The 2010-2011 Heisman Trophy Power Rankings: The Race Has Began

Ian HarrisonCorrespondent ISeptember 21, 2010

The 2010-2011 Heisman Trophy Power Rankings: The Race Has Began

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    The Heisman Trophy
    The Heisman TrophyChris Trotman/Getty Images

    The Heisman Trophy is the summit of the College Football Universe.  The bronzed trophy is anthropomorphically characterized by all of it's former winners.  When one sees the trophy, it's hard not to think of Desmond Howard striking the pose.  Summarized shortly, it is a chance for an individual to live forever.

    Last season, Mark Ingram astounded the nation, completely overshadowing the senior campaigns of Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy, and Ndamukong Suh, on a path to glory.  Ingram would become only the third sophomore in trophy history.  More astonishing, is that Ingram was the first player in Alabama University's storied history to achieve this honor.

    80% of all Heisman winners this decade have been quarterbacks, so it stands to reason that a quarterback will win again.  However, Mark Ingram was able to overcome the odds, so why can't that happen again?  The one pattern that is impossible to ignore, however, is that the last three winners have all been sophomores; the only three sophomores in trophy history.  Is that pattern fated to continue?

    Each week, I will present my power rankings for the top ten Heisman candidates.  Of course, it goes without saying I don't have a single thread of importance in accordance of electing a winner.  The Heisman Trophy has been awarded seventy-five times, and this year, a seventy-sixth will be recorded.  Will a first-time program host it's first winner?  Will a storied program have another chapter added to it's legacy?  Only time will tell.

    I've taken dozens of candidates for the Heisman Trophy, and each week I will present them in the order that I rank them.  If a new candidate should emerge, he will be added to the list and tracked retroactively.  For now, let's get a look at week three's top ten.

#10: LaMichael James (Oregon)

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    LaMichael James carrying the football.
    LaMichael James carrying the football.Steve Dykes/Getty Images

    LaMichael James | Junior | Running Back | Oregon Ducks

    LaMichael James leaped into public knowledge last season as he replaced senior LaGarrette Blount after his untimely exit from the team.  James, then a sophomore, channeled the majority of the teams carries in 2009-2010, racking up an incredibly 1,546 yards for the Ducks.

    After returning senior quarterback Jeremiah Masoli was dismissed from the team, it seemed James would have to carry the load for the repeating Pac-10 Champions.  Although he was suspended for Oregon's opener against New Mexico, the Ducks had no problem amounting 72 points.

    However, LaMichael James has proven his worth in weeks two and three.  Although the win against Portland State looks good in theory, his numbers against Derek Dooley's Tennessee are what land him on this list.  James averaged over eight-yards a carry against Tennessee, consummating 134 yards with ease.

    Oregon's first test will be next week against the Sun Devils of Arizona State, and the week after against the Stanford Cardinals may have title implications.  We'll know more about LaMichael James in the coming weeks, but for now, James' performance has earned him the #10 spot in the race.

#9: John Clay (Wisconson)

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    John Clay taking a carry
    John Clay taking a carryJonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    John Clay | Senior | Running Back | Wisconsin

    John Clay was a sleeper Heisman candidate last season.  However, Clay never managed to advance past the second-tier.  Clay's junior campaign was impressive enough to get mentioned, similar to this year, but not so much so that he was genuinely considered.

    Clay accounted for over 1500 yards last season on the ground, and punched it in 18 times, oddly enough, his numbers were reasonably comparable to the future winner, Mark Ingram.

    Clay's numbers thus far are second-tier, like his campaign.  He's amassed almost six-hundred yards on the ground, and has been consistent.  Clay's numbers aren't morphed by gimme-wins.  However, Clay's five touchdowns is a discouraging number at this point in the year.

    Clay's real test is coming, when he plays Michigan State, Iowa, and Ohio State three-out-of-four weeks.  If Clay's Heisman hopes could be made or broken in those four weeks.  As of week three, though, Clay has been outstanding, as he should have been.  The road ahead for John Clay is not encouraging.

