Heisman Watch 2011: Which Players Are Legitimate Contenders?

Kyle Vassalo@VassaloBRFeatured ColumnistNovember 4, 2011

NORMAN, OK - OCTOBER 22:  Quarterback Landry Jones #12 of the Oklahoma Sooners looks to throw in the first half against theTexas Tech Red Raiders on at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on October 22, 2011 in Norman, Oklahoma.  Oklahoma was upset by Texas Tech 41-38. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
Brett Deering/Getty Images

Andrew Luck may be the odds-on favorite to win the Heisman, but with so many promising contenders coming virtually out of nowhere, the race is anything but set in stone.

The days of Tyrann Mathieu being a Heisman contender are long gone, but other promising long shots have established themselves as serious competitors, and remain within striking distance as the season's end rapidly approaches.

Here are the Heisman contenders and pretenders that remain in the race in Week 10.

Update: Sunday, November 6th, 1:30 a.m. ET

Don't sleep on Kellen Moore, folks. Boise State may be on past your bedtime, but the senior signal caller did plenty to keep himself in the Heisman conversation, throwing five touchdowns in an easy win for the Broncos over UNLV.

But can Kellen hang with the likes of Andrew Luck, Landry Jones, Brandon Weeden and Case Keenum? Sure, why not? He's the best player on one of the best teams in college football and can certainly hang with his gunslinging counterparts.

Statistically, he was better on Saturday than Luck (206 yards, three touchdowns, one interception), better than Jones (255 yards, two touchdowns), though his numbers still pale in comparison to those of Weeden (502 yards, four touchdowns, two interceptions ) and Keenum (407 yards, two touchdowns).

Nonetheless, with a month left in the regular season, the Heisman Trophy race is just heating up, and Moore figures to be right in the middle of it all.

Update: Saturday, November 5th, 5:39 p.m. ET

Andrew Luck is in trouble. He's got a touchdown, an interception and just 76 yards with 11:26 to go in the 3rd quarter. Oregon State just punched in a touchdown and are currently within four points of Stanford.

Stanford has been caught looking forward to Oregon and riding high after a huge win against USC. A loss to Oregon State would force Luck right back into the mix with everyone else. No longer would he be a frontrunner and Stanford's National Championship hopes would go down the toilet.

Update: Saturday, November 5th, 5:34 p.m. ET

Landry Jones' pace slowed down significantly. He's got just 112 yards through the first half and is on pace to produce his second-worst day statistically of the season. Even more alarming is the fact that Oklahoma isn't blowing Texas A&M away by any means. It's 13-10 and a loss for the Sooners would deliver a crushing blow to Jones' Heisman campaign.

Update: Saturday, November 5th, 4:29 p.m. ET

Russell Wilson isn't out of the Heisman race just yet. With a pair of touchdown throws and 122 yards in the beginning of the 2nd quarter, Wilson is torching Purdue at will. Montee Ball isn't having any trouble against the Boiler Makers either, which opens up the explosive passing game even further.

Update: Saturday, November 5th, 4:18 p.m. ET

Landry Jones has come out swinging against Texas A&M. He's got 95 yards in the first quarter, though he hasn't tossed a touchdown pass just yet. Even more interesting is that Heisman long shot Ryan Broyles has 57 yards already.

Both of them are on pace for huge days and the Heisman race is heating up, with Luck struggling in the early stages of his game against Oregon State.

Update: Saturday, November 5th, 3:52 p.m. ET

It's official, Andrew Luck is human. The Heisman frontrunner just tossed a pick against Oregon State, giving him an interception in four of his last five games. He's off to a shaky start against the Beavers and is 2/6 with an interception.

It takes one botched game to move someone from Heisman frontrunner to just another contender. Trent Richardson squares off against LSU today in a game that could make everyone forget what Luck did against USC.

Update: Saturday, November 5th, 3:17 p.m. ET

Michigan completely imploded vs. Iowa at the end of the game and Denard Robinson couldn't turn a 1st and goal opportunity into a touchdown with four cracks at the end zone, proving once and for all that Michigan isn't a Big Ten contender and Robinson won't sniff the Heisman.

A controversial no-catch is going to be picked apart and scrutinized following this game, but it never should have come to that.

Robinson's costly interception and fumble crippled Michigan. His pedestrian 55 yards on the ground did nothing to help his team win. For the first time all season, he failed to score a rushing touchdown. Whatever shot he had at creeping back into the Heisman picture is gone.

Update: Saturday, November 5th, 1:06 p.m. ET

We are seeing why Denard Robinson fell out of the Heisman race. Michigan is trailing Iowa 14-6 and though Robinson has a touchdown and no interceptions, he's being snuffed out on the ground and just gave up a costly fumble.

What made him such an appealing candidate to start the season was that he broke for over 100 yards in four of his first five games and put forth an unblemished record. He hasn't done so in the past two games and if this nightmarish day on the ground continues, Michigan will add another loss.

Robinson is still an elite dual-threat quarterback, but his numbers aren't as mind-blowing as they should be.

1) Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford

Andrew Luck remains the man to beat for the Heisman. His 23 touchdowns vs. four interceptions are overly impressive, but even more devastating for other Heisman hopefuls is that Luck put forth his signature Heisman performance in a triple-overtime win against USC.

