Week five saw several changes in my Heisman hopeful watch list. With another week in the books the list is shaken up again. Here’s a look at my latest top five Heisman hopefuls and the guys trying to break in.
5. LaMichael James: Running Back, Oregon
LaMichael James was brilliant against California. Carrying the ball an astounding 30 times (just one shy of tying a career high against Stanford last year), for 239 yards and a touchdown. His performance is certainly worthy of a higher spot on my list with 1,148 all purpose yards and ten touchdowns so far. He’s also averaged 243 rushing yards per game in his last three contests. So why isn’t he higher? As I’m sure everyone knows by now, last Thursday against Cal, James suffered a gruesome looking injury. While the injury was just called a “dislocated elbow”, and the x-rays were negative, it certainly looked bad. Ducks head coach Chip Kelly is a lot like Bill Belichick, in that his media reports don’t provide any useful information regarding injuries. LaMichael himself has said “the elbow is healing”, and that he hasn’t been ruled out for a return this weekend against Arizona State. I’m skeptical though. I just can’t see him returning this weekend or the next at Colorado either. Even if he returns he will get limited carries, meaning his stats will suffer, for that reason I’ve dropped LaMichael to number five, and unfortunately it’s my guess that this injury has probably ruined his 2011 Heisman campaign.
4. Robert Griffin III: Quarterback, Baylor
In week five, Griffin III cost his team a win with his first interception of the season and taking a sack at the worst possible time. Last weekend though, Griffin helped his team to a win against Iowa State, even if he didn’t have his A game against the Cyclones. Griffin was still extremely accurate, completing 22 of 30 passes for 212 yards and a touchdown. Griffin was also utilized much more in the running game, carrying the ball 24 times for 107 yards and another score. Griffin has been, arguably, the best quarterback in the nation this year. Completing an astonishing 80% of his passes for 1,520 yards, with a ridiculous 19-1 touchdown to interception ratio. To say Griffins performance this season has been shocking would be an understatement. However, I must still give Griffin an incomplete grade because Baylor has yet to get into the meat of their schedule. That all changes this weekend though, as Baylor will head to Kyle Field to take on #21 Texas A&M. Baylor will then head to Stillwater to play #6 Oklahoma State and will finish the season playing #3 Oklahoma and #22 Texas two out of the last three weeks of the season. If Griffin hopes to strike the pose in December, his performance in these four games will be critical.
3. Landry Jones: Quarterback, Oklahoma
Last week, I said that I’ve just been waiting to see Jones have a Heisman level performance. Against Texas in the Red River Rivalry, he did just that. Jones was sensational, completing 31 of 50 passes for 367 yards and three touchdowns. He also didn’t throw an interception, helping his Sooners to administer a 55-17 “woodshed” treatment on the rival Texas Longhorns. While Jones’ touchdown numbers aren’t what you would expect out of a quarterback who throws as much as the junior does, his performance this season has been exceptional. Jones has completed 70% of his 205 passing attempts (18th in the nation), for 1,814 yards, and has 13 touchdowns thus far. More importantly, Jones has kept his interceptions down, averaging just one a game. Jones is on pace to throw for 4,356 yards and 31 touchdowns. If he gets anywhere near those numbers, he will certainly be in New York for the Heisman presentation. Whether he will win the award or not, well that depends entirely on the next two guys.
2. Andrew Luck: Quarterback, Stanford
Much like Jones, I’ve been waiting for Andrew Luck to join the 2011 Heisman race, and while he’s had nice days this season (including a four touchdown day against Duke), he hadn’t had a performance that reminded me of the 2010 Andrew Luck. The guy that everyone is comparing to Peyton Manning, and that fans across the NFL are willing to watch their team lose every game just so they have a shot to draft him. Against UCLA in week five, Luck had one of those days. Last weekend against Colorado, Luck backed it up with another. Luck was extremely accurate, connecting on 26 of 33 passes (79%) for 370 yards and three touchdowns. Luck looked like a surgeon, dissecting the Buffalo secondary, completing passes to 11 different receivers. Luck has raised his completion percentage by three percent this season, and is on pace to throw just 5 interceptions this season, compared to his eight in 2010. He’s also on pace to throw for over 3,300 yards and 34 touchdowns, numbers that would certainly put him in the running for the most prestigious award in college football.
1. Trent Richardson: Running Back, Alabama
Last week, I declared Trent Richardson my new Heisman favorite. This week, Richardson has an off day by Robert Griffin to thank for holding onto that spot. The junior had an un-Richardson like day, rushing for just 107 yards on 19 carries. Although he did have a rushing touchdown, Richardson spent most of the day taking a backseat to Crimson Tide quarterback A.J. McCarron and his four touchdowns. Still, the play of Richardson this season has been electric. Richardson is fifth in the nation in rushing yardage at 729 yards, and 121 yards per game. Even more impressive, is the fact that the Pensacola native is averaging two scores a game. Richardson also has the highest yards per carry average for running backs with over 105 carries, with 6.3 yards per attempt. This display of not just reliability, but also explosiveness, is what makes Richardson a Heisman favorite. Richardson is on pace for 256 touches, 1,756 all purpose yards and 24 total touchdowns. With games against #1 LSU and #24 Auburn still left on the schedule, numbers like that are why Richardson is my favorite to hoist the Heisman.
Kellen Moore: Quarterback, Boise State
Two weeks ago, Moore had his most miserable performance of the season. Moore completed just 57% of his passes for 142 yards and two touchdowns against Nevada. Moore also threw two picks in that game. Last week Moore bounced back in a big way completing 74% of his passes for 254 yards and a 3-0 touchdown to interception ratio against Fresno State. However, Moore will need to put together another week of stellar play to crack the top five again.
Brandon Weeden: Quarterback, Oklahoma State
There may not be a quarterback who had a better game last week then Weeden. Weeden was spectacular, completing 86% of his passes for 288 yards and five touchdowns. Weeden has been solid all season with an 76% completion rate, over 1,800 yards passing and 15 touchdowns on the year. Weeden’s play not only has the Cowboys at 5-0 to start the season, but his performance last week has him knocking on the door of my top five club.
Russell Wilson: Quarterback, Wisconsin
Unfortunately for Wilson, the Badgers picked a bad week to have a bye. Wilson’s team having the week off and the great performances of many Heisman hopefuls last weekend puts the former NC State star on the outside looking in. Fortunately for Wilson, Oregon RB LaMichael James isn’t likely to have a big impact this weekend. Wilson should find himself back in the top five next week.
Marcus Lattimore: Running Back, South Carolina
Two weeks ago I gave Lattimore a pass due to his coaches game plan and the play of quarterback Stephen Garcia. Lattimore was mostly ineffective, carrying the ball 22 times for 102 yards and failing to reach the endzone. Even though the Gamecocks got the win, Lattimore didn’t do enough to stay in my top five.
Be sure to check back next Wednesday, where my top five is certain to have another shakeup!