P.S.R. Heisman Watch: Final
By Paul Myerberg // Dec 7, 2011
The votes have been counted, but don’t hold your breath waiting for any leaks. The actually tally will remain a mystery until a few minutes before 9 p.m. on Saturday, when the Heisman Trust will unseal the envelope and announce the winner of this year’s Heisman Trophy. The tally remains a mystery, mind you. The actual finish is most assuredly not a mystery: after months of seeing the Heisman handed to Andrew Luck, Baylor’s Robert Griffin III stormed to the forefront of the race in November and sealed a first-place finish by dismantling Texas on the first Saturday of December. The question now isn’t whether Griffin will win the Heisman, but rather by how wide a margin. And now, for the last time, This Date in Heisman History:
Dec. 7, 1996 Danny Wuerffel threw one touchdown pass. Then another. Then another, another, another and another, tossing six altogether to help lead Florida past Alabama in the SEC title game. A week later, Wuerffel would win the Heisman, edging out Iowa State’s Troy Davis and Arizona State’s Jake Plummer. The Gators would go on to win the national championship, avenging a regular season loss to Florida State in the process.
1. QB Robert Griffin III, Baylor (Last week: No. 3)
Week 14 W 48-24 vs. Texas (15 of 22 for 320 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT; 12 carries for 32 yards, 2 TD)
Year to date 267 of 369 for 3,998 yards, 36 TD, 6 INT; 123 carries for 644 yards, 9 TD
How much money would you have made by laying down $1,000 on Griffin III back in August? A substantial amount, and let’s leave it at that. His late-season push to the top of the heap does not resemble Cam Newton’s run to the Heisman last fall: Griffin was not the favorite in September, October or part of November, and only made his move after leading Baylor to a marquee win over Oklahoma one week after Luck and Stanford stumbled against Oregon. So what’s most impressive about Griffin’s 2011 season? It’s the sum of the whole, not any individual part.
It’s the numbers, which include a new F.B.S. record for passing efficiency. It’s his leadership qualities. It’s the way he’s conducted himself all season, if not for the entirety of his career. It’s that Griffin has led Baylor to nine wins, beating Oklahoma and Texas along the way — that was a program first. He’ll win the Heisman on Saturday, by all accounts, and it’ll be richly deserved. And I’ll be the first to admit that I’m late to the party.
Next Alamo Bowl vs. Washington, Dec. 29
2. QB Andrew Luck, Stanford (Last week: No. 1)
Week 14 bye
Year to date 261 of 363 for 3,170 yards, 35 TD, 9 INT; 43 carries for 153 yards, 2 TD
Looking back at 2011, it seems as if Luck was done in by his one loss. He’s not the only one whose candidacy — and national title hopes — were doomed by a single setback, but Luck, more than any other, probably needed an undefeated regular season to fend off Griffin’s charge. But the loss to Oregon doesn’t define Luck’s season: Luck distinguished himself on a weekly basis, combining superb pro-style skills with a sneaky sense of style and panache. But the moment I’ll remember most about Luck, seeing that he’ll declare for the N.F.L. Draft within a month, came during the aftermath of a play, not during the play itself.
Luck didn’t sulk after throwing a pick-six with less than five minutes left in the fourth quarter against Oregon, dooming Stanford’s comeback hopes. Nor did he scream, cry or hold his head in his hands, as so many quarterbacks do. Nor did he show up freshman receiver Ty Montgomery, who was at least partially responsible for the Boseko Lokombo interception. Instead, Luck jogged toward Montgomery, patted him on the helmet, shared a word and went back to the Stanford sideline. For as great as he was as a quarterback, Luck may have been a better leader and teammate.
Next Fiesta Bowl vs. Oklahoma State, Jan. 4
3. RB Trent Richardson, Alabama (Last week: No. 2)
Week 14 bye
Year to date 263 carries for 1,583 yards, 20 TD; 27 receptions for 327 yards, 2 TD
Richardson’s candidacy faced a late — and strong — challenge from Montee Ball, who can tout two things Richardson cannot: nearly record-setting numbers and a conference championship. What Richardson has, however, is a front-and-center spot on a team that’s going to play for the national title. In addition, Richardson is aided greatly by the fact that he, and not Ball, was a Heisman frontrunner back in August. That helped. None of this is meant to disparage Richardson’s 2011 season, which was predictably superb. And I do think that Richardson is the top candidate on the board after the two clear leaders heading into Saturday. But I do think that his Heisman hopes are hurt by the paucity of rushing touchdowns against Penn State, Arkansas, L.S.U. and Auburn, the four marquee games on Alabama’s regular season schedule.
