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Heisman Award Watch List: Who Is Deserving, Overlooked and Overhyped?

Ryan WrightAnalyst IIIOctober 11, 2011

Heisman Award Watch List: Who Is Deserving, Overlooked and Overhyped?

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    The 2011 college football season has hit the halfway mark, and the Heisman Trophy Award talk is heating up.

    Many players are having phenomenal seasons but who should win the Heisman and why?

    The recipient of the Heisman Award means different things to different college football fans and voters. The criterion seems to change every year. Does the award go to the best player on the best team, the best player or the most valuable player in college football?

    Or does it go to a standout player that does the most for their team, win or lose? Does it go to the player that excels both on and off the field? Or to the player that has the most outstanding season?

    Some fans love statistics, but statistics can be misleading.

    What’s more important, the running back with the most rushing yards per game, total rushing yards for the season or the running back that gets his numbers against his team’s top opponents when it counts?

    Rarely does one player embody what all the fans and voters look for in a winner.

    Here’s a list of players that deserve Heisman talk, a list of those that probably won't be invited to New York but deserve recognition and a list of over hyped players and why.

    Let the debates begin.

Deserving of a Heisman Invite

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    QB Landry Jones, Oklahoma, Junior

    QB Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State, Senior

    RB Ray Graham, Pittsburgh, Junior

    QB Denard Robinson, Michigan, Junior

    DL Whitney Mercilus, Illinois, Junior

Landry Jones

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    Reasons for Landry Jones:

    Jones is ranked fourth in FBS in total passing yards per game (362.80), 18th in passing efficiency (159.65) and sixth in completions per game with 28.40. His 13 passing touchdowns are tied for 21st in the nation, and he has only thrown five interceptions in 205 passing attempts.

    Each game has ended with at least one passing touchdown by Jones for the undefeated Sooners. He threw five against Ball State.

    Oklahoma won against two ranked opponents—then No. 5 Florida State 23-13 (199 yards passing) and then No. 11 Texas 55-17 (367 yards passing).

     

    Reasons against Landry Jones:

    Weeden has better statistical number than Jones. Against FSU and Missouri, Jones threw two interceptions in both games.

    The winner of the Bedlam Series could claim the Heisman. 

Brandon Weeden

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    Reasons for Brandon Weeden

    Weeden averages 376 passing yards per game (2nd in FBS), fourth in total passing yards (1,880), second in completion percentage (75.8), and ninth in touchdown passes thrown (15).

    Weeden has thrown for at least 288 yards in every game this season for the undefeated Cowboys.

    His passing season low of 288 yards came against Kansas when he completed 24 of 28 passes with five touchdowns—all with 5:11 left to play before halftime.

     

    Reasons against Brandon Weeden

    Oklahoma State has only played one ranked team to date—then No. 8 Texas A&M (438 yards passing). By seasons end, Weeden will play against four more teams that are currently ranked in the Top 25: Texas, Baylor, Kansas State and Oklahoma.

    How good is the Big 12?

    The Big 12 does not have a signature non-conference win. Oklahoma’s win over FSU is diminishing week after week. 

Ray Graham

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    Reasons for Ray Graham

    Graham leads the nation in total rushing yards (899) and rushing attempts (150). His nine rushing touchdowns are good for ninth in the nation.

    In the Panthers biggest win of the season against South Florida, he rushed for 226-yards with two touchdowns.

    Graham should finish the season ranked first in total rushing yards after LaMichael James’s injury.

    He could flirt with the 2,000 yard rushing mark if Pittsburgh makes a bowl game. It's more than likely he will finish in the 1,700 to 1,850 range.

     

    Reasons against Ray Graham

    Against two quality opponents he was held under 100-yards rushing—Iowa (97) and Notre Dame (89).

    The Panthers have one other ranked team left on their schedule.

    Their 3-3 season will not impress voters. Troy Davis rushed for over 2,000 yards for Iowa State in back-to-back seasons in 1995 and 1996 but did not win the Heisman because he played on a losing team. 

Denard Robinson

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    Reasons for Denard Robinson

    Robinson ranks eighth in the nation in total offense per game (341.20 yards) and sixth in FBS in total rushing yards (720). His 7.1 yards per carry is second to LaMichael James’ 9.0 (Oregon) for runners with 90 or more rushing attempts. He is responsible for 21.60 points per game for the Michigan scoring offense, which ranks third in the nation.

    Robinson’s 206.40 passing yards per game ranks 61st in FBS. He has 10 passing touchdowns and eight rushing touchdowns.

