With four weeks to go before Heisman ballots are due, the trophy, now more than ever, appears to be Andrew Luck's to lose.
It's not so much a matter of what the Stanford quarterback did in Week 10; it's what the player who may have had the best chance to challenge him didn't.
Trent Richardson was afforded an opportunity no contender could match: No. 1 LSU against No. 2 Alabama, the ultimate Heisman arena. He didn't exactly hurt his chances in the 9-6 overtime loss to LSU -- Richardson ran for 89 yards, the most the Tigers have allowed all season and also had 80 yards receiving -- but he failed to come through with a game-defining performance. Given Luck's standing as the consensus favorite, it was going to take a dominant game to create, at the very least, a virtual tie in the Watchman's rankings.
Now Luck has an opportunity of his own, which could all but cement the Cardinal's first Heisman since Jim Plunkett in 1970 as No. 4 Stanford hosts No. 6 Oregon. Can he turn the next few weeks into a coronation? Will Luck slip up and open the door for Richardson, Case Keenum or Kellen Moore?
We'll know the answer soon enough. Saturday night in Palo Alto could bring a sense of finality to a race that Luck has seemingly led since the moments after Cam Newton was announced as last year's winner.
As a refresher,
There was no letdown against the two-win Beavers following the triple-overtime classic at USC, but Luck wasn't spectacular either, posting his lowest QB rating (150.7) since Week 1. Still, Luck led the Cardinal to their first victory in the state of Oregon since '05, while keeping their unbeaten record intact heading into the Pac-12 North showdown with Oregon. Expect to hear plenty of payback talk leading into this one: it was the Ducks who gave Stanford its last loss on Oct. 2, 2010, winning 52-31 in Autzen Stadium despite 380 total yards and three TDs from Luck.
Where was the offense in the Game of the Century? Most of it came courtesy of Richardson, whose 169 total yards were 97 more than anyone outside of Crimson Tide quarterback A.J. McCarron's 199. On Richardson's opening carry he ran for 18 yards, eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his career, and seemed well on his way to becoming the only back to hit the 100-yard mark against the Tigers with 98 yards on his first 20 carries. But he was held to minus-9 yards on his final three attempts, giving him a sub-100-yard game and his first without a TD this season. It hurts, but not enough to drop him.
College football has a new alltime wins' king. Moore broke Colt McCoy's record in a rout of UNLV, earning his 46th career victory. Just how good has the Blue Turf Group been with Moore at the controls? He's now 46-2 in his career for a 95.8 winning percentage -- McCoy (45-8) won 84.9 percent of his games -- and in those 48 games the Broncos have never trailed by more than seven points. Moore, who threw five touchdown passes against the Rebels' 110th-ranked defense, should get a stiffer test against TCU, though unfortunately for him it's not the attention-grabbing game that it looked like in the preseason.
Keenum completed the Triple Crown, breaking Timmy Chang's alltime passing yardage record to add to the total yardage and TD pass marks he's already set this season.
With the Cowboys' BCS title hopes on the line, Weeden did what a legit Heisman contender should: He put his team on his back and delivered. With the Cowboys trailing in the fourth quarter, Weeden hit Justin Blackmon for a 54-yard TD and the ensuing two-point conversion, then directed a 65-yard drive to take the lead with a little over a minute to play. He did throw two picks, his third game with multiple interceptions, but he also set a school record with 502 yards along the way. Blackmon (13 receptions for 205 yards) gets plenty of attention, but Weeden's stock should be rising among voters.
It's always been an underlying question surrounding Landry Jones: Just how good would he be without Ryan Broyles, the All-America and the NCAA career leader in receptions? Unfortunately for Jones and the Sooners, we're about to find out after Broyles tore his ACL, ending his season. Jones didn't have to shoulder much of a load following Broyles' injury; he attempted just eight passes without the wideout compared to 30 with him on the field. It's not as though there's a lack of talent without Broyles, but if Jones keeps Oklahoma rolling in his absence, doesn't it only help his credentials?
Wilson took a back seat to running back Montee Ball, who had a career-high 223 yards, but in Wilson's case that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's a dominant ground game that allows Wilson to be at his most dangerous. He's now hitting on 73.8 percent of his pass attempts in games when the Badgers run for at least 241 yards, as they did in racking up 364 on the Boilermakers. He also extended his nation's best streak of games with at least one TD pass to 33, three away from Graham Harrell's all-time record.
It was Griffin once again doing Griffin-type things. He went over 400 yards of offense for the third straight game -- the performance pushed him to seventh on the Big 12 career yardage list -- and led the Bears to a school record 697 yards. But with losses in back-to-back games against ranked opponents, it's hard to get revved about putting up big numbers against five-loss Missouri. He has time to help his cause with No. 6 Oklahoma and No. 21 Texas, but can he put up similarly gaudy stats
Barkley did what Heisman-winning quarterbacks Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart never could: tossing a school-record six TD passes -- and he saved another with a tackle on his lone interception. Mind you, it was against Colorado, which has allowed more passing TDs (28) than anyone. But Barkley is on an impressive run, with 18 TDs in the last five games, though the fact remains that the Trojans are banned from the postseason and only one team facing that obstacle has produced a Heisman winner (Houston's Andre Ware in 1989). It seems even more impossible in the BCS era.
The Tigers are out of the title hunt, cooling the talk of Boyd's candidacy, but he remains one worth watching. Clemson can claim their second ACC Atlantic Division crown in three years with a win at Wake Forest, though this could be the start of Boyd setting himself up for a 2012 Heisman run. The push is to have him become