Our take on the Heisman is that it comes down to two players, both quarterbacks led their teams to great seasons. No running back dominated enough for consideration, and the other quarterbacks/receivers/etc ultimately fell by the wayside.
Trent Richardson and Montee Ball had great seasons, but neither was the major reason for their team's success (Alabama's being defense, and Ball had a great offensive line and QB in Russell Wilson).
Kellen Moore and Case Keenum both had excellent, record-breaking seasons. Moore is now the all-time career leader in wins, while Keenum has the most career completions, passing yards, and touchdown passes in NCAA history. Neither played a tough enough schedule to be seriously considered for the award without going undefeated; each lost one game.
We also never really considered one of the five official Heisman finalists. Tyrann Mathieu made a bit of noise early then came on strong in the voting because of his performance against Georgia, but his year overall doesn't warrant getting the Heisman Trophy. The one defensive player we briefly considered was Boston College's Luke Kuechley.
Many other players fell by the wayside as the year progressed, leaving Luck and Griffin as the final considerations.
Andrew Luck was the favorite from the start, and for most of the season he lived up to it. He was throwing nearly flawlessly, running well when he had to, and Stanford was undefeated. By the time he pulled out a triple-overtime win at USC, it looked like the award was his to lose.
But then Luck had one of the weaker finishes for a Heisman leader in recent memory. He threw for just 206 yards in a win over Oregon State. Then came the Oregon loss in which he threw two interceptions including a pick six. He threw just two touchdown passes in a too-close win over California, and while he finished with a 4 TD effort against Notre Dame it didn't carry the weight of a normal win over the Irish; his team clearly outclassed them at almost every position. He threw 5 interceptions in the last four games, and had two pick-sixes in the final five games.
Luck also lost the element of "inspiration" that makes a Heisman leader special. He netted only 153 yards rushing this year; last year his ability to run made him a more complete player. Early in the season he caught a pass, another "he can do it all" moment, but those moments were conspicuously missing late in the year. And though he undoubtedly made Stanford a better team, they would have had a good season even had he gone pro last year.
Robert Griffin III, on the other hand, was the primary reason for Baylor's 9-3 finish this year. Baylor won five close games because of him (TCU by 2, Missouri by 3, Kansas by 1, and Oklahoma by 7). The Bears also lost to Kansas State by a point and were blown out by Texas A&M, but Griffin played well in both of those, with a combined 9 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Only in the loss to Oklahoma State did he play poorly, though he still completed 33 of 50 passes, and had two total touchdowns against 2 interceptions.
Griffin threw for just shy of 4,000 yards with a 36:6 TD:int ratio for the year. He also netted 644 rushing yards, making him a real dual threat. He caught a critical pass in the TCU win and punted three times, showing his versatility.
Without Griffin, Baylor would have been a 5-7 team. Look at the Kansas game, a 31-30 win. How can you claim the rest of the team is good if they struggle to beat Kansas by a point? Like Cam Newton last year, Griffin has elevated his team by about 4 wins that they otherwise would not have. That is the mark of a great player, and the one most deserving of the Heisman Trophy. All indications are that he will be justly rewarded.
2011 SportsRatings Heisman pick
- Robert Griffin III, QB-Baylor (9-3)
267-369 72% 3998yd 36TD 6int; 161rsh 644yd 4.0av 9TD 3fmb; 15 rec yds
#1 in pass efficiency, and also the most exciting player in the country.
- Andrew Luck, QB-Stanford (11-1)
261-373 70% 3170yd 35TD 9int; 43rsh 153yd 3.6av 2TD 1fmb; 1rec 13yds 0TD
Luck was great at times, just good at others, but in the end uninspiring.
- Kellen Moore, QB-Boise State (11-1)
300-405 74% 3507yd 41TD 7int; 19rsh -65yd -3.4av 0TD 0fmb
Moore had a great year and a great career and deserves a higher finish in the vote than he'll get.
- Trent Richardson, RB-Alabama (11-1)
263rsh 1583yd 6.0av 20TD 0fmb; 27rec 327yd 3TD; 66ret yds 0TD
Richardson was Alabama's offensive engine.
- Montee Ball, Wisconsin (11-2)
275rsh 1759yd 6.4av 32TD 0fmb; 20rec 255yd 6TD; 32passYd 1TD; 15 retYd 0TD
Ball scored 38 TDs and was especially good in the later games of the season.
- Case Keenum, QB-Houston (12-1)
383-534 72% 5099yd 45TD 5int; 50rsh 25yd 0.5av 3TD 2fmb
Keenum's record-breaking season came to a unfortunate end in a big loss.
- Russell Wilson, QB-Wisconsin
- LaMichael James, RB-Oregon
- Denard Robinson, QB-Michigan
- Brandon Weeden, QB-Oklahoma State
- Justin Blackmon, WR-Oklahoma State
- Landry Jones, QB-Oklahoma
- Tajh Boyd, QB-Clemson
- Ryan Broyles, WR-Oklahoma
- Luke Kuechly, LB-Boston College
- Marcus Lattimore, RB-South Carolina