2010 Heisman Trophy Rankings: Cam Newton Holds Strong Lead Amidst Controversy

Chris HustonContributor INovember 16, 2010

2010 Heisman Trophy Rankings: Cam Newton Holds Strong Lead Amidst Controversy

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    We're 11 weeks into the season, and it's time for the latest edition of Bleacher Report's 2010 Heisman Trophy Rankings, presented by Heismanpundit.com.

    The Heismanpundit.com Heisman poll is made up of 13 Heisman voters from across the country. They vote for three players each week. Tabulations are made on a 3-2-1 basis, with three points awarded for a first-place vote, two points for a second-place vote and one point for a third-place vote.

    In the past two years, the Heismanpundit poll was the most accurate in the country, picking five of the top six finishers in the Heisman vote in 2008 and the top four in 2009.

    Members of the panel include: Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel, Teddy Greenstein and Brian Hamilton of the Chicago Tribune, Olin Buchanan and Tom Dienhart of Rivals.com, Jenni Carlson of The Oklahoman, Bruce Feldman of ESPN.com, J.B. Morris of ESPN The Magazine, Austin Murphy, B.J. Schecter and Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated, plus Dick Weiss of the New York Daily News.

    Chris Huston, owner of Heismanpundit.com and a Bleacher Report contributor, coordinates and also votes in the weekly poll.

    The poll is featured here on Bleacher Report each Tuesday during the college football season.

    Here are the top players in the poll heading into Week 12.

No. 7: Terrelle Pryor, QB, Ohio State: 1 Point

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    Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor checks in at No. 7 in this week's poll with one point.

    Pryor was one of the preseason favorites for the Heisman, but hasn't been heard from much since the Buckeyes lost to Wisconsin several weeks ago.

    As it turns out, Pryor is having a pretty good season.  He's completed 67 percent of his passes, while throwing for 2,136 yards and 22 touchdowns with eight interceptions.  He's also added 512 yards and four scores on the ground.  Pryor's efficiency rating of 166.41 is ranked fifth nationally, so his improvement as a passer has been dramatic.  Oh, and the Buckeyes are 9-1 on the year.

    The only problem with Pryor's candidacy is that it has lacked the 'wow' factor of some of the other contenders.  As effective as he has been, there is a perception that he could be doing more.  Unless he can wind up the season with a bang, he's not likely to make it to New York. 

    But he is coming back for his senior year, so we're sure be talking about him this time next season, too.

No. 6: Andy Dalton, QB, TCU: 2 Points

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    TCU's Andy Dalton is sixth in this week's poll with two points.

    Few players in college football have won as much as Dalton.  He has 40 wins as a starter for the Horned Frogs and appears on his way to leading his team to an undefeated regular season.

    Along the way, he's put up some fine numbers: He's thrown for 2,482 yards with 23 touchdowns and six picks this year, with 415 yards and five scores on the ground as well.  He is sixth nationally in pass efficiency with a rating of 163.95. 

    If the Heisman were an MVP award, Dalton might be among the upper echelon of candidates.  As it stands, he's been overshadowed by his fellow non-AQ quarterback Kellen Moore and the more spectacular Cameron Newton. 

    If these quarterbacks should falter along the way, Dalton could be an alternative choice for voters, but his chances of a late-season Heisman surge are remote.

No. 5: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State: 3 Points

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    Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon is fifth this week with three points in the poll.

    Nothing seems to be able to slow this guy down.  Blackmon sat out a week due to a suspension following a DUI arrest, but he's come back with a vengeance these past two weeks, catching a combined 22 passes for 318 yards and two touchdowns against Baylor and Texas. 

    Despite missing that one game, Blackmon is the clear leader nationally in receiving yards, terrorizing secondaries at an astounding 159 yards per game clip.  He's also tied with LaMichael James for the scoring lead. 

    On the year, he has 84 catches for 1,430 yards and 16 touchdowns, with another 77 yards and a touchdown on the ground. 

    The Biletnikoff Award is in the bag. The question is: Can Blackmon make his way to New York?  If the Cowboys win the Big 12, he might have a shot.

No. 4: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford: 4 Points

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    Stanford's Andrew Luck is fourth this week with four points.

    Luck has the Cardinal on its way to its best season since 1940.  Stanford has never won more than 10 games in a season, but it could happen thanks to Luck.  Not many thought the Cardinal would be this good after Toby Gerhart went to the NFL, but Stanford has a case for being the best one-loss team.

