2011 Heisman Trophy Watch: Chasing Trent Richardson

AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 26: Trent Richardson #3 of the Alabama Crimson Tide celebrates his touchdown against the Auburn Tigers with Brandon Gibson #11 and mascot Big Al at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 26, 2011 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

The leader sits in the clubhouse, but a couple of contenders could still make serious noise in the midlands.

Last week, we ditched the fancy categories and qualifiers and focused on the 10 players who still had an even semi-reasonable chance of making it to New York for the Heisman ceremony; we also more-or-less defined their requirements for winning the stiff-armed trophy. Let's revisit how each player did in regard to those requirements, and where everybody stands with just one weekend to go.

10. Kellen Moore, Boise State

What I Said: "[W]ith only games with Wyoming and New Mexico remaining, Moore could complete 100 percent of his passes for a combined 1,000 yards, and nobody would probably notice. The Broncos needed to be undefeated to give him a chance, unfortunately."

Last Week: Versus Wyoming: 24-for-36 passing (66.7%), 279 yards (7.8 per pass), three touchdowns, one interception.

This Week: Versus New Mexico (Saturday, 6:00 p.m. ET). Moore didn't complete 100 percent of his passes last week and won't this week against New Mexico, either. It really is a shame that Moore will probably finish his career a) without a ticket to New York and b) in a minor bowl. He's lost three games in three seasons, but your final chapter isn't always your greatest.

9. Russell Wilson, Wisconsin

What I Said: "[T]he more I think about it, the more I realize two things are going to trip him up: 1) Wisconsin has lost two games when they were considered a darkhorse national title contender. That qualifies as slightly  'disappointing,' even though neither loss (both last-second losses that included opponents completing long desperation passes) had hardly anything to do with Wilson. 2) He is going to split votes with Montee Ball, especially in the Midwest. Like Ball, he has a nice chance to differentiate himself against two excellent defenses, and a couple of Wisconsin blowout wins could get one Badger to New York, but neither has a chance to win, I'm afraid."

Last Week: Versus Penn State: 19-for-29 (65.6%), 186 yards (5.6 yards per pass attempt, inc. sacks), two touchdowns; five pre-sack carries, 48 yards (9.6 per carry).

This Week: Big Ten Championship versus Michigan State (Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET). If there was room for either Wilson or Ball on the finalists list, then it's probably going to be Ball. Wilson was perfectly fine against a stellar Penn State defense, but he wasn't Ball.

8. LaMichael James, Oregon

What I Said: "Honestly, James had his chance last week. He had reentered the race despite the injury, but he gained only 78 yards on 20 carries last week in a home upset loss to USC. That loss not only knocked James out of serious Heisman contention, but more importantly, it also knocked the Ducks out of the national title hunt. With remaining games versus Oregon State and, potentially, the Pac-12 South champion in the conference title game, James could still put together enough of a resume to get to New York. But he won't win."

Last Week: Versus Oregon State: 24 carries, 142 yards (5.9 per carry), one touchdown; one catch, six yards

This Week: Pac-12 Championship versus UCLA (Friday, 8:00 p.m. ET). Thanks to Ball's performance versus Penn State, James quite possibly lost ground despite rushing for 142 yards against a key rival. He'll need a good, solid 175-200 yards against UCLA to give himself a chance of becoming a finalist. And that's amazing to say; two of last year's finalists (James, Moore) have posted fantastic stats and probably won't be finalists this year.

7. Montee Ball, Wisconsin

What I Said: "If he can post huge games against two Top 10 run defenses (according to Rushing S&P+), then in theory he could win quite a few last-second votes in the Midwest, but ... we know how this silly process works. Half of the voters have probably already decided who they're voting for, and it almost certainly isn't Ball, even though he may be the best running back in the country this year."

Last Week: Versus Penn State: 25 carries, 156 yards (6.2 per carry), four touchdowns; one catch, 15 yards.

This Week: Big Ten Championship versus Michigan State (Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET). Penn State has one of the best run defenses in the country (among other things, they held Trent Richardson to 4.4 yards per carry), but Ball just destroyed them, averaging 6.6 yards per touch in a Wisconsin romp. If he can do the same to yet another great defense this weekend, he could slide up to No. 4 or No. 5 on the list.

6. Matt Barkley, USC

What I Said: "Barkley just got too late a start, posting solid stats in underwhelming USC wins in September. He was not included in any of my stat-based Heisman pieces here because USC was not elite in any set of stats. Still, he has had some monstrous games. ... Still, USC's season is [almost] over, and too many others got a head start on him this season. But if he chooses to return next year, with another year of getting to target Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, he will begin the season as one of the presumptive favorites."

