In Week 5 of the college football season, the leader failed in the clutch, and the heavyweights began to look really, really good. Let's get right to my list of 2011 Heisman candidates. As always, to become a candidate, you must qualify through one of the categories below. That's why Marcus Lattimore still isn't on the list, and Marshall Lobbestael is. And yes, this is why I will never have a real Heisman vote.
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. Wow, did he look good on Saturday. Richardson rushed for 181 yards (6.2 per carry) and caught two passes for 27 yards in 'Bama's 38-10 destruction of Florida. That gives him 622 yards and 10 touchdowns through five games; oh yeah, and he is the Tide's No. 2 receiver (11 catches for 148 yards). Let's play that out over a potential 14-game season: that's approximately 1,750 rushing yards, 28 rushing touchdowns, and 400 receiving yards. You think that might earn him a trip to New York?
Landry Jones, Oklahoma. Jones completed 23 of 33 passes for 425 yards and five touchdowns versus Ball State, but more importantly, he has three scary weapons now in the passing game. Kenny Stills' brief injury opened the door for Jaz Reynolds, who has responded for 10 catches and 234 yards in two games. Now, Stills is healthy again and Ryan Broyles is still Ryan Broyles. Jones is going to put up some ridiculous numbers over the next eight games.
Rueben Randle, LSU. Randle needs to be careful, or else he is going to be eclipsed by young mister Odell Beckham, Jr. Randle still leads LSU with 319 receiving yards and three touchdowns, but Beckham has gone crazy the last two games, with five catches for 157 yards and two touchdowns.
Russell Wilson, Wisconsin. It was easy to perhaps write off Wilson's gaudy stats through four games simply because of the competition involved -- lots of quarterbacks would look good against UNLV, Oregon State, Northern Illinois and South Dakota. And admittedly, the Nebraska defense hasn't been the Nebraska defense all season. Still ... completing 14 of 20 passes for 255 yards, two touchdowns and a 210.1 passer rating will get attention. If the voting ended today, Wilson would probably be a finalist.
Kellen Moore, Boise State. I saw Kellen Moore's stat line from Saturday's game versus Nevada, and my first thought was ... is his knee more hurt than he's letting on? Moore and head coach Chris Petersen insist there's nothing seriously wrong; and besides, everybody has iffy games, and Moore's 19-for-33 (142 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions) line could have been worse. But when you're Kellen Moore, any inaccuracy is jarring and cause for alarm.
Best Player On Best Offenses
The following five come from the teams currently ranked first through fifth in terms of Off. S&P+.
Denard Robinson, Michigan. Robinson's sub-50 completion percentage disappeared with his 15-for-19 performance in Michigan's destruction of Minnesota. He 'only' rushed for 51 yards, but his passing numbers -- the main reason his Heisman buzz is limited -- certainly look better now. For the season, he's now completing 55 percent of his passes (50 for 91), and he should still cross the 2,000-yard mark for the season. Throw in what should still certainly be a 1,000-yard rushing campaign, and one has to figure his stock will continue to rise if his completion rate does.
Russell Wilson, Wisconsin.
Trent Richardson, Alabama.
LaMichael James, Oregon. James sat out this week, but the buzz from his back-to-back 200-yard performances is still strong.
Stephen Hill, Georgia Tech. He only caught one pass against N.C. State on Saturday, which certainly hurts his cause, but that catch did go for 40 yards. That gives him 15 for 502 and four touchdowns in five games. Last year in 12 games, he had 15 catches for 291 yards and three touchdowns.
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.
Denard Robinson, Michigan.
Orwin Smith, Georgia Tech. Another ten touches (nine carries, one catch), another 104 yards for perhaps the most proficient player in the country on a per-touch basis. The last three games: 21 carries for 310 yards, four catches for 159 yards and five combined touchdowns. That is ridiculous. He's obviously not a serious Heisman candidate, but that doesn't make it less ridiculous.
Chris Rainey, Florida. How good is the Alabama defense? By simply playing against them, Florida's offensive ratings improved significantly. Never mind that Rainey and Jeff Demps combined for eight yards in 14 carries, they got an Alabama bump, and now Rainey enters the list. It is a small sample-size anomaly, to say the least. Regardless, Rainey's pretty awesome -- he's still on pace for 1,000 rushing yards and perhaps 750 receiving yards. I have no complaints about him making the list, even if it happened in odd fashion.
LaMichael James, Oregon.
Trent Richardson, Alabama.
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, Arizona. Is anybody else noticing the numbers Foles is putting up in consistently losing causes? Despite only decent production from Juron Criner, and despite running for his life behind a green offensive line, Foles is completing 72 percent of his passes, and even with a 12-game schedule (since Arizona's bowl hopes are dicey at best), he should still hit 4,500 yards for the season. Oh, and he has a 7-to-1 TD-to-INT ratio.
Tyler Bray, Tennessee. We'll see how he does when facing a real defense (Georgia) this week, but in his first game after receiver Justin Hunter's injury, Bray looked great against Buffalo. He completed 21 of 30 passes for 342 yards and four touchdowns, and Da'Rick Rogers passed his test as the default No. 1: seven catches, 180 yards. For the season, Bray has passed for 1,328 yards, 14 touchdowns and just two interceptions; projected over 13 games, he is on pace for 4,300 yards and 45 touchdowns. Not bad at all.
