After four weeks, the Heisman race remain wide open with many candidates still waiting in the wings to make their case on a national stage. We’ve weeded out some of the contenders from the pretenders, but there are still some pretenders out there and some contenders have yet to emerge from the pack.
We saw a player that fell off the pace earlier in the season emerge back into the Heisman conversation with an excellent weekend performance. We saw a shift in the order of the top five candidates after this week, and we potentially saw the end of a couple Heisman hopefuls that were in the sleeper category.
In any case, here is the Heisman race as I see it after four weeks.
The Front Runners
Andrew Luck (QB/Stanford) — Andrew Luck has been #1 in the Heisman race all season and that remains unchanged. Luck and Stanford took the week off after their 37-10 win over Arizona in Tuscon. For the season, Luck has a QB rating of 173.4, a 67.1 completion percentage, with 8 touchdown passes to just 1 interception. Luck’s stats up to this point haven’t been eye popping, but he has looked really good and he’s likely to only get better as the season goes on. It’s going to be a few more weeks before the Cardinal faces a stiff test in 2011. Stanford faces off with Pac-12 cellar-dwellers in Colorado and Washington State the next two weeks before a moderate test against Washington in Palo Alto on October 22nd. Truthfully, the schedule sets up nicely for them to be undefeated by the time Oregon comes to town the second weekend of November.
Robert Griffin III (QB/Baylor) — It was time to bump up Robert Griffin with his incredible performance in the first three games for Baylor. He has put up video-game like numbers, and while they may not have played the toughest of competition the last two weeks with games against Stephen F. Austin and Rice, but he looked just as spectacular in the season opener against TCU. He’s been the nation’s most efficient passer to this point, leading the nation in quarterback rating and completion percentage. One of the stats of the season to this point in college football is Robert Griffin having more touchdown passes than incomplete passes this year, with 13 touchdowns to 12 incompletions. He’s yet to throw an interception in 2011 and has passed for 962 yards. The non-conference slate has ended for the Bears as they open up Big XII play on the road against Kansas State on Saturday.
Kellen Moore (QB/Boise State) — It’s tough to bump Kellen Moore down a spot after his great performance on Saturday against Tulsa, but it’s a testimony to how brilliant Robert Griffin has been to this point. He completed 23 of his 29 pass attempts for 279 yards and 4 touchdowns to 0 interceptions against Tulsa. For the season he’s completed 79.0% of his passes for 995 yards with 12 touchdowns to 2 interceptions. He’s 3rd in the nation in QB rating and 2nd in the nation in completion percentage. Next up for Moore and the Broncos is a rematch against the team that ended their BCS hopes last season, the Nevada Wolfpack. Even in defeat, Kellen Moore was great last season against Nevada, and I expect nothing less when the two battle on the smurf turf.
Marcus Lattimore (RB/South Carolina) — For the first time this season, Lattimore didn’t top 100 yards rushing. He carried the ball 20 times for 77 yards and a touchdown against Vanderbilt at Williams-Brice. But, Lattimore made up for it with 3 receptions for 73 yards and a touchdown. Despite Lattimore not having over 100 yards rushing, he did have 140yards of offense in South Carolina’s 21-3 win over Vanderbilt. Lattimore is 2nd in the nation in rushing with 613 yards, just behind Oregon’s LaMichael James. He’s also reached paydirt 9 times for the season (8 rushing, 1 receiving). Next up for Lattimore and the Gamecocks is a rematch of last season’s SEC Championship game when they welcome Auburn to Columbia. Lattimore should be able to gash the Tigers on the ground, with Auburn ranking 112th in the nation in run defense, and they have yet to face a running back of Lattimore’s caliber.
Landry Jones (QB/Oklahoma) — Jones had an enormous amount of preseason hype heading into 2011, with many experts predicting him to be the 2011 Heisman winner. But, Jones has yet to live up to the expectations, and it’s probably a stretch to include him in the top five at this point, but I do since he did lead Oklahoma to a big win over Florida State on the road two weeks ago. He put together his best statistical performance on Saturday in Norman against Missouri. He completed 35 of his 48 passes for for a season-high 448 yards and 3 touchdowns, but he did throw 2 interceptions. The Sooners knocked off the Tigers 38-28 to keep their National Title hopes alive. But, if Jones wants a shot at winning the Heisman Trophy, and if Oklahoma wants to win a National Championship, he’s going to have to play better.
Just off the Pace
Trent Richardson (RB/Alabama) — For the third straight game, Trent Richardson topped 100 yards on the ground, going for 126 on 17 carries in Alabama’s 38-14 win over Arkansas. He added 85 yards receiving with a 61 yard touchdown on a screen pass. He finished the game with 211 yards of offense and averaged 7.4 yards per carry against an SEC defense. Richardson is up to 441 yards on 67 carries (6.6 ypc) with 8 rushing touchdowns. He also has 121 yards and a touchdown receiving. Richardson has an excellent chance at busting into the front runner category on Saturday in the Swamp against the best run defense Alabama has faced to date. The Gators rank 5th in he nation in run defense, giving up just over 56-yards per game.
LaMichael James (RB/Oregon) — Sometimes it only takes one game to get yourself back in the Heisman conversation. LaMichael James took over the nation’s lead in rushing with his school record 288 yards on 23 carries (12..5 ypc) and a pair of touchdown runs against Arizona. James entered the season as one of the top Heisman candidates after finishing 3rd in the race last season. But, he fell off the pace after LSU held him to just 54 yards on the ground in the Ducks’ season opening loss. James has now put together consecutive 200 yard games for the season. He’s rushed for 613 yards on just 65 carries, which is an eye-popping 9.4 yards per carry. I didn’t put too much into his 204 yard performance against Missouri State, but the 288 yard performance against Arizona was a statement, and that statement is that his Heisman hopes are alive and well.