No. 4 Stanford is rolling, and the mystique around Luck continues to grow. With LSU vs. Alabama this week, there is a solid chance Stanford moves into the top three, bringing them one step closer to the National Championship and cementing Luck's chances of landing the Heisman.

Having the best player on one of the best teams in the country is a nice luxury to have. Stanford's got that, and Oregon State is a nice tune-up game for the Cardinal before they take on Oregon in a game that will ultimately decide the Pac-12.

Verdict: Contender

2) Case Keenum, QB, Houston

If numbers were everything, Case Keenum would be running away with the Heisman. His 534-yard, nine touchdown performance last week gives him 3219 yards and 32 touchdowns on the season.

His mind-blowing numbers are astounding. It's what he's been able to do at Houston though that really puts him on the radar as a legitimate Heisman contender.

He's taken Houston from promising Conference USA juggernaut to an undefeated darkhorse, shaking up the BCS picture. He's widely discounted, but with Houston rising through the ranks and on the cusp of cracking the top 10, Keenum and the nation's top passing and scoring offense are legitimate.

Verdict: Contender

3) Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama

This week will make or break Trent Richardson. Richardson is closing in on 1,000 yards rushing, he's the best back in the nation and he has seen the end zone 18 times this season already.

That's all well and good, but to be a Heisman winner, Richardson needs a signature performance that outshines even Andrew Luck's performance against USC.

Richardson is the best player on one of the best teams in the nation. He faces the vaunted LSU defense and blowing up for a monster day all but locks up the award for the future first-round pick.

Verdict: Contender

4) Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State

Kellen Moore has once again led Boise State to the brink of the National Championship picture. The fact of the matter is he's not facing elite competition and his numbers aren't nearly as solid as Keenum's.

Still, Moore is on the short list of Heisman candidates to watch. He's got over 2,000 yards and his numbers are almost identical to Luck's, but he's lacking a signature performance and Stanford running the table will be seen as more impressive than Boise State's unblemished record. Comparing Keenum to Luck is apples and oranges.

Keenum is more important to his team and Luck is flat-out incredible. Moore is going to have a miserable time stealing votes from either QB.

Verdict: Pretender

5) Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma

After Oklahoma's National Championship hopes went down the toilet, it seemed as though Landry Jones was out of the Heisman race. That is, until he torched Kansas State for over 500 yards and five touchdowns.

He's got over 3,000 yards on the season already. His production dwarfs Luck's and, although being on a championship contending team certainly helps a Heisman candidate, Jones isn't excluded by any means.

It's going to take even more ridiculous performances from Jones, and his miserable Big 12 schedule gives him plenty of chances to woo voters with epic outings against some of the nation's best.

Verdict: Contender

6) Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor

Remember when Baylor was relevant and Robert Griffin III had more touchdowns than incompletions? Those were the days.

His numbers are comparable to many of the quarterbacks featured on this list, but Baylor is garbage. They've lost three of their last four games and it's clear they can't hang in the Big 12.

They aren't just losing, they are losing handily. Heisman contenders don't lose back-to-back games by over 25-point margins, which is what RGIII has done.

Verdict: Pretender

7) Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin

The wheels fell off in Wisconsin. They got caught licking their wounds from the improbable and highly unfortunate Hail Mary Kirk Cousins tossed to end their National Championship hopes. They let one bad play compound multiple losses and eject Russell Wilson from the Heisman race.

Some would have even argued Wilson was the favorite a couple of weeks ago, but an insane 71.3 completion percentage isn't going to be enough to distract voters from the skid Wisconsin is currently on.

Verdict: Pretender

8) Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State

Where has Justin Blackmon gone? Last season he didn't have a single game of under 100 yards. This season, he's got four. While we see flashes of Blackmon's dominance, his season in 2010 didn't wow voters nearly enough to make him a legitimate contender.

Oklahoma State is putting forth the best team in the program's history. Blackmon is a key component of it, but we would need to see more games like his 174-yard day against Baylor to include him in the contender mix.

Verdict: Pretender

9) Ryan Broyles, WR, Oklahoma

Landry Jones' celebrity is overshadowing Ryan Broyles' heroics. It's no secret that Jones is the heart and soul of the offense, but Broyles' 1,070 receiving yards leads the nation.

His 10 touchdowns and six games of over 100 yards are forcing people to take notice. He'll need to continue the ridiculous pace he's set for himself and completely take over a marquee game in order to even be considered for the award.

With the schedule the Sooners have in front of them, he'll have every opportunity to do so.

Verdict: Contender

10) Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State

Collin Klein sets the standard for dual threat quarterbacks in college football. Denard Robinson is overly impressive, but Klein's ability to get in the endzone is downright uncanny.

With under 1,000 yards through the air, nobody really cares about what he can do with his arm. His jaw-dropping 16 rushing touchdowns are nothing short of incredible though.

Klein and Kansas State were blown away by Oklahoma last week. Even so, they only have one loss and Klein still managed to find the endzone twice. It's a long shot, but Klein is a Heisman sleeper to watch.

Verdict: Contender

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