Heisman Watch 2011: Why This Year's Race Is as Wide Open as Ever

Christopher JohnsonContributor IIINovember 14, 2011

After saturday night's loss to Oregon, Luck is no longer the surefire Heisman favorite
After saturday night's loss to Oregon, Luck is no longer the surefire Heisman favoriteEzra Shaw/Getty Images

The moment that he decided to return to Stanford for his senior season, Andrew Luck became the odds-on favorite to take home the Heisman hardware in 2011.

Through the first nine games of this season, Luck's status atop the Heisman hierarchy seemed untouchable. The 6'4'' signal-caller was putting up ridiculous numbers while leading the Cardinal to the best start in school history. 

But in Saturday night's 53-30 loss to Oregon, Luck appeared mortal for the first time all season. He accounted for a career-high three turnovers, losing one fumble and throwing two interceptions—one of which was a pick-six that essentially sealed the win for Chip Kelly's crew.

The Ducks' rout not only knocked the Cardinal out of BCS Title contention, it also stained the campaign of this year's Heisman front-runner.

With just two weeks remaining in the regular season, the race is as wide open as ever. Although Luck still remains the favorite, he is no longer a guarantee to take home the coveted trophy. The problem is that there is no surefire No. 2 candidate.

While Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden and Houston's Case Keenum have torched opposing defenses all season, they are viewed by many as "system quarterbacks." Further damaging their respective campaigns is the fact that neither have faced any good defenses this season.

Weeden will have a chance to make his case in the season finale against Oklahoma, but Keenum is more of a long shot—his toughest remaining opponent is Southern Miss.

Boise State's Kellen Moore also falls into this "system quarterback" category. He was essentially eliminated Saturday with the loss to TCU.

Then you have the running backs. Alabama's Trent Richardson is having an Ingram-esque year.

However, his chance to shine was Nov. 4 at home against LSU. Despite an impressive 169 yards of total offense, Richardson failed to lead the Tide to a victory. That was his chance for a "defining Heisman moment." He failed to capitalize.

Oregon's LaMichael James vaulted himself back into the thick of the race Saturday night with his 146-yard, 3 TD performance against Stanford. James finished third in last year's Heisman voting, and he may have to settle for something similar this January.

Next are the quarterbacks of multiple-loss teams, Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III. Although Wilson leads the nation in pass efficiency and very well may lead Wisconsin to their second straight Rose Bowl appearance, he has failed to make a strong enough impression on the voters.

The Heisman isn't about being efficient; it's about being outstanding. Griffin has a stronger case, ranking sixth in the nation in passing yards per game and third in passing efficiency. The Baylor signal-caller also brings the wow factor with his ability to scramble and make plays outside of the pocket.

Who wins? At this point, it's anybody's best guess.