2011 Heisman Watch: A New Leader, And The Soft Bigotry Of Andrew Luck's High Expectations

Your weekly look at what the numbers say about the Heisman race. Do we have a new leader on our hands?

Once again, you must qualify from one of the following categories to get a seat at this table. (And once again, this is why I don't have a Heisman vote.) To say the least, we have begun to zero in on the same names from week to week after a rather schizophrenic first couple of weeks in this experiment.

Best Offensive Player On Best Teams

Heisman winners usually come from the nation's best teams, so the five nominees from this list come from the five teams ranked No. 1-5 in the current F/+ rankings.

Kellen Moore, Boise State. I mentioned today that Alabama has "easily been the most statistically impressive team in the country" to date, but in doing so I was indirectly daring somebody to mention the fact that Boise State is currently No. 1 in the Football Outsiders F/+ rankings. The Broncos continue to do everything possible to prove their superior worth against a schedule of cupcakes, and it starts with Moore, who casually completed 26 of 30 passes for 338 yards and four touchdowns in the Broncos' 63-13 romp over Colorado State. I cannot tell you how much I would give to see BSU face off versus the Alabama/LSU winner. I cannot tell you they would win, but I really want to see them play. Unfortunately, the Alabama/LSU loser probably has a better shot at the national title game. Boo, hiss.

Trent Richardson, Alabama. As I also mentioned this morning, Richardson's full-season projections are starting to become as ridiculous as his jukes. After his 183-yard performance versus Ole Miss (on just 17 carries), he now projects to potentially finish with over 2,100 combined rushing and receiving yards and over 30 touchdowns. Mark Ingram's numbers when he won the Heisman: 1,992 rushing and receiving yards, 21 touchdowns. If Alabama is in the national title game, I think Richardson is at the podium accepting Alabama's second Heisman in three years.

Rueben Randle, LSU. LSU in no way passes enough to have a Heisman winner at receiver, but Randle is still the best player on this offense. He caught five of six passes thrown his way against Tennessee for a cool 85 yards. He is on pace for right around 1,000 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns, which is mighty impressive given the constraints of his offense.

Landry Jones, Oklahoma. After Oklahoma's 47-17 win over Kansas, one of the storylines revolved around Kansas' improved defensive showing. So basically, Oklahoma did worse than expected (in part because of three turnovers) ... and gained 610 yards and scored 47 points. Landry Jones completed 29 of 48 passes for 363 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. That this is a bit disappointing shows how high the bar has been set for Jones, Ryan Broyles and the Oklahoma passing game.

Russell Wilson, Wisconsin. Let's just say that Wilson's Heisman highlight montage took a nice upward bump versus Indiana with the inclusion of two carries for 42 yards and a 25-yard touchdown reception. Add that to his hypnotic passing line -- 74.2 percent completion rate, 12.2 yards per pass, 14 touchdowns, one interception -- and one very much gets the impression that Wilson could end up in New York in a couple of months. I liked Wilson's move to Wisconsin, but I wasn't quite as high on it as those who immediately predicted a national title run and a Heisman trip. His numbers were solid at N.C. State, but not spectacular. Well, as Wisconsin and N.C. State have both shown us this year, Wilson didn't have a lot to work with in Raleigh. Even less than I thought, actually.

Best Player On Best Offenses

The following five come from the teams currently ranked first through fifth in terms of Off. S&P+.

Russell Wilson, Wisconsin.

LaMichael James, Oregon. How quickly can James return from his dislocated elbow? The answer to that question will determine his chances of getting back to New York.

Trent Richardson, Alabama.

Robert Griffin III, Baylor. Griffin's numbers continue to be obscene, but he is inevitably going to fall victim to something that has unfairly tripped up many Heisman contenders over the years: a bad defense. Griffin threw for 430 yards (with a 70 percent completion rate and a 180.0 passer rating) against Texas A&M last week, but the Bears lost by 27 points because they allowed 681 yards, including 206 (and four touchdowns) to A&M's No. 2 receiver. Baylor will almost certainly go to another bowl game, and Griffin will end up passing for around 4,200 yards and 40 touchdowns (with about five interceptions) and rushing for 600 yards. But his Heisman odds slip with every poor defensive performance, whether we like it or not.

Kellen Moore, Boise State.

Best Runner On Most Prolific Rushing Offenses

These five players come from the top five BCS (or major non-BCS) conference teams according to a list that combines current Rushing S&P+ and Run-Pass Ratio.

Orwin Smith, Georgia Tech. Georgia Tech still has the best mix of quality and quantity when it comes to the run game, but their offense has entered a tailspin. After averaging 52 points per game through five games, they have only scored a combined 42 the past two games. Suddenly quarterback Tevin Washington is passing like Josh Nesbitt, and defenses are beginning to clog the box again. Smith still managed 45 yards in just six touches in their loss to Virginia, but ... yeah, no Yellow Jacket is making the trip to New York this year.

Denard Robinson, Michigan. Speaking of a fading candidacy ... Robinson is still on pace for 2,300 passing yards and 1,400 rushing yards, and Michigan is still going to end up with a strong record. But let's just say that if there's a "Should he start, or should the No. 2 guy (Devin Gardner) take over?" debate among fans and analysts, even if it is an incredibly silly debate, it's not a boon to your Heisman chances.

Trent Richardson, Alabama.

LaMichael James, Oregon.

