Wilson, Jones among Heisman favorites whose chances took a hit
It was a virtual smorgasbord of Heisman Trophy candidates. One could channel surf and catch a glimpse of Oklahoma's Landry Jones. You could see Stanford's Andrew Luck, Alabama's Trent Richardson and Wisconsin's Russell Wilson, whose games all overlapped Saturday night.
But overall, the viewing buffet failed to live up to the immense hype -- though it's an evening that may end up having a major impact on this race.
Luck and Richardson put up pedestrian numbers by their standards, but both remained very much in the BCS championship hunt. Meanwhile, Jones and Wilson, while impressive at times, saw their teams' hopes all but evaporate in losses. A spot in the title game isn't one of the official qualifications to win the Heisman, though it may as well be; in nine of the last 11 years, the recipient has played for the crystal football. This doesn't mean Jones and Wilson are out of the running, but they may be resigned to playing catch-up.
While those players failed to seize the spotlight, Week 8 wasn't without its statements. Tajh Boyd has officially become too prolific to ignore as the Clemson quarterback had six total touchdowns, giving him an FBS-best 176 points responsible for on the season, while Houston's Case Keenum made history and Boise State's Kellen Moore put himself in line for his own spot in the record books.
Before we take a look at this week's top contenders, which no longer includes LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu after his suspension for violating the team's drug policy,
Luck's numbers were far from overwhelming as the Cardinal ran its FBS-best winning streak to 15 games with a drubbing of No. 22 Washington. Luck's passing yards (169) and completions (16) were his lowest of the season. But he gets more than a little credit as Stanford racked up a school-record 446 rushing yards, with Luck calling all the plays at the line of scrimmage. No. 20 USC is likely hoping Luck continues to check off to running plays as the Cardinal visit the Coliseum this week; the Trojans come in 104th nationally in pass defense, allowing 265.1 yards per game.
Richardson saw his streak of 100-yard games end at six, against a Volunteers defense that was intent on stopping him, though he did find the end zone twice and is currently tied with Temple's Bernard Pierce for second nationally in scoring at 13.5 points per game. But most importantly, he helped keep the second-ranked Crimson Tide on their collision course with No. 1 LSU. It's that matchup against FBS' No. 3 defense that has the potential to catapult Richardson into the lead, though we'll have to wait until Nov. 5 for their highly anticipated Southern brawl.
No time was a good time for Wilson to have his worst outing of the season, but it's hard to imagine it coming in more costly fashion. After throwing one interception over the first six games, Wilson had two against the Spartans and his intentional grounding in the end zone led to a safety. He was sensational on the Badgers' last scoring drive, going 3-for-3 for 72 yards and a score, but in the end he hit on a season-low 66.7 percent of his passes and gave up the national pass efficiency lead to Baylor's Robert Griffin III, who was idle.
This may be the most crucial game of RGIII's season. A third loss would all but take his Bears out of the running in the Big 12, and as we discussed last week, make it increasingly difficult for America's choice for the Halfway Heisman to win the December version. But if he wins a shootout with fellow candidate Brandon Weeden -- with two offenses who rank 99th (Baylor) and 100th (Oklahoma State) in points allowed, we can expect plenty of fireworks -- Griffin can give himself and Baylor a much-needed boost with a signature win on the road.
Moore tied Colt McCoy for the alltime wins record (45) and he did it with the kind of efficient effort we've come to expect from the face of the Broncos. He completed 79 percent of his passes -- the fifth time this season he's been at 76 percent or higher -- and it was all the more important given that Boise State ran just 55 plays over eight possessions as Air Force and its triple-option played keep-away. Moore will have to wait a week until he gets his first crack at passing McCoy as the Broncos have a week off before facing 1-5 UNLV.
He continued to put up staggering numbers. Jones went over 363 yards for the sixth time in seven games and tied his season high with five TD passes, but he wasn't sharp, hitting on a season low 54.5 percent of his throws, as Oklahoma saw its BCS title hopes dealt a serious blow. He will no doubt be eyeing a rebound against No. 10 Kansas State that, despite its lofty ranking, has been susceptible to the pass. The Wildcats rank 88th in pass defense and previously allowed 346 yards against RGIII and 461 by Texas Tech's Seth Doege.
Keenum carved his name into NCAA history, passing Timmy Chang as the career yardage king with a 30-yard pass to Justin Johnson in the first quarter against Marshall. It marked his 31st career 300-yard game. This is obviously no indicator of how Keenum will finish in voting, but of the players who make up the current top 10 in career yardage, five were among the top four vote-getters as seniors, with three (Colt Brennan, Colt McCoy and Ty Detmer) raking within the top three. However, Chang and former Houston product quarterback Kevin Kolb, weren't even in the top 10.
The Watchman is jumping on the Boyd bandwagon. Having freshman phenom Sammy Watkins to throw to has helped his production, but let's not discount the startling ascent Boyd has made in his first year as a starter, which is also the Tigers' first season in new coordinator Chad Morris' spread attack. The sophomore has six games with three or more TD passes, including a school record-tying five against North Carolina to go along with a rushing score. It is worth noting that no Clemson player has ever finished higher than sixth in the voting and the school has never had a finalist.
Weeden wasted little time in making up for last week, when he had the lowest production of his Cowboys career. The senior passed 19-of-25 for 216 yards and two touchdowns -- in the first quarter against Missouri, and that number could have been higher as Oklahoma State receivers totaled six drops. He was basically a non-factor in the second half, totaling 59 yards and an interception, as running back Joseph Randle took over with receivers Justin Blackmon and Hubert Anyiam injured, but still remains third nationally with an average of 31.7 completions per game.
How will Shoelace respond after suffering a major setback his last time out? He'll face a Purdue defense that gave up 460 yards to Middle Tennessee State and 551 to Notre Dame. The bottom line is Robinson is in need of a strong outing, not just to keep his spot on this list, but also to squelch the growing sentiment that he should be demoted in favor of sophomore Devin Gardner. Coach Brady Hoke has said Robinson remains his quarterback, but when's the last time that fans were calling for the benching of a Heisman candidate?