The 2011 Heisman Race: What The Numbers Say After Four Weeks

TUSCALOOSA, AL - SEPTEMBER 24: Trent Richardson #3 of the Alabama Crimson Tide rushes upfield against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Bryant-Denny Stadium on September 24, 2011 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Who's standing out in the Heisman race? Bill Connelly breaks down the numbers.

We pick up where we left off last week. Making it onto this list of candidates is like qualifying for The Masters: you have to meet some criteria. As we'll see below, Marcus Lattimore is not a candidate this week because he fell off of the "Prolific Runners" list. Sorry, Marcus. No Michael Dyer or Ronnie Hillman, either.

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. As you learned in The Numerical, Richardson went crazy against Arkansas this week, gaining 211 yards in 20 touches and almost single-handedly outgaining the usually prolific Hogs. Alabama is a runaway No. 1 in the F/+ rankings, and Richardson has asserted himself in a major way the last six quarters or so.

Landry Jones, Oklahoma. Jones completed 35 of 48 passes (a 73% completion rate) for 448 yards and three touchdowns as the Sooners climbed back from a surprising early deficit against Missouri Saturday night. Thirteen of those passes (and all three touchdowns) went to Ryan Broyles, but Oklahoma thrived most when he was distributing the ball to Jaz Reynolds, Dom Whaley and other high-caliber targets.

Rueben Randle, LSU. It is still very difficult to identify LSU's best offensive player, but we'll stick with Randle (18 catches for 292 yards) as others (Odell Beckham, Jr., Jarrett Lee, Michael Ford) breathe down his neck.

Russell Wilson, Wisconsin. The non-conference slate of cupcakes is over, and the Badgers host Nebraska this Saturday. Needless to say, if Wilson produces his per-game averages -- 284 passing yards with a 76-percent completion rate, 11 touchdowns and a single interception, with about 30 rushing yards per game thrown in for effect -- against the Huskers, he'll be on quite a few Heisman lists.

Kellen Moore, Boise State. Moore completed 23 of 29 passes for 279 yards and four touchdowns in the Broncos' romp over Tulsa, and I was almost underwhelmed. The bar's pretty high, Kellen.

Best Player On Best Offenses

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

Trent Richardson, Alabama.

Stephen Hill, Georgia Tech. Hill replaces Orwin Smith as the Yellow Jackets' representative after his 151-yard receiving performance in Tech's 35-28 win over North Carolina. It seems counterintuitive to name a Paul Johnson receiver to any sort of "high achievers" list, but we saw two years ago how important a big-time receiver is to the Georgia Tech offense, and Hill has stepped forward in a major way. He now leads the team in yards from scrimmage with 14 catches for 462 yards (33.0 per catch).

Denard Robinson, Michigan. His completion percentage (49%) continues to underwhelm, but he is also the best player in the country in the open field, and he's fourth in the country in rushing yards per game. I'm curious how the Heisman committee will view his accomplishments if he continues to put up obscene rushing numbers and Michigan contends for the Big Ten Legends? Leaders? Legends crown. (And if Robert Griffin III continues to show strong rush potential while completing 80% of his passes.)

Russell Wilson, Wisconsin.

LaMichael James, Oregon. He gained just 121 yards in 30 carries against LSU and Nevada to start the season, and he began to drift off of the Heisman radar. Then, against Missouri State and Arizona, he gained 492 yards in 35 carries, and poof, he's leading the nation in rushing yards per game.

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. He makes the cut! Smith rushed for 79 yards in seven carries against North Carolina, giving him one of the stranger, more explosive stat lines in college football: 19 carries for 353 yards (18.4 per carry) and four touchdowns, five catches for 172 yards (34.4 per catch) and a touchdown. That's 131 yards per game ... in just six touches per game.

Silas Redd, Penn State. That Penn State ranks as well as they do tells us as much about Alabama's defense as anything else. The Nittany Lions actually gained more yards against the Tide than Arkansas did, which puts Redd's meager output (65 yards in 22 carries) into a different perspective. He's averaged 6.0 yards per carry against teams not named Alabama, and he has carried the PSU offense while the passing game has attempted to get its footing.

LaMichael James, Oregon.

Malcolm Brown, Texas. Texas sneaks into the No. 5 spot here, thanks to both solid results and their run-heavy tendencies. Brown, a five-star freshman, has easily been the Horns' best runner, gaining 264 yards (5.1 per carry) in three games.

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. Poor Foles' Wildcats have started as poorly as would have been expected by anybody taking a gander at their early schedule -- at Oklahoma State, Stanford, Oregon in three weeks -- and he continues to put up outstanding numbers while his team continues to lose. Through four weeks, he has completed 129 of 183 passes (a 71% completion rate) for 1,447 yards, ten touchdowns and no interceptions.

Tyler Bray, Tennessee. We'll see how Bray manages without his No. 1 man, Justin Hunter, but the sophomore's numbers thus far have been great: 77-for-113 (68%) for 986 yards, 10 touchdowns and two interceptions, good for a 167.1 passer rating. He'll now need Mychal Rivera, Zach Rogers and company to make up for Hunter's absence.

