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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 7

After only one week atop the list, Michigan's Denard Robinson relinquishes his top spot.

It was a short week at the top for Michigan’s Denard Robinson, who stormed through the rankings after five weeks thanks to his dynamic early start. His run was short, but it was sweet. And not like Robinson has disappeared from contention altogether: far from it, in fact, as the sophomore remains one of the top five candidates despite his disappointing showing against rival Michigan State. But his loss has been Kellen Moore’s gain, as Boise State’s quarterback returns to his once-customary spot atop the Pre-Snap Read Heisman list.

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

Week 6 W 57-14 vs. Toledo (16 of 22 for 267 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT)
Year to date 91 of 135 for 1336 yards, 14 TD, 1 INT

Another day at the office for the most consistent offensive player in the country: three touchdowns, no interceptions. That’s three consecutive weeks with such a line for Moore, and the fourth time he’s had such a mark in five tries. Yeah, it’s par for the course. Toledo’s not a terrible team; not a great team, but still one that upset Purdue in non-conference play — Purdue upset Northwestern on Saturday. Moore picked apart the Toledo defense — again, par for the course.

Week 7 at San Jose State, Saturday

2. QB Terrelle Pryor, Ohio State (Last week: No. 3)

Week 6 W 38-10 vs. Indiana (24 of 30 for 334 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT; 3 carries for -19 yards)
Year to date 104 of 153 for 1349 yards, 15 TD, 3 INT; 57 carries for 354 yards, 3 TD

Still suffering from an injury suffered the week before, Pryor took it easy with his legs on Saturday. In doing so, he allowed himself to put up a Kellen Moore-like passing performance: three touchdowns, no interceptions. The strides that Pryor has made as a passer have been wonderful, pure and simple. Even without his running ability — and the impressive numbers he’s had on the ground — Pryor deserves to be on this list. More so than at any point through six weeks, Pryor is dangerously close to overtaking Moore and jumping to the top of this list. If he has another fine game in a road win over Wisconsin, Pryor will likely leapfrog Moore come next Sunday.

Week 7 at Wisconsin, Saturday

3. RB LaMichael James, Oregon (Last week: No. 6)

Week 6 W 43-23 at Washington State (25 carries for 136 yards, 2 TD; 2 receptions for 87 yards, 1 TD)
Year to date 114 carries for 848 yards, 9 TD; 3 receptions for 96 yards, 1 TD

Only 43 points, Oregon? Only a 20-point win over hapless Washington State? You can’t blame James for Oregon’s somewhat average showing — compared to what we’ve become accustomed to — as the sophomore rushed for 136 yards and 2 touchdowns while adding 87 yards and another score through the air. If any running back in the country is going to win this award — as of now, at least — it will be James. As spectacular as Oregon’s offense was without him, James takes it to a whole other level.

Week 7 bye

4. QB Cam Newton, Auburn (Last week: No. 9)

Week 6 W 37-34 at Kentucky (13 of 21 for 210 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT; 28 carry for 198 yards, 4 TD)
Year to date 70 of 108 for 1138 yards, 12 TD, 5 INT; 104 carries for 672 yards, 9 TD

Newton is the most physical running quarterback in the SEC since, well, Tim Tebow. As a side note, can you imagine how painful it must be for Urban Meyer and the Gators to watch Newton run wild with the Tigers? If we take Tebow out of the equation, I’m having a hard time remembering the last SEC signal-caller to wreak such havoc with his legs, in such a devastating and demoralizing way — just when you think you have him, with your hands wrapped around him, you don’t. It might have only been Kentucky, but Newton showed the type of big-game performance, not to mention the leadership, demanded of a quarterback in the Heisman mix.

Week 7 vs. Arkansas, Saturday

5. QB Denard Robinson, Michigan (Last week: No. 1)

Week 6 L 34-17 vs. Michigan State (17 of 29 for 215 yards, 1 TD, 3 INT; 21 carries for 86 yards, 1 TD)
Year to date 84 of 125 for 1223 yards, 8 TD, 4 INT; 119 carries for 991 yards, 9 TD

Robinson’s not out of this thing, not by a long shot. Yet we must admit that he was not good against rival Michigan State, rushing for a season-low 86 yards — his first game under 100 yards on the year — while tossing a trio of interceptions. About those interceptions: they weren’t good. Two came in the end zone; both were terrible throws. Both showed a lack of touch, which was unfortunate — both players were open, or close to open, but Robinson either threw late or short of his intended target. He’s not out of this thing, but Robinson needs to return to form while leading Michigan to at least three wins in its final five games. At least.

Week 7 vs. Iowa, Saturday

6. RB DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma (Last week: No. 5)

Week 6 bye
Year to date 130 carries for 551 yards, 9 TD; 20 catches for 142 yards, 1 TD

Oklahoma was off this Saturday, which was good news for Murray. The Sooners have been riding their running back pretty hard through five weeks, especially in a win over rival Texas: Murray had 29 touches in that one, 25 on the ground. This week might provide Murray with another easy week of work, as the O.U. offense is sure to have its way with defensively-challenged Iowa State.

