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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 3

It’s often about the whole 60 minutes, from kickoff to final whistle. And it’s always about the bottom line: the entire year, all 12 games of 60 minutes — that’s 720 total minutes, even if a star factors into only half that time, if not a bit less. But you can make your Heisman run in a fraction of that time: five minutes, one minute, one series or even one play, as Denard Robinson did on Saturday night. Was he perfect? Not even close: three interceptions, not to mention several more passes than should have been intercepted. But when push came to shove, when Michigan needed him most, Robinson delivered. And then he did it again, and again, and when the final whistle blew it was Robinson 35, Notre Dame 31. That’s how you win the Heisman: with superb play throughout, yes, but also with indelible, highlight reel-worthy moments like those Robinson had against the Fighting Irish.

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

Week 2 W 44-14 at Duke (20 of 28 for 290 yards, 4 TD, 1 INT; 3 carries for 2 yards)
Year to date 37 of 54 for 461 yards, 6 TD, 1 INT; 5 carries for 11 yards, 1 TD

The sun dipped behind the clouds. Stanford came alive, in a reverse-solar power sort of way. Duke hung around for a bit, trailing by only 10 points at halftime, but the second half was another story: the Cardinal scored 27 points over the final 30 minutes, finally turning into the offensive power most expect to see on a weekly basis, and put the pesky Blue Devils in the rearview mirror. Luck tied a career-high with four touchdown passes, completing at least 63 percent of his attempts for the 10th straight game — that’s amazing — and all is right in the world. A tougher test awaits in Arizona, but how much tougher? The Wildcats were picked apart by Brandon Weeden and Oklahoma State last weekend, so it’s not a stretch to expect more of the same from Luck and the Cardinal.

Next at Arizona, Saturday

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

Week 2 bye
Year to date 28 of 34 for 261 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT

Most have been high on Toledo all summer, but Friday’s date gets a bit more interesting for Boise State after the Rockets went toe-to-toe with Ohio State in Columbus. You know the Broncos were rooting for Toledo to score the upset, but that the Rockets hung close is the next-best thing. Now, perhaps a few will be touting Toledo for the upset. What does that mean? Well, when Boise wins by 35 points it will only help its B.C.S. cause. And if Moore does the same to Toledo as he’s done to everyone else — including Toledo last fall — it’ll only help his Heisman standing.

Next at Toledo, Friday

3. RB Marcus Lattimore, U.S.C. (Last week: No. 4)

Week 2 W 45-42 at Georgia (27 carries for 176 yards, 1 TD; 2 receptions for 8 yards)
Year to date 50 carries for 288 yards, 4 TD; 5 receptions for 41 yards

I wasn’t sure what year it was: 2010 or 2011? The setting changed, the two teams had changed, but as was the case a year ago, Marcus Lattimore was tearing apart the Georgia defense. Last year’s victory was his national coming-out party. This past Saturday was just par for the course: 176 yards on the ground with a score, helping Lattimore cement his status as the local Georgia killer. Thankfully, the Bulldogs won’t see Lattimore for another 12 months, and then never again, perhaps. Through two weeks of 2011, we’ve seen not just last year’s very good Lattimore but a great Lattimore, one who has continued to show an ability to put the South Carolina offense on his back. He’ll have several more opportunities to boost his stock as the Gamecocks move through SEC play.

Next vs. Navy, Saturday

4. QB Landry Jones, Oklahoma (Last week: No. 3)

Week 2 bye
Year to date 35 of 47 for 375 yards, 1 TD

Jones has a chance to move to the forefront with a solid performance against Florida State. It’s the marquee moment of the weekend: two top teams with national title hopes, with Oklahoma’s starring pair planning on not just a win but the accompanying Heisman boost, should each perform up to expectations. Could Jones stay in the race even if he scuffles in a win? Absolutely. I don’t know if you could say the same about Ryan Broyles, but you can’t have one without the other — Jones is successful when looking to Broyles, and Broyles puts up numbers when Jones is on point. Jones just needs to win.

Next at Florida State, Saturday

5. QB Denard Robinson, Michigan (Last week: No. 6)

Week 2 W 35-31 vs. Notre Dame (11 of 24 for 338 yards, 4 TD, 3 INT; 16 carries for 108 yards, 1 TD)
Year to date 20 of 37 for 436 yards, 4 TD, 3 INT; 26 carries for 154 yards, 1 TD

How many interceptions should Robinson have thrown on Saturday? Three was the actual total, but I think it could have been five, six, what have you. What really matters? That Michigan won, for starters, but also that Robinson had such a sublime fourth quarter. In doing so, despite those spotty interceptions, he regains his standing among the top five Heisman contenders in the country. It was a fourth quarter to remember: a one-yard run with 14:54 left to make it 24-14; a 14-yard touchdown pass to make it 24-21; the go-ahead score, making it 28-21, via a 21-yard screen pass with 1:12 left; after the Irish retook the lead, Robinson needed three plays to go 80 yards — thanks to a defensive lapse from Notre Dame — for the game-winning touchdown. Wait for the field goal? No chance. You saw the good and the bad from Robinson, but you remember the good.

