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Heisman Watch 2011: The Nominees

Michael Katz |
December 6, 2011 | 11:31 a.m. PST

Staff Writer


Despite the hype, Andrew Luck probably close the deal on the Heisman. (Wikimedia Commons)
Despite the hype, Andrew Luck probably close the deal on the Heisman. (Wikimedia Commons)
The finalists for college football’s most prestigious award were announced Monday afternoon; the five men who will take the stage in New York with hopes of becoming legends. 

This year’s finalists are Andrew Luck, Trent Richardson, Robert Griffin III, Tyrann Mathieu, and Montee Ball. 

Listed below is not necessarily who should win the Heisman; rather, it is who most likely to win the Heisman. 

1. Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama

This is one of the tightest Heisman races in recent memory; generally, one player has emerged as the front-runner by now. Not this year though. With that being said, Trent Richardson is the winner, and here is why: he is the best player on a team playing for the national championship. Historically speaking, Heisman winners come from teams that are either in championship contention or BCS contention. The last seven winners are:

Cam Newton 

Mark Ingram 

Sam Bradford 

Tim Tebow 

Troy Smith 

Reggie Bush (vacated, but still counts for purposes of this article)

Matt Leinart 

What do they all have in common? Except for Tim Tebow, each player played for a championship the year that they won the award. In Tebow’s case, he set multiple records the year he won, and was part of a team that had won the title the year before. The point

is that fair or not, Heisman winners almost always come from champion-contenders. Richardson also had a huge game against Auburn his last time on the field, rushing for over 200 yards. He was also the lone bright spot for the team in their lone loss to LSU. On the year, he has 1,583 yards and 20 rushing touchdowns. These are solid numbers (on par or better than Mark Ingram’s were), and as noted, he plays for a winner. It will be close, but Richardson (left) is the most likely winner.

2. Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor

RG III is the best player in the country; let’s get that out of the way. His numbers are staggering: 3,998 yards passing, a 72-percent completion percentage, and 36 touchdown passes with only six interceptions. He also has 644 yards rushing with another nine touchdowns. He has Baylor at 9-3 and ranked 12th in the country, and had huge wins over TCU, Oklahoma, and Texas. However, he is not in contention to win a title and that’s going to hurt him. If he had made it to a BCS game or had won the Big 12, he’d run away with this award. But the fact of the matter is that non-powerhouse schools do not win Heismans most of the time, and Griffin will be another victim of the bias.

3. Andrew Luck

Andrew Luck was consistent this year. In fact, he was almost too consistent. This is what will ultimately lead to him finishing third place this year. He threw for 3,170 yards and 35 touchdowns on the season, and is going to the Fiesta Bowl to play Oklahoma State. If you look closely at his numbers, though, you will notice that Luck never threw more than four touchdown passes in a single game and only once threw for over 350 yards. Yes, he is a great player, and has a chance to be special in the pros. But he never had a defining moment this season. Richardson had his dirty step-back move against Ole Miss, and RG III had his game-winning touchdown against Oklahoma. In Luck’s biggest game of the year against Oregon, he was, well, average. His lack of a true break out moment will make him fall to third place come Saturday. 

4. Montee Ball

Montee Ball is the man. He has 1,759 yards rushing, 32 rushing touchdowns, and six receiving touchdowns. He has 11 multi-touchdown games this season. He has his team in the Rose Bowl. The reason he isn’t higher on the list? He has a pretty good quarterback that takes a lot of attention away from him. Russell Wilson actually hurts Ball because he is a great player in his own right, and unfairly takes away from Ball’s accomplishments.

5. Tyrann Mathieu

Defensive players don’t generally belong in the Heisman talk, but if there was one that deserved it, it is Mathieu. The guy just makes plays. It seems that whenever LSU’s offense sputtered (which was not infrequently this season), Mathieu made a play either on defense or on a return to break a game open. However, he does not have the impact on a game that the other four players on the list do. Since he is on defense, opposing teams can focus their efforts away from him. Because of that, he’ll finish here at fifth.


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