Richardson, Griffin supplant Luck atop shrinking Heisman Watch
A weekend that rocked the BCS standings also significantly impacted the Heisman Trophy race, with key players suffering major blows to their candidacies. But the biggest change in the Watchman's world wasn't the result of a loss. For the first time this season, Andrew Luck does not hold the top spot.
Coming off a loss to Oregon that stripped away his aura of invincibility, the Stanford quarterback needed a statement showing against Cal in the Big Game to continue his run at No. 1. He failed to deliver, playing a steady game, but not a dominant one.
Steady isn't enough to win the Heisman. And after 12 weeks, it's no longer enough to outweigh the bodies of work put forth by Alabama running back Trent Richardson and Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III.
I downgraded Richardson after the Crimson Tide's loss to No. 1 LSU. But Richardson has now faced five defenses ranked in the top 20 nationally, averaging 133.6 total yards of offense in those games. Meanwhile, Griffin put together one of the most captivating performances of the season in racking up 551 total yards against No. 5 Oklahoma on Saturday. Griffin has six games with at least 400 yards of offense, four of which came against Top 25 teams and another of which came against a team that wasn't ranked at the time but is now.
So, who is more Heisman-worthy?
The Watchman is torn. Both have valid cases, and since it's unlikely the Heisman Trust will split the award in two or stage a keep-your-hand-on-the-trophy-longest-and-win contest, a decision has to be made. Luckily there are two weeks of football before ballots are due and chances for both to help or hurt their candidacies. In the meantime, Richardson and Griffin are going to have to live with sharing top billing.
We continue cutting the contenders this week, focusing on the top six players with the best chance to win the award. As a refresher, here's a look at where things stood
And we thought Richardson was going to get a light day's work before the Iron Bowl. With Georgia Southern's triple-option torching the nation's top defense for 302 rushing yards, the Crimson Tide opted to ride their workhorse back. Richardson carried the load, raking up a career-high 32 carries for the second straight game and notching 167-plus yards for the fourth time this season. He now has 20 rushing touchdowns in 2011, breaking Shaun Alexander's single-season team record of 19 touchdowns in 1999. Richardson's 22 total scores are nine more than Mark Ingram had in 2009, and if he wins, his total would be the most by a Heisman-winning running back since Ricky Williams' 28 in 1998.
In a season that's been devoid of Heisman moments, RG3 may have delivered his. With 17 seconds remaining and his Bears tied 38-38 with Oklahoma, Griffin stepped up in the pocket, moved left and threw a
Luck's early struggles against Cal weren't completely unexpected, as the field was a mess on a rainy night and he was facing a Bears defense that limited USC's Matt Barkley to 195 yards and leads the Pac-12 against the pass (204 yards per game). Luck needed to dominate a four-loss team, but overall it was a sub-par performance, as he threw an interception for the fourth straight game, the longest stretch of his career. He kept the Cardinal in line for a return to a BCS bowl and could still end Stanford's 41-year Heisman drought, but Luck will have to take advantage of a primetime matchup with No. 22 Notre Dame on Saturday in what's likely his last regular-season game.
The man just keeps making history. Keenum broke Graham Harrell's NCAA record of 1,404 career completions and also topped 300 yards for the 36th time, tying Timmy Chang's all-time mark. He also kept the Cougars in line for a BCS berth as they improved to 11-0. The schedule continues to be the only sticking point in Keenum's campaign, but how much can we fault him for passing every test? Houston plays the 116th-ranked slate, according to
Keenum's assault on every aerial record in the book gets more attention, but Moore is leaving an imprint of his own. He moved past Harrell for second on the touchdown pass list with a four-score first half, giving him 134 in his career to trail only Keenum's 145. Nobody is going to confuse Moore with
Weeden's yardage in a loss to Iowa State was as gargantuan as we've come to expect during his rise up this list. He's now thrown for 1,401 yards over the past three games to go along with 12 touchdowns -- numbers worthy of a certain bronze trophy. But he made costly mistakes against Iowa State. After the Cyclones cut the Cowboys' lead to 24-17 late in the third quarter, Weeden managed one touchdown and two picks over his next 22 attempts -- he came in averaging 47.5 attempts between picks -- and ended the night with his third pick of the game. His chances of winning the Heisman, just like the Cowboys' chances of winning the BCS title, were greatly deflated by the loss. In fact, the setback may have cost Weeden a shot at making it to New York.