2011 Heisman Watch: Is It Andrew Luck Vs. Trent Richardson?

STANFORD, CA - OCTOBER 22: Andrew Luck #12 of the Stanford Cardinal runs for a five yard gain against the Washington Huskies at Stanford Stadium on October 22, 2011 in Stanford, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Is the 2011 Heisman race Luck vs. Richardson at this point? Do the dynamic dual-threats (Wilson, Griffin, Robinson) still have a chance? What about the two quarterbacks who are about to hold every NCAA career record ever?

(We are changing up the stats a bit this week, simply to signify that over midway through the season, we have some better numbers to use.)

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.

Trent Richardson, Alabama. He struggled a bit against Tennessee but still managed 110 yards in 20 touches and is still on pace for 1,700 rushing yards, 350 receiving yards and over 30 touchdowns. If Alabama beats LSU, and he is a primary reason why, he probably moves to the top of a lot of people's lists.

Rueben Randle, LSU. Randle was brilliant this past week -- six targets, five catches, 106 yards, two touchdowns -- and on a run-heavy offense, with occasional quarterback issues, he is still on pace for over 1,000 receiving yards and double-digit touchdowns. His raw statistics are not good enough to get him actual Heisman consideration, but at this point he is every bit the five-star receiver he was supposed to be.

Kellen Moore, Boise State. It really is incredible what Moore is doing this year despite the loss of two NFL receivers from last year's passing game and struggling with some nagging injuries. His pace for this season: 3,700 passing yards, 76-percent completion rate, 8.8 yards per pass, 45 touchdowns, nine interceptions and, of course, 12-13 more wins. His go-to guy changes on a weekly basis (Matt Miller one week, Tyler Shoemaker another, Mitch Burroughs another), but he doesn't.

LaMichael James, Oregon. His Heisman hopes have probably been done in by the fact that he's now missed two games to injury; with Washington State coming up this week and his backups doing swimmingly (Kenjon Barner, Tra Carson and DeAnthony Thomas combined for 245 yards on just 25 carries against Colorado last week), there is really no need for him to hurry back either. His absence has pointed out just how deep the Oregon stable is -- they are, statistically, better this year than last year -- but obviously it hasn't helped his chances of getting back to New York this year.

Russell Wilson, Wisconsin. He engineered a 443-yard performance (7.1 yards per play) against a stalwart Michigan State defense, and he led a fourth-quarter comeback to boot. The way the Heisman works, his chances were probably hurt by the Spartans' Hail Mary catch, but I would hope not. This may have been his most impressive performance of the season.

Best Player On Best Offenses

The following five come from the teams currently ranked first through fifth in terms of Off. F/+. We previously used Off. S&P+ for this, but F/+ is the more well-rounded of the two measures (for all the reasons discussed on the F/+ page itself).

Russell Wilson, Wisconsin.

Robert Griffin III, Baylor. Griffin's Bears were on bye last week (and still gave up 528 yards, ba-dum-CHING), but Griffin will get a marquee chance to bump up his credentials against Oklahoma State. With that defense, he will need to throw about seven touchdown passes and run for two more ... but that isn't entirely impossible for Griffin, even against a rock solid OSU defense.

Lamar Miller, Miami. Though inconsistent, Miami has been surprisingly good on offense this year, mixing a grind-it-out run with occasionally explosive passing (Miami's three leading receivers are averaging 13.5, 20.4 and 15.9 yards per catch). Miller is the single most impressive player, even though Miami's passing game grades out a little better. Miller has gained 799 yards (5.8 per carry) and is on pace for about 1,500 yards and 12 touchdowns. Obviously he isn't a true Heisman candidate, but this is a nice opportunity to applaud the job coordinator Jedd Fisch is currently doing in Coral Gables.

LaMichael James, Oregon.

Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M. A&M's general strength is in its balance, but they have been the second-best passing downs team in the country, and that points to the quarterback. Even with a semi-disappointing Jeff Fuller (59-percent catch rate, 6.5 yards per target), Tannehill continues to move the chains and rack up stats. Even with two running backs on pace to combine for 2,500 yards and almost 30 touchdowns, Tannehill is on pace for 3,700 passing yards, almost 30 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. A&M has been an odd team this year -- on paper, they are better than they were projected to be, but their dalliance with second-half collapses (and Oklahoma State's surge) have made them disappointing in terms of perceptions.

Best Runner On Most Prolific Rushing Offenses

These five players come from the top five BCS (or major non-BCS) conference teams according to Rushing S&P+. This is a change from previous weeks, when we looked at both rushing success and a run-heavy lean.

Joseph Randle, Oklahoma State. A newbie to this list, Randle would probably be getting a bit more recognition if his backup weren't so good. Randle has led the way for the 'Pokes with 690 yards (5.7 per carry), 12 touchdowns and 153 receiving yards, but Jeremy Smith has rushed for 425 yards of his own (6.6 per carry) and scored seven more touchdowns. The two have provided the knockout punch for OSU -- they swing you side to side with a short, efficient passing game, then they burn you up the middle with the run.

Trent Richardson, Alabama.

LaMichael James, Oregon.

Denard Robinson, Michigan. Michigan was also on bye this week. A slightly rejuvenated Shoelace should be able to post solid numbers versus Purdue this week before finishing up against four solid defenses (Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, Ohio State).

Zac Stacy, Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt is ranked this high in Rushing S&P+?? Yep! As mentioned in yesterday's Numerical, Stacy has torched almost every defense not named Alabama and South Carolina. Heisman candidate? Of course not. Worthy of a polite round of applause (especially considering the passing game with which he is afflicted)? Absolutely.