Next vs. Eastern Michigan, Saturday

6. WR Justin Blackmon, O.S.U. (Last week: No. 8)

Week 2 W 37-14 vs. Arizona (12 receptions for 128 yards, 2 TD
Year to date 20 receptions for 270 yards, 2 TD

I said during Oklahoma State’s win last Friday that there wasn’t anyone in Arizona, let alone at Arizona, who could cover Blackmon. It was suggested that former L.S.U. cornerback Patrick Peterson, now with the Cardinals, could do the trick. You know what? I’m not so sure. Blackmon got back into the end zone twice on Friday after being held scoreless by Louisiana-Lafayette on the first Saturday of the season, and continued his assault on the N.C.A.A. record books with yet another game with at least 100 yards receiving. Looking ahead, is there any team who can put forth a secondary capable of slowing Blackmon down? Nope. Barring injury, Blackmon’s going to roll through the rest of the schedule unopposed.

Next at Tulsa, Saturday

7. QB Robert Griffin III, Baylor (Last week: No. 5)

Week 2 bye
Year to date 21 of 27 for 359 yards, 5 TD; 10 carries for 38 yards

Do we remember Griffin III? It’s amazing how soon we forget, even if we haven’t completely forgotten the show he put on in leading Baylor to an upset win over T.C.U. two weeks ago. How could we possibly forget entirely? He was sublime, pure and simple, and T.C.U.’s defensive resurgence against Air Force on Saturday only makes Griffin III look even better. Remember: pinpoint passing, five touchdowns, nearly 40 yards on the ground. Look for Griffin III to continue to slide a tad as Baylor takes on a few undermanned foes prior to the start of Big 12 play, but he’ll have a number of opportunities to remake his case against Texas, Oklahoma and the like.

Next vs. Stephen F. Austin, Saturday

8. WR Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma (Last week: No. 7)

Week 2 bye
Year to date 14 receptions for 158 yards, 1 TD

I can’t shake the feeling that Broyles has two insurmountable hurdles in his path to the Heisman: one is his own quarterback, the other is Blackmon, his Oklahoma rival. But the numbers don’t lie, and Broyles is as productive an offensive skill player in the country. And like Jones, he has an opportunity to make a major statement against Florida State on Saturday. The Seminoles will likely match him up with all-American candidate Greg Reid, which has the makings of the best individual head-to-head pairing of the weekend — though Reid needs to step up his game to justify the hype. If Broyles has his customary line, somewhere around 14 grabs for 150 yards and a score or two, we might need to pay closer attention.

Next at Florida State, Saturday

9. WR T.Y. Hilton, F.I.U. (Last week: N/A)

Week 2 W 24-17 at Louisville (7 receptions for 201 yards, 2 TD; 2 KO returns for 67 yards, 33.5 per return)
Year to date 14 receptions for 338 yards, 3 TD; 2 carries for 49 yards; 4 KO returns for 159 yards, 39.8 per return)

Hilton put on a show, didn’t he? It was against Louisville — not world-beaters, to put it lightly — but Hilton had 7 receptions for 201 yards and 2 scores against a B.C.S. conference opponent as the only game in town on Friday night, which never hurts, as Griffin III can attest. Hilton’s a long shot, to put it lightly. And to remain in the conversation he’ll need to do the following: have more nights like the one on Friday; be particularly strong in wins over U.C.F. and Troy; and help F.I.U. finish 12-0. If he can do that, well, he may deserve to be in the mix.

Next vs. U.C.F., Saturday

10. LB Vontaze Burfict, A.S.U. (Last week: No. 10)

Week 2 W 37-30 vs. U.C. Davis (5 tackles, 1 for loss, 1 sack)
Year to date 8 tackles (4 for loss), 4 sacks

More of the same from Burfict, who has become a sack machine after notching nary a one for more than a full season. He know has four in two games — three against U.C. Davis, to be fair — in helping Arizona State start 2-0. And the win over Missouri was key for Burfict, even if it came largely on the back of the offense, not the defense. All the production in the world really won’t matter should A.S.U. not live up to its preseason expectations. Being productive will land Burfict national accolades come December, but the Sun Devils need to win at least nine games for Burfict to earn the invite to Manhattan. Even then it’s a long shot. But if one defender is going to land in the top five, it’ll be Burfict. He and the Sun Devils taken on another meaningful opponent on Saturday, when they take a trip to Illinois.

Next at Illinois, Saturday

Dropped out

RB LaMichael James, Oregon (Last week: No. 9)

Previous weeks

Week 2 list Andrew Luck, No. 1
Preseason list Andrew Luck, No. 1

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Comments

  1. Lee says:

    Paul,

    I would keep an eye on what Chris Rainey at UF is doing. If he does this in conference play then he should sneak up near the top. He is a smaller reggie bush. He has great hands, speed to burn, and has the best moves since Peter Warrick and Barry Sanders. Watch some of his highlights on youtube. Crazy!!

    Some of the moves that he pulls off are absolutely hilarious to watch.

  2. brandon says:

    Lee, I hope Rainey continues to put up big numbers against SEC foes and especially against Bama and LSU on back to back weekends.

    But I don’t think he had enough pre-season hype to get him in the mix just yet. IF (I would make it bigger but no font size control) UF comes out of October unscathed and Rainey puts up numbers like he’s done in wk 1 & 2, then he should be up there.

  3. Gotham Gator says:

    Notre Dame’s defense should be creating many more Heisman candidates over the course of the season. Robinson missed as many opportunities for big plays as he eventually converted.

    Look for Robinson to implode in a couple of big games later this season, losing them via turnovers, and for this column to start promoting Kirk Cousins for Heisman early next week.

  4. J says:

    How do Blackmon and Broyles get love and not Michael Floyd?

    He has comparable, if not better, numbers.

  5. Jamie Trinker says:

    Tyler Bray, Tennessee QB:

    In two games has 698 yards, 7 TDs, and 0 INTs

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