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College Football Analysis: Casting the 2011 Heisman Votes

Just like that, the college football regular season is over. In just a few short weeks bowl season will kickoff, but before any of that, the Heisman Trophy will be awarded for the 77th time on Saturday. The finalists — Alabama’s Trent Richardson, Baylor’s Robert Griffin III, LSU’s Tyrann Mathieu, Stanford’s Andrew Luck, and Wisconsin’s Montee Ball — were announced earlier in the week.

With five finalists being selected to attend the ceremony, there is a pretty good chance that this race will be similarly close to the 2009 season when Alabama running back Mark Ingram edged out Stanford running back Toby Gerhart.

The collective thought is that the Heisman race will come down to Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III and Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, with the other three guys fighting it out for third place. The voters seem to be relying heavily on last weekend’s performances more so than ever before.

After the games two weeks ago, it appeared the Heisman was Alabama running back Trent Richardson’s to lose. But after a strong performance by Robert Griffin III last week against Texas, he vaulted up the board and he is now the favorite to receive the award.

Tyrann Mathieu used a big performance in the SEC Championship game, where he returned a punt for a touchdown, nearly returned another, and recovered a fumble to vault himself back into the Heisman race and ultimately get invited to the ceremony.

For the final Heisman Watch of the 2011 season, I asked for the ballots of fellow Breaking Tackles writers Zach Bigalke, Matt Strobl, and Brady Ford as well as administrators Robert Menn and Brian Guerra.

Here is what we came up with:

1. Robert Griffin III (QB/Baylor) — 14 Points (4-1st, 1-2nd)
2. Montee Ball (RB/Wisconsin) — 8 Points (2-1st, 2-3rd)
T-3. Trent Richardson (RB/Alabama) — 4 Points (1-2nd, 2-3rd)
T-3. Tyrann Mathieu (DB/LSU) — 4 Points (2-2nd)
T-5. Andrew Luck (QB/Stanford) — 2 Points (1-2nd)
T-5. Case Keenum (QB/Houston) — 2 Points (1-2nd)
T-7. Kellen Moore (QB/Boise State) — 1 Point (1-3rd)
T-7. Matt Barkley (QB/USC) — 1 Point (1-3rd)

Robert Griffin III received four of the six first place votes, with Wisconsin’s Montee Ball receiving the other two. Trent Richardson and Tyrann Mathieu tied for 3rd with Richardson