Heisman Watch 2011: The Defining Moment of Every Contender's Season

David LutherFeatured ColumnistNovember 9, 2011

Heisman Watch 2011: The Defining Moment of Every Contender's Season

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    With 10 weeks of the 2011 college football season already in the books, the Heisman Trophy race is beginning to heat up. As the picture becomes clearer, and some pretenders are dropped from the list of true contenders, the focus shifts to the exploits of the remaining few.

    Looking back, it's fairly easy to find that one special “Heisman moment” for many of the previous winners of football's most pretentious player award. This year's crop of candidates will undoubtedly sway the voters with their own defining moment, or lack thereof.

    Here are the defining moments thus far for those looking to capture the 2011 Heisman Trophy.

Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State

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    Defining Moment: Still to come?

    There's no doubt that Brandon Weeden leads one of the most potent offensive attacks in the nation. So far, the Oklahoma State Cowboys are putting up slightly more than 50 points per game.

    Oklahoma State has been consistently explosive on offense this season, so there hasn't been too much that has surprised the nation when it comes to the play of Weeden. After all, Oklahoma State's offense was lighting up most defenses last season, too.

    There are a couple of things that hurt Weeden, though. First, the already lofty expectations. Scoring 50 points per game is a tough thing to accomplish, but it's now expected in Stillwater. Anything less is somehow unimpressive.

    Secondly, Oklahoma State's highest ranked opponent thus far has been then-No. 19 Kansas State, which had been unmasked the previous week by Oklahoma as a BCS pretender. And finally, Weeden has yet to take down the Sooners.

    If and when he can do that, it will likely catapult his name towards the top of the list of Heisman candidates.

Denard Robinson, Michigan

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    Defining Moment: Notre Dame last-minute victory drive

    There's no question that Denard Robinson is a special player. Everyone in Ann Arbor knows it, and everyone In South Bend knows it, too.

    Robinson and the Wolverines were riding high for much of this season before they ran into their all-grown-up little brother Michigan State. After another humbling defeat at the hands of Sparty and a rather surprising loss at Iowa, Robinson's stock is beginning to fall along with Michigan's Big Ten title hopes.

    In the end, the problem for Denard may be the fact that his defining moment came too early in a season in a game that won't mean very much come December.

Case Keenum, Houston

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    Defining Moment: Breaking records

    Case Keenum is a one-man freak show.

    Well, sort of.

    Case Keenum has some of the best stats you'll ever see from a quarterback, but he's not even considered in the top five of current FBS quarterbacks.

    Why not? He plays for Houston. And as much ridicule as Boise State and Kellen Moore have to deal with about the Broncos' schedule, Boise State far outpaces Houston in that category. The signature win for Houston this season was a squeaker against a pretty bad 5-4 UCLA team.

    Sure, the Bruins have a chance to make the Pac-12 Championship Game this year—if they win out. But who honestly expects them to beat USC to claim a divisional title from the questionable Pac-12 South?

    Case Keenum will get some Heisman votes this year, but the laughable schedule Houston plays will keep him from getting any higher than fifth.

    Houston fans will have to rest on the fact that Keenum will go down in history with the best numbers in FBS history without ever leading his team to the BCS.  

    But it could have been much worse.  Remember, Cougar faithful, that without Keenum, your Cougars would be just another anonymous C-USA program.

Landry Jones, Oklahoma

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    Defining Moment: Dismantling Kansas State

    With a 7-0 record and Top 10 ranking, Kansas State appeared to be the Cinderella story of the 2011 college football season.

    Then, the Wildcats met an Oklahoma team that was (gasp) ranked lower than K-State, only to watch their BCS hopes disintegrate before their very eyes.

    Landry Jones led the Sooners to a lopsided 58-17 undressing of the Wildcats—a win which propelled OU back into the Top 10, and resurrected the possibility of a Big 12 title and BCS berth at the end of the season.

    The problem Jones will have is that ugly loss to Texas Tech on the record.

Trent Richardson, Alabama

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    Defining Moment: Passed him by against LSU

    If all you have watched this season is Alabama football, you might find it hard to believe that Trent Richardson ranks a comparatively low eighth on the rushing yards leader board so far this season.

    Richardson has 1,078 yards this season, behind “notables” such as SMU's Zach Line and Western Kentucky's Bobby Rainey. Richardson's 17 touchdowns put him in a tie for fifth in the FBS. To watch Richardson work, you'd never know his numbers were so “low.”

    But Richardson's stats haven't come easy. He has played against some of the stiffest defenses in the nation, with the SEC claiming three of the top eight spots in the FBS in terms of rushing defense.

    What everyone had been waiting for from Trent was his signature Heisman Moment. He had that opportunity against LSU in what turned out to be an underwhelming “Game of the Century” last week.

    Richardson was held to 89 yards on 23 carries. Add the previous game's 77 yards against Tennessee, and you have two back-to-back un-Heisman-like performances.

    Richardson did have some decent receiving numbers, but not enough to offset the low output on the ground, where he was expected to produce.

    Unfortunately for Richardson, unless he does something spectacular in the Tide's remaining two games (against FBS opponents), Richardson's Heisman hopes are likely gone.

Kellen Moore, Boise State

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    Defining Moment: Record-breaking victory over UNLV

    When a top five team beats a 2-6 UNLV Rebels team, it doesn't exactly seem to be the stuff of which legends are made.

    But consider this: the win over the Rebels was the 46th win as a starting quarterback for Kellen Moore, a number no other Division I-FBS quarterback in history can claim.

    While many people (SEC fans, we're looking in your direction) like to disparage the accomplishments of Moore and the Broncos for a supposed lack of schedule strength, consider the fact that some of the teams defeated by Boise State with Moore at quarterback include Oklahoma, Oregon, Virginia Tech, Georgia, and TCU—all ranked opponents.

Andrew Luck, Stanford

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    Defining Moment: Overtime victory over USC

    It may seem a little odd, especially to Stanford fans, but the USC-Stanford game isn't considered one of USC's bigger rivalry games.

    That may begin to change as Stanford now has another victory over the Trojans.

    Just as USC was beginning to see the light at the end of the sanctions tunnel, Andrew Luck and the Stanford Cardinal thrust USC back into the darkness of being a second-tier Pac-12 program (for now, anyway).

    The best part of Luck's performance against USC was the ability not only to shake off mistakes, but also to follow them up with impressive scoring drives, keeping the Cardinal in a position to eventually eke out an overtime victory.

    The Cardinal still have much to prove, as they've only played one team ranked in the BCS rankings (Washington, which fell from the rankings after losing to Stanford). If Luck can lead Stanford to victories against Oregon, Cal, and Notre Dame, expect Luck's Heisman chances to skyrocket.