It’s that time of year folks. The Heisman Trophy race is almost over as the five finalists come barreling down the home stretch. In the 77th installment of college football’s top award, the list has been whittled down from the thousands of FBS players to five.
The list consists of two quarterbacks, two running backs and a cornerback. Four candidates are juniors and one is a sophomore. All but one player will be participating in a BCS Bowl Game.
The first, and most obvious, candidate is Stanford junior quarterback Andrew Luck.
The only returning finalist, Luck has led his Cardinal to an impressive 11-1 record this season, with their only loss coming against the Oregon Ducks. Coming into the season, Luck was considered the top candidate to win the award and has done a terrific job of keeping himself in the hunt. With 3,170 passing yards, 35 touchdowns and a passer rating of 167.5, Luck continues to prove that he’s one of the premier football talents to come out of college in the last decade. Considered by many to be the future No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft if he declares, this gunslinger has made a name for himself that will surely ring through the halls of Stanford University whether or not he wins a Heisman.
The next candidate for college football’s most coveted individual award is Baylor junior quarterback Robert Griffin III.
Known for his impressive scrambling and ability to make plays with his feet, Griffin has made a name for himself as more than just a mobile quarterback in the past year. Forming a deadly combination of athleticism and passing prowess, Griffin has been the driving force behind Baylor’s 9-3 season. Not only does he lead the nation in passing efficiency (192.3), but he has racked up an impressive amount of touchdowns (36 passing, nine rushing) along the way. He’s the first Baylor player to ever receive an invite to the Heisman Trophy ceremony and for good reason.
The third candidate on this list of college football elite is Alabama junior running back Trent Richardson.
If there’s any one person that the Alabama Crimson Tide could thank for their 11-1 record and No. 2 standing in the BCS, it’s Richardson. Considered the best running back in the 2012 draft class (if he declares), Richardson is a rare combination of speed, power and agility. Using his supernatural abilities as a runner, Richardson has racked up a whopping 1,583 yards (6 ypc) and 23 touchdowns on the season. His efforts as both a runner and pass-catcher have helped land Alabama in the National Championship Game in a rematch with the LSU Tigers.
The fourth candidate, and only defensive player, on the Heisman hopeful list is LSU sophomore cornerback Tyrann Mathieu.
Mathieu is a do-it-all type of player a la Charles Woodson who combines terrific coverage skills with a tremendous ability to make opposing teams pay in the return game. Still in his early stages of development, this LSU cover man has preyed on unsuspecting offenses and coverage teams time and time again. Just looking down his stat sheet makes you wonder how much better he could get as time goes by: 70 tackles, six forced fumbles, four fumbles recovered, two interceptions, 1.5 sacks and two defensive touchdowns. To say that he wreaks havoc is an understatement. Although his chances are slim, the fact that Mathieu is ever in the running is a testament to his elite talent.
The final candidate in the race for the hardware is Wisconsin junior running back Montee Ball.
Ball is one two-touchdown performance away from breaking Barry Sanders’ single-season record for total touchdowns. The workhorse for Wisconsin’s offense, Ball has made a name for himself as a touchdown machine. Currently the proud of owner of 38 touchdowns (32 rushing, six receiving) on the season, he has helped the Badgers become the 11th best rushing team in the nation and 4th best scoring team in the nation. Ball’s 1,759 rushing yards and enormous stockpile of touchdowns give me reason to believe that he could be a true darkhorse in the Heisman Trophy race.
My guess: it’ll be a toss-up between Luck and Griffin. Although Luck has led Stanford to another dominant season, the way that Griffin turned the Baylor program around and made minced meat of so many defenses could give him the edge.
The ceremony will commence on Saturday night in Manhattan, at which time we’ll witness the naming of the newest member of college football’s most prestigious club.