Next B.C.S. National Championship Game vs. L.S.U., Jan. 9
4. QB Kellen Moore, Boise State (Last week: No. 5)
Week 14 W 45-0 vs. New Mexico (28 of 33 for 313 yards, 3 TD)
Year to date 300 of 405 for 3,507 yards, 41 TD, 7 INT
Fittingly, Moore’s final regular season was just as good — just as pitch-perfect in its consistency — as the rest of his four-year starting career. That just seems right. Moore won’t win the Heisman, isn’t even a finalist, but his 2011 season begs the question: Would he have won the Trophy had he finished undefeated? If every other contender’s season played out exactly the same but Moore and the Broncos went 12-0, would Moore be the pick come Saturday? It’s an interesting point to consider; so is the idea that Moore, at 12-0, would receive some bonus consideration for his sterling career at Boise State.
Two factors would have run against his hypothetical candidacy. The first is that the Heisman’s not a career award. The second is that most voters would have held the same argument against as Moore as they held against his team: Boise didn’t beat enough quality opponents. Save it. Moore’s as good a player in the country. I would have listed him in the top spot had Boise went undefeated. As is, he’s one game away from finishing one of the finest careers in college football history.
Next Las Vegas Bowl vs. Arizona State, Dec. 22
5. QB Matt Barkley, U.S.C. (Last week: No. 7)
Week 14 bye
Year to date 308 of 446 for 3,528 yards, 39 TD, 7 INT
What if U.S.C. and its athletic director, Pat Haden, had commenced Matt Barkley’s Heisman campaign in August, not in November? What if U.S.C. had not been on probation, or at the very least had been eligible for postseason play? What then? Would Barkley have gained an invite for Manhattan as a Heisman finalist? The answer to the latter question is yes, of course. And yes, it would have helped to have a little more support from U.S.C., which could have afforded to plug Barkley’s candidacy before the season started, not just as it was winding down.
In terms of the numbers and his importance to his team’s success, Barkley has as strong a case for the Heisman as anyone; at the very least, he would have been my pick for the fifth invite to Saturday’s announcement. Where would the Trojans be without him under center? Barkley’s lasting legacy, should this be his final season, is that he lifted U.S.C. past the probation period doldrums and made Lane Kiffin the recognizable face of the program. Perhaps this lasting impact will leave a more meaningful legacy than any Heisman victory.
6. RB Montee Ball, Wisconsin (Last week: No. 6)
Week 14 W 42-39 vs. Michigan State (27 carries for 179 yards, 3 TD; 3 receptions for 7 yards, 1 TD)
Year to date 275 carries for 1,759 yards, 32 TD; 20 receptions for 255 yards, 6 TD
I have a problem with Ball being a Heisman finalist. But first, it’s only fair to commend the Wisconsin running back for one of the finest statistical seasons in the history of college football regardless of position. In running back terms, Ball’s 2011 campaign is perhaps rivaled only by Barry Sanders’ record-setting Heisman season in 1988. So what’s the problem? The issue is that I have a hard time selecting Ball as the M.V.P. of his own team, let alone the entire country — and I’m surprised that most aren’t having the same problem. Ball was superb; he was electric, productive, fantastic, sublime, what have you. But it’s the old chicken-or-egg argument: Was Ball this good because Russell Wilson was distracting opposing offenses, or was Wilson so good because Ball was pounding away for 100 yards and multiple touchdowns every Saturday?
Next Rose Bowl vs. Oregon, Jan. 2
7. QB Brandon Weeden, O.S.U. (Last week: No. 8)
Week 14 W 44-10 vs. Oklahoma (24 of 36 for 217 yards)
Year to date 379 of 522 for 4,328 yards, 34 TD, 12 INT
It was the least statistically impressive start of Weeden’s career, perhaps, yet it was the biggest win of his career. A study in contrasts: Oklahoma State pounded Oklahoma to shreds on Saturday night, but the Cowboys seemingly could have won by three scores without Weeden under center. Does this reflect poorly on Weeden? Not in the least. The Big 12-clinching win only added another strong footnote to Weeden’s season and career, which will conclude in the Fiesta Bowl. The best quarterback in Oklahoma State’s history? Absolutely, will all due respect to his head coach. I’ll take it one step further: Weeden is the most important player in O.S.U. history. If the Cowboys keep this up, maintaining or building upon this successful run, Weeden will be looked at as a game-changer. Pretty heady stuff for the former minor league pitcher.
