Gap widens between top three; why Pryor has fallen out of race

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A week in which Newton and Moore expanded their games in routs, and James ran roughshod over USC, only strengthened the notion that the gap between the top three candidates and everyone else in the Heisman Trophy hunt is getting bigger and bigger.

But the beauty of this chasm is that it allows the Watchman the opportunity to break down some overlooked aspects of this race, for instance, just who is the Big Ten's leading candidate?

Like many others, I tabbed Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor as the preseason favorite with the thought that his performance vs. Oregon in the Rose Bowl was a taste of things to come. While Pryor is on pace for career highs in every major passing category, he still has a penchant for making bad decisions in key moments (see his late pick vs. Wisconsin). His standing as the conference's leading man just isn't so concrete anymore.

Michigan's Denard Robinson made his play, emerging as the story of the season's first month with his attack on the Wolverines' record book, but Michigan's losses continue to pile, making him little more than a statistical monster.

Then there's Michigan State's Kirk Cousins, who saw his chances implode in Iowa City and Wisconsin's John Clay, who, while consistent, just hasn't put up Heisman-caliber numbers.

Surprisingly, Pryor's biggest competition may be a quarterback whose team often won despite him last season.

Iowa's Ricky Stanzi has been sharp, efficient and the Big Ten's most reliable starter. After throwing 15 interceptions last season, four of which were returned for touchdowns, Stanzi now ranks second nationally in passing efficiency.

The Hawkeye helped his cause in carving up Michigan State's defense, but he'll have a chance to truly make a statement on Nov. 20 when Iowa hosts Pryor and the Buckeyes. Until then, Pryor remains slightly ahead.

Before I unveil this week's top 10, here's a look at where things stood after Week 8.

Last Week: 18-of-24 passing for 209 yards and two TDs; 11 rushes for 45 yards; one reception for 20 yards and one TD in 51-31 win over Ole Miss

Season: 108-of-162 passing for 1,573 yards, 15 TDs and five INTs; 168 rushes for 1,122 yards and 14 TDs; two receptions for 42 yards and one TD

So the SEC's leading rusher had his string of 100-yard games snapped, but Newton added something new to his resume as he caught a 20-yard TD pass from QB-turned-WR Kodi Burns. Auburn seemed intent on giving Newton's legs a breather after he had a combined 81 rushes the last three weeks as he had 21 pass attempts (tying his season high) by halftime. Expect more of the same Saturday as the Tigers take a break from the SEC schedule.

Next Up: Saturday vs. Chattanooga

Last Week: 36 rushes for 239 yards and three TDs; one reception for minus-2 yards in 53-32 win over USC

Season: 170 rushes for 1,210 yards and 14 TDs; five receptions for 119 yards and one TD

The player who says he modeled his game after Reggie Bush did a number on his idol's old team. James was two yards shy of equaling the most yards ever given up by USC (Penn State's Curtis Enis had 241 in 1996) and posted the 15th 100-yard game of his career -- and he did it in just 20 games. The last Heisman winner with that many 100-yard games in that short a span was Herschel Walker.

Next Up: Saturday vs. Washington

Last Week: 20-of-28 passing for 298 yards, two TDs and one INT; one reception for seven yards and one TD; one punt for 54 yards in 49-20 win over Louisiana Tech

Season: 214-of-307 passing for 1,865 yards, 18 TDs and two INTs; nine rushes for minus-24 yards; one reception for seven yards and one TD; one punt for 54 yards

Not to be outdone by Newton's box score-filling exploits, Moore caught the first TD pass of his career and delivered a 54-yard punt, the longest by the Broncos this season to go along with his fourth game with at least 267 yards passing in 2010. For you history minded folks, Notre Dame's Paul Hornung (1956) was the last Heisman-winning quarterback to have his team's longest punt.

Next Up: Saturday vs. Hawaii

Last Week: 19-of-26 passing for 192 yards, one TD and one INT; five rushes for 92 yards and one TD in 41-0 win over Washington

Season: 152-of-226 passing for 1,920 yards, 20 TDs and six INTs; 40 rushes for 345 yards and three TDs; one reception for 11 yards

The duel between Luck and fellow NFL GM dream Jake Locker was no contest as Luck's defense bottled up his counterpart. Luck's numbers weren't overwhelming, but he was nearly flawless -- his lone pick coming on a Hail Mary at the end of the first half -- as he became the Pac-10's passing efficiency leader (162.5). He also showed that underrated mobility as he ran for a career-best 93 yards, which included a 51-yard TD run.