#8: Matt Barkley (Southern California)

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    Matt Barkley talking with USC Head Coach Lane Kiffin
    Matt Barkley talking with USC Head Coach Lane KiffinJamie Squire/Getty Images

    Matt Barkley | Sophomore | QB | USC

    Matt Barkley is our second Pac-10 candidate thus far, and appears to be going under most radars.  Barkley is the victim of the overwhelming disapproval of new Head Coach Lane Kiffin, and the USC probation.  Although Southern Cal is not eligible for a Bowl Game, Barkley's numbers thus far are impressive enough to get him mentioned.

    The 20-year-old had a small hiccup against Big Ten opponent Minnesota, but still managed to lead his team to victory.  Barkley, through three games, has amassed nine touchdowns to only two interceptions (Both against Minnesota.)

    The former five-star-recruit seems to be coming into his own as a second-year-stater, and has improved his decision-making-ability since he arrived in Southern California.  Barkley's numbers are made even more impressive when you consider the lack of leadership around him.  (That is a shot at Lane, for those wondering.)

    Barkley's first real test comes in week six when he must lead his Trojans against Andrew Luck's Stanford Cardinals.  After that, he will finish up with seven straight competitive games.  It's likely Barkley will be played out of the race when the Pac-10's divisional games begin.

#7: Kendall Hunter (Oklahoma State)

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    Kendall Hunter stretching for the end zone
    Kendall Hunter stretching for the end zoneChristian Petersen/Getty Images

    Kendall Hunter | Senior | Running Back | Oklahoma State

    As a junior last season, Kendall Hunter suffered an ankle injury that cost him the majority of the season. Although the injury physically kept him out six games, the lingering effects virtually cost him the whole season.  With the off-season to recuperate, Hunter is back with a vengeance.

    Hunter has been asked to carry the majority of the load for Oklahoma State, with Dez Bryant and Zac Robinson moving on.  He was used sparingly against Tulsa, but was instrumental to the Cowboys success against Troy.  His numbers are misleading, as the bulk of his outstanding numbers were produced against the Pac-10 bottom-dweller Washington State, but that is no reason to doubt his candidacy.

    Hunter has ancillary momentum on his side.  It's documented how much the Heisman Trust loves to vote for experienced athletes.

    Hunter's true worth will be forged when he plays the meat of the Big 12, Nebraska, Texas, and Oklahoma.  If he can keep his Oklahoma State in these games, and win at least one of them, Kendall Hunter will be a real threat for the Heisman.

#6: Ryan Broyles (Oklahoma)

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    Ryan Broyles prepares for another play.
    Ryan Broyles prepares for another play.Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Ryan Broyles | Junior | Wide Receiver | Oklahoma

    Ryan Broyles makes the list as the only wide receiver.  Broyles, a junior this season, was over-shadowed last season by the Sam Bradford show.  Will he play this week?  Will he stay or go?  In all of that, Broyles inexplicably posted outstanding numbers at the Wide Receiver position, and he seems to be picking up where he left off.

    As a Redshirt Sophomore last season, Broyles caught 89 passes for over a thousand yards, scoring 15 times.  Through three games, his numbers are promising, but there isn't any reason to be skeptical. Broyles' Oklahoma squad will have several close games, however, they will only see one red-flag defense.  At this pace, Broyles will have Fitzgerald-like numbers.

    However, Broyles may be ran out of the race by his own teammate Demarco Murray.  If in close games, Oklahoma chooses to depend on senior DeMarco Murray rather than juniors Landry Jones and Ryan Broyles, it very well may run him out of contention.  This remains to be seen.

    Although the defenses he is primed to face aren't frightening, it will be interesting to see how he plays against his division. What is more interesting, however, is seeing how he will play on the road.  Thus far, he has not had to play outside of Norman

#5: Ryan Mallett (Arkansas)

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    Mallett stands in the pocket, ready to deliver a strike.
    Mallett stands in the pocket, ready to deliver a strike.Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Ryan Mallett | Junior | Quarterback | Arkansas

    Originally recruited by Lloyd Carr at Michigan, this Heisman candidate has always carried assumed glory. After Carr was fired, however, he transferred to Arkansas.  I hope Michigan threw in a bow and gift wrap.  Mallett's Razorbacks opened up this season against two inferior opponents in Tennessee Tech and Louisiana-Monroe, where he posted his usual numbers.

    However, his achievement so far was against Mark Richt's Georgia squad.  His completion percentages were down compared to his other opponents, but the success was obvious, as he threw the ball down the throats of the Georgia defense.  More impressive than that, however, was for the first time this season, he did not throw an interception.

