The Heisman Watch saw some major shuffling in week seven with a couple of the top candidates falling off the pace. The top spot remained the same, but we have a new number two this week. In any case the top three seem to be interchangeable at the moment, with the next two front runners slightly off the pace of those three.
We also have a new player that is just off the pace, and some new darkhorses that emerged thanks to their overall play and big performances this past week. We have gotten to the point in the season where the front runners have started separating themselves from the rest of the pack, but there is still plenty of time for others to state their Heisman cases in the coming weeks.
Here is how I see the Heisman race after seven weeks.
The Front Runners
Russell Wilson (QB/Wisconsin)– Wilson had a ho-hum day by his standards as Wisconsin had little trouble in a 59-7 win over Indiana. Wilson, in limited action, completed 12 of his 17 pass attempts for 166 yards, and a touchdown. He also ran the ball twice for 42 yards, and caught a 25 yard touchdown pass from running back Montee Ball. Wilson has led Wisconsin to 6-0 relatively easily. He’s the nation’s most efficient passer with a 210.9 QB Rating, and has completed 74.2% of his passes for 1557 yards, and 14 touchdowns to just 1 interception. He will get a big opportunity to seize control in the Heisman race this weekend when the Badgers travel to East Lansing to take on Michigan State’s ferocious defense.
Trent Richardson (RB/Alabama) — Nobody is going to mistake Ole Miss’ defense for one of the best in the nation, but Trent Richardson’s performance in Oxford was impressive nonetheless. In less than three full quarters of action, Richardson carried the ball 17 times for 183 yards, and punched in four touchdowns on the ground. He also had 30 receiving yards to give him 213 yards of total offense in the game. His 76-yard touchdown run sent a message around the nation, and was one of the most impressive runs I’ve ever seen. He has now rushed for over 100 yards in six straight games, and is second in the nation in rushing with 912 yards. He’s averaging 6.9 yards per carry and has punched in 15 touchdowns on the ground. Richardson and the Crimson Tide come back to Tuscaloosa for their rivalry matchup against Tennessee on Saturday.
Andrew Luck (QB/Stanford) — It’s hard for me to rank Andrew Luck third, and he has as much of a claim at the top spot as any of the other two ahead of him at this point, but like I said earlier, the top three are pretty much interchangeable at this point. Luck led Stanford to 6-0 on Saturday with a 44-14 win over Washington State. He passed for 336 yards, completing 23 of his 36 attempts, and had 4 touchdown passes to 1 interception. For the season, Luck has a 180.5 QB rating, which is 3rd in the nation, and has completed 71.3% of his passes for 1719 yards, and 18 touchdowns to 3 interceptions. The only problem with Luck’s Heisman candidacy at this point is that the Cardinal have yet to face a real test. That changes this weekend when they host a Washington team that is off to a 5-1 start and boasts a 3-0 record in the Pac-12.
Kellen Moore (QB/Boise State) — Kellen Moore was outstanding in Boise State’s 63-13 win over Colorado State on the road on Saturday. He was incredibly efficient in completing 26 of his 30 passes for 338 yards and 4 touchdowns. That amounts to a 225.3 QB rating. For the season, Moore is 4th in the nation with a 179.7 QB rating. He’s completing 75.9% of his passes, which is an improvement from last season, for 1729 yards, and 21 touchdowns to 4 interceptions. It’s going to be tough for Moore to have a legitimate shot at winning the Heisman Trophy, unless the three in front of him stumble. In any case, Moore is seemingly a lock to get invited back to New York for the Heisman ceremony in two months. Moore leads Boise State back home to take on Air Force this weekend.
Robert Griffin III (QB/Baylor) — Another Baylor loss hurts Griffin’s chances of winning the Heisman, but it doesn’t alter the fact that he’s having an incredible season. Despite the Bears being drubbed by Texas A&M, Griffin still completed 28 of 40 pass attempts for 430 yards, and 3 touchdowns to 1 interception. It was actually the most yards Baylor’s Heisman hopeful has thrown for this season. His stat line for the season is still ridiculous with a 205.7 QB rating, an NCAA leading 78.0 completion percentage for an NCAA leading 22 touchdowns, and just 2 interceptions. Baylor is now just 4-2, but he’s been the best player in the nation to this point. The Bears take the weekend off before a huge matchup in Stillwater against Oklahoma State.
Just off the Pace
Landry Jones (QB/Oklahoma) — Landry Jones still isn’t putting up great numbers, but if Oklahoma remains undefeated he will continue getting love from the Heisman voters. He led Oklahoma to a 47-17 win over Kansas this weekend, and completed 29 of 48 passes for 363 yards, and 3 touchdowns to 1 interception. The Sooners are 6-0, but for the season Jones has a 156.0 QB rating, completing 67.6% of his passes for 2177 yards and 16 touchdowns to 6 interceptions. Those numbers just don’t match up to the other quarterbacks ahead of him. Oklahoma will look to remain undefeated as they head back to Norman to take on a reeling Texas Tech that is coming off of back-to-back losses.
