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The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

The 2010 Heisman

P.S.R. 2010 Heisman Watch: Week 10

Cam Newton might remain the leader, but he’s now facing a stiff challenge from two competitors: we knew about Boise State’s Kellen Moore, but it’s impossible to ignore what Oregon’s LaMichael James has done in the month of October. His finest performance? Try Saturday night, when he proved unstoppable in a road win over U.S.C. That’s one way to make a distinct impression, obviously. Newton still leads, but if his Tigers slip up — and Oregon continues to roll — James might be the last man standing. Along with Moore, of course.

1. QB Cam Newton, Auburn (Last week: No. 1)

Week 9 W 51-31 at Mississippi (18 of 24 for 209 yards, 2TD, 0 INT; 11 carries for 45 yards)
Year to date 108 of 162 for 1573 yards, 15 TD, 5 INT; 168 carries for 1122 yards, 14 TD

Another win for Newton and Auburn, which should have little problem advancing to the season-ending Iron Bowl with an 11-0 record. I’d be shocked at anything else, actually, particularly given the schedule: Chattanooga and Georgia, both at home. Not the most imposing two-game stretch we’ll see in 2010. Make no mistake: Newton needs to win out to ensure the Heisman; even if he goes 11-1, James can make a very healthy case for the top spot. As can Moore.

Week 10 vs. Chattanooga, Saturday

2. RB LaMichael James, Oregon (Last week: No. 3)

Week 9 W 53-32 at U.S.C. (36 carries for 239 yards, 3 TD; 1 reception for -2 yards)
Year to date 170 for 1210 yards, 14 TD; 5 receptions for 119 yards, 1 TD

James is as impossible to ignore as he is to tackle, as he proved against U.S.C. on Saturday. The sophomore has saved his best showings for his team’s biggest games: in wins over Stanford and U.S.C., James has rushed for 496 yards and 6 touchdowns. Let that sink in for a moment. James saves his best for when Oregon needs him most — say, after U.S.C. scores twice to retake the lead to begin the second half.

Week 10 vs. Washington, Saturday

3. QB Kellen Moore, Boise State (Last week: No. 2)

Week 9 W 49-20 vs. Louisiana Tech (20 of 28 for 298 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT)
Year to date 125 of 179 for 1865 yards, 18 TD, 2 INT

An interception? Hard to believe. Moore threw only three all of last season. He’s actually on pace for a similar total this season, but still: it’s shocking to see the junior turn the ball over. What’s not shocking: 300 yards passing, a pair of scores, a one-sided win over a conference opponent. That’s old hat.

Week 10 vs. Hawaii, Saturday

4. QB Robert Griffin III, Baylor (Last week: No. 7)

Week 9 W 30-22 at Texas (16 of 24 for 215 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT; 16 carries for 17 yards, 1 TD)
Year to date 196 of 294 for 2592 yards, 20 TD, 5 INT; 92 carries for 401 yards, 7 TD

Baylor is now 7-2, which is unfathomable. The Bears just won in Austin; equally remarkable, even if the Longhorns are average. Is the program’s resurgence solely due to Griffin’s arrival in Waco? Well, let’s give some credit to Art Briles. Still, there’s no ignoring the fact that Baylor was so poor a year ago, when Griffin was sidelined with a knee injury, and is so good in 2010, with a healthy Griffin under center. The biggest change I’ve seen from Griffin is as a passer, as the above totals illustrate. He can remain dangerous even when limited on the ground, as he was against Texas.

Week 10 at Oklahoma State, Saturday

5. RB John Clay, Wisconsin (Last week: No. 4)

Week 9 bye
Year to date 160 carries for 867yards, 13 TD

Clay needed a break: he gutted out tough yards against two of the nation’s best defenses — Ohio State and Iowa — in successive weeks, leading the Badgers back into the Rose Bowl mix. If Saturday’s showing is to be believed, Clay should have another nice day at Purdue: the Boilermakers gave up more than 200 yards on the ground in a loss to Illinois. In fact, the final four games on Wisconsin’s schedule — Purdue, Indiana, Michigan and Northwestern — should have Clay and the Badgers eying a torrid finish to the regular season.

Week 10 at Purdue, Saturday

6. QB Andrew Luck, Stanford  (Last week: No. 6)

Week 9 W 41-0 at Washington (19 of 26 for 192 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT; 5 carries for 92 yards, 1 TD)
Year to date 152 of 202 for 1920 yards, 17 TD, 6 INT; 34 carries for 305 yards, 3 TD

Stanford has won three straight since losing to Oregon to open October; over this span, Luck has completed 58 of his 79 attempts — completing more than 75 percent of his attempts. On Saturday’s trip to Washington, Luck added another wrinkle: a career-high 92 yards on the ground, punctuated by a 51-yard scoring run in the first quarter. Highly accurate? Dangerous with his feet? Running the show in an offense perfectly suited to his skill set? No wonder Luck continues to impress.