    Luck's leadership and NFL-level skills are a big part of that.  He's completed 69.6 percent of his passes for 2,505 yards with 22 touchdown passes and seven interceptions.  His efficiency rating of 159.55 is 10th nationally and he also has 373 yard and three scores on the ground. 

    The consensus by many scouts is that Luck is a good bet to be the NFL's top pick whenever he enters the draft.  While he is unlikely to get to New York for the Heisman ceremony, he's a good bet to finish in the top five of the Heisman vote, giving Stanford back-to-back top-five finishers for the first time ever. 

    If he returns for his junior season, Luck is sure to be a top candidate for next year's Heisman.

No. 3: Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State: 16 Points

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    Boise State's Kellen Moore is third in the poll with 16 points, including a first-place vote.

    While the media raged over the Newton controversies, Moore quietly put together another strong outing, throwing for 216 yards and three scores on 19 of 26 passing against Idaho.  

    On the year, he has 2,588 passing yards with 24 touchdowns and just four interceptions.

    His current pass efficiency rating of 191.15 would break the NCAA mark of 186 set by Colt Brennan in 2006.  That’s a worthwhile accomplishment and one that hasn’t been talked about too much. 

    If nothing happens to Newton and he goes on to win the Heisman, I think Moore will finish third in the Heisman vote.  But if Newton is brought down by these allegations, I think Moore has just as good a chance of winning the Heisman as James.  

    It would be quite a contrast for voters to go from favoring a 6-5 athletic freak to settling on a 5-11, cerebral pocket passer, but it just might work out for the Boise quarterback.  He’s got Fresno State on Friday and then his last major test against Nevada a week later.  

No. 2: LaMichael James, RB, Oregon: 19 Points

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    Oregon's LaMichael James is, once again, second in the weekly poll.  He has 19 points, with one first-place vote.

    It was a tough week for James, who was stymied by the Cal Bear defense.  The sophomore tailback was held to a season-low 91 yards and kept out of the end zone for the first time this year.  As far as down games go, it wasn’t too bad, but James missed an opportunity to steal some of Cam Newton’s thunder.  

    To win the Heisman, he’ll need to have a couple huge games against Arizona and Oregon State to close out the season and then hope that the NCAA issues take care of the rest.  He still leads the nation in rushing (1,422 yards), but his chances at the magical 2,000 yard marker have all but vanished (the one-game suspension might cost him in the end!). 

    I believe both and Kellen Moore have an equal shot at winning the Heisman if Newton somehow gets disqualified.  James would have the advantage of being the top player on the No. 1 team, but Moore would be seen as the squeaky-clean alternative to two players who both have checkered pasts. 

    James is off this week, so I don’t expect this order to change much next time around.       

No. 1: Cameron Newton, QB, Auburn: 33 Points

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    Cameron Newton is once again a strong leader for the Heisman Trophy, garnering 33 points and 11 first-place votes in this week's survey.

    It has become increasingly clear to the vast majority of Heisman voters that Newton is the most outstanding player in the country this year.  While there are other worthy candidates out there, the Auburn quarterback’s talent and athleticism really stands out to even the most casual observer.  His ability to dominate a game—seemingly at will—has put him on a different level than the other contenders. 

    The only thing standing between him and the Heisman Trophy is the NCAA investigation.  This wildcard is turning the race into one of the craziest in Heisman history.  One simply can’t know exactly how it will all shake out.  Will the NCAA find a way to act quickly on this matter and put it to rest?  Will more information come out?  Is this something that will drag on for a while?  One thing we do know is that, without the investigation, this race would essentially be over. 

    Newton just keeps producing, most recently against Georgia, as he rushed for 151 and threw for 148 while compiling four touchdowns along the way.  On the year, he has 2,038 passing yards with 21 touchdowns and six picks, and 1,297 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns.  He is second nationally in pass efficiency with a rating of 183.58. 

    Voters really do want to vote for him, but some are beginning to have serious doubts about his character.  Recent informal surveys of Heisman voters show that Newton has already lost up to 20 to 25 percent of his support.  At this point, that’s not enough to deny him the Heisman, but if any other ugly shoes drop, he’s in big trouble. 

    Auburn has a bye this week, so get ready for two weeks of idle speculation before the Tigers take on Alabama. 

    This Week's Poll (with first-place votes in parentheses)

    1. Cameron Newton, QB, Auburn—33 (11)
    2. LaMichael James, RB, Oregon—19 (1)
    3. Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State—16 (1)
    4. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford—4
    5. Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State—3
    6. Andy Dalton, QB, TCU—2
    7. Terrelle Pryor, QB, Ohio State—1