Denard Robinson (QB/Michigan) — D-Rob is still not being effective passing the ball, but he’s still making plays running the football, and as led Michigan to a 4-0 start. I’ll admit that I thought San Diego State would give the Wolverines a lot of trouble, and even thought the Aztecs could pull the upset. Obviously that didn’t happen as Michigan defeated San Diego State 28-7 led by 200 rushing yards and 3 rushing touchdowns by Robinson. He has 552 rushing yards for the season, which is 4th in the nation. But, Robinson’s struggles through the air is what is holding him back at this point. He has completed just 48.6% of his passes on the season for 624 yards and 6 touchdowns to 6 interceptions. Michigan opens up Big Ten play on Saturday against Minnesota.
Brandon Weeden (QB/Oklahoma State) — At halftime of Oklahoma State’s game against Texas A&M on Saturday, it looked like Weeden’s Heisman hopes were dashed.But then, the second half came and Weeden led the Cowboys to a big 30-29 comeback win over Texas A&M in College Station. Weeden passed for a school-record 438 yards on 47/60 attempts with two touchdowns and no interceptions. His big day against Texas A&M gave him the nation’s lead in passing yards with 1592. He’s completed 74.3% of his passes with 10 touchdowns to 6 interceptions. The Pokes win puts them in position to be the top challenger to Oklahoma for the Big XII Title and possibly more. It’s possible that Oklahoma State could be undefeated by the time they welcome Oklahoma to Stillwater in December in what could be the de-facto Big XII Title game.
Russell Wilson (QB/Wisconsin) — I realize this is low, and some people have Wilson in their top-five, but I just can’t rank him that high right now. I’ve been as impressed as anybody by his performance to this point, but I’m waiting for him to face a formidable opponent. He’s looked great to this point, but Wisconsin has played UNLV, Oregon State, Northern Illinois, and South Dakota. Not the most impressive out of conference slate. Even still, Wilson is the nation’s 2nd-most efficient passer with a rating of 218.4. He’s completed 75.8% of his passes for 1136 yards and 11 touchdowns to 1 interception. We’ll see what Wisconsin and Wilson are made of on Saturday when Nebraska comes to Madison.
Falling off the Pace
Ronnie Hillman (RB/San Diego State) — Hillman actually played relatively well against Michigan on Saturday, rushing for 109 yards on 21 carries. But, as a whole San Diego State struggled and lost 28-7 to former coach Brady Hoke. It’s not fair for Hillman to fall off the pace after a 100+ yard rushing performance, but the Aztecs loss all but ended his chances of winning the Heisman Trophy. Still, Hillman is putting together an impressive 2011 campaign, rushing for 606 yards through four games, which is 4th in the nation. It was going to take a special season from Hillman and San Diego State alike for him to garner serious consideration for the stiff-arm.
Michael Dyer (RB/Auburn) — Dyer had emerged as a bit of a sleeper through the season’s first three weeks, and after his consecutive 150+ yard performances against quality opponents in Mississippi State and Clemson. But Dyer, was held in check against Florida Atlantic, carrying the ball 14 times for 68 yards. Dyer’s chances aren’t over because in the grand scheme of the season, nobody is going to remember his performance against Florida Atlantic. He’ll get another chance against a quality opponent on Saturday when Auburn travels to Columbia to take on South Carolina.
Seth Doege (QB/Texas Tech)– Doege followed up a record-setting game against New Mexico two weeks ago with another solid performance on Saturday against Nevada. He completed 26 of his 38 pass attempts for 222 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Red Raiders struggled, but were able to pull out a 28-27 win over the Wolfpack with a last-minute touchdown by Doege. Doege has been one of the nation’s most efficient passers to this point with 178.3 QB rating, and 77.4% completion percentage. But, the level of competition he has faced has been pretty low to this point. Texas Tech opens up conference play on Saturday in Lawrence against Kansas, before hosting rival Texas A&M in Lubbock next weekend.
Tajh Boyd (QB/Clemson) — A couple weeks ago, when Clemson struggled to put away FCS Wofford, it looked like the typical Clemson season was unfolding. But, over the last two weeks, Clemson has taken steps to prove themselves as legitimate ACC and National contenders with wins over Auburn and Florida State. It’s been the play of first-year starter Tajh Body that has led the Tigers to the 4-0 start. His performance has led Clemson fans to forgetting all about Kyle Parker. For the season, Boyd has completed 66.2% of his passes for 1255 yards and 13 touchdowns to just 1 interception. He passed for 344 yards and 3 touchdowns on Saturday in Clemson’s huge win over Florida State. Boyd has a big chance to vault up the Heisman board on Saturday in Blacksburg against Virginia Tech.
Chris Rainey (RB/Florida) — Florida’s speedster has done it all for the Gators so far in 2011. He’s rushed for 411 yards and has 214 yards receiving. He’s had three consecutive 100+ yard rushing performances, including 212 yards of total offense two weeks ago against Tennessee. Rainey has two rushing touchdowns, two receiving touchdowns, a punt return touchdown, and a blocked punt. Rainey will get an opportunity on Saturday to make his case for the Heisman Trophy in Gainesville with Alabama’s vaunted defense coming to town.
David Wilson (RB/Virginia Tech) — Virginia Tech’s running back had another quiet 100-yard rushing game on Saturday with 132 yards on 26 carries in the Hokies’ 30-10 win over Marshall. He’s topped the century-mark in three of the team’s four games this season, but he’s yet to earn serious Heisman consideration due to the level of competition. Virginia Tech is 4-0, but that came against Appalachian State, East Carolina, Arkansas State, and Marshall. Wilson and Virginia Tech’s first real test comes this weekend at home against undefeated Clemson.