Handicapping the Heisman - 2011 Edition

Who gets to bring home this nice new paperweight? A lifetime of dusting awaits...

Given that the regular season in college football is all but over (save a few key match-ups, such as Oklahoma-Oklahoma State and Army-Navy), its time to look towards two things: bowl games and awards.  No award is larger in the annals of college football lore than the Heisman Memorial Trophy (yes, that is its official name).

For a little history lesson, hop on over to the official Heisman Trophy site.

As a quick run-down on the voting, the states are divided into six distinct categories:

Far West: AZ, CA, HI, ID, MT, ND, NV, OR, SD, UT, WA, WY
Mid Atlantic: DC, DE, MD, NC, NJ, PA, SC, VA, WV
Mid West: IA, IL, IN, MI, MN, OH, WI
North East: CT, MA, ME, NH, NYC, NY, RI, VT
South: AL, FL, GA, KY, LA, MS, TN
Southwest: AR, CO, KS, MO, NE, NM, OK, TX

Additional information on the voting process:

  • Each region is allotted 145 media votes (totaling 870)
  • Each former winner is allotted a vote (currently 55)
  • The fans are also allotted one vote, bringing the total to 926 votes
  • Each voter designates a 1st, 2nd and 3rd place choice, with points being awarded in reverse order (3 points for 1st place, 2 for 2nd place, 1 for 3rd)

This year's race appears to be down to two candidates: Andrew Luck, QB - Stanford (you may have heard of him) and Trent Richardson, RB - Alabama. 

This year's race looks to be the closest since the 2009 voting, which coincidentally also featured players from Alabama and Stanford finishing 1-2 (Mark Ingram and Toby Gerhart).  Ingram won the trophy in that year by just 28 points, the narrowest margin in the trophy's history.

Stats after the jump.

Front-runners
 
Andrew Luck: 261/373 (70.0%), 3170 yds (8.50 YPA), 35 TD, 9 INT, 167.5 Rating; 43 carries, 153 yds (3.6 avg), 2 TD

Trent Richardson: 263 carries, 1583 yds (6.0 avg), 20 TD; 27 rec, 327 yds (12.1 avg), 3 TD
 
Also in the Conversation
 
Robert Griffin III, QB - Baylor: 252/347 (72.6%), 3678 yds (10.60 YPA), 34 TD, 5 INT, 191.1 Rating; 149 carries, 612 yds (4.1 avg), 7 TD

Russell Wilson, QB - Wisconsin: 189/260 (72.7%), 2692 yds (10.35 YPA), 28 TD, 3 INT, 192.9 Rating; 66 carries, 325 yds (4.9 avg), 5 TD

Matt Barkley, QB - USC: 308/446 (69.1%), 3528 yds (7.91 YPA), 39 TD, 7 INT, 161.2 Rating; 28 carries, 14 yds (0.5 avg), 2 TD
 
Darkhorses
 
Montee Ball - RB, Wisconsin: 248 carries, 1622 yds (6.5 avg), 29 TD; 17 rec, 248 yds (14.6 avg), 5 TD

Case Keenum - QB, Houston: 342/467 (73.2%), 4726 yds (10.12 YPA), 43 TD, 3 INT, 187.3 Rating; 3 Rushing TDs

Kellen Moore - QB, Boise State: 272/372 (73.1%), 3194 yds (8.59 YPA), 38 TD, 7 INT, 175.2 Rating

Brandon Weeden - QB, Oklahoma State: 355/486 (73.0%), 4111 yds (8.46 YPA), 34 TD, 12 INT, 162.2 Rating

Breakdown:

In addition to Luck and Richardson, I think it is likely that RGIII and Barkley get the invites to NYC for the ceremony.  I wouldn't be shocked if Keenum gets some love from the voters over Barkley (thanks to Kiffin and the sanctions). 

Honestly, Montee Ball has a better resume than Richardson, but Russell Wilson was getting all the attention early, which takes away from his monster year. 

Moore, Wilson and Weeden all needed perfect seasons to get the attention required.

All that being said, it still really breaks down to Luck and Richardson.  If either team were undefeated at this point, I think that player would have it locked up (with a nod to Luck over Richardson if they were both undefeated).

To further break down the numbers, I believe that a Heisman Trophy winner has to play the best when the lights are brightest.  Let's look at both candidates top three games (vs. ranked opponents or big rivals).

Luck

@ USC (10/29): 29/40, 330 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT (162.5 Rating); 9 carries, 15 yds, 1 TD

Oregon (11/12): 27/41, 256 yds, 3 TD, 2 INT (132.7 Rating); 5 carries, -13 yds

ND (11/26): 20/30, 233 yds, 4 TD, 1 INT (169.2 Rating); 4 carries, 20 yds

Other Notes:  Luck owned the 2nd half all year (192.2 Rating) and was ridiculous on 1st down (200.9 Rating, including a perfect 13/13 with 10 TDs on 1st and Goal).  Of the 4 INTs listed above, I know that at least 2 were on passes tipped by his own receiver.

Richardson

@ Florida (10/1): 29 carries, 181 yds, 2 TD; 2 rec, 27 yds

LSU (11/5): 23 carries, 89 yds; 5 rec, 80 yds

@ Auburn (11/26): 27 carries, 203 yds; 1 rec, 5 yds, 1 TD

Other Notes:  I thought about throwing the Penn State game stats in there (26 carries, 111 yds, 2 TDs).  Most of the receiving yards (39) against LSU came on one play.

At first glance, Richardson's numbers might appear to be more impressive.  Digging a bit deeper, LSU was #4 in rushing defense (86.1 yds/game), Florida #40 (132.3 yds/game), Auburn #99 rush defense (197.8 yds/game).  For the record, Penn State was #50 (138.8 yds/game). 

Luck's performance measures up a little better, with USC yielding 266.3 yds/game and #65 (130.3 rating) in pass efficiency defense, Oregon yielding 249.1 yds/game and #34 (120.0 rating) in pass efficiency defense, and Notre Dame giving up 202.2 yds/game passing and #55 (127.3 rating) in pass efficiency defense.

Voting:

Both players are definitely hurt by not playing in their respective conference championship game.  Voters tend to remember the final performance and weigh it more heavily than earlier contests.

Looking at the regional breakdown, here is how I see the votes falling:

Far West: Andrew Luck (this is Pac-12 country)
Mid Atlantic: I think this is the true battle ground.  It includes WV, where Luck's father is the AD.  Will probably provide the swing vote.
Mid West: Pretty even split, probably a bit of a lean towards Luck.  Wilson/Ball should get some votes here as well.
North East: Trent Richardson (ESPN country)
South: Trent Richardson (SEC country)
Southwest: Andrew Luck takes a good piece of the vote, but splits with Keenum, RGIII, Weeden and others.  This area includes Texas, and don't forget that Luck is from Houston.

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner

I personally think that Luck is more deserving of the award based on the fact that he plays without a real WR corps (his leading receiver only had 664 yds on the season) and has single-handedly carried his team all season long offensively. 

However, based on the love/bias for the SEC from the four-letter network, Richardson likely walks away with this award on December 10.

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