Week 10 vs. Arizona, Saturday

7. QB Terrelle Pryor, Ohio State (Last week: No. 5)

Week 9 W 52-10 at Minnesota (18 of 22 for 222 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT; 5 carries for 55 yards, 1 TD)
Year to date 152 of 225 for 1997 yards, 20 TD, 7 INT; 84 carries for 463 yards, 4 TD

Wins over Purdue and Minnesota — by a combined score of 101-10 — are nice, and do much for Ohio State’s confidence. Unfortunately, neither victory does much for Pryor’s Heisman hopes. It’s a lose-lose situation: even if the game is meaningful — if Minnesota or Purdue keep it close — that an inferior opponent hung with the talented Buckeyes will be counted against Pryor. Stiffer challenges await. O.S.U. still hosts Penn State and Michigan, with that pair sandwiching a trip to Iowa. That game might still be for the Big Ten title, though each team will need some help.

Week 10 bye

8. RB Kendall Hunter, Okla. St. (Last week: No. –)

Week 9 W 24-14 at Kansas State (28 carries for 143 yards)
Year to date 189 carries for 1174 yards, 12 TD; 14 receptions for 44 yards)

Are you happy now? Hunter has certainly earned a spot on this list, perhaps no more so than on Saturday: despite Kansas State’s knowledge that Oklahoma State was hamstrung in the passing game without Justin Blackmon, Hunter cracked the 100-yard mark for the seventh time in eight games. This was meaningful, if not merely because he carried the load despite facing a stiffer defensive presence. For the first time this season, Hunter produced as the lone offensive weapon of consequence.

Week 10 vs. Baylor, Saturday

9. QB Ryan Mallett, Arkansas (Last week: No. –)

Week 9 W 49-14 vs. Arkansas (27 of 44 for 409 yards, 3 YD, 0 INT)
Year to date 172 of 259 for 2449 yards, 18 TD, 7 INT

Arkansas has two losses: at Alabama, home for Auburn. Two losses against two of the best teams in the country, which should count for something. Unfortunately, Mallett’s lowest hour came in the fourth quarter against Alabama, which hurts. He also missed the majority of his team’s loss to Auburn, which really hurts. So you can’t truly take his Heisman campaign seriously, though you also can’t ignore the numbers. He broke his own school record for passing yards on Saturday — the previous high was 408 yards — before taking a seat in the fourth quarter. Next up is another date with a ranked opponent: Mallett can’t afford to have anything less than a standout performance at South Carolina.

Week 10 at South Carolina, Saturday

10. QB Tyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech (Last week: No. –)

Week 9 bye
Year to date 106 of 166 for 1602 yards, 15 TD, 3 INT; 85 carries for 527 yards, 3 TD

I’m never sure who deserves the final spot: it was Ricky Stanzi two weeks ago, Greg Jones last week, now Taylor. Will Virginia Tech’s ugly start preclude Taylor from being a realistic part of the Heisman conversation? Undoubtedly. Nevertheless, the Hokies have won six straight and might very well run the table, landing a spot in the A.C.C. title game; if that does occur, it’s largely due to Taylor’s overall improvement in his final season. He’s the current leader for A.C.C. Player of the Year, in my book.

Week 10 vs. Georgia Tech, Thursday

Dropped out

QB Denard Robinson, Michigan (Last week: No. 8 )
WR Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State (Last week: No. 9)
LB Greg Jones, Michigan State (Last week: No. 10)

Previous weeks

Week 9 list Cam Newton, No. 1
Week 8 list Kellen Moore, No. 1
Week 7 list Kellen Moore, No. 1
Week 6 list Denard Robinson, No. 1
Week 5 list Kellen Moore, No. 1
Week 4 list Kellen Moore, No. 1
Week 3 list Kellen Moore, No. 1
Week 2 list Kellen Moore, No. 1
Preseason list Kellen Moore, No. 1

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  1. DMK says:

    Denard Robinson runs for 191, 3 TDs and falls out of the top ten? I know the Heisman these days is all about being on a winning team, but maybe you should reserve those 5-10 slots for guys like Rob Robinson.

  2. M Meyer says:

    I’m sorry, but Tyrod Taylor just doesn’t match up to Ricky Stanzi’s stats. Iowa didn’t lose to a FCS school, and doesn’t play in the weak ACC. Virginia Tech has only beaten two teams with winning records: NC State, and East Carolina. Iowa has beaten four: Michigan State, Michigan, Penn State, and Iowa State.

    But going just based on stats, Stanzi has 4 more passing TDs, one less interception, and a higher passing percentage. He also has 2 rushing TDs, though he doesn’t have the run yardage of Taylor.

    You have a guy with 1865 yards, 18 TDs & 2 ints as number 3. Ricky Stanzi’s stats are better than that against an arguably tougher schedule. What gives?

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