Brandon Weeden (QB/Oklahoma State) — Weeden wasn’t at his best on Saturday in Austin, completing a season-low 56.1% of his passes, but he got the job done to lead the Cowboys to a 38-26 win over Texas to keep their perfect season alive. He passed for 218 yards, which was also a season-low, and threw 1 touchdown pass with no interceptions. Weeden has completed 72.7% of his passes in 2011 for 2098 yards and 16 touchdowns to 6 interceptions, with a QB rating of 156.2. Oklahoma State travels to Columbia to take on Missouri this weekend in what is potentially a trap game following the win over Texas.
LaMichael James (RB/Oregon) — A lot of people hopped off the LaMichael James bandwagon after he missed this past weekend’s game against Arizona State with the elbow injury. But, in the end it just one game, and James has said this week that he plans to travel to Boulder this weekend and play against Colorado. If he’s able to play and be effective, then his Heisman hopes aren’t completely over. He is still 4th in the nation in rushing with 852 yards, despite playing in only five games. He also leads the nation with a 9.0 yards per carry average, and he’s punched in 8 touchdowns on the ground. Prior to the injury, James had a streak of three consecutive games with over 200 yards rushing. If he does miss the game against Colorado on Saturday, then it’s going to be extremely difficult for him to get back into the race.
Ryan Broyles (WR/Oklahoma) — Broyles broke the NCAA receptions record on Saturday in Oklahoma’s win over Kansas, and is having an outstanding senior season in Norman for the unbeaten Sooners. He had his best game of the season against the Jayhawks, with 13 receptions for 217 yards, and a pair of touchdowns. He’s 4th in the nation with 815 receiving yards on 60 catches and 9 touchdowns in six games. He has surpassed 100 receiving yards in every game but one this season, and has scored a touchdown in every game but one as well. Broyles should put up big numbers this weekend against a weak Texas Tech secondary.
Falling off the Pace
Marcus Lattimore (RB/South Carolina) — Lattimore’s Heisman hopes came to an end on Saturday in Starkville against Mississippi State when the sophomore running back suffered ligament and cartilage damage in his left knee that ended his 2011 season. Prior to the knee injury, Lattimore had just 39 rushes on 17 carries. His Heisman hopes had been falling off a bit the last few weeks after such a strong start to the season. He had surpassed 100 yards just once in the last four games. You hate to see such a promising talent lose a season to injury like this, and I wish him a speedy recovery. He should come back in 2012 energized, and motivated, and you can bet that he will have something to say about next season’s Heisman.
Denard Robinson (QB/Michigan)– I had Robinson considerably lower than most in the Heisman Watch this season, and on Saturday in East Lansing he showed exactly why. The Wolverines finally faced a strong defense, and Robinson couldn’t get anything going through the air or on the ground. After a couple weeks of strong passing performances, Robinson came back down to earth against the Spartans, completing just 9 of his 24 attempts for 123 yards, a touchdown, and a crucial interception that was returned for a Michigan State touchdown. He was also bottled up when he tried to run the ball, gaining just 42 yards on 18 carries, and a touchdown. Robinson’s Heisman hopes all but ended barring a spectacular finish to the season. The Wolverines head back to Ann Arbor to take on Purdue following a bye week.
Tajh Boyd (QB/Clemson) — Boyd helped Clemson get to 7-0 on Saturday in a 56-45 shootout victory over Maryland. Clemson completed 26 of his 38 passes for 270 yards and 4 touchdowns to 1 interception. Boyd is having an outstanding season in his first year as a starter for the Tigers, and is the first quarterback in Clemson history to win his first seven starts. Boyd has a 159.8 QB rating, has completed 62.5% of his passes for 2012 yards, and 19 touchdowns with only 3 interceptions. Boyd and Clemson come back to the friendly confines of Death Valley this weekend for a game against North Carolina.
Montee Ball (RB/Wisconsin) — Ball has been overshadowed by teammate Russell Wilson this year, but he’s quietly putting together a terrific 2011 campaign. In Wisconsin’s 59-7 win over Indiana, Ball racked up 142 yards on just 14 carries, and punched in 3 touchdowns on the ground to go along with a touchdown pass to Russell Wilson. Ball has rushed for 653 yards on the season for an average of 6.1 yards per carry, and has 16 rushing touchdowns. He’s scored at least two touchdowns in every game so far this season. Ball isn’t likely to get much Heisman consideration with the way Wilson has played, but I thought he deserved some praise by the way he has performed.
Sammy Watkins (WR/Clemson) — Watkins had a record-setting performance for the Tigers on Saturday in their win over Maryland. He set a Clemson record 345 all-purpose yards in the win, which broke CJ Spiller’s school record. He had 105 receiving yards on 8 receptions and 2 touchdowns, with 33 rushing yards, and a whopping 207 return yards. Watkins is just a freshman, and has been a huge difference maker for the Tigers in 2011. He has 728 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns to go along with 127 receiving yards, and 338 kickoff return yards.
Case Keenum (QB/Houston) — Case Keenum has come back with a vengeance in 2011 after a torn ACL took away his 2010 season. Keenum led Houston to a 56-3 win over East Carolina two weeks ago, completing 30 of his 37 pass attempts for 304 yards and 3 touchdowns. Keenum leads the nation with 2309 passing yards. He’s completed 71.4% of his passes, has a 174.8 QB rating, and has 17 touchdown passes and 2 interceptions. He’s closing in on NCAA records for total offense, passing yards, and touchdown passes.