Last week our own Jim Miesle wrote a great post detailing the ins and outs of the Heisman Trophy Race. At the time it looked like the race really consisted of two horses. Stanford's Andrew Luck and Alabama's Trent Richardson.
To liberally paraphrase most of the comments underneath that post we generally lamented what the award has become. My personal beef is that the award has essentially turned into an MVP award for Quarterbacks and Running Backs on teams in contention for the BCS title.
Then a few days later we came out of Championship Saturday and something that I was not expecting actually happened. Suddenly the buzz was no longer all about Luck vs. Richardson. The talking heads were yammering on about Baylor's Robert Griffin III, Wisconsin's Montee Ball and LSU's Tyrann Mathieu a.k.a. "The Honey Badger." As a side note that is a fantastic nickname. The Honey Badger takes what it wants!
I initially dismissed all of that as lip service because those are players that I honestly felt like should be in the conversation. Were those jokers on the WWL actually saying things that I agreed with? Naaaahhhhhh. I chalked it up to more scripted BS along the lines of the anti-Holtz character that Mark May plays.
Then on Monday the announcement came that five finalists were being invited to New York for the presentation this Saturday Night. In addition to the two previously mentioned front runners RG3, Ball and Mathieu would all be making the trip to New York. I was suddenly interested again. Could this Griffin thing really happen? Dude plays for Baylor!
The stats have changed very little since Jim's last look at these guys so I will forego looking at the numbers. If you are interested in those Heisman Pundit has a great summary of them here.
It isn't about numbers at this point. It is about perception. So as we head into Saturday what perceptions did the voters have and how is this thing really going to shake out? Here's my take.
Andrew Luck- I see Luck much like Peyton Manning in his days at Tennessee. He's the real deal and will likely go on to a long career in the NFL, perhaps even taking over for Manning in Indianapolis. But he lacks "flair." His team is great but not fantastic. His game is methodical and extremely effective but not real exciting. He is smart and low key. He is "blue collar" and that is working against him.
Luck was absolutely the key ingredient in an 11-1 Stanford campaign but he came into the season with some very lofty expectations. In the end his numbers are very good but not spectacular. Frankly his numbers aren't much better than those of Brady Quinn in 2005 and 2006. In addition he really hasn't had any of those "Heisman moments" this season. The Cardinal got thumped by Oregon and in his final game against ND, Luck looked less than spectacular. I think all of those things will ultimately leave him as the runner up for the second consecutive year. He will get over it when he is the first pick in the NFL Draft this spring.
Robert Griffin III- RG3 on the other hand has had plenty of Heisman moments. He also has considerably better numbers than Luck across the board. I used to think of RG3 as a runner but his numbers as a passer topped those of Luck. In addition he guided a team that most think of as a bottom feeder into what was nearly a BCS Bowl berth. RG3 is the epitome of a "feel good" story and frankly he has really turned into one here in the last few weeks of the season. In a land where the crowd tends to follow the buzz he had the most buzz of anybody coming out of last weekend and I think a lot of voters likely jumped on board. I now think that he is really going to end up winning this thing.
Trent Richardson- Richardson was the best back on his team when Mark Ingram won the Heisman two years ago and he hasn't slowed down since. Richardson is an elite back destined for the next level and his Crimson Tide will be playing for a national title in a few weeks. Despite this I think Richardson really got hurt by two things in the end. One, his team wasn't playing on Championship Saturday and two Tyrann Mathieu made a late surge with further heroics in the SEC Championship game. I think Mathieu most likely cost Richardson votes and as a result I think that they will both be on the outside looking in.
Montee Ball- It didn't seem like anybody was seriously talking about Ball until this past weekend either. His numbers are plain ludicrous but he really did live in the shadow of Russell Wilson for the vast majority of the season. I also think people credit his OL and what is perceived to be the Wiscy "system" for much of his success. Fair or unfair, that is working against him. Ball may have captured a large number of votes in the Midwest but I don't see him as a true contender to take home the hardware.
Tyrann Mathieu- I love seeing the Honey Badger here for one reason. It is encouraging to me that a defensive player is being recognized. I felt the same way when Ndamukong Suh was a finalist two years ago. Mathieu is a true difference maker on both defense and special teams for the Bayou Bengals. The kid just makes big plays week in and week out. If they weren't already calling him Honey Badger I would suggest that they call him "Sudden Change." He causes it on a regular basis. I am glad he got the invite but I definitely don't see him winning.
How do you think this is going to shake out?