    Will Ryan Mallett continue to step-up when it matters most?  His toughest test all season will come next Saturday when he plays the Title favorite Crimson Tide. His candidacy does not depend on a win against Alabama, but that would surely move him into the favorite position.  After that game, his campaign will depend largely on how he plays against LSU, South Carolina, and Auburn.

    Auburn and South Carolina are very winnable games, but it will be interesting to see how he plays against The Tigers of LSU, a team I believe to have one of the top three defenses in college football. Although Mallett's numbers are good thus far, he will have to play much tougher competition than Tennessee Tech in coming weeks, and there is no telling whether he can keep this up.

#4: Andrew Luck (Stanford)

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    Luck celebrating with his team.
    Luck celebrating with his team.Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Andrew Luck | Junior | Quarterback | Stanford

    After playing last season as a true teen-aged sophomore, Luck was carried by senior Heisman candidate Toby Gerhart.  However, since Gerhart graduated, there was no questioning who was the team leader.  As a first-year-starter last season, Luck showed flashes of greatness.  Luck was asked to be a Chad-Pennington-like game manager.  Keep us in the game.  Let Toby win it.

    This season, however, Luck has been asked to carry the load, and to his credit, he took off where Toby Gerhart left off last season, accounting for 11 touchdowns in his first three games as a junior, with 0 interceptions.  However, it's his 65% completion percentage that I'm most impressed with.  In a pro-style offense, that is legendary in college football.

    Luck's schedule seems to be weak thus far.  However, that may prove to be false.  At UCLA and at home against Wake Forrest, the Stanford Cardinals have proven to be lethal.  Those teams may never see the national attention future Pac-10 opponents will see, but there is not a single Pac-10 defense that will curve his statistics.  Of course he will have competition against teams like Southern Cal, Oregon, Oregon State, and Washington, but their defenses are not significantly greater than the UCLA Bruins or the Wake Forrest Demon Deacons.

    Seven of his final eight games will be tough.  This means, barring injury, Andrew Luck will likely be throwing in shoot-outs the rest of the season.  However, if Luck cannot overcome the pressure, he will be played out of contention.  .

#3: Denard Robinson (Michigan)

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    Denard Robinson stiff-arming the entire Notre Dame defense.
    Denard Robinson stiff-arming the entire Notre Dame defense.Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Denard Robinson | Sophomore | Quarterback | Michigan

    If you read anything into projections, Denard Robinson is on pace to have 4,900 total yards this season.

    Let that just sink in.

    Of course, like any knowledgeable fan, I know he will not get 4,900 yards.  Not even close.  But it's fun to see how the season would play out if he played terrible defenses year-round.  Denard Robinson's statistics are so overwhelming that everyone assumes he's the front-runner.  I don't think so.

    Denard Robinson's statistics are impressive, but he has not proven anything.  To date, the best defense he has played was UMass. (No offense Notre Dame fans, Man'ti Teo can't do it all.)  Denard Robinson will have to play four tough in-division defenses, and it's Big Ten country.  It's going to get cold.  Can Denard Robinson put up 400 all purpose yards against Ohio State in the Shoe?  What about against one of Penn State's white outs?

    It's a tough road ahead for the true sophomore, but it is key to look at one pattern when evaluating the field.  For three years straight, a sophomore has one.  Robinson seems to be the only sophomore with a chance, as of right now.  Is this a risky pattern to bet on?  Probably.  But for Michigan fans, we'll take whatever we can get.

#2: Daniel Thomas (Kansas State)

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    Thomas breaking free.
    Thomas breaking free.Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Daniel Thomas | Senior | Running Back | Kansas State

    This senior running back out of Kansas State may not have top-draft status, but he is running around, by, and through defenses, carrying the Kansas State Wildcats to an early 3-0 record.  Daniel Thomas is averaging 184 rushing yards per game.  Thomas may remind you of last year's candidate Toby Gerhart, because Thomas doesn't only carry the ball, he shoulders the hopes of his team.

    Thomas isn't necessarily padding stats, either.  In the two competitive games this season, he is averaging 32 carries and over two-hundred yards.  While one might assume he will see harder defenses than UCLA and Iowa State, it may be hard to ignore their rather simple schedule.  Although the Wildcats must play both Texas and Nebraska, two of the best defenses in the country, both games are in the comfort of Manhattan.

