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1. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
Season Totals: 3,170 passing yards, 37 TDs (2 rushing) & 9 INTs
Why he’ll win: Entering the season, Luck was the consensus preseason favorite to win the Heisman trophy. Many consider him the greatest NFL prospect since the legendary John Elway. Most players would buckle under that pressure, but Luck lived up to his billing.
Why he won’t: East coast bias does exists. Would this even be a debate if Luck were playing for Notre Dame? Luck showed perseverance in an epic OT win over USC, but he also had his worst outing of the year against Oregon, which was the deciding game in the Pac-12. Those were Stanford’s biggest primetime showings.
Prediction: You hear Luck’s name on Saturday and it’s nothing but praise. The same goes for Sundays, where analyses are hyping him as the next big thing in pro football. Still, Luck isn’t the perfect candidate. His team isn’t playing for the BCS championship and he didn’t play well in the biggest game of the season. He’s still the candidate with the fewest flaws, however.
2. Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
Season Totals: 1,910 total yards (327 receiving) & 23 TDs (3 receiving)
Why he’ll win: He’s been more productive this year than Mark Ingram was in his 09 Heisman season. Historically, the Heisman winner is playing in the BCS championship, which Alabama will be doing in early January. Did you see his run against Vanderbilt?
Why he won’t: Beyond a pair of blown assignments, LSU shut Richardson down in one of college football’s biggest regular-season games. Perhaps there’s a backlash to Alabama playing in the national title, despite losing to LSU earlier in the year. It’d only influence the Heisman race in a small capacity, but every little bit counts.
Prediction: Both Luck and Richardson have held down the No. 1 and No. 2 spots all year. Not once have I found a legitimate reason to elevate Richardson ahead of the Stanford QB. I know the SEC is a proud conference, so Richardson has strong support, but Luck’s the better player. In a tight race, that’s what matters most.
3. Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
Season Totals: 4,642 total yards (644 rushing) & 45 TDs (9 rushing)
Why he’ll win: Statistically, Griffin III deserves the Heisman. His stats are nothing other than extraordinary. Baylor beat both Texas and Oklahoma this season. That’s never happened before. He also gave us the season’s greatest Heisman moment. With less than 20 seconds remaining, he launched a 34-yard TD strike to lead Baylor over Oklahoma 45-38.
Why he won’t: It’s still Baylor. Winning nine games is unheard of in Waco, but it’s still fewer than both Luck and Richardson. In fact, going 11-1 is a big deal at Stanford. There’s a greater emphasis on wins than statistics.
Prediction: Personally, I would enjoy seeing Griffin III win the Heisman. He deserves it. He’s made Baylor football relevant and he doesn’t play at a marquee program. More important, he put up a season for the ages. He made college football fun to watch, while the game’s been plagued with off-field issues. He won’t win, though. He didn’t change the topic as Luck did. He’s apart of the discussion, but he’s not directing it.
4. Matt Barkley, QB, USC
Season Totals: 3,528 passing yards, 41 TDs (2 rushing) & 7 INTs
Why he’ll win: Throughout the last two years of probation, Barkley kept USC together. The program still felt relevant, despite their ineligibilities. By the end of the season, USC was passing all the eye tests. They were arguably the best team in the Pac-12.
Why he won’t: It is my belief that Barkley would’ve won the Heisman if USC beat Oregon in the Pac-12 title game. Think about it. He would’ve won his conference, which neither Luck, Richardson, or Griffin III accomplished. In addition, his numbers are better than what Luck’s are. You can make a case that Reggie Bush cost Southern Cal two Heisman trophies.
Prediction: Not playing in a Bowl game and losing to Luck on the field definitely derails Barkley’s Heisman aspirations. Still, he deserves an invite to the prestigious ceremony for keeping USC on the map. The Trojans appear to be the future of the Pac-12 and a BCS title contender if Barkley returns next season. That’s all background noise, though. Barkley will finish a distant fourth in this race.