Week 7 vs. Iowa State, Saturday

7. QB Taylor Martinez, Nebraska (Last week: No. –)

Week 6 W 48-13 at Kansas State (5 of 7 for 128 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT;  15 carries for 241 yards, 4 TD)
Year to date 39 of 64 for 660 yards, 3 TD, 3 INT; 68 carries for 737 yards, 12 TD

To say that Taylor Martinez is Eric Crouch-like is somewhat on target. It’s makes more sense to say he’s Eric Crouch as a junior-like, as the former Heisman winner was nothing like Martinez as a redshirt freshman. To be honest, and it might be sacrilege to say so, I think Martinez’s top gear trumps Crouch at his top speed; Crouch was undeniably more physical, a more punishing runner at times, but Martinez hits a hole better than any quarterback in the country. Yes, better than Denard Robinson. The Michigan quarterback is far more dangerous in traffic, but from snap to the end zone, Martinez is quicker than any quarterback in the F.B.S. — perhaps more so than any player in the country, regardless of position.

Week 7 vs. Texas, Saturday

8. QB Ryan Mallett, Arkansas (Last week: No. 8 )

Week 6 W 21-14 vs. Texas A&M (27 of 38 for 310 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT)
Year to date 122 of 176 for 1748 yards, 13 TD, 6 INT

Outside of a fourth-quarter slip-up against Alabama, Mallett has been terrific. Check out his first quarter throw to Cobi Hamilton: nearly tackled in the backfield, Mallett escaped, righted himself briefly and delivered a 60-yard strike down the middle of the field for a touchdown. There might be another quarterback in the country who could make that play, though I’m not sure. Mallett’s return to the Heisman forefront continues this week at Auburn, where he and the Razorbacks look to unseat the undefeated Tigers. With a win, he and Cam Newton might switch spots.

Week 7 at Auburn, Saturday

9. QB Andrew Luck, U.S.C.  (Last week: No. –)

Week 6 W 37-35 vs. U.S.C. (20 of 24 for 285 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT; 6 carries for 40 yards; 1 tackle)
Year to date 93 of 148 for 1258 yards, 13 TD, 4 INT; 25 carries for 202 yards, 2 TD

Luck becomes the first — but not the last, as you can see below — Heisman contender to appear on this list, fall off and then reappear in the top 10. If his return is due to no other thing, it’s because of the hit he put on U.S.C.’s Shareece Wright:

Are you kidding me? Luck can do it all, obviously: pass, run and tackle — it might be time to line him up alongside fullback-linebacker Owen Marecic on the Stanford defense. In all seriousness, Luck was his typically poised and composed self in leading Stanford to a meaningful comeback win over U.S.C., with the win allowing the Cardinal to maintain pace with Oregon in the Pac-10 hunt.

Week 7 bye

10. RB John Clay, Wisconsin (Last week: No. –)

Week 6 W 41-23 vs. Minnesota (21 carries for 111 yards, 3 TD)
Year to date 115 carries for 692 yards, 9 TD

Clay’s back after a one-week absence. He dropped off the list thanks to an average showing against Michigan State: both on an individual level and on a team-wide level, as the Badgers played poorly against a conference rival. Clay really only has one more shot at remaining on this list, let alone moving up the rankings. He needs to play well against one of the nation’s best defenses this coming Saturday, when the Badgers welcome Ohio State to Madison. His team also needs to win, unfortunately.

Week 7 vs. Ohio State, Saturday

Dropped out

RB Mark Ingram, Alabama (Last week: No. 4)
CB Patrick Peterson (Last week: No. 7)
RB Daniel Thomas, Kansas State (Last week: No. 10)

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. Joe says:

    “…average showing against Michigan State: both on an individual level and on a team-wide level, as the Badgers played poorly against a non-conference rival.” MSU and UW are both in the Big Ten conference.

    As far as Clay though, he’s got 9 more yards on 8 more carries than Edwin Baker of MSU. I realize Baker is effectively splitting time with Bell (tough to win the Heisman as the “best player” when you’re not clearly the featured back for a team), but then many suggest White is better than Clay at UW.

    I don’t think Baker, at this point, is a legitimate candidate. I don’t think Clay is either.

    Paul: First off — don’t know why I wrote non-conference. Secondly, I think Clay is a fringe candidate. But White’s play is really hurting his stock. White is a stud, pure and simple. And as for Baker — he’s also impressive. But not a Heisman guy. Clay’s a long shot, but he’s in the mix.

  2. Joe – Great thoughts above. Bell/Baker/Caper have been an outstanding backfield trio for MSU.

    Assuming Michigan State keeps winning, at what point does Kirk Cousins make this list? His stats, just like Clay’s, are fringe, but he’s winning and providing excellent leadership… 99/145 for 1416 and 10 TDs is pretty good.

  3. Joe says:

    I wasn’t trying to be snarky. Just wanted to point out what I perceived to be an oversight.

    As I posted, I really don’t believe Baker is a legitimate candidate. Clay probably gets consideration with similar statistics because he is a senior and that’s just how the Heisman works sometimes.

    As an MSU alum, I’ve always felt that (much like Alabama last year) we will not have a player win the Heisman trophy unless we are playing in the NC game. So even if MSU has a great season this year, by not playing OSU, we will not play for the NC. Cousins might get a few votes, but more than likely Robinson and Pryor will take all the votes from the Big Ten voting region.

    If Cousins has a 3000/25 season this year as a junior and MSU has a special season, I would expect him to be on the pre-season watch list for Heisman next year. Baker has a chance as well, but I don’t see them both on the pre-season list. QB have been winning more of the recent Heismans, that is why I suggest Cousins.

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