    Home games are definitively more easily played than road games, so even though Wildcats fans should expect loses for outcomes, it's not out of the question that Thomas could put up Heisman-like numbers, and perhaps even keep them in the game.  Barring injury, this work-horse will likely be asked to hoist the rock 400 times.  (Note:  That is a lot.)

    Thomas' main issue this season will be his lack of notoriety.  Unless he puts up huge games against a marque opponent, (Texas and Nebraska appear to be the only ones.) he is likely doomed to be overshadowed by big-market candidates like Terrelle Pryor, Denard Robinson, Andrew Luck, Matt Barkley, and everyone in the SEC.  However, he and Kendall Hunter will get to go head-to-head on October 30th, with the loser of the match-up likely out of the race.

#1: Kellen Moore (Boise State)

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    Kellen Moore throwing a pass against Virginia Tech
    Kellen Moore throwing a pass against Virginia TechGeoff Burke/Getty Images

    Kellen Moore | Junior | Quarterback | Boise State

    This southpaw from Idaho finishes up week three's list on top, but he may not be there for too long.  Although Boise State has looked more than impressive, the Heisman voters will not remember his comeback drive against Virginia Tech.  Moore's quest for a Heisman likely dies when the 'big conferences' start their conference games.

    Moore's Broncos will play two significant games in the next ten weeks.  Next week when he plays Oregon State and November 19th against Fresno State.  Moore, again, will put up outstanding numbers, similar to last year's, but this year he will have the Virginia Tech win and the love of ESPN to bolster his campaign.

    Moore's Heisman hopes rely on my theory that all BCS-Conference teams will have at least one loss.  If Moore's Broncos go unbeaten, but the BCS Conferences suffer a year similar to 2007, it's possible Moore has a shot.  (This theory is only a personal prediction with no solid information backing it up.)

    For now, in this three-week period, Moore's stats warrant the trophy.  He's averaging over 300 yards per game, and has no defense significant enough to effect his stats.  Moore has an outside chance, but this award is still up for grabs.

Defending My List

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    Mark ingram shouldering a carry.
    Mark ingram shouldering a carry.Brian A. Westerholt/Getty Images

    Where is Terrelle Pryor?

    Rest assured that Terrelle Pryor was a candidate that I considered, but I did not feel he was one of the top ten through three weeks.  His stats against Miami are misleading, he threw multiple passes that should have been intercepted by the Canes, but were dropped.  If these passes were intercepted, Ohio State likely would have lost.  (Even with JaCory Harris' four interceptions.)

    However, he does rank 12th thus far, and will move up after Big Ten play starts. Pryor's stats didn't warrant a spot on the list.  Unlike Denard Robinson, Pryor's stats are not overly impressive.  I will not reward him for Miami's defensive incompetency.  Outside of that win, his stats are sub-par.  However, like I previously stated, Pryor will likely make a strong push on to the upper half of the list if he can dominate the next two weeks of Big Ten play against Indiana and Illinois.

    If Pryor follows that up with a win over Big Ten hopeful Wisconsin, he'll be hard to deny.

    Where is Taylor Martinez?

    Rest assured, Nebraska fans, this stud is getting consideration.  His throwing stats are discouraging, and that is why he is ranked considerably lower than others.  Can he continue to score two or three touchdowns a game on the ground?  We'll see October 17th just how good this kid is.  (Side note:  Big Ten is loaded with talent at Quarterback next year.  Pryor, Robinson, Martinez... I'm drooling.)

    Where is Mark Ingram?

    There have seldom been sixteen more convincing carries.  Can Ingram overcome his early-season-injury and outshine Julio Jones, Greg McElroy, and Trent Richardson?  Probably.  Can he catch up to other candidates?  That will be the question.


    I'm expecting several people will insult me personally for leaving 'their guy' off the list.  They'll probably insult my intelligence as well.  I conducted this, and will continue to do so, with no bias.  Trust me, if Terrelle Pryor earns the Heisman, I'll tell it how it is.  He just isn't there yet.

    (Others included in the list: Andy Dalton, Marcus Lattimoore, Jeffrey Demps, Patrick Peterson, Leonard Hankerson, Cam Newton, Dion Lewis, Ryan Williams, and Adam Robinson, and more.)