ground, which makes Bama’s 213 look kind of sad.

      • mike quinn November 29, 2011 at 2:53 pm #


    • mcninja November 28, 2011 at 1:34 pm #

      RGIII still had 3 TDs despite only playing the first half. No one argues RGIII deserves the trophy for throwing for a lot of yards. It is a combination of several factors (speed, arm, football IQ and of course, stats, among other things).

      The Tech game was a lose-lose for RGIII and Baylor.

      On one hand, if he doesn’t get hurt and puts up big numbers, critics point to it being against the #63 ranked pass defense.

      On the other hand, if RGIII gets hurt (like he did) and Florence does well, critics (like you) point to the back-ups numbers and argue RGIII’s numbers are a result of the system (put any decent QB in that system and they’ll produce the same numbers). Of course, for anyone who’s watched RGIII play, this is simply not true. Florence did well against a very bad Tech team. Are you saying could’ve produced the same results against OU?

      • Chris November 28, 2011 at 2:54 pm #

        Additionally, it should be noted that Florence is a junior who has a full year of Big12 experience (he played the season Griffin tore his ACL). Yes, Baylor has playmakers on offense who contribute to Griffin’s success. But don’t sell Florence short. The guy can play.

  3. Dave Robinson November 28, 2011 at 9:49 am #

    Just last night the BCS program had a piece on this and your numbers are not close to what they projected. Again a lot of pundant’s with a lot of projections.

  4. MR November 28, 2011 at 12:54 pm #

    It is with profound sadness that I will not see the best player in the country win the award. Robert Griffin III does more for his team than any QB/RB/WR, etc. The idea that he is replaceable because of a backup’s performance against 5-7 Texas Tech is literally the dumbest thought of all time. I’ll attribute that to being an SEC fan. Actually, I’ll attribute that to being an alum of any SEC school. Frankly I’m surprised any of you can read and write let alone access the Web.

    Everyone knows Griffin III is easily the most deserving candidate. Just give him the award.

    • WTG November 28, 2011 at 2:15 pm #

      Wow a comment posted by the Dean of Baylor U. Sir, We are impressed. Thank you @MR your school is proud of you.

      • Rational November 28, 2011 at 3:20 pm #

        President Kenn Starr would simply point out that Baylor has one of the toughest Strength of Schedules in the nation. This will all be settled on December 3rd when Texas’ vaunted defense will face “The Most Exciting Man in all of Football”. It might be raining, but try to watch the game if you get a chance. RGIII is the real deal. I have never seen someone make the plays he makes and complete the beautiful clutch passes he completes. You will not be bored. (take the Over)

    • Hawk December 4, 2011 at 4:28 pm #

      That is a very childish comment. Ignorant comments like that make you look pathetic. Hide behind that screen where you are safe. It has to be hard to sleep knowing you are such a coward. People like you are disgusting.

  5. Steve November 28, 2011 at 2:31 pm #

    The way I see it there are only two real contenders for the Heisman. Luck and Richardson. During the Oregon game, how many interceptions did Luck throw? When Luck is under pressure from a marginal defense, he cracks. I’m sorry but I don’t see that as Heisman material. On the other hand, Richardson excels under pressure. How many times this season did we see him carry an entire pack of defenders another three to five yards after initial contact? And these were not marginal defenses… these are SEC defenses. Think what you will about the SEC… but the SEC is the best conference in the FBS and Richardson is the best RB in the SEC.

    • ccard November 28, 2011 at 4:48 pm #

      SEC defenses? If you say how great they are enough times, maybe someone will believe it. Even ESPN over the weekend toned down its hype of the vaunted SEC defenses, asking the question: Are they good defenses or bad offenses in the SEC; the chicken or the egg?

      I’ve watched Alabama play many of their games and I think they probably do have the best defense in the country. That said, one has to consider the competition they’ve faced. Here are the offensive rankings of the teams Alabama’s faced (in order, total of 120 schools): 120, 94, 103, 28, 101, 96, 115, 102, 62, 87, NA (FCS), 104. That’s a median of 101 and an average of 92. The rest of the SEC (with the possible exception of LSU) has faced similar offensive competition.

      So is it really great defenses, awful offenses, or most likely a little bit of both? Probably a little bit of both, but this year, the SEC’s offenses really are offensive.

    • cardinalfan November 29, 2011 at 10:21 pm #

      Luck threw two, one of which (the pick six) was a perfectly thrown ball that literally bounced off his receivers chest and into a defenders hands. That was the story all day at oregon – at least 6 perfectly thrown balls dropped. That’s not to say he had an amazing game – he played moderately well – but when people say he played horribly against oregon, they’re just showing they didn’t watch the game.
      Also he showed as much as you could possibly ask for under pressure against USC’s talented D in front of 90K hostile fans with less than 2 minutes left.

