After two weeks, the Heisman race is completely jumbled up. At this point in the season, there is still a lot of potential candidates that have made early statements or are looking to make a statement in the coming weeks. Schools are launching Heisman websites for their respective candidates, and we still don’t really have a clear read on the race at this point.
In the coming weeks, the race will begin to thin out, and we will start to get a clearer picture of the contenders and pretenders, separating the upper echelon of the sport from those who were putting up top numbers against cupcake opponents.
THE FRONT RUNNERS
Andrew Luck (QB/Stanford) — Through the first two games, Andrew Luck has done nothing to dampen his Hesiman campaign. Last season’s runner-up had little trouble throwing the football against San Jose State or Duke to open the season. On Saturday in Durham, Luck completed 20 of his 28 passes for 290 yards and 4 touchdowns to 1 interception. So far, Luck has completed 68.5% of his passes for 461 yards and 6 touchdowns to the one interception. His QB rating stands at 173.2 after two weeks. The first true test of the season for Luck and the Cardinal comes on Saturday night in Tuscon in the Pac-12 opener against Arizona.
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Landry Jones (QB/Oklahoma) — Oklahoma had a bye week to get prepared for their showdown in Tallahassee against Florida State on Saturday. Jones’ Heisman case couldn’t be helped or hurt this week and he remains in the #2 spot. He struggled on the road last season in big games, and he’ll need to perform better at Doak Campbell if he wants to keep his Heisman hopes alive, and if the Sooners want to keep their BCS Title hopes intact. Florida State’s fast and physical secondary will be a much stiffer test for Jones than Tulsa’s was in the season opener. He has the potential to jump Andrew Luck this week, but his hopes could take a significant hit with a poor performance on a national stage.
Kellen Moore (QB/Boise State) — Boise State got the chance to kick back and relax in week two after their win over Georgia in the season opener at the Georgia Dome. He had a Kellen Moore like game against the Bulldogs, completing 82.4% of his passes for 261 yards and 3 touchdowns with a rare interception. Moore and the Broncos are back in action on the road this week against a Toledo team that is fresh off of taking Ohio State to the brink of upset.
Robert Griffin III (QB/Baylor) — Just like Jones and Moore, Robert Griffin had a bye week this past week. Griffin and the Bears are coming off a huge season opening win over TCU, and after taking a week off they get set for a tune-up game against Stephen F. Austin. After one game, Robert Griffin holds the nation’s #1 QB rating at 250.6, and should get a chance to keep it pretty high in this weekend’s match-up. Baylor has a pretty good chance of starting the season 5-0 before they head to College Station on October 15th.
Trent Richardson (RB/Alabama) — Trent Richardson was a workhorse for the Crimson Tide on Saturday in Happy Valley against Penn State. With quarterback AJ McCarron making his first road start, Alabama stuck with a conservative game plan, and Trent Richardson carried the ball a career-high 26 times in Alabama’s 27-11 win. He earned his first 100-yard game of the 2011 season with 111 yards and two more touchdowns, upping his total for the season to 5 through two games. He averaged 4.3 yards per carry in the game, and while that’s not eye-popping, I thought it was pretty solid considering how much the Nittany Lions keyed on the run game. Alabama has one more tune-up game against North Texas on Saturday before they begin their conference slate against Arkansas.
JUST OFF THE PACE
Russell Wilson (QB/Wisconsin) — I thought it would take Russell Wilson time to adjust to a new offensive system at Wisconsin, but he’s been phenomenal in his first two games in Madison. He is 2nd in the nation in QB rating at 237.6, behind only Baylor’s Robert Griffin. Following up his impressive performance against UNLV, he was equally good against Oregon State on Saturday. Wilson completed 17 of his 21 pass attempts for 189 yards and three touchdowns. Through two weeks, he’s completed 79.4% of his attempts for 444 yards and 5 touchdowns to 0 interceptions. After being sacked 39 times with NC State last season, Wilson has only been put down once in two games for the Badgers.
Denard Robinson (QB/Michigan) — Some people are higher on Denard Robinson’s performance against Notre Dame than I am, but I was still impressed with the way D-Rob led Michigan back from the brink of defeat. The way he led Michigan back to win the game was Heisman-like, but his overall numbers weren’t as good. Yes, he threw for 338 yards and rushed for 108 more while scoring 5 total touchdowns. But, he also completed just 45.8% of his passes and tossed three interceptions. His poor performance up until the fourth quarter was overshadowed by his superhuman effort in the fourth quarter against the Irish. Michigan should get to 3-0 next week against Eastern Michigan, before facing a tough San Diego State team in Ann Arbor on the 24th.
Marcus Lattimore (RB/South Carolina) — Lattimore had his usual workhorse-like load in a big game for the Gamecocks on Saturday in Athens against Georgia. He shouldered the load of the running game, carrying the ball 27 times and racking up 176 yards and a touchdown. He has 288 rushing yards through two games, averaging 5.8 yards per carry, and four touchdowns. Lattimore could easily vault up the Heisman board in the coming weeks, and he’s basically interchangeable with Trent Richardson depending on who you talk to.
Ray Graham (RB/Pittsburgh)– Pop quiz: Who is the NCAA’s leading rusher right now? It’s Ray Graham with 322 yards though two games. He followed up a 201 yard performance against Buffalo in the season opener with 121 yards on the ground against Maine. He’s averaging 5.6 yards per carry so far this season and has reached pay-dirt six time in two games. The only problem with Graham so far has been the weak level of competition. He’s gone up against a MAC school and an FCS program in two games. He’ll get a shot at moving up the list this week when the competition spikes upward with Pittsburgh’s road tilt against Iowa.
Tyler Bray (QB/Tennessee) — Tennessee has looked like a completely different team in the first two weeks of the 2011 season and the play of Tyler Bray is a big reason why. He showed a lot of potential last season as a freshman, and he seems to have really progressed into his sophomore season. Let’s take a look at where Bray ranks among quarterbacks through two weeks. His QB rating is 204.2 (5th), he’s completed 78.5% of his passes (6th) for 698 yards (4th), with 7 touchdown passes (T-1st) and hasn’t thrown an interception in two games. The competition hasn’t been fierce at this point, as he’s put up these numbers against Montana and Cincinnati, but it’s still quite impressive. We’ll see how far he’s progressed this week in the Swamp against Florida.
Ronnie Hillman (RB/San Diego State) — It’s a long shot for Ronnie Hillman to ever get legitimate praise in the Heisman race, but he’s been excellent in the early part of 2011. He’s 2nd in the nation in rushing with 306 yards on just 45 carries (6.8 YPC), and has four rushing touchdowns. He had 189 yards in the season opening win over Cal Poly and then put 117 yards last week against Army as the Aztecs held on to a 23-20 win. The competition level will rise the next two weeks for San Diego State as they host a surprisingly good Washington State team, and then go on the road to take on Michigan.
T.Y. Hitlon (WR/Florida International) — The college football world finally was officially introduced to one of the top playmakers in the country, T.Y. Hilton on Friday night in Louisville. Hilton got the opportunity to showcase his ability on a national stage, and he did not disappoint. He caught 7 passes for 201 yards and a par of touchdowns in FIU’s 21-14 win over Louisville, the program’s fist win over a BCS opponent. Hilton’s two touchdown receptions went for 74 and 83 yards respectively. He’s another long shot, but he deserves mention after such a spectacular game.