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The Countdown

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

The 2011 Heisman

P.S.R. Heisman Watch: Week 14

Is there anything left to prove? Have you made your pick? For some, there’s no more work to be done: Andrew Luck’s season is over, for example, and we won’t see Stanford’s quarterback again until bowl play, when the Cardinal will likely face off against the Big 12 winner in the Fiesta Bowl. But others won’t spend December solely on the awards banquet. Robert Griffin III gets another shot at Texas this weekend. Landry Jones and Brandon Weeden face off in Stillwater in prime time. Case Keenum and Houston meet Southern Mississippi in the Conference USA title game. So while a few stand pat, other contenders still have a chance to make a final, lasting impression. Now, This Date in Heisman History:

Dec. 1, 1990 Just hours after being named the Heisman Trophy winner, B.Y.U. quarterback Ty Detmer tossed four interceptions in a 59-28 loss to Hawaii. The loss was the first of two straight for the Cougars following the Heisman announcement, joining a 65-14 loss to Texas A&M in the Holiday Bowl.

1. QB Andrew Luck, Stanford (Last week: No. 1)

Week 13 W 28-14 vs. Notre Dame (20 of 30 for 233 yards, 4 TD, 1 INT; 4 carries for 20 yards)
Year to date 261 of 363 for 3,170 yards, 35 TD, 9 INT; 43 carries for 153 yards, 2 TD

There’s one more game to be played. Not for Luck but for a few of his prime contenders, such as at Baylor, Houston and Oklahoma State — contenders also playing quarterback. Luck’s in the clubhouse, on the 19th hole, with his feet up, watching the leader board. He’s ahead, in my mind. Luck has put an otherwise average Stanford offense on his back: the offensive line is very good, not great; the running game is good, not terrific; and the receiver corps is simply not good. Without Luck, Stanford is a mid-tier Pac-12 team. That’s simple. With Luck, the Cardinal are playing in the Fiesta Bowl. You can make this same argument with Griffin III, but Baylor is 8-3, remember, perhaps 8-4 on Sunday. Luck and Stanford is 11-1.

Next bowl play

2. RB Trent Richardson, Alabama (Last week: No. 3)

Week 13 W 42-14 at Auburn (27 carries for 203 yards; 1 reception for 5 yards)
Year to date 263 carries for 1,583 yards, 20 TD; 27 receptions for 327 yards, 2 TD

Saving your best performance of the season for the Iron Bowl is always a good idea. While Cam Newton had the Trophy in his back pocket last season, the comeback against Alabama sealed his landslide victory. Similarly, Richardson might have moved to the front of the pack by rushing for a season-high 203 yards on 7.5 yards per carry. One thing to consider when weighing Richardson’s candidacy, however: 18 of his 20 rushing scores came against Kent State, North Texas, Florida, Vanderbilt, Mississippi, Tennessee, Mississippi State and Georgia Southern. In other words, Richardson has scored two touchdowns on the ground against the group of Penn State, Arkansas, L.S.U. and Auburn.

Next bowl play

3. QB Robert Griffin III, Baylor (Last week: No. 2)

Week 13 W 66-42 vs. Texas Tech (7 of 11 for 106 yards, 1 TD; 14 carries for 62 yards, 2 TD)
Year to date 252 of 347 for 3,678 yards, 34 TD, 5 INT; 123 carries for 612 yards, 7 TD

An injury cut Griffin’s day short against Texas Tech, but how much would he have played in the second half anyway? Art Briles likely would have played him into the fourth quarter, but the way the game was trending in the first half, I doubt Saturday would have been Griffin’s strongest passing game of the year. This week’s game is far bigger for Griffin’s Heisman hopes: down or no, Texas remains a major name for voters, and a strong game by Griffin — a transcendent game, hopefully — should make Griffin a major player for the Heisman. It may even make him the winner.

Next vs. Texas, Saturday

4. QB Case Keenum, Houston (Last week: No. 4)

Week 13 W 48-16 at Tulsa (33 of 46 for 457 yards, 5 TD)
Year to date 342 of 467 for 4,726 yards, 41 TD, 3 INT

He’s thrown fewer touchdowns. Colt Brennan rushed for more yards. But Keenum’s 2011 season compares very favorably to Brennan’s 2006 campaign, when Hawaii’s quarterback set the F.B.S. record for touchdown passes with 55. Keenum should end up throwing for around 5,300 or 5,400 yards, roughly Brennan’s total five years ago. Keenum should end up with about 47 or 48 touchdowns, which is still good for one of the 10 best single-season showings in F.B.S. history. He’ll complete better than 70 percent of his attempts. Like Brennan — in both 2006 and 2007 — I’m not sure if Keenum is going to finish in the top two. But like Brennan, I think he deserves a trip to Manhattan.

Next vs. Southern Mississippi, Saturday

5. QB Kellen Moore, Boise State (Last week: No. 5)

Week 13 W 36-14 vs. Wyoming (24 of 36 for 279 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT)
Year to date 272 of 373 for 3,194 yards, 38 TD, 7 INT

Moore currently stands one touchdown shy of tying his career record of 39, set in 2009, and should tie then break that mark in the first quarter against New Mexico. From there, Moore and Boise State will head to the Las Vegas Bowl, as some have suggested, but not to B.C.S. play. That’s too bad: I would have loved to see Moore cap his career with one more shot against a B.C.S. conference foe. As is, Moore will cap his career by dispatching of the Lobos with ease and then meeting a lesser Pac-12 opponent later this month.

