Heisman Trophy Watch: Why Andrew Luck Should Win and Why He Won't
The Heisman Trophy recognizes the most outstanding player in college football.
The Heisman Trust Mission Statement goes as follows:
"The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity. Winners epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance, and hard work."
That statement perfectly describes the performances, achievements and character of Stanford University's Andrew Luck, who was named one of the Heisman Trophy finalists this year, alongside Auburn University's Cam Newton, Boise State's Kellen Moore and University of Oregon's LaMichael James.
If every voter took the words of that mission statement to heart and based their votes on the correct criteria, he would win.
But for a variety of reasons, he won't. And it will be the second year in a row that a Stanford player will undeservedly lose a Heisman race.
Why He Won't Win the Heisman
For one, Luck has many factors going against him.
He plays for Stanford, which doesn't have a particularly large or rabid fanbase because of the highly selective nature of the school.
Who deserves to win the Heisman?
Moreover, that puts him in the Pac-10 (soon to be Pac-12) and subject to West Coast bias, which highlights the weaknesses of the Heisman Trophy voting, including regional inequalities and an unfair bias towards SEC teams and players, largely caused by East Coast voters being unable to watch later games on the West Coast.
Toby Gerhart, the best running back in Stanford history and undoubtedly the most productive running back in college football last year, was deserving of the Heisman but fell just short to Alabama's Mark Ingram.
A blind side-by-side comparison of the two backs' statistics and accomplishments last season would have easily brought the Heisman Trophy to Stanford.
But, like Luck will experience this year, Gerhart was just out of luck last year.
And as history has shown, it's usually the best player, or perceived "best player," from the best team who wins the Heisman. Having already lost to LaMichael James' Oregon Ducks, many experts and writers have already taken him out of the equation.
Heisman Trophy winners need to win out more often than not, and unfortunately for Luck, he has not.
More importantly, anyone who has watched college football knows that the media is inexplicably in love with Cam Newton and that the past two weeks have all but secured his place as a Heisman Trophy winner.
Yes, he has accounted for 4,000 total yards, including 2,589 passing and 1,409 rushing. And yes, he has scored 48 touchdowns this season.
But it's not his on-field performance that is in question; it's his off-field troubles that put glaring questions of his character—that question his integrity, and according to the Heisman Trust, that is an important factor in deciding a Heisman Trophy recipient.
But this year, even his past transgressions and continued disregard of the rules of college football can't derail him from getting a Heisman.
While he was at the University of Florida backing up Tim Tebow, he was arrested in 2008 on felony charges of burglary, larceny and obstruction of justice for purchasing a stolen laptop from a student.
He was then temporarily suspended from the team and eventually withdrew from Florida before transferring to Blinn College in Texas where he won the 2009 NJCAA National Football Championship.
Newton's success at Blinn College put him at the top of the recruiting boards and eventually led him to Auburn University, where he will lead the 13-0 Tigers against the 12-0 Oregon Ducks in the National Championship Game.
But even there, he could not avoid controversy, as his father's alleged pay-for-play demands with Mississippi State University cast a shadow throughout this season.
He was originally suspended by the NCAA, but after an Auburn appeal, his suspension was overturned and he was allowed to play against South Carolina in the SEC Championship Game.
To the football experts, pundits and writers who only care about football and not about being a man of character on and off the field, the electrifying play of Cam Newton overcomes his obvious weaknesses.
They care about a player whose major is football, and who ultimately is an athlete and not a student-athlete.
Why Luck Should Win the Heisman
On the other hand, Andrew Luck is the perfect candidate for the Heisman.
Having passed for 3,051 yards at a 70.2 percent completion rate for an average of 254.2 yards per game and throwing 28 touchdowns against only seven interceptions for a QB rating of 166.1, Luck has all the necessary statistics to win.
And that's without even counting his 51 rushes for 438 yards, enough for second best behind Stepfan Taylor on the team.
Furthermore, between his meandering 52-yard run for a touchdown against Wake Forest, his run and forearm shrug of Cal's Sean Cattouse at the Big Game and his vicious hit that lit up USC's Shareece Wright, he isn't lacking for highlight moments that will certainly be played and re-played by NFL scouts.
In fact, he's projected to go as high as No. 1 in next year's NFL draft.
Yes, Kellen Moore passed for 3,506 yards at a 71.0 percent completion rate and had 33 touchdowns against seven interceptions for a QB rating of 185.0; no doubt that is an impressive feat and he deserves to be in consideration for a Heisman.
But Luck did what he did all with a Stanford rushing offense that ranked in the Top 20 in rushing yards with 504 rushing attempts for 2,532 yards, compared to Boise State, who rushed 449 times for 2,401 yards.
And not to demean Boise State's achievements, but Luck passed well against statistically more formidable opponents in an AQ conference—the underrated Pac-10 Conference.
Most importantly, the Heisman Trust emphasizes not just being a great player, but also one who pursues "excellence with integrity" and "epitomize[s] great ability combined with diligence perseverance, and hard work."
Andrew Luck epitomizes the perfect student-athlete, holding his own against legitimate engineers and brainiacs while majoring in architectural design at one of the most challenging and prestigious universities in the world.
In one anecdote on his intelligence, Luck was once called to the front of a Stanford engineering class to solve a difficult problem on the board and successfully answered it, wowing everyone in the class.
This week, in the middle of finals on Tuesday, Andrew Luck stopped studying to have a press conference and showed exactly why he should win the Heisman.
He was just thankful to be in the discussion for the Heisman Trophy, and in his own self-deprecating way, mentioned how "luck-y" he was to be considered with all of the other Heisman finalists, whom he mentioned by name.
Furthermore, he said that he hoped for a victory not based on off-the-field incidents, an obvious allusion to Cam Newton's situation, but based on on-field achievements.
But that's where Luck is wrong: He should win, and not just because of his on-field exploits.
He should win because he has been one of the best quarterbacks in college football, and also because he has shown the best character off the field.
He is not just an athlete; he is a student-athlete. And a damn good one, at that.
It's a shame he probably won't win it.
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