Last Week: Versus UCLA: 35-for-42 passing (83.3%), 423 yards (9.7 yards per attempt, inc. sacks), six touchdowns

This Week: He's done, which is unfortunate because he was just incredible over the last month; in his last four games, he threw for 1,238 yards (8.7 per pass), 17 touchdowns and two interceptions. He was magnificent against Oregon, and he embarrassed USC's primary rival. He only had a couple of really nice games before November, however, and the Heisman goes to the player who was the best all year.

5. Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State

What I Said: "Weeden had gone from seventh to second on my list, but considering the numbers other front-runners have been producing, he couldn't afford a slip-up, and he suffered one. He could very well make the list of finalists, especially with some 400+ yard, four-touchdown performance in a win versus Oklahoma next week. But I will be surprised if he wins at this point."

Last Week: Oklahoma State was on bye.

This Week: Versus Oklahoma (Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET). As with Oklahoma State's BCS chances, Weeden might still have a chance at the trophy if the 'Pokes destroy the Sooners and he's the major reason why. Weeden was so good in the two games before Iowa State (67-for-83, 925 yards, nine touchdowns, two picks) that all hope possibly isn't lost for him, but it is going to take a ridiculous performance to pass the four players above him, especially considering the No. 1 guy on the list is sitting in the clubhouse with a strong score.

4. Case Keenum, Houston

What I Said: "He has re-written the NCAA record book, and in a weaker year of candidates, he might be able to sneak out a win. He won't win, but I will be a little annoyed if Keenum remains undefeated but does not receive an invitation to New York."

Last Week: Versus Tulsa: 33-for-46 passing (71.7%), 457 yards (9.2 per attempt, inc. sacks), five touchdowns.

This Week: Conference USA Championship versus Southern Miss (Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET). I still doubt Keenum has a chance to win (that alone might be reason for bumping Weeden to third), but he is just so damn automatic. He has produced a passer rating of under 150.0 in just one game this year, he has completed at least 62 percent of his passes in every game (at least 70 percent in seven), he has over 4,700 passing yards (with two games remaining), and his touchdown-to-interception ratio is 43-to-3. Forty-three to three! He is ridiculous. and he might be stealing a few votes from Brandon Weeden in the midlands.

3. Andrew Luck, Stanford

What I Said: "If he torches Notre Dame Saturday evening while other front-runners stagnate, we'll see. But the player who has spent most of the season as the assumed frontrunner just has not differentiated himself from quite a few other candidates. He hasn't won any more than Keenum or Weeden, he hasn't put up the gaudy stats (even when adjusting for pace) of Keenum, Wilson or Robert Griffin III, and he hasn't produced any sort of "signature" moment that voters so crave."

Last Week: Versus Notre Dame: 20-for-30 passing (66.7%), 233 yards (7.8 per attempt), four touchdowns, one interception; four carries, 20 yards.

This Week: He's done. You want consistency? Luck has completed exactly 20 of 30 passes in three of his last four games. He was good against Notre Dame, though I wouldn't say he "torched" them by any means. Being the leader all season pays its dividends, as quite a few voters probably made up their mind about Luck weeks ago. But a) he still wouldn't get my vote, and b) I don't think he's going to beat Richardson, not with Matt Barkley stealing some of his votes.

2. Robert Griffin III, Baylor

What I Said: "I think his record keeps him from winning it in the end, at least unless he produces incredible stats against Texas Tech tomorrow night and even more incredible stats versus Texas on ABC next weekend. He will have a chance to make more impressions like the one he made in Baylor's signature win over Oklahoma last weekend, but I'm just cynical enough to assume that his defense will prevent him from taking home the prize."

Last Week: Versus Texas Tech: 7-for-11 passing (63.6%), 106 yards, one touchdown (9.6 per attempt); five carries, 38 yards (7.6). Knocked out of the game in the second quarter with a concussion.

This Week: Versus Texas (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET). For at least half an hour (before people switch to the SEC title game), Griffin will have all of America watching him. Heisman voting is unfair, of course, and I'm sure Griffin lost ground after getting concussed against Texas Tech, but he will have one last chance to make a great impression against a great defense. I'm not sure what it would take for him to win at this point (I'm thinking 300 passing yards and 100 rushing yards would be a nice place to start), but he still might surprise us.

1. Trent Richardson, Alabama

What I Said: "If Richardson posts 175 rushing yards tomorrow in a win over Auburn, then he becomes the outright favorite. If he only rushes for 100, or if Alabama loses, then he might have blown his opportunity."

Last Week: Versus Auburn: 27 carries, 203 yards (7.5 per carry); one catch, five yards, one touchdown.

This Week: He's done. I said Richardson needed 175 yards, and he got 203. With Griffin getting hurt and Luck playing at a good-not-great level, I think Richardson is absolutely in the driver's seat. That he doesn't have another game to play helps (no chance of screw anything up).

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