Next vs. New Mexico, Saturday

6. RB Montee Ball, Wisconsin (Last week: No. 7)

Week 13 W 45-7 vs. Penn State (25 carries for 156 yards, 4 TD; 1 reception for 15 yards)
Year to date 248 carries for 1,622 yards, 29 TD; 16 receptions for 248 yards, 5 TD

Ball’s problem doesn’t lie in the numbers. There’s no more statistically impressive running back in college football; when it comes to numbers, Ball may stand head and shoulders above the entire country. With two more games to play, it’s very conceivable that Ball will break Barry Sanders’ record for touchdowns in a single season. And last weekend, with a title game berth on the line, Ball scored four times to pace Wisconsin’s 45-7 mauling of Penn State. Ball’s problem is his quarterback: Russell Wilson is so good as to detract, at least somewhat, from Ball’s candidacy.

Next vs. Michigan State, Saturday

7. QB Matt Barkley, U.S.C. (Last week: No. 6)

Week 13 W 50-0 vs. U.C.L.A. (35 of 42 for 423 yards, 6 TD)
Year to date 308 of 446 for 3,528 yards, 39 TD, 7 INT

If this is it for Barkley — and I hope it’s not — it was quite a way to go out. Beat the hated Bruins by 50 points, leading their coach to be fired in the process. Toss six touchdowns, giving him a U.S.C. single-season record 39 on the year. Not throw a pick, meaning Barkley’s tossed only three interceptions since the second of October. End the year atop the Pac-12 South, even if that’s meaningless. You couldn’t have drawn it up any better. My hope that Barkley returns is purely for selfish reasons: I want to see what he’d do as a senior.

Next season over

8. QB Brandon Weeden, O.S.U. (Last week: No. 8)

Week 13 bye
Year to date 355 of 486 for 4,111 yards, 34 TD, 12 INT

Like his team, Weeden has a chance to make a national statement on Saturday night. It would have been nicer if O.U. hadn’t lost to Baylor two weeks ago; then again, it would have been even better had the Cowboys not lost to Iowa State. But it remains a great chance for Weeden: Luck isn’t playing at all and Moore, Keenum and Griffin III will have already played, so he gets the spotlight all to himself. What does Weeden need to do? Play his best game of the season.

Next vs. Oklahoma, Saturday

9. RB David Wilson, Virginia Tech (Last week: No. 9)

Week 13 W 38-0 at Virginia (24 carries for 153 yards, 2 TD; 1 reception for 5 yards)
Year to date 255 carries for 1,595 yards, 9 TD; 18 receptions for 112 yards, 1 TD

At times, it seemed like Virginia was playing defense with 10 players. Or that Virginia Tech was playing offense with 12 players. The Hokies made it look easy, basically, beating the Cavaliers by 38 points to take home the A.C.C. Atlantic title. And Wilson, for the first time against an F.B.S. foe, scored more than one touchdown on the ground. That’s been Wilson’s biggest negative all year: the lack of touchdowns. The total, nine, is still well too few for Wilson to be a serious Heisman contender, but he’s clearly the best player in the A.C.C. in 2011.

Next vs. Clemson, Saturday

10. QB Denard Robinson, Michigan (Last week: N/A)

Week 13 W 40-34 vs. Ohio State (14 of 17 for 167 yards, 3 TD; 26 carries for 170 yards, 2 TD)
Year to date 133 of 237 for 2,056 yards, 18 TD, 14 INT; 208 carries for 1,163 yards, 16 TD

Was this the best game of Robinson’s career? You could make that case, even if he’s had more statistically impressive performances — and that says something about how dynamic Robinson has been over his two years in the starting lineup. This was clearly the most careful performance of his career, if that makes sense: in a close game where one turnover could have meant the difference between winning and losing, Robinson combined his athletic prowess with a careful and methodical passing game. Ohio State’s pass defense helped, of course, but credit Robinson for taking advantage of what was given to him. And yeah, this was obviously the best win of his career.

Next bowl play

Dropped out

QB Landry Jones, Oklahoma (Last week: No. 10)

Previous weeks

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.

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  1. Parker says:

    Hi Paul

    Doesn’t Auburn give up 200 yards a game rushing?

    I still say that there are a dozen backs in the country who would be as productive as Richardson in Bama’s offense. And Bama would be 11-1 with any of 3 dozen backs in the country.

    In the game of the year, he didn’t lead Alabama closer than the LSU 17 yard line. You could have moved the goal line 15 yards closer on each Alabama drive, and they still would not have scored a TD.

    He only made 1 good run that game. He caught several balls, but he had a chance to make a play catching the ball in OT, and failed. The best player in the country makes that play.

    I don’t get the hype. He’s a good college back. He’s nowhere near the best player in the country.

  2. DMK says:

    I could see how someone might think Richardson’s stats aren’t pumped up enough to win the award, but there’s certainly no hype about the guy or his ability.

  3. taylor says:

    come on, Griffin has better numbers and has been more impressive than Luck. Ball has much better numbers against more difficult competition (barely) than Richardson. Baylor is worse without Griffin than Stanford is without Luck.

  4. taylor says:

    and Griffin is waaaay more fun to watch.

  5. Rick says:

    Paul can you comment on the end of the Kellen Moore era? I feel like he might be one of the greatest college quarterbacks ever and no one really seems to care. Im not even a Boise state fan but that kid has been amazing.

  6. Andrew says:


    If I’m not mistaken, the Vegas bowl is no longer contracted with the Pac-10/12

  7. Andrew says:

    My mistake it appears that it is. Not sure where i got that idea.

  8. jjtiller says:

    If The Bears beat Texas, RG3 gets my vote ahead of Luck and Keenum

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