Call off the engravers; put portrait artist Ted Watts on hold. It seems we have an actual race on our hands.
A spotlight game against then-No. 6 Oregon was Andrew Luck's chance to all but secure the Heisman Trophy -- but things didn't go as planned. The Stanford quarterback was pressured all night by the Ducks in a 53-30 romp, resulting in three turnovers and three sacks, both career highs. Put the blame on the Cardinal line or a thinned out receiving corps, but the typically unflappable Luck looked, well, flapped.
He wasn't the only favorite who took a hit in Week 11.
Part of Kellen Moore's lure was the possibility of doing the unprecedented: putting Boise State in the BCS Championship Game. But with an undefeated season no longer in the cards -- after another missed field goal, no less -- the QB's hopes fade, like they did a year ago when he finished a distant fourth.
So who benefits the most from Luck and Moore's Saturday to Forget? With the Broncos' loss, Houston's Case Keenum has a real chance to add a BCS-bowl berth to his record-setting season, only aiding his cause. But it's Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden who has thrown 23 TDs to three picks in the last seven games, and whose team remains in the mix to play for the national title -- seven of the last 11 winners were QBs on championship game participants -- that has closed the gap on Luck. Interestingly enough both Keenum and Weeden were once tutored by current West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen.
This week the Watchman is cutting down the rankings from 10 to eight and will continue to do so leading to my official ballot on Dec. 5. But before we look at the top contenders, a list that includes some major shake-ups with the return of Oregon's LaMichael James and the rise of a different Wisconsin candidate, here's a look at how things stacked up after Week 10.
Last week: 27-of-41 passing for 271 yards, three TDs and two interceptions; five rushes for minus-13 yards.
Season (10 games): 221-of-313 passing for 2,680 yards, 29 TDs and seven INTs; 34 rushes for 134 yards and two TDs; one reception for 13 yards.
"Worst game of the year," Luck said after Stanford's 17-game winning streak was snapped by the Ducks. That was putting it lightly. The trademark accuracy just wasn't there as Luck led Cardinal to their lowest point total in 23 games and the fewest total yards (372) of his career. Luck was so entrenched as the leader that it's going to take more than one bad performance to knock him out of the top spot, though his margin for error is slim at best as Weeden continues to make his run. On a positive note, he did move into second all-time on the Stanford TD pass list, with 74, and now trails only John Elway (77).
Next up: Saturday vs. Cal
Last week: 31-of-37 passing for 423 yards and five TDs in 66-6 win over Texas Tech.
Season (10 games): 313-of-428 passing for 3,635 yards, 31 TDs and nine INTs.
He was nearly perfect, completing 83.8 percent of his passes and had a season-high 224.4 QB rating as Weeden led the Cowboys to the most points ever allowed by Texas Tech. Maybe most impressive was what he did while throwing into winds gusts of up to 40 mph, completing 17-of-21 passes for 273 yards and three TDs. In the last two weeks, Weeden has been red hot, throwing for a staggering 925 yards and nine touchdowns. If Oklahoma State runs the table, it's hard to imagine Weeden not getting an invite to New York. It should add further intrigue to a date with No. 5 Oklahoma, though the Cowboys do have to get through four-loss Iowa State first.
Next up: Friday at Iowa State
Last week: 32 rushes for 127 yards and one TD; two receptions for 26 yards in 24-7 win over Mississippi State.
Season (10 games): 204 rushes for 1,205 yards and 18 TDs; 25 receptions for 318 yards and one TD; three kick returns for 66 yards.
He rebounded from the setback against top-ranked LSU by posting his seventh 100-yard game of the season, though he had to work for it, running a career-high 32 times against a surprisingly stout Mississippi State defense. Richardson has a comfortable lead on Auburn's Michael Dyer in the chase for the SEC rushing crown and in averaging 120.5 yards per game, remains a threat to eclipse Mark Ingram's Crimson Tide record of 1,658 yards set in his Heisman-winning season of 2009. But don't be surprised if he doesn't see much action this week as 'Bama takes a break from its SEC slate against Georgia Southern.
