Heisman Hopefuls: Who Excelled, Who Screwed the Pooch, Who Is Added

Stephen GrettenbergContributor ISeptember 4, 2011

Heisman Hopefuls: Who Excelled, Who Screwed the Pooch, Who Is Added

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    So after the first week of action, some Heisman hopefuls are already losing steam, others excelled and a new candidate turned up for consideration.  

    Some other thoughts crop up as part of the picture—can someone be a Heisman candidate on a team not headed to the National Championship?  What if they are not headed to a BCS game?  Can anyone catch Stanford QB Andrew Luck?

    The race is far from over, but already there are surprises.  Lets take a look at the candidates stats this week.

Stanford QB Andrew Luck Leads the Pack of Heisman Hopefuls

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    Stanford QB Andrew Luck:

    No. 7, Stanford 57 vs. San Jose State 3

    New Stanford coach David Shaw opened with the equivalent of an exhibition game—beating a WAC doormat that went only won a single game last year.  He did not need Andrew Luck to win his first game 57-3.  It wasn't so many years ago Stanford was a team with a single victory, but those days are clearly gone.

    Luck completed 17/26 passes for 171 yards and two touchdowns before sitting out the fourth quarter.  He looked solid and professional, doing nothing to hurt his candidacy.  But beating San Jose State can't really help either.  It was basically a warmup scrimmage for a top 10 team like Stanford.  I'd like to see Stanford schedule better non-conference opponents at this point.


    Next Up:  Stanford @ Duke, Saturday, September 10, 2011

    Duke just lost a game to a good FCS team:  Richmond 23 @ Duke 21  -  Sept. 3, 2011

    While Duke is technically a BCS Conference foe, there should be little challenge for Luck and Co. until they play at Arizona the following week.


    Heisman Candidacy Change?  Even

    Think of it like a bye week.

Oregon RB LaMichael James & QB Darron Thomas Find Yards Tough Against LSU

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    Oregon RB LaMichael James & QB Darron Thomas:

    No. 3 Oregon 27 vs. No. 4 LSU 40 in Arlington, TX

    Give Oregon a lot of credit for scheduling an opener against a solid SEC team like LSU. Also give LSU a lot of credit for beating Oregon solidly.

    James carried the ball 18 times for 54 yards and one touchdown.  That's a three yard average.  James did do some damage as a receiver, getting six receptions for 61 yards.  In the kicking game he returned a kickoff for 21 yards, but was marked as getting -4 yards for a punt return.  That is not enough in a nationally televised game between serious National Championship contenders.  While the loss does not automatically eliminate Oregon from contention, it puts a serious dent in both Oregon's chances at returning to the National Championship and of LaMichael James winning the Heisman.

    LaMichael James is very talented, and Oregon can recover.  But a the game was a blow.

    QB Darron Thomas is a bit further down the Heisman watch list.  His numbers were alright, with 31/54 passing for 240 yards, a touchdown and an interception.  Those numbers came against a tough opponent, but they are not the stats of a Heisman winner.  There is time left, but it was not a great start. 


    Next Up:  Oregon vs. Nevada, Saturday, Sept. 10, 2011

    Nevada ended 13-1 and ranked No. 11 in the AP poll, its highest ever.  Due to heavy graduation they are not ranked to start the season.  This will be Nevada's first game. They'd love to take down Oregon, and they are preparing hard.  Oregon should be able to win at home against the Wolfpack—as long as they bring their A-game.  

    Anything short of Oregon's best could be costly.  That includes LaMichael James putting up big rushing numbers, and Darron Thomas improving his completion percentage.  With another loss, Oregon can count their slipping National Championship hopes gone.  Should LaMichael James not improve his rushing numbers, his Heisman hopes will just about be gone as well.

    Heisman Candidacy Change?  Both RB James & QB Thomas go Down

Alabama RB Trent Richardson Runs 37 Yards Against Kent State: That's All?

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    Alabama RB Trent Richardson:

    No. 2 Alabama 48 vs. Kent State 7

    On the surface, this looks like a decent victory over a weak opponent and this game will be forgotten once more significant SEC games are played.  That's true, up to a point.  First off, Alabama QB A.J. McCarron was pedestrian at best, going 14/23 with 226 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.  But Alabama's other QB was mediocre—Phillip Sims was 7/14 for 73 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions.  Four interceptions against Kent State is a bad sign.

    As for the running game?  Overall it was okay, but here are the stats for the top three Alabama runners:

    Jalston Fowler:  4 rushes for 69 yards, one touchdown

    Eddie Lacy:  8 rushes for 58 yards, one touchdown, three receptions for 76 yards

    Trent Richardson:  13 rushes for 37 yards, three touchdowns, and one reception for 16 yards

    Three touchdowns is a nice stat for RB Trent Richardson, but 13 rushes for 37 yards is not only well short of Heisman standards, it is below the standards of his own teammates.  I am sure he will have bigger games and this one will not be remembered, but it is not an auspicious start.