Next Fiesta Bowl vs. Stanford, Jan. 2
8. QB Case Keenum, Houston (Last week: No. 4)
Week 14 L 49-28 vs. Southern Mississippi (41 of 67 for 373 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT)
Year to date 383 of 534 for 5,099 yards, 43 TD, 5 INT
There’s little doubt that Keenum would have been a Heisman finalist had Houston beat Southern Mississippi to win the Conference USA title. Keenum might have been a finalist even in defeat, had he maintained his statistically imposing level of play. Neither came to pass: Houston lost, for starters, and Keenum looked terrible. In this case, the numbers lie. He threw for 373 yards, more than he had in five games in 2011, but Keenum was disjointed, uneven and inconsistent, making the sort of misguided decisions and throws he’d avoided all season and never finding a comfort zone against a ferocious Southern Mississippi defensive front. It’s unfortunate: Keenum was Heisman-worthy for 12 games but decidedly not Heisman-worthy in the one that counted the most.
Next TicketCity Bowl vs. Penn State, Jan. 2
9. QB Russell Wilson, Wisconsin (Last week: N/A)
Week 14 W 42-39 vs. Michigan State (17 of 24 for 187 yards, 3 TD; 7 carries for -5 yards)
Year to date 206 of 284 for 2,879 yards, 31 TD, 3 INT; 73 carries for 320 yards, 5 TD
Reconvene the meeting regarding the chicken-or-egg debate. And while you’re at it, remind me why Wilson dropped off the Heisman radar after Wisconsin’s back-to-back losses in October. I’m just as guilty as anyone: ranked as high as second on Oct. 4, Wilson fell to the eighth spot on Oct. 26 and out of the rankings altogether in November. Yet when the dust settled, it was clear that Wilson was as vital an addition as any first-year player in the country, whether a transfer or freshman. Ball was tremendous, more than deserving of his high placement, but wasn’t Wilson the most important part of the Wisconsin offense? Ball ranks higher based on numbers, but take note: if Wilson had thrown the same number of passes as did Keenum, 534, he would have had 58 touchdowns.
Next Rose Bowl vs. Oregon, Jan. 2
10. QB Collin Klein, Kansas State (Last week: N/A)
Week 14 W 30-23 vs. Iowa State (7 of 15 for 158 yards, 1 TD; 26 carries for 86 yards, 1 TD)
Year to date 145 of 251 for 1,745 yards, 12 TD, 5 INT; 293 carries for 1,099 yards, 26 TD
Like his coach, Klein is an old-school menace. His 2011 highlight reel should be shown in grainy black and white, not high definition. His helmet should be leather, his shoulder pads old hand-me-downs and his cleats Unitas-style high-tops, of course. His bruising touchdown runs — all 25 of them — were sometimes pretty, but were more often than not beautiful only in their fury, the same way some people can find great beauty in a bullfight, for example. I love Klein’s game, and I love how he embodied the personality of an entire team overlooked in August but in the Cotton Bowl — nearly in the B.C.S. — come January. Where would Kansas State be without Klein?
Next Cotton Bowl vs. Arkansas, Jan. 6
RB David Wilson, Virginia Tech (Last week: No. 9)
QB Denard Robinson, Michigan (Last week: No. 10)
Week 14 list Andrew Luck, No. 1
Week 13 list Andrew Luck, No. 1
Week 12 list Andrew Luck, No. 1
Week 11 list Andrew Luck, No. 1
Week 10 list Andrew Luck, No. 1
Week 9 list Andrew Luck, No. 1
Week 8 list Andrew Luck, No. 1
Week 7 list Andrew Luck, No. 1
Week 6 list Andrew Luck, No. 1
Week 5 list Andrew Luck, No. 1
Week 4 list Andrew Luck, No. 1
Week 3 list Andrew Luck, No. 1
Week 2 list Andrew Luck, No. 1
Preseason list Andrew Luck, No. 1
You can also follow Paul Myerberg and Pre-Snap Read on Twitter.
Tags: Andrew Luck, Brandon Weeden, Case Keenum, Collin Klein, David Wilson, Denard Robinson, Kellen Moore, Matt Barkley, Montee Ball, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, The Heisman Trophy, Trent Richardson
Leave a Comment