Next up: Saturday vs. Georgia Southern
Last week: 22-of-29 passing for 325 yards and three TDs; five rushes for eight yards in 73-17 win over Tulane.
Season (10 games): 279-of-376 passing for 3,951 yards, 37 TDs and three INTS; 37 rushes for 104 yards and two TDs.
In a testament to the level of scoreboard torching that we've come to expect from Keenum, we can actually call his performance against Tulane "pedestrian." His total TDs and yards were his fewest in more than a month, though it did move him closer to another of Timmy Chang's career records as Keenum picked up his 35th 300-yard game, one behind the former Hawaii star's mark. Here's a stat to chew on: Keenum now has 37 TD passes on the season, while Cougars punter Richie Leone, a Ray Guy semifinalist, has just 29 attempts on the season. Houston is the only program with more TD passes than punts.
Next up: Saturday vs. SMU
Last week: 28-of-38 passing for 320 yards and two TDs in 36-35 loss to TCU.
Season (nine games): 220-of-297 passing for 2,549 yards, 31 TDs and five INTs.
He may go down as one of the great collegiate quarterbacks, given that no one has more wins and only three others have thrown more TD passes, but Moore's career may also be about what could have been. How might Moore and Co.'s season have ended if Kyle Brotzman hadn't missed that kick against Nevada last year? And now, the same questions hold again after Dan Goodale's 39-yard kick sailed right as time expired against TCU. It may not be fair that Boise's kicking misfortunes impact Moore's Heisman chances, but as key as getting in a BCS game has become in the formula, it's the reality of the situation.
Next up: Saturday at San Diego State
Last week: 20 rushes for 146 yards and three TDs; one reception for 10 yards; one punt return for three yards in 53-30 win over No. 3 Stanford.
Season (eight games): 153 rushes for 1,207 yards and 12 TDs; 13 receptions for 175 yards and one TD; seven punt returns for 119 yards and one TD; one kick return for 21 yards.
I'll admit it, I was a little quick to dismiss James entirely from this race. But I remain tied to a history that says no player who has missed more than one game has won, and James sat out two games with an elbow injury, so a win, in my estimation, is out of the question. That being said, he stands as the FBS leader with 150.8 rushing yards per game behind the strength of 1,007 yards in the last seven games. James took full advantage of the national stage in burning Stanford's Pac-12-leading rushing D for 146 yards and three TDs and has another big game ahead of him against No. 18 USC.
Next up: Saturday vs. No. 18 USC
Last week: 23 rushes for 166 yards and two TDs; one reception for five yards and one TD in 42-13 win over Minnesota.
Season (10 games): 185 rushes for 1,242 yards and 23 TDs; 14 receptions for 234 yards and four TDs; one pass for 25 yards and one TD.
Has the Watchman been keying in on the wrong Badger all this time? No disrespect to Russell Wilson, but Ball is making his case as the most dominant player in Wisconsin's attack. He's leading the nation with an average of 16.2 points per game and sits atop the Big Ten in all-purpose yards and rushing yards. Oh, and he just broke the conference's single-season record with 27 TDs, eclipsing the previous record of 26 by Pete Johnson, Anthony Thompson and Ki-Jana Carter. With a maximum of four games ahead of him, it'll be worth watching to see whether he can break Barry Sanders' NCAA record of 39 total TDs.
Next up: Saturday at Illinois
Last week: Idle
Season (nine games): 254-of-393 passing for 3,349 yards, 28 TDs and nine INTs; 17 rushes for 22 yards and two TDs.
There could be far worse matchups for Jones in his first games without All-America wide receiver Ryan Broyles at his side. Baylor ranks ninth in the Big 12 in total defense and just gave up 357 yards to Kansas' anemic offense. The opportunity is there, but the question is will he continue to put up the numbers we've come accustomed to? Jones' best and last chance to impress voters will come on Dec. 3 against Weeden and Oklahoma State, though in the meantime he can't afford to show any dip in production as he faces Robert Griffin III and Baylor and then Iowa State leading into the Bedlam Game.
Next up: Saturday at No. 25 Baylor