P.S.R. Heisman Watch: Week 4
By Paul Myerberg // Sep 21, 2011
We’re nearing the end of non-conference play, so the opportunities for a few non-B.C.S. conference players to make their mark is nearing an end. Minus Kellen Moore, most of the lesser-marquee performers need to do major damage in September: Florida International’s T.Y. Hilton, for example, needed a big-time showing against Louisville — he delivered — as he’ll get lost in the shuffle when his team takes on Western Kentucky on the same weekend that Landry Jones, Ryan Broyles and Oklahoma host Texas A&M. This is the time for non-B.C.S. conference players to burst onto the national scene: Hilton did his part, but there are two more weeks — maybe only one, for some — before the SEC, the Big Ten and the rest of the B.C.S. landscape put a stranglehold on center stage.
1. QB Andrew Luck, Stanford (Last week: No. 1)
Week 3 W 37-10 at Arizona (20 of 31 for 325 yards, 2 TD; 3 carries for 36 yards)
Year to date 57 of 85 for 786 yards, 8 TD, 1 INT; 8 carries for 47 yards, 1 TD
Luck passed his first Pac-12 test with flying colors — as if there was any doubt that he wouldn’t, of course. Luck had a near-interception along the goal line in the first half against Arizona, but that was it: tremendous play the rest of the way, with a nice rushing performance — his first of the year — joining another spectacular showing in the passing game. What stood out throughout the game, and continued to stand out on reflection, was how well Luck was spreading the ball around to his receivers: 20 completions to seven different players, with five targets making two or more receptions. What else stood out? After starting out 10 of 17 for 144 yards through 30 minutes, Luck hit on 10 of 14 attempts for 181 yards and 2 scores over the final two quarters.
Next vs. U.C.L.A., Oct. 1
2. QB Kellen Moore, Boise State (Last week: No. 2)
Week 3 W 40-15 at Toledo (32 of 42 for 455 yards, 5 TD, 1 INT)
Year to date 60 of 76 for 716 yards, 8 TD, 2 INT
Moore led an offense that had four drives of 40-plus yards against Toledo — that didn’t end up in touchdowns. That’s a pretty astounding fact, if you sit back and think about it. More often that not, however, Moore and the Broncos scored with ease on the Rockets: Moore set a new career-best in completions, tied his career high in touchdowns and threw for the second-most yards in his career. Therefore, it’s not a stretch to say that Moore is coming off the finest passing performance of his long and storied college career. That’s saying something.
Next vs. Tulsa, Saturday
3. RB Marcus Lattimore, U.S.C. (Last week: No. 3)
Week 3 W 24-21 vs. Navy (37 carries for 246 yards, 3 TD; 4 receptions for 25 yards)
Year to date 87 carries for 534 yards, 7 TD; 9 receptions for 66 yards
With his team in trouble, Lattimore picked the Gamecocks up, put them on his back and carried that to a narrow, hard-fought win over Navy. Not that the passing game was terrible: it was fine, just not as explosive as you would have hoped, given South Carolina’s weapons at receiver. This is going to be a theme all year, as while the Gamecocks are going to have a game here and there when the passing game falters, Lattimore is always going to be a factor. You want to beat South Carolina? Stop Lattimore. Good luck.
Next vs. Vanderbilt, Saturday
4. QB Russell Wilson, Wisconsin (Last week: N/A)
Week 3 W 49-7 vs. Northern Illinois (23 of 32 for 347 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT)
Year to date 50 of 66 for 791 yards, 8 TD, 1 INT; 11 carries for 110 yards, 1 TD
Well, this has turned out alright, I guess. The track record of senior transfers at quarterback — those who took advantage of that N.C.A.A. loophole — is spotty: I remember Kirby Freeman and Jeremiah Masoli, among a few others. Wilson has bucked the trend, picking up with the Badgers right where he left off at N.C. State. He’s been careful with the football, tossing a single interception through three games — we saw this with the Wolfpack. Wilson has actually been a tad more productive in terms of his completion percentage and yards per attempt, which is logical: he now has a running game to work with, unlike at N.C. State. Wilson’s continued to make plays with his feet, adding yet another dimension to the Wisconsin offense. Things are working out pretty well, it’s safe to say.
Next vs. South Dakota, Saturday
5. QB Landry Jones, Oklahoma (Last week: No. 4)
Week 3 W 23-13 at Florida State (19 of 27 for 199 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT)
Year to date 53 of 74 for 574 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT
The numbers weren’t great. And the offense as a whole didn’t excel, notching only 23 points and 310 yards of total offense, 199 through the air. Jones tossed a pair of interceptions, giving him as many picks and touchdowns through two games. But you know what? I said last week that Jones simply needed to win — he needed to do some things, not go 10 of 30 and win, but a victory was the most important factor for his Heisman hopes. Jones won, most importantly, but he also had a few moments, such as his late touchdown to Kenny Stills in response to Florida State’s game-tying score. That was a Heisman moment; not the Heisman moment, but it was a moment. Jones did enough to more than remain in the mix.