    Next Up:  Alabama @ Penn State, Saturday, Sept. 10, 2011

    Penn State just beat Indiana State 41 -7.  They should provide a lot more of a challenge than Kent State did.  The Alabama defense was fine, but the Alabama offense has to be better—including its Heisman candidate Trent Richardson.

    Heisman Candidacy Change?  Down

Oklahoma QB Landry Jones & WR Ryan Broyles Connect for Big Yardage

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    Oklahoma QB Landry Jones & WR Ryan Broyles

    No. 1 Oklahoma 47 vs. Tulsa 14

    It never hurts a Heisman candidacy to be playing on the No. 1 ranked team.  Of the two candidates, QB Landry Jones seems to be favored, but it sure helps to have a great receiver like Broyles hauling in those passes.

    Going to the stats:

    QB Landry Jones:  35/47 passes for 375 yards and one touchdown

    WR Ryan Broyles:  14 receptions for 158 yards and one touchdown

    That is an amazing day for a receiver.  375 yards is a lot of yardage for a quarterback too—but so is attempting 47 passes.  Was Tulsa ever on the field?

    Really, there is not much to say here.  Tulsa was outclassed by the No. 1 team in the country.  We'll see if these two Heisman hopefuls can do this against better competition.  Still, it was definitely a big day for both Landry and Broyles.


    Next Up:  Off next week, then a huge matchup:  Oklahoma @ Florida State on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011.

    No. 6 Florida State defeated UL-Monroe 34-0.  Next the Seminoles tune up again against Charleston Southern.  If Landry and Broyles have a big day and come out of FSU with a win, their Heisman stock will skyrocket.

    Heisman Candidacy Change?  Both Up 

Boise QB Kellen Moore Slices & Dices Georgia, Keeps on Winning

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    Boise State QB Kellen Moore:

    No. 5 Boise State 35 vs. No. 19 Georgia 21 at the Georgia Dome

    Kellen Moore is now 39-2, on his march to become the starting quarterback with the most wins in NCAA history (currently Colt McCoy's 45).  Last year's efficiency leader looked good again against Georgia, picking the Bulldogs apart.  After a few series, it never seemed like Georgia found an answer to Kellen Moore's methodical precision.

    Unless the unthinkable happens—college football chaos ensues and Boise State plays for a National Championship, I don't think Kellen Moore can win the Heisman. He probably deserves it though, and barring injury he should get a return invite to New York for the ceremony.

    A lot was made of now NFL receivers Titus Young and Austin Pettis being gone.  Another top target, Geraldo Boldewijn could not make the trip to Georgia.  It did not matter.  Kellen Moore completed passes to nine receivers (5 WRs, 2 TEs, 2 RBs) with apparent ease, sometimes changing plays at the line of scrimmage to take advantage of coverage.  He was never sacked and showed his characteristic knack for slipping around the rush.  He made one mistake when the rush was in his face, leading to an interception.  Otherwise, it was a banner night for the senior. It needed to be, since with TCU's loss to Baylor, this was probably Kellen Moore's biggest game until bowl time to make a good impression.

    The stats:  28/34 passing for 261 yards, three touchdowns and one interception

    The game marked Boise State's first victory over an SEC team.  It also marked Kellen Moore's 100th touchdown pass, completed to redshirt freshman WR Matt Miller. Miller emerged as a new target and had the most receiving yards of the night for the Broncos, pulling in five catches for 57 yards and one touchdown. 


    Next Up:  A bye week, and then Boise State @ Toledo, Friday, Sept. 16, 2011

    Toledo beat FCS opponent New Hampshire 58-22 this week and went 8-5 last year.  The next two weeks should be tough for the Rockets. Before they take on the Broncos they have a little cross-state jaunt to Ohio State University.  The Broncos will be pulling for the Strength of Schedule miracle of a Toledo victory, but I don't give the Rockets much of a chance against the Buckeyes or the Broncos.

    Heisman Candidacy Change?  Up (but perhaps not enough, though nearly perfect)

South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore Rolls for 112 Yards, Three Touchdowns

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    South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore:

    No. 12 South Carolina 56 vs. East Carolina 37

    Marcus Lattimore ran 23 times for 112 yards and three touchdowns, or just under five yards a carry.  He also made three receptions for 33 yards, but he lost a fumble.

    This was a solid performance–especially in terms of touchdowns—but for Marcus Lattimore to win a Heisman, he probably needs bigger games.  He'll have the opportunities.