Best Passer On Most Prolific Passing Offenses

These five players come from the top five BCS conference (or major non-BCS) teams according to Passing S&P+.

Russell Wilson, Wisconsin.

Aaron Murray, Georgia. With nothing even resembling a go-to receiver (Malcolm Mitchell, Orson Charles, Tavarres King and Michael Bennett each have between 18 and 25 catches, and nobody else has more than nine), Murray has been wonderfully efficient in 2011. He may have struggled versus Boise State, but the Broncos have the No. 1 pass defense in the country (according to Passing S&P+); meanwhile, every other FBS team he has faced ranks in the Top 50. That he has completed 61 percent of his passes and averaged 8.4 yards per pass despite the tough defenses is damn impressive. If the Dawgs make the conference title game, he has a very good shot at 3,000 yards and 30 touchdowns.

Tyler Bray, Tennessee. Like Tannehill, Bray was a bit of a passing downs magician before his injury, and to say the least, the Vols missed him against LSU and Alabama (not that it would have mattered).

Robert Griffin III, Baylor.

Darron Thomas, Oregon. Oregon's strength is their running game, and their only decent passing downs numbers suggest that Thomas is not nearly as good when he has to pass, but it is worth noting that Thomas has completed 61 percent of his passes, has a 163.4 pass efficiency rating, and has thrown 17 touchdowns to three interceptions. Of course, like James, he is also hurt.

Most Prolific And/Or Statistically Impressive Runner

These running backs have the highest Adj. POE in the country.

Trent Richardson, Alabama.

Montee Ball, Wisconsin. I said that Russell Wilson "engineered" a strong offensive performance versus Michigan State, but let's just say that Ball's 139 rushing and receiving yards and two touchdowns probably didn't hurt. He has an outside (and, admittedly, unlikely) shot at 1,600 rushing yards, 400 receiving yards and 40 combined touchdowns. He is the absolutely perfect back to join Wilson in the backfield.

LaMichael James, Oregon.

Orwin Smith, Georgia Tech. Tech's early-season numbers were so good that they're still showing up here even though they gave up on moving the ball 2-3 weeks ago. I assume there's a reason why Smith, who still averages 12.3 yards per carry and 23.8 yards per catch (and has fumbled only once), is only touching the ball about seven times per game, but somebody may want to explain it to me.

Joseph Randle, Oklahoma State.

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. In a game in which he wasn't actually asked to do anything (when your backs are averaging over 10 yards per carry, you pretty much take the day off), he still completed 16 of 21 passes, at 8.0 yards per attempt, with two touchdowns, in the Cardinal's romp over Washington. The home stretch should get a little more difficult. Stanford plays at a surging USC team this weekend, then hosts Oregon in two weeks. In theory, he'll actually have to do something for the Cardinal to win; being that he's Andrew Luck, he probably won't have a problem with that.

Kellen Moore, Boise State.

Case Keenum, Houston. He has completed between 24 and 30 passes for between 304 and 471 yards in every game this season (all wins) and handed in perhaps his best performance this past weekend. In a 63-28 win over Marshall, he completed 24 of 28 passes for 376 yards and six touchdowns, set the NCAA career record for total offense, and sat for almost the entire fourth quarter. That is efficient in about 12 different ways.

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. F/+.

Courtney Upshaw, Alabama. Alabama's run defense has been by far the best in the country, and Upshaw and his 11.5 tackles for loss (seven non-sacks) have been a large reason why. He has 4.5 sacks, an interception, two forced fumbles and seven quarterback hurries. He and Dont'a Hightower have become the faces of probably the most suffocating defense in the country.

Morris Claiborne, LSU. After his "invisible for one game, suspended for the next" routine, I am at least temporarily off the Tyrann Mathieu bandwagon. On a defense that has seen 23 players pull down at least one tackle for loss and seven players pick off passes, it is silly to focus on a single player anyway. Instead, this week I'm focusing on Claiborne, who, on any other secondary in the country, would be the marquee star. He has three picks, four passes broken up, a tackle for loss and some serious kickoff return skills (not that there are many kickoffs to return).

Tyrone Crawford, Boise State. Crawford remains the star of an incredibly well-rounded Broncos defense. He leads the team in tackles for loss, sacks and QB hurries, and he's recovered a fumble and blocked a kick just for added effect.

Devon Still, Penn State. It was tempting to go with Gerald Hodges (46.5 tackles, 8.0 TFL/sacks, 1 INT, 1 FF) or Jordan Hill (30.0 tackles, 7.0 TFL/sacks, 1 FF, 1 FR) this week, but we're sticking with Still (28.5 tackles, 12.0 TFL/sacks, 1 FR, 1 PBU), one of the country's great defensive tackles. This is the best PSU defense in years, and part of the reason is that it is hard to single out just one great player.

Jamie Blatnick, Oklahoma State. OSU has a bend-don't-break defense that even Kansas State might envy, and though the 'Pokes' underrated secondary (safety Daytawion Lowe has 44.0 tackles, 2.0 sacks, 3 PBU, 3 FF; corner Brodrick Brown has 2.0 TFL, 4 INT, 7 PBU), Blatnick, a defensive end, has been the tone-setter up front. He has six sacks, 8.5 total TFL, a pick, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and three passes broken up. Two of his PBUs came this past weekend at Missouri, and both resulted in interceptions.

The Verdict

Who Would Probably Win If The Vote Were Today:

1. Andrew Luck
2. Trent Richardson
3. Russell Wilson
4. Kellen Moore
5. Robert Griffin III

My Vote

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

Archive

Week Three
Week Four
Week Five
Week Six
Week Seven

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