    If Michigan wins the Legends Division they could play Illinois again, or Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game.

    A standout game and win against either team could help sway some Heisman voters his way.

     

    Reasons against Denard Robinson

    Michigan has not played a ranked team this season. Only three teams remain on their schedule that are currently ranked—No. 23 Michigan State, No. 16 Illinois and No. 14 Nebraska.

    Robinson is not a true pocket quarterback nor is he a true running back. This could cost him some votes. Tim Tebow winning the Heisman in 2007 should help his cause.

Whitney Mercilus

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    Reasons for Whitney Mercilus

    Mercilus leads the nation with 8.5 sacks and in tackles for a loss yardage (58). His 10.5 TFL is fourth best in the nation along with his 58 yards lost due to TFL. He has forced four fumbles for the Fighting Illini’s undefeated team. 

     

    Reasons against Whitney Mercilus

    Most people outside of Illinois or Big Ten country do not know of Mercilus.

    Illinois has played one ranked team (Arizona State), and only has two games remaining against ranked foes— No. 11 Michigan and No. Wisconsin.

    Charles Woodson was the last defensive player to win the Heisman (1997), and he had punt returning duties to help his cause.

    If Ndamukong Suh was not good enough to win the Heisman as a defensive lineman, no one is. 

On the Uninvited List but Deserving of Attention

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    QB Case Keenum, Houston, Senior

    QB Tajh Boyd, Clemson, Sophomore

    QB Tyler Wilson, Arkansas, Junior

    WR Robert Woods, Southern California, Sophomore

    QB Russell Wilson, Wisconsin, Senior

Case Keenum

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    Reasons for Case Keenum

    Keenum leads the nation in total passing yards (2,309), is second in passing touchdowns (17), and is sixth in the nation in passing completion percentage (174.80).

    He is fifth in the nation in yards per completion at 9.7 per game.

    Keenum has thrown for over 300 yards in every game this season and has completed at least 25 passes in each game for the undefeated Cougars. In 238 passing attempts (fourth in the nation) he has thrown just two interceptions.

     

    Reasons against Case Keenum

    Conference USA.

    The only quality opponent on their schedule is UCLA, if you consider UCLA a quality opponent. By seasons end SMU (5-1) may be ranked which could give Houston one more quality win before their bowl game. 

Tajh Boyd

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    Reasons for Tajh Boyd:

    Boyd has 1,742 total passing yards (seventh in FBS), 15 passing touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 160.2. His two interceptions in 194 attempts are impressive as well. He has three rushing touchdowns to add to his resume.

    Undefeated Clemson had three straight wins against Top 25 teams— No. 21 Auburn, No. 11 Florida State, and No. 11 Virginia Tech. The Tigers have two games against ranked opponents left on the regular season and a possible ACC title game which should pit them against another ranked team.

     

    Reasons against Tajh Boyd:

    He has been consistent and impressive in two of their bigger games throwing for 386 yards against Auburn and 344 against Florida State. In their only road game of the season Boyd threw for a season low 204 yards. How well will he do in big road games against Georgia Tech and South Carolina?

    The last ACC player to win the Heisman Trophy was Chris Weinke from Florida State in 2000.

    Boyd left the Boston College game with a hip injury. No news if he will miss game time due to the injury. 

Tyler Wilson

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    Reasons for Tyler Wilson

    Wilson is sixth in the nation in total passing yards with 1,779 for the 23rd ranked total offense in the nation. He has 12 passing touchdowns and three interceptions in 208 passing attempts.

    Wilson averages 14.33 points per game for the 17th highest scoring team in the nation at 39.17 per game.

    The Razorbacks are 5-1 with back-to-back wins over Top 25 teams—No. 14 Texas A&M and No. 15 Auburn. The Hogs have two games left on the schedule against Top 25 teams: No. 15 South Carolina and No. 1 LSU.

     

    Reason against Tyler Wilson

    Wilson is statistically behind a couple of other great quarterbacks that could finish the season undefeated.

    In the Hogs biggest game of the year at Alabama, he was held to 185 yards passing. He did complete 63 percent of his passes and threw for two scores against the Tide, the nation’s number one scoring defense at seven points per game, in their backyard without a running game.

    The good and the bad for Wilson is Arkansas is trying to find their running attack. If they develop the run, that could open up passing lanes for Wilson down field, but also take away passing opportunities. 

Robert Woods

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    Reasons for Robert Woods

    Woods is second in the nation in receiving yards per game averaging 149.40 and in receptions per game with 11.