Kellen Moore, Boise State.

Marshall Lobbestael, Washington State. Wazzu! Lobbestael has filled in more than admirably for an injured Jeff Tuel, piling up 959 yards (62% completion rate, 10.3 yards per pass), ten touchdowns and just two picks, resulting in a 180.2 passer rating. A second-half drought against San Diego State cost the Cougars their undefeated record, but they should feel reasonably confident heading into two conference road games versus Colorado and UCLA.

A.J. McCarron, Alabama. The Tide are truly the total package statistically, ranking first in overall F/+, first in Off. S&P+ and first in Def. S&P+. Since throwing two picks in the season opener versus Kent State, McCarron has completed 68 percent of his passes (7.7 per pass) for three touchdowns and no picks. He obviously isn't a legitimate Heisman candidate at this time, but it does speak to Alabama's well-rounded nature that they sneak into the Top Five on this list.

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.

Henry Josey, Missouri. Missouri offensive coordinator David Yost is suddenly trying to figure out ways to get Josey more touches as the sophomore -- the only healthy member of what was supposed to be a four-headed monster for the Tigers in the backfield -- has piled up 555 yards in just 42 touches (490 on the ground, 65 through the air) in the last three games. He rushed for 133 yards and a touchdown at Oklahoma last week.

Denard Robinson, Michigan.

Taylor Martinez, Nebraska. Martinez only rushed for 37 yards in 12 carries versus Wyoming, and he dropped from first to fourth on this list because of it. The Huskers will need him to come up huge in Madison this Saturday.

David Wilson, Virginia Tech. The Hokies lost two running backs to the NFL this offseason, but it was hard to get too worked up about it because it just meant more carries for Wilson, who has rushed for at least 132 yards in three of four starts this year. For the season, he is averaging 129 yards per game, with five touchdowns and five receptions thrown in for good measure, and he will have a chance to make a nice statement against surging Clemson this weekend in Blacksburg.

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. So two different members of the Georgia Tech passing attack make the list? It may be odd, but it's hard to argue with the raw numbers. In four games, Washington has completed 27 of 42 passes (64%) for 821 yards, eight touchdowns and a single pick. That's 19.6 yards per pass, if you don't want to pull up the calculator yourself. He is averaging fewer than 11 pass attempts per game ... and averaging over 200 passing yards.

Robert Griffin III, Baylor. I mean, come on. An 85-percent completion rate, 13 touchdowns, no interceptions and a 236.2 passer rating? Seriously? I understand that a good portion of those stats came against Stephen F. Austin and Rice in recent weeks, but still. I wouldn't even be able to produce those numbers on NCAA '12.

Russell Wilson, Wisconsin.

Kellen Moore, Boise State.

Andrew Luck, Stanford. The Cardinal were off this week, and Luck remained in the top five of this list. He is still a no-brainer for serious Heisman consideration, but I think like Griffin are going to force him to raise his game to remain the overall favorite.

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+.

Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama. Kirkpatrick replaces Dee Milliner on this list after he blanketed Arkansas receiver Joe Adams, breaking up three passes and once stopping Adams for a three-yard loss. He has made nine tackles and broken up eight passes, suggesting the ball doesn't actually reach his man too often.

Jayron Hosley, Virginia Tech. It was tempting to go with J.R. Collins (4.5 sacks in four games) here, but any excuse to bring attention to Hosley (11.5 tackles, 2 interceptions, 3 PBU, 1 FF; 11.2 yards per punt return) is a good excuse. He is possibly the best cover corner not in an Alabama uniform this year.

Tyrann Mathieu, LSU. As I mentioned yesterday, Mathieu is just a stat hog. The safety has racked up 25.5 tackles, 3.0 tackles for loss (0.5 sacks), an interception, four passes broken up, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries for a defense that has to be considered one of the two most impressive in football so far (with Alabama).

Jerrell Gavins, Boise State. Last week, I gave the Boise love to end Tyrone Crawford (9.5 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks) here, but really, he's statistically indistinguishable from fellow end Shea McClellin (12.0 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks). Instead, we'll continue today's love of defensive backs by shining the spotlight on Gavins, a cornerback who now has 10.0 tackles, three picks and three passes broken up after a killer day (2 INT, 2 PBU) versus Tulsa.

Robert Blanton, Notre Dame. Blanton made only tackles (6.5 of them) against Pittsburgh, but he still leads the Irish in tackles for loss (4.0), interceptions (two) and overall passes defensed (five), a creative stat line that will continue to get rewarded as long as the Irish still figure out a way to squeeze into the Def. S&P+ Top Five.

The Verdict

Who Would Probably Win If The Vote Were Today:

1. Andrew Luck
2. Landry Jones
3. LaMichael James
4. Denard Robinson
5. Kellen Moore

My Vote

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

Once again, it's now your turn.

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