Next vs. Missouri, Saturday
6. QB Robert Griffin III, Baylor (Last week: No. 7)
Week 3 W 48-0 vs. Stephen F. Austin (20 of 22 for 265 yards, 3 TD; 8 carries for 78 yards)
Year to date 41 of 49 for 624 yards, 8 TD; 18 carries for 116 yards
So it’s Stephen F. Austin, and that alone — as good as Griffin III played — wouldn’t be enough. But T.C.U. came first, as his showing this past Saturday greatly resembled the national party Griffin III threw at home against the Horned Frogs on the first Friday of the season. Accurate: completing 20 of 22 attempts. Productive: 265 yards through the air with 3 scores. Careful: no interceptions for the second straight game. Running: 78 yards, giving him 116 yards on the ground on the year. Griffin III did what he had to do against Stephen F. Austin, which was put forth another superb performance, but his Heisman hopes hinge on how he fares against Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M.
Next vs. Rice, Saturday
7. WR Justin Blackmon, O.S.U. (Last week: No. 6)
Week 3 W 59-33 at Tulsa (7 receptions for 57 yards, 1 TD)
Year to date 27 receptions for 329 yards, 3 TD
This was the worst performance of Blackmon’s starting career, which began in earnest a year ago. He pulled down 7 receptions for only 57 yards; it was his first game with less than 100 yards since the 2010 Cotton Bowl — at the end of the 2009 season. Blackmon did notch a touchdown, did make seven grabs to give him at least five in 15 straight games, but it wasn’t a great performance. But you can excuse the diminished numbers, at least in part, to the long weather delay in advance of Saturday’s game with Tulsa, which didn’t start until well after midnight. Blackmon has an opportunity to further his Heisman cause — and make up for Tulsa — against Texas A&M on Saturday: points will be scored on both sides, and Blackmon should have a big game.
Next at Texas A&M, Saturday
8. QB Denard Robinson, Michigan (Last week: No. 5)
Week 3 W 31-3 vs. Eastern Michigan (7 of 18 for 95 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT; 26 carries for 198 yards, 1 TD)
Year to date 27 of 55 for 531 yards, 6 TD, 4 INT; 50 carries for 352 yards, 2 TD
Michigan really let Robinson loose against Eastern Michigan: he had a season-high 26 carries for a season-high 198 yards while making 18 attempts, six fewer than he did a week ago against Notre Dame. The circumstances were a bit different, to be fair, as the Wolverines were well ahead against the Eagles, not behind by multiple scores in the fourth quarter, as they were against the Irish. So Robinson did work on the ground, but the passing numbers weren’t impressive: completing 38.9 percent of his attempts for less than a hundred yards with an interception, though he threw a pair of touchdowns. Robinson and Michigan take on a very good San Diego State team on Saturday, and while the pregame stories will revolve around Brady Hoke playing his former team, Robinson needs to do a little more with his arm to remain a viable contender.
Next vs. San Diego State, Saturday
9. QB Geno Smith, West Virginia (Last week: N/A)
Week 3 W 37-31 at Maryland (36 of 49 for 388 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT)
Year to date 82 of 118 for 1,008 yards, 8 TD, 1 INT
The good news: Smith has taken to Dana Holgorsen’s offense. More good news: the Big East probably won’t slow down Smith’s numbers or West Virginia’s road to the B.C.S., based on what we’ve seen through three weeks. The bad news: just as the Big East won’t slow Smith down, neither will it provide him with high-profile opportunities to make his Heisman case. That makes a superb game — and a win — against L.S.U. a must-have this weekend. For West Virginia, a win could perhaps push W.V.U. to an undefeated season. If Smith throws for 350 yards and a few scores in leading the Mountaineers to the upset, his candidacy is going to land a major boost.
Next vs. L.S.U., Saturday
10. RB Ronnie Hillman, S.D.S.U. (Last week: N/A)
Week 3 W 42-24 vs. Washington State (32 carries for 191 yards, 4 TD; 2 receptions for 31 yards)
Year to date 77 carries for 497 yards, 8 TD; 6 receptions for 53 yards
Is Hillman the most under-appreciated running back in the country? Is Hillman the most under-appreciated offensive skill player in the country? He’s certainly one of a few stars flying in under the radar, and has done so since breaking through a year ago. Hillman’s put together another strong start to 2011, carrying the Aztecs to a 3-0 start highlighted by a 42-24 win against Washington State a week ago. Things were tight through three quarters — the Cougars held a 24-21 lead — but Hillman took over in the fourth, scoring twice to propel the Aztecs to a win over a B.C.S. conference opponent. He has a huge opportunity on Saturday, when he leads S.D.S.U. into Ann Arbor to take on the Wolverines.
Next at Michigan, Saturday
WR Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma (Last week: No. 8)
WR T.Y. Hilton, F.I.U. (Last week: No. 9)
LB Vontaze Burfict, Arizona State (Last week: No. 10)
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Tags: Andrew Luck, Denard Robinson, Geno Smith, Justin Blackmon, Kellen Moore, Landry Jones, Marcus Lattimore, Robert Griffin III, Ronnie Hillman, Russell Wilson, Ryan Broyles, T.Y. Hilton, The Heisman Trophy, Vontaze Burfict
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