    Next Up:  South Carolina @ Georgia, Saturday, Sept. 10, 2011

    Boise State exposed the Georgia defense, which had trouble getting enough pressure on the quarterback, but did a solid job defending the inside running game.  Boise State won 35-21.

    This SEC opener is huge in the SEC East race, and if Marcus Lattimore is to have a good Heisman candidacy, he'll need to shine on the bigger stage next week.

    Heisman Candidacy Change?  Even

Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon Makes Eight Catches for 144 Yards

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    Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon:

     No. 9 Oklahoma State 61 vs. UL-Lafayette 34

    Wide receivers don't win a lot of Heisman trophies.  For Justin Blackmon to have a chance, Oklahoma State needs an amazing season, and QB Brandon Wheeden needs to excel at getting him the ball.  Wheeden had a rusty, or just plain off night though in one regard.  24/39 passing for 388 yards and three touchdowns is pretty good—but he also threw three interceptions against a Sunbelt team.

    WR Justin Blackmon was the leading receiver in the game, pulling in eight catches for 144 yards, but no touchdowns.  It was his 13th game in a row with 100 or more yards.


    Next Up:  Oklahoma State vs. Arizona, Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011

    Will the short week be a problem for Oklahoma State?  Arizona downed FCS opponent Northern Arizona 41-10.  Perhaps Brandon Weeden should press less to avoid that many interceptions.

    Heisman Candidacy Change?  Even

Michigan QB Denard Robinson Helps Brady Hoke Pick Up His First Win at Michigan

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    Michigan QB Denard Robinson:

    Michigan 34 vs. Western Michigan 10

    There was a time early last year that Denard Robinson was a running demon and a top Heisman candidate.  Injuries followed as Robinson got banged up, and now Michigan is starting the Brady Hoke coaching era.  In games where he is not needed as much, I don't think we'll see as much rushing by Denard Robinson as he put up early last year.


    9/13 passing for 98 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions.

    8 rushes for 46 yards, making him the third leading rusher for Michigan on the day. 

    I think we'll get a much better feel for Michigan after next week's clash with Notre Dame.  For this week, QB Denard Robinson did a nice job of passing and running, but not trying to carry the team all by himself.  I think that's good—he might be at his best for his game against Ohio State come November.

    That might lead to more wins in the long run, but those numbers probably won't win a Heisman.   


    Next Up:  Michigan vs. Notre Dame, Saturday, Sept. 10, 2011

    No. 16 Notre Dame lost a game to a good South Florida 23-20, meaning Notre Dame might have been a bit overhyped again.  They should be tougher than Western Michigan though, and if Denard Robinson is to have a solid Heisman campaign, it needs to start with a great game and a win against Notre Dame. 

    Heisman Candidacy Change?  Slightly Down

Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez Runs for 135 Yards, Throws for 116 in the Option

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    Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez:

    Nebraska 40 vs. Chattanooga 7

    Taylor Martinez was at times brilliant last year for Nebraska. He seemed to be in coach Bo Pelini's doghouse the rest of the time.

    As a QB, Taylor Martinez is never going to be the passer like a Kellen Moore is.  But Taylor Martinez, if he can stay healthy, is a great runner and makes a good fit for Nebraska as an option QB.

    Stats this week (QB Brion Carnes finished the game):

    11/22 passing for 116 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions.

    19 rushes for 135 yards, making him the leading rusher in the game. 

    Can Taylor Martinez run 19 times a game when the competition gets stiffer?  If so, he might be a viable Heisman candidate.  But that's a lot of wear and tear on a quarterback.   


    Next Up:  Nebraska vs. Fresno State, Saturday, Sept. 10, 2011

    Fresno State should be another tuneup for Nebraska.  This week Fresno State lost to California 21-36. 

    Heisman Candidacy Change?  Up

Who Showed Up This Week That Was Not on Many Preseason Lists?

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    Baylor QB Robert Griffin III:

    Baylor 50 vs. No. 14 TCU 48

    In what turned out to be the best game of the first week, Robert Griffin III put in a career performance that might be the best of the week.

    Do I think he has a chance of winning the Heisman?  Not very likely, as Baylor is unlikely to get far still having to play No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 8 Texas A&M, No. 9 Oklahoma State, No. 21 Missouri and Texas.

    But for one game, this week, he was awesome in pulling off the best upset of the week.


    21/27 passing for 359 yards, five touchdowns, no interceptions, one fumble.

    10 rushes for 38 yards (includes a few designed runs and some scrambles).

    One reception for 15 yards.

    Beyond the passing stats, which are pretty awesome, he showed great leadership and great grit, taking hits and blowing up a TCU defense that hadn't given up that many yards in years.   

    Next Up:  A bye week, and then FCS opponent Stephen F. Austin, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011 

    Heisman Candidacy Change?  Up from nowhere to Here