Marshall Lobbestael, Washington State. Jeff Tuel is just about ready to return from his early-season injury, but like LSU's Jarrett Lee to a certain extent, Lobbestael has given coaches little reason to force him back to the bench. He completed 32 of 49 passes for 376 yards, three touchdowns and a pick in Wazzu's big win over Colorado in Boulder, and he will gives the Cougars a solid chance of winning at UCLA this weekend.
Kellen Moore, Boise State.
Bryn Renner, North Carolina. Renner actually threw seven incompletions against East Carolina, a high number for him. On the other hand, four of his 13 completions went for touchdowns in his 230-yard performance. His season numbers now are surprisingly staggering: a 76-percent completion rate, 9.8 yards per pass, 11 touchdowns and a 179.1 passer rating. If not for his early-season belief that interceptions were better than incompletions, just imagine what he might have produced.
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.
Ray Graham, Pittsburgh. One nice way to get attention: rush for 226 in a win over a ranked team on a Thursday night. Graham did just that in the Panthers' romp over South Florida, and he did so behind a line that cannot even pretend to protect Tino Sunseri for more than 1.5 seconds at a time. Graham is now on pace for 1,900 yards and 20 touchdowns over the course of a 13-game season.
Henry Josey, Missouri. Josey had done well enough in terms of Highlight Yards that he remained in the top five despite Missouri being on a bye week.
Denard Robinson, Michigan.
David Wilson, Virginia Tech. Wilson has officially entered "lone bright spot" territory in the Tech offense. He rushed for 123 yards against Clemson, but he needed about 185 more to give the Hokies a chance. For the season: 639 yards, five touchdowns.
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.
Tevin Washington, Georgia Tech. Washington still isn't finding much running success, which seems like a hindrance in this offense. But he is also still completing 57 percent of his (rare) passes at 17.4 yards per attempt, and the Yellow Jackets are still averaging 52 points per contest (40 in ACC play).
Russell Wilson, Wisconsin.
Robert Griffin III, Baylor. When Kansas State made some fourth-quarter adjustments and Griffin suddenly lost his mojo, I felt like a father watching his son fall apart. Griffin's stats are still more silly than real -- 82-percent completion rate, 11.6 yards per pass, 18-to-1 TD-to-INT ratio -- and he retains the No. 1 spot on my list for another week despite his late-game anti-heroics, but if he wants a legitimate chance to win the Heisman, he cannot afford to let that happen again. If (when) Baylor loses another game(s), it better be because the defense allowed 55 points.
Andrew Luck, Stanford. Luck has all but morphed into a mid-career Peyton Manning, and while contenders like Griffin begin to lose more games, Stanford will almost certainly continue to win. Their remaining road games are against Washington State, Oregon State and USC, and they get Oregon, Washington and Notre Dame at home. Losses bump you down on the totem pole whether they should or not, and by mid-November, there is almost no doubt in my mind that Luck is going to be right back in the Top 2-3.
Tyler Bray, Tennessee.
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+.
Courtney Upshaw, Alabama. Upshaw takes Dre Kirkpatrick's slot, not necessarily because of anything Kirkpatrick did or didn't do, but because ... well, look at Upshaw's stat line through five games: 14.0 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss (1.5 sacks), an interception and five quarterback hurries. Plus, Alabama's run defense has been so ridiculous that I feel odd not putting someone from the front seven on this list.
Tyrone Crawford, Boise State. Crawford resumes his spot here after giving it to Jerrell Gavins for a week. He led an incredible defensive performance versus Nevada on Saturday; he had 1.5 tackles for loss, giving him five for the year (2.5 sacks), and at defensive end, he is third on the team in tackles. Really nice, all-around talent.
Tyrann Mathieu, LSU. He did it again. Against Kentucky, Mathieu forced two more fumbles, recovered one and returned it for a touchdown. He also returned two punts for 30 yards and recorded 4.5 tackles overall. He easily leads LSU in tackles for the season (30.0); he has made four tackles for loss (1.5 sacks), he has picked off a pass and broken up four others, and he has forced four fumbles and recovered three of them. On a defense full of menace, the Honey Badger leads the way.
Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma. The Sooners creep into the Def. S&P+ top five, and I'm giving their spot to Jefferson, an all-around talent who made plays in the backfield against Florida State and in pass coverage against Ball State. He now has 20.0 tackles, three for loss (one sack), and he has picked off three passes (all against BSU). Needless to say, flirting with double digits (for a full season) in both tackles for loss and interceptions would be unique. It won't happen, but that's neither here nor there.
Devon Still, Penn State. A defensive tackle, Still is fourth on the PSU defense in tackles with 19.0, and he has made a living in opposing backfields; he has 7.5 tackles for loss (one sack) and has recovered a fumble. The Penn State offense has been dreadful in 2011, but Still has led an imposing defense. If I were feeling mean, I would point out that Still is more likely to move the ball toward Penn State's opponent's end zone than an offense led by Rob Bolden. But I'm not feeling mean, so I won't.
Who Would Probably Win If The Vote Were Today:
1. Andrew Luck
2. Trent Richardson
3. Russell Wilson
4. Robert Griffin III
5. Tyrann Mathieu
1. Robert Griffin III (Last Week: 1)
2. Trent Richardson (3)
3. Tyrann Mathieu (9)
4. Russell Wilson (7)
5. Andrew Luck (4)
6. Denard Robinson (5)
7. LaMichael James (6)
8. Chris Rainey (NR)
9. Kellen Moore (2)
10. Landry Jones (10)