Next Up: Saturday vs. No. 13 Arizona

Last Week: Suspended

Season: 62 receptions for 1,112 yards and 14 TDs; three rushes for eight yards

Oklahoma State racked up 511 yards of offense without Blackmon, but this offense truly missed its most lethal weapon, who was suspended after being arrested on a misdemeanor DUI charge. The Cowboys lacked the ability to finish drives they have with the nation's leading receiver in the lineup as they were held 21 points below their season average. Fortunately for the Cowboys Blackmon's expected back with No. 21 Baylor coming to Stillwater.

Next Up: Saturday vs. No. 22 Baylor

Last Week: 16-of-24 passing for 219 yards, two TDs and one INT; 16 rushes for 17 yards and one TD in 30-22 win over Texas

Season: 196-of-294 passing for 2,592 yards, 20 TDs and five INTs; 92 rushes for 401 yards and seven TDs; one punt for 59 yards

One week after getting the Bears bowl eligible for the first time as a Big 12 member, Griffin helped Baylor make team history, snapping a 12-game losing streak to Texas. He now ranks third nationally in total offense at 332.5 yards per game and is averaging 41.7 yards per TD pass. The Watchman hates to break it to you ladies, but he's also taken.

Next Up: Saturday at No. 19 Oklahoma State

Last Week: 18-of-22 passing for 222 yards, two TDs and one INT; five rushes for 55 yards and one TD

Season: 152-of-225 passing for 1,997 yards, 20 TDs and seven INTs; 84 rushes for 463 yards and four TDs; two receptions for 19 yards and one TD

Pryor completed as least 10 straight passes for the third time this season and now trails only Art Schlichter on the Buckeyes alltime list for total yards and career TDs. But he continued to flash lapses in judgment as he threw a bad interception near the goal line, his fourth of the season inside the opponents' 39-yard line.

Next Up: Saturday Nov. 13 vs. Penn State

Last Week: 11-of-15 passing for 190 yards and three TDS; one rush for 26 yards in 37-6 win over Michigan State

Season: 135-of-197 passing for 1,922 yards, 19 TDs and two INTs; 34 rushes for 12 yards and two TDs

The clock-management issues in the loss to Wisconsin hurt, but his poise and numbers are hard to ignore. When stacked up against other Heisman-contending passers, he's thrown for more yards than Newton, Moore and Luck and Stanzi is on pace for more yards and TDs than Drew Tate when he was named first-team all-Big Ten.

Next Up: Saturday at Indiana

Last Week: 32-of-46 passing for 453 yards and four TDs; two rushes for four yards in 43-10 win over Colorado

Season: 227-of-338 passing for 2,547 yards, 21 TDs and five INTs

Before last weekend, Jones was the only one of the Big 12's top eight passers without a completion of at least 50 yards. He threw two in a performance that ranks only behind 2007 Heisman winner Sam Bradford (468 yards) in the Sooners' record book. Jones is now tied for second in FBS with 318.3 passing yards per game and that number could swell with none of Oklahoma's remaining opponents ranking better than 87th vs. the pass.

Next Up: Saturday at Texas A&M

Last Week: 11-of-23 passing for 190 yards and one TD; 27 rushes for 191 yards and three TDs in 41-31 loss to Penn State

Season: 108-of-166 passing for 1,509 yards, 10 TDs and five INTs; 164 rushes for 1,287 yards and 12 TDs; one punt for 30 yards

This was vintage Shoelace ... well, vintage as in early October. He piled up 380 yards of offense, including his sixth 100-yard game in seven games and broke Antwaan Randle-El's 10-year-old Big Ten single-season record for most rushing yards by a quarterback (1,270). But like we've come to expect from Robinson of late, he was also knocked out of a game for the fourth time this season and he couldn't will Michigan to a win.

Next Up: Saturday vs. Illinois