    Nick Harwell (Miami, Ohio) leads the nation in receiving yards per game with 159, but he has played in one less game than Woods. Woods’ 747-receiving yards ranks third in the nation.

    Woods set a single game USC record for receptions with 17 against Minnesota and was five yards away from setting the USC single game record when he had 255-yards receiving against Arizona.

    He has at least eight catches in every game this season. Syracuse held him to 82-receiving yards in his single game under 100-yards receiving.

     

    Reasons against Robert Woods

    The last wide receiver to win the Heisman was Desmond Howard for Michigan in 1991. Howard was also the punt returner for the Wolverines.

    USC has not played a ranked team this season. Their only road game was a loss at Arizona State (43-22) which is currently ranked 18th. USC has two games left on the schedule against ranked teams versus No. 7 Stanford and at No. 9 Oregon.

    USC cannot play in the first annual PAC-12 Conference title game nor can they participate in a bowl this year due to NCAA sanctions. Missing two extra games will hurt Woods’ chances of winning and padding his statistics. 

Russell Wilson

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    Reasons for Russell Wilson

    Wilson runs the Wisconsin offense but one could argue the value of running back Montee Ball for the Badgers.

    Wilson leads the nation in quarterback rating (216.90), and 1,391 yards passing ranks him 29th best in the nation. His completion percentage is third best (74.80). In 111 passing attempts he has thrown one interception.

     

    Reasons against Wilson

    Wilson’s statistics will not overwhelm voters or fans but their possible undefeated season should help. The home win over eighth ranked Nebraska looks nice on the resume.

    Wisconsin has two teams left on the schedule that are ranked—at No. 23 Michigan State and at No. 16 Illinois.

    The battle for the Leaders Division title against Illinois should make that game highly anticipated if Illinois keep winning.

    Playing in the Big Ten title game against Michigan, Michigan State or Nebraska gives Wilson another chance to showcase his abilities to voters. 

Overhyped Players

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    QB Andrew Luck, Stanford, Senior

    RB LaMichael James, Oregon, Junior

    RB Trent Richardson, Alabama, Junior

    RB Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina, Sophomore

    QB Kellen Moore, Boise State, Senior

Andrew Luck

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    Reasons for Andrew Luck

    Luck does everything a quarterback is supposed to do and he does it well. Luck ranks 21st in the nation in passing yards per game with 276.60, sixth in passing percentage completions (73.10) and 17th in passing touchdowns with 14.

    He has thrown two interceptions in 145 passing attempts.

    Media perception becomes reality with players like Andrew Luck. Chances are he will win the Heisman if Stanford continues to win.

     

    Reasons against Andrew Luck

    Luck is considered the best player in college football by NFL scouts. That’s great for the NFL and Luck, but this is not how well Luck will do in the NFL nor how high he will be drafted.

    Luck has not played a quality team or defense this season. Stanford’s opponents and rankings are based on total defense: San Jose State 92nd, Duke 80th, Arizona 115th, UCLA 90th and Colorado 64th.

    His statistics do not overwhelm, maybe because they have not needed him to play on a higher level this season, but who is to blame for that?

    Oregon is the only ranked team Stanford has on their schedule. USC and Notre Dame could be ranked by the time of their matchup.

    USC represents the only challenging road game for the Cardinal this season. 

LaMichael James

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    Reasons for LaMichael James

    James leads the nation in yards rushing per game with 170.40. His 852 total rushing yards is second to Ray Graham’s 899. Eight rushing touchdowns are 11th best in FBS.

    Oregon started the season throwing to James out of the backfield but has slowed his production in that category. His biggest game was six receptions for 61 yards against LSU. 

    He had three straight 200-yard rushing games.

     

    Reasons against LaMichael James

    He had three straight 200-yard rushing games against Missouri State (a FCS school), Arizona and California. California is the highest-rated defense that he has performed well against. Cal’s defense is ranked 53rd in FBS.

    Against LSU, the fifth ranked defense in the nation, James was held to 54-yards rushing on 18 attempts. Big players are supposed to play big in big games, James did not.

    James dislocated his elbow against Cal in the fourth quarter when Oregon was already up 43-15 with the game out of reach for the Bears. Essentially James’ injury was meaningless and he was still in the game for no other reason except to seemingly pad his stats.

    The injury takes James out of the running for the Heisman and possibly Oregon out of the PAC-12 and/or BCS Championship title. 

Trent Richardson

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    Reasons for Trent Richardson

    Should Alabama keep winning, it would be a conspiracy if Richardson was not one of the Heisman finalists. Bear Bryant would roll over in his grave and the Alabama faithful would start a civil war.