Montee Ball, Wisconsin. Ball makes a reappearance on this list after his diverse performance against Indiana. Granted, it came against a sieve of a defense, but 142 rushing yards (on just 14 carries), 46 receiving yards (on just one catch) and a touchdown pass to your quarterback will still earn you some notice.

Best Passer On Most Prolific Passing Offenses

These five players come from the top five BCS conference (or major non-BCS) teams according to a list that combines current Passing S&P+ and Run-Pass Ratio.

Nick Foles In A Losing Effort™, Arizona. Foles and Arizona didn't lose this week! They also didn't play.

Kellen Moore, Boise State.

Geno Smith, West Virginia. Smith, too, was on bye this week.

Robert Griffin III, Baylor.

Tommy Rees, Notre Dame. A new name surfaces! Now that they have at least temporarily stopped handing their opponents the ball instead of putting it in the end zone, Notre Dame's overall numbers have become ridiculous enough for Rees to make the list. In his last two games, easy wins over Purdue and Air Force, Rees has completed 47 of 72 passes for 515 yards, seven touchdowns and -- perhaps most importantly -- no picks. The Irish have scored 97 points as well. Rees is not a serious contender by any means, but his place on this list is an acknowledgement that Notre Dame's ceiling is awfully high when they get out of their own way.

Most Prolific And/Or Statistically Impressive Runner

These players have gained the most Highlight Yards (as defined here) in the country thus far.

LaMichael James, Oregon.

Trent Richardson, Alabama.

David Wilson, Virginia Tech. Wilson's last four games have produced 132, 123, 128 and 136 rushing yards, respectively. He is easily on pace for 1,600 yards rushing, which is kind of what we've come to expect from Random No. 1 Va. Tech Running Back at this point.

Ray Graham, Pittsburgh. Two weeks ago, Graham was Pittsburgh's only bright spot (159 rushing yards) in a 34-10 loss to Rutgers. Last week, not even he could overcome the stench of the Pittsburgh offense. He rushed for 46 yards in the Panthers' 26-14 loss to Utah, a game in which Pitt could not muster even a single offensive touchdown.

Denard Robinson, Michigan.

Most Statistically Impressive Passer

These players are the five BCS (or major non-BCS) passers who have produced the strongest raw, unadjusted-for-schedule Passing S&P thus far.

Russell Wilson, Wisconsin.

Robert Griffin III, Baylor.

Andrew Luck, Stanford. Luck is somewhat a victim of his own expectations. No matter what he does -- Complete passes to 17 different receivers? Make a one-handed catch just for fun? -- his Heisman stock seems to stay stagnant while other names (Richardson, Wilson, Griffin) make up ground. Of course, when you're No. 1, it is hard to improve your stock, huh? Anyway, I'll just throw this out there: Luck's passer ratings in the last five games have been 198.4, 173.9, 192.5, 196.9 and 173.4. The passer rating is very much a flawed measure, but damn impressive is still damn impressive.

Kellen Moore, Boise State.

Case Keenum, Houston. Keenum finally cracks the list! His projected season stats (if Houston makes the Conference USA title game): 5,400 passing yards, 40 touchdown passes, five interceptions, a 71 percent completion rate and 9.7 yards per pass. And on a team with a three-headed running back threatening to gain over 2,000 yards and score 40 touchdowns on the ground.

Most Explosive Player On Best Defenses

It is a pipe dream, of course -- if Ndamukong Suh couldn't win the Heisman in 2009, no defense-only player ever will -- but occasionally defenders receive some Heisman hype. The following five players are the strongest representatives from the teams ranked first through fifth in terms of Def. S&P+.

Tyrone Crawford, Boise State. Boise plays the perfect example of "team defense," with 12 players having registered between 10.0 and 20.5 tackles. That makes it difficult for a single player to stand out, but with two more tackles for loss (both sacks) against Colorado State, Crawford continues to do so. He now has 7.5 tackles for loss, more than double the second-best player, and his 4.5 sacks remain one ahead of Shea McClellin.

Tyrann Mathieu, LSU. The Honey Badger had a quiet week of sorts -- 0.5 tackles, a pass broken up and no returns -- against Tennessee. He is allowed one of those, but for a defensive player to win the Heisman, he pretty much has to be visible at all times.

Frank Alexander, Oklahoma. We stick with Alexander, who leads the team in tackles for loss (9.5), sacks (6.5) and passes broken up (four).

Courtney Upshaw, Alabama. We stick with Upshaw this week. He is on pace for over 20 tackles for loss seven sacks, and with how good the 'Bama front seven has been, they have earned the representative.

Devon Still, Penn State. Linebacker Gerald Hodges stepped up to earn consideration as Penn State's representative after his three tackles for loss versus Purdue bumped his season total to 6.5 (he also leads the team with 35.5 tackles), but Still's 10 tackles for loss are still the single most impressive statistic on an incredibly impressive, and underrated, defense.

The Verdict

Who Would Probably Win If The Vote Were Today:

1. Andrew Luck
2. Trent Richardson
3. Landry Jones
4. Russell Wilson
5. Tyrann Mathieu

My Vote

1. Trent Richardson (Last Week: 3)
2. Robert Griffin III (1)
3. Andrew Luck (2)
4. Russell Wilson (4)
5. Landry Jones (5)
6. Tyrann Mathieu (6)
7. Kellen Moore (9)
8. LaMichael James (8)
9. Denard Robinson (7)
10. Case Keenum (NR)

Archive

Week Three
Week Four
Week Five
Week Six

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