  6. Bobby Woosley November 28, 2011 at 4:32 pm #

    This is the exact opposite of what the Heisman Committee representative said last night on the BCS Championsip show . He said that it was down to Richardson and Andrew Luck, with Richardson in the lead. He said everybody else had all but been eliminated. He said it was still too close to call, but he fully expected Richardson to win the Heisman!

  7. Krista Dyess November 29, 2011 at 6:54 am #

    Bobby Woosley…I sure hope you are correct because Trent Richardson deserves the Heisman not only for being the best RB in the country but for being an outstanding individual! He excels in football & in life! He is a class act in all aspects!

  8. bama83 November 30, 2011 at 7:51 am #

    Let’s be clear about 1 thing if u have the best defenses in the league u will make all offenses look bad. Trent Richardson averages 130 yards per game against SEC opponents. And in regards to Richardson running against a tired D, he carried the load for bama the whole game so he was probably tired too. Which is probably why he didn’t score on that play. 1910 yards from scrimmage and 23 total touchdowns from a running back should be more than enough to win the heisman. Go Trent!

  9. Leftcoast November 30, 2011 at 1:21 pm #

    Well …. We all know how important character and being an “outstanding individual” is to the SEC fans after last year! I think that one gets pulled out and used very selectively in a region that all last season told us that the Heisman wasn’t a character award.

    Andrew Luck, unlike Mr. Newton, is a true student athlete who will graduate from one of the best universities in America and has proven his love for the college game by turning his back on millions to finish the year with his Senior teammates.

    Edge Andrew Luck.

  10. Teddy December 2, 2011 at 12:36 am #

    Alabama gets so many rushing yards because of their dominant offensive line. Someone said Richardson got more than 100 yards against LSU, well I hate to burst your bubble, but he only had 89. If getting a long run against a bad defense in a blowout is a “heisman moment”, then I simply can’t comprehend the greatness of a 35 yard td pass to beat the #5 team in the country, throwing across his body.

    This is the best record Baylor has had in the big 12. I don’t understand why RG III isn’t a “real” candidate according to “steve”. He is the only player in this race who isn’t a candidate simply b/c they were a candidate at the start of the year. Richardson is admittedly a top 5 runner nationally, but comparatively, he isn’t even the best runningback. Monte Ball has more rushing yards, ypc, and more TD’s. Alabama probably also has one of the best 3 or 4 o-lines in the country, along with LSU, Stanford, and WISC, making it rediculously easy to get yards. RGIII has one teammate of the quality of Richardson’s teammates, and that is Kendall Wright, who, unless I am forgetting someone, should probably be the second 1st team All American Wide Receiver (after Blackmon) due to Broyles injury.

    On Luck, I don’t believe he should win the heisman simply b/c he is the best pro prospect. I do respect him more than richardson however, because he is taking stanford to the SAME record as ‘Bama.

    If Griffin loses to Texas, which would probably have more to do with whether Texas’ O-line can overpower Baylor enough that the fact that UT doesn’t have a QB is irrelevant than whatever Griffin would do, than Griffin would, and probably should lose out to Luck. If Griffin can beat texas, to pair with a win against OU, and the rediculous stats, I think we would have to give him the heisman.

  11. Leftcoast December 2, 2011 at 12:23 pm #

    I think we see the world very similarly Teddy.

    Richardson is a competent system bac that has plugged into the ‘Bama system and is the latest in a chain of good to great Alabama backs.

    I don’t see him as a Hesiman worth game changer. To throw out one stat – Richardson’s 20 rushing TD’s are a decent number (but not mind blowing) but those 20 TD runs include 0 TD’s against LSU, Auburn and Arkansas, the top defenses he faced. Richardson feasted against weak OOC foes and bottom half SEC defenses (which as others have mentioned aren’t that great this year.)

    In an objective world this award should go to either Griffin or Luck who truly changed the game for their teams. Baylor and Stanford would be on the poll margins (25-35 range) without those two players. Alabama without Richardson? Still a great team – Just doing it behind another system back.

    • Bama Bruiser December 2, 2011 at 8:56 pm #

      To further support Leftcoast and Teddy, look at Alabama’s rushing numbers with Nick Saban’s first full year of recruiting.

      2008 – 2,585 Yards, 32 TD
      Glen Coffee – 1,383, 10
      Mark Ingram – 728, 12

      2009 – 3,011 Yards, 31 TD
      Mark Ingram – 1,658, 17
      Richardson – 751, 8

      2010 – 2,378 Yards, 30 TD
      Mark Ingram – 875, 13
      Richardson – 700, 6

      2011 – 2,638 Yards, 33 TD
      Richardson – 1,583, 20

      Richardson’s numbers are almost identical to the 2010 tandem with Ingram. 2009’s Heisman winner only won because there weren’t Lucks or Griffins in the race, and he had better numbers then than Richardson does now and would have had more impressive numbers if Richardson hadn’t taken away dozens of touches.

      It’s the system, and Montee Ball is better.


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