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 after Week 11.
Last week: 32 rushes for 175 yards and two TDs; one reception for four yards and one TD in a 45-21 win over Georgia Southern
Season (11 games): 236 rushes for 1,380 yards and 20 TDs; 26 receptions for 322 yards and two TDs; three kick returns for 66 yards
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.
Next up: Saturday at Auburn
Last week: 21-of-34 passing for 479 yards and four TDs; 18 rushes for 72 yards in a 45-38 win over No. 5 Oklahoma
Season (10 games): 245-of-336 passing for 3,572 yards, 33 TDs and five INTs; 135 rushes for 550 yards and five TDs; one reception for 15 yards
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 34-yard game-winning touchdown to Terrance Williams that gave Baylor its first win over Oklahoma in 21 tries. That touchdown pass was part of a masterful 43-second drive in which Griffin ran for 30 yards and threw for 46 in breaking his own team records for passing yards (479) and total offense (551). The Bears won't be knocking down the BCS door, but it should only enhance his profile that Griffin has led his team to seven wins despite a defense that ranks 114th in the FBS.
Next up: Saturday vs. Texas Tech
Last week: 20-of-30 passing for 257 yards, two TDs and one INT in a 31-28 win over Cal
Season (11 games): 241-of-343 passing for 2,937 yards, 31 TDs and eight INTs; 39 rushes for 133 yards and two TDs; one reception for 13 yards
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.
Next up: Saturday vs. No. 22 Notre Dame
Last week: 30-of-45 passing for 318 yards and one TD; four rushes for 19 yards and one TD in a 37-7 win over SMU
Season (11 games): 309-of-421 passing for 4,269 yards, 38 TDs and three INTs; 41 rushes for 106 yards and three TDs
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 Jeff Sagarin's ratings, and has yet to face a single Top 25 team. Saturday should provide Houston's stiffest test in weeks, as it faces a Tulsa team capable of keeping pace with a 37.5-point-per-game average.
Next up: Friday vs. Tulsa
Last week: 28-of-40 passing for 366 yards, four TDs and one INT; one punt for 42 yards in a 52-35 win over San Diego State
Season (10 games): 248-of-336 passing for 2,915 yards, 35 TDs and six INTs
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 Tom Tupa, but he also showed off his punting skills in the Broncos' win over the Aztecs, pinning SDSU at its own three-yard line with a 42-yard pooch kick. There was no hangover after Boise's season-altering loss to TCU, as Moore delivered his 30th game with at least three touchdown strikes. But it wasn't enough to move him up the rankings.
Next up: Saturday vs. Wyoming
Last week: 42-of-58 passing for 476 yards, three TDs and three INTs in a 37-31 loss to Iowa State
Season (11 games): 355-of-486 passing for 4,111 yards, 34 TDs and 12 INTs
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.
Next up: Saturday, Dec. 3 vs. No. 12 Oklahoma