Predicting the Heisman Finalists' Order of Finish
The Heisman Trophy field is set with five players receiving invites earlier today. QBs Andrew Luck of Stanford and Robert Griffin III of Baylor, RBs Montee Ball of Wisconsin and Trent Richardson of Alabama, and DB/PR Tyrann Mathieu of LSU all received invites to be in New York for the presentation.
Speculation will run rampant until then, but here is the way the field will probably look when all the votes roll in and the trophy is hoisted for the 77th time.
5. Montee Ball
Montee Ball is a direct reminder of how important it is to play on Championship Saturday. Three guys on this list helped their cause as a direct relation to having an extra week in the eyes of voters, and Ball was one of them.
I would have been appalled if the Heisman committee hadn't invited Ball to New York. He is one touchdown shy (38) of breaking Oklahoma State legend Barry Sanders' FBS record 39 touchdowns. That number is insane, and barring injury he should break the mark in the Rose Bowl against the Oregon Ducks.
If that wasn't enough, Ball didn't get a fourth quarter carry in six of the Badgers' 13 games this season, signaling Wisconsin's dominance in some of their games. But for those who say Ball played inferior competition during the games he didn't play in the fourth, consider his line against UNLV, Northern Illinois and South Dakota, the three weakest teams on the Badgers' schedule.
UNLV: 11 Att., 63 Yards, 3 TDs
Northern Illinois: 20 Att. 91 Yards, 2 TDs
South Dakota: 15 Att., 88 Yards, 2 TDs
Ball did what he was supposed to do against inferior talent. His best statistical game was late in the season against a Penn State team still in the Big 10-title picture. I don't think Ball has enough support to make a dent in the voting, but what he has done this season deserves to be recognized and remembered for years to come.
4. Andrew Luck
The same way Montee Ball helped his Heisman hopes by playing Saturday, Luck hurt his by not being in the first-ever Pac-12 title game. Luck needed that extra boost to prove why he was the number one QB in the nation, but now he won't have that chance until the Fiesta Bowl, when votes have long been submitted and counted.
He has had a marvelous season with his Stanford Cardinals' only blemish being a loss at the hands of Oregon. By throwing for 3,170 yards, 35 TDs and 9 INTs, he has cemented his place as the number one overall pick of the NFL draft and likely future successor to some guy named Peyton Manning.
But Luck couldn't win that big game against Oregon, and I think that will hurt him in the eyes of the Heisman voters. By not being able to beat a Ducks team two years running, he always left doubt in the eyes of the voters that he was the best player in the nation this season. Their game against USC didn't exactly gain him extra votes either—if anything, it opened up the national spotlight to Matt Barkley.
Luck will go down as one of the better QBs in the history of his program and will be an outstanding pro player if his mental dexterity and work ethic carry over to the NFL. If he had beaten Oregon, the trophy would have been his.
3. Trent Richardson
Richardson has been the Tide's offense this season, averaging 131.9 yards per game and scoring 23 touchdowns. His presence on the field is one of the reasons 'Bama will face off with LSU in the BCS National Championship game, and if it hadn't been for the missed field goals during the first meeting with the Tigers, Richardson's catch in the fourth quarter would have been one of the signature plays of 2011.
He is an offensive force, and his highlight video will surely have NFL scouts slobbering come April. He will likely wind up being a top five pick in this year's draft. However, much like Luck, he was home watching TV this past Saturday while his foe in the national championship game, Tyrann Mathieu, racked up some additional votes.
Despite the offensive production on the number two team in the nation, Richardson's stats don't match up with that of the other guys in contention. While Alabama would surely miss Richardson's production, sophomore Eddie Lacy will be primed to step in and provide the same ground and pound effort that Richardson has given the Crimson Tide for nearly three seasons.
Richardson is excellent and should be the highest running back taken in the draft. SEC fans will have a hard time picking between him and Mathieu, and that could also hurt Richardson's campaign as they will likely split some votes. However, he doesn't have the juice to catapult himself to the top, and I think that will reflect in the final voting.
2. Tyrann Mathieu
The "Honey Badger" has captivated the minds and hearts of the Heisman voters since his Week 1 performance against the Oregon Ducks, when his 11 tackles and fumble return for touchdown made people take notice.
He has carved out a very nice season for himself, with 71 tackles, two interceptions, six forced fumbles and four total touchdowns. But the thing that makes Mathieu sizzle is the same quality that 1991 Heisman winner Desmond Howard seemed to have: He can score anytime he touches the ball.
Would LSU have been able to turn the momentum around had Mathieu not taken the second quarter punt against Georgia back for six? That was the turning point in the momentum of the game, and Georgia never seemed to recover in what turned out to be a rout.
Like Ndamukong Suh two years ago, Mathieu has to be accounted for on every possession, and unlike Suh, he has to be accounted for on special teams, too.
His explosive skills are ones that Heisman voters notice. Mathieu won't win the award this season, although he will likely win several others, but his contributions to college football are higher than many recognize. Defensive players that impact the game the way he does are rare and should be appreciated.
1. Robert Griffin III
RG3 boldly stated after his Baylor Bears beat the Texas Longhorns that, "I don't know about you, but I think Baylor just won its first Heisman tonight."
Call me crazy, but I think he's right.
All Griffin has done for Baylor is change the culture of the program, catapulting them to two consecutive bowl bids and throwing the deep ball prettier than any QB Waco, Texas has ever seen.
His line for this season is incredible, which should show voters than when healthy (with the exception of two quarters vs. Texas Tech), he can be one of the most explosive athletes college football has ever seen.
That, combined with his fourth quarter comeback against Mountain West champion TCU and game-winning touchdown against then number five Oklahoma, should be the figures and clips we see when he is presented with the trophy.
He is a program changer, and he is the very essence of why in 20 years you might see Baylor still competing for national championships and Art Briles on the brink of immortality. I'm not saying that winning the Heisman automatically changes the ability of a team forever, but I think recruiting and football in Waco will never be the same.
So here's to you, RG3. And the scary thing is, what if he returns next season for one last shot?