    All things college football fans do not want to deal with.

    Richardson is fifth in total rushing yards with 729 yards, sports a 6.3 yards per carry average and has 11 rushing touchdowns that ties him for third.

    Alabama has two teams left to play in the Top 25, Auburn and LSU. Auburn may or may not be ranked at the end of the season for the Iron Bowl.

    'Bama’s match-up with LSU will affect the SEC title game and the BCS National Championship Game.

    If Richardson plays well against LSU, Auburn and in the SEC title game chances are 'Bama will have their second Heisman Trophy winner in three years.

     

    Reasons against Trent Richardson

    Alabama’s schedule is somewhat misleading. Alabama will end the season having played five teams that were ranked in the Top 25. Arkansas was injury-riddled at the time of their game, and Florida was done once John Brantley hurt his ankle.

    Alabama more than likely would have beaten both teams, healthy or not, but it sure would have been nice to see those matchups with everyone able bodied.

    Eddie Lacy and the Alabama offensive line cast a shadow of doubt on Richardson. Lacy averages 8.6 yards per carry and has five rushing touchdowns. Lacy has 69 less carries than Richardson and has 397 total rushing yards (72nd in FBS).

    If one takes Lacy’s yards per carry average (8.6) times the difference in carries (69) that equals 593.4 total yards rushing. Add his current rushing total (397) plus 593.4 and Lacy would have 990.4 yards rushing on the season to Richardson’s 729.

    Even if Lacy’s yards per carry average were to drop down a yard per attempt, Lacy would still have a better rushing average than Richardson.

    Lacy missed the Vanderbilt game due to a foot injury.

    The Alabama Heisman goes to...the Tide’s offensive line. 

Marcus Lattimore

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    Reasons for Marcus Lattimore

    Marcus Lattimore is the third leading rusher in college football. His nine touchdowns are tied with Ray Graham (seventh), but puts him two scores behind Richardson.

    He has the third-most rushing attempts in the nation (146).

     

    Reasons against Marcus Lattimore

    Lattimore’s 5.3 yards per carry average is not bad, but not as good as his competition (Trent Richardson, Ray Graham and LaMichael James.)

    Lattimore will get all the carries he can handle as the quarterback situation at USC has up and down.

    Stephen Garcia has been benched again in favor of Connor Shaw, but should Shaw stumble Steve Spurrier has proven he will yank him quickly. If Shaw develops into a reliable passing option, some holes may start to open for Lattimore which will increase his rushing productivity.

    South Carolina has not played a ranked team this season. Auburn jumped to No. 15 after they upset the Gamecocks in Columbia. Two games left on the schedule are against Top 25 teams, at No. 10 Arkansas and versus No. 8 Clemson.

    South Carolina beat Georgia before they started to utilize Isaiah Crowell. Florida has lost two conference games. South Carolina holds the tie breaker over Georgia for the SEC East title game berth.

    An extra game against Alabama, LSU or even Arkansas in the SEC title game would help pad his stats and could impress voters.

    Lattimore wore down last season after a few games. By mid season he missed a game and was shut down against Arkansas when the Razorbacks jumped ahead early.

    In Lattimore’s first three games of 2011 he carried the ball 23, 27 and 37 times—two 100-yard games and one 200-yard game.

    In the last three games he has rushed for 77, 66 and 102 yards against poorer rush defenses.

    Watch to see if Spurrier wears out his best player before the season is through. 

Kellen Moore

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    Reasons for Kellen Moore

    Kellen Moore is another pure passing quarterback in college football that is fun to watch. When he gets hot it appears that he is playing catch with his receivers in practice. Looking at their schedule helps one to understand why it looks that way.

    Moore will get serious underdog consideration and more than likely an invite to New York. His numbers are not gaudy enough to warrant the trophy.

    He is 29th in the nation in total passing yards, his 17 touchdown passes is 2nd best in FBS, and his 171.6 quarterback rating is ninth best.

    Boise State's schedule will help Moore consistently compile solid numbers.

     

    Reasons against Kellen Moore

    The Boise State schedule and the Mountain West Conference will ultimately crush any chance or hopes he may have of winning the Heisman.

    Georgia is the single-ranked team on their schedule—No. 19 at the time of their game. TCU could join the Top 25 by the time of their game, but one more ranked team will not beef up their strength of schedule enough.

    Moore thrown for 261 yards against Georgia but has been up and down against lesser competition. He was held to 142 yards passing against Nevada and threw for 455 yards against Toledo.

    The 455-yard passing effort is his lone 300-plus yard effort of the season. 

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