I hear a lot of arguments all the time by media and fans for why the various candidates should, or should not, be considered for the Heisman Trophy.
Frankly, I find most of the points offered to be lacking. They usually have gaping holes that could be filled by anyone who does basic research. That said, what I’m going to do now is make my best case for and my best case against each candidate.
Today, my for/against are on Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Trent Richardson.
For Andrew Luck
What more could you ask this guy to do? He doesn’t play for a team filled with elite talent. He plays for Stanford, a program that actually requires that athletes be able to read and write before they strap on the pads. Despite all that, he’s led the Cardinal to two-straight 11-1 regular seasons and put that program squarely into the conversation as one of the best in the country. Those people who think his numbers aren’t good are crazy. He is fifth nationally in pass efficiency, is completing 70 percent of his passes and he’s thrown 35 TD passes. Of all the quarterbacks under consideration, he throws the ball the least (he is 41st nationally in attempts per game), a clear handicap to his stats that should be taken into account. And then there are the weapons at his disposal. He has none. His best wide receiver runs a 4.8 40. None of his targets can stretch the field in the way that most receivers can. Sure, his tight ends are great, but they are great because they are his only reliable targets. Give him a reliable target, well, you see what happens. They become great. Finally, we all know about his physical ability and status as a the pending No. 1 NFL pick. The truth is, as an athlete and as a passer he could shine in any system. If he played for Houston, USC, Alabama, Oregon or Oklahoma State, he’d still be an amazing quarterback. Could the quarterbacks from those teams say the same if they played for Stanford? No way. Plus, watch how far Stanford falls next year when Luck leaves. Years from now, when Luck is an all-pro quarterback, we’re going to be kicking ourselves that he didn’t win a Heisman. Besides, after the corruption and shadiness of the last year in college football, Luck is the best combination of outstanding play on the field and character off of it.
Against Andrew Luck
If there’s anything I hate, it’s being told what to think. For the last year, all that’s been talked about is the great Andrew Luck. Sorry, but I just don’t see what all the fuss is about. When I watch Stanford, I see a boring, grind-it-out offense with Luck making easy throws. He’s supposed to be this once-in-a-lifetime talent, so why don’t we ever see a once-in-a-lifetime performance out of him? He’s going to be a great NFL player. So what? This is college and the Heisman is about the most outstanding player in college. I’m also not sure that Luck has truly been tested this year. He was strongest in the first 7 or 8 games of the season, throwing 20 TD passes and just 3 picks against very weak competition. Over the last 5 games, with the competition getting tougher, he’s looked rather ordinary, throwing 15 TDs and 6 interceptions (2 against Oregon in the most important game of the year). The guy doesn’t have a single 400-yard passing game, no 5-TD bonanzas, no 100-yard rushing performances (he’s supposed to be mobile, right?). He’s been consistent, but I wanted to see more from this guy who, after all, is supposed to be this perfect quarterback. He hasn’t shown it.
For Robert Griffin III
For all the talk about Luck’s talent, the quarterback with the rarest and purest talent in football–yes, football–is Robert Griffin III. This is a guy who left high school early and then finished third in the NCAA 400m hurdles in the same spring at Baylor. He’s simply the best athlete to ever play the position. And he’s not just an athlete. He’s got a stronger arm and is more accurate than Luck. He’s more efficient than Case Keenum, Brandon Weeden or Matt Barkley. In fact, his current efficiency rating of 191.1 is an NCAA record. Here’s a guy who is actually living up to the hype by breaking NCAA records and people have doubts about whether he is worthy of the Heisman? Look at what he means to his team. Right now, the Baylor Bears are 8-3 with one game to go. Mind you, this is a program that has not won 8 regular-season games since 1991. This time of year, it is usually 3-8. This is not a program that has had the luxury of reloading every year like the elite schools. This is Baylor, the little sisters of the Big 12. Not this year. The Bears have beaten four bowl teams, including ranked programs in TCU and Oklahoma. If his defense wasn’t ranked 114th in the country, he’d have a few more wins to his credit. He’s simply the best deep ball thrower in the country, so it’s no wonder he leads the nation in yards per attempt (an amazing 10.6). He’s thrown 34 touchdown passes, with just 5 interceptions and is 72.6 percent on his completions. He’s rushed for 612 yards and 7 more scores. Want spectacular and exciting to go with skill and production? He’s the complete package. No matter how you slice it, he’s just better than any other player in the country. Oh, and if you want to talk about off-the-field accomplishments, consider that Griffin III is a fine student about to get his second degree in the spring.
Against Robert Griffin III
Part of being a great player is being able to elevate your team to great heights. Sorry, but Robert Griffin III hasn’t really done that with Baylor. Sure, they’ve won some games they wouldn’t usually win, but I’d chalk that up more to the weird bounces of college football than any particular kind of accomplishment on his part. The wins over TCU and Oklahoma could’ve gone either way and, if they had gone the other way, we wouldn’t be talking about RG3 for Heisman right now as a result. The fact is, Griffin III plays in a league where almost anyone can put up big passing numbers. Four of the top seven passers in the country are from the Big 12, so what he’s doing is pretty much par for the course. He plays in a wide-open offense that caters to his abilities (did you see how good his backup was the other night? The system produces numbers for anyone!). Put him in a more orthodox system and he wouldn’t be nearly as productive. Can we give the Heisman to a guy whose team has three losses? Sure, Tim Tebow’s team had three losses when he won it in 2007….but Griffin is no Tebow.
For Trent Richardson
We all know that the best athletes in the country reside in the SEC, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Trent Richardson has rushed for almost 1,100 yards and 10 touchdowns against the SEC alone this season. He’s been the bellcow for the Crimson Tide as they’ve all-but-secured another trip to the national title game. Richardson is a future NFL first round pick with the talent to carry any team. He’s probably the strongest player, pound-for-pound, in college football. He’s performed on the biggest stages, with the most pressure, and shined on all of them. He’s not in a system that pads his numbers, like some of the other contenders. He’s a no-nonsense back going mano à mano against the best defenses in college football. Teams know he is going to get the ball, but he produces anyway. He averages 6 yards per carry and has scored 23 touchdowns this season, tying Tim Tebow’s SEC record. He’s sixth nationally in rushing with 1,583 yards. Without Richardson, Bama probably doesn’t make it to the BCS title game. The Tide needed an outstanding back to get them there this year and Richardson got it done.
Against Trent Richardson
Face it, Richardson padded his numbers in a down year for the SEC. Almost a quarter of his yards (378) came in the last two games against FCS school Georgia Southern and an appallingly bad Auburn rush defense (ranked 99th in the country). Against non-winning teams, he put up 879 of his 1,583 yards and 16 of his 20 rushing touchdowns. Don’t talk to me about his supposedly tough schedule. The Tide have beaten one team in the top 20 of the BCS rankings. ONE. They’ve played only four FBS teams with winning records. Sure, Richardson is a future talent, but he’s done nothing to really distinguish himself this season. In the biggest game of the year, against LSU, he was held to 89 yards on less than 4 yards per carry and kept out of the end zone (and don’t talk to me about his all-purpose yardage. Shifting the criteria is a sure sign of a losing argument). The SEC has been handed the two BCS championship slots without a whole lot of thought going into it. Is it really fair–or appropriate–to give the conference another Heisman as well? If you are going to pick a running back, pick Montee Ball, who has more yards than Richardson and the second most TDs in NCAA history.
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I’ll break down Montee Ball, Case Keenum and Matt Barkley tomorrow. In the meantime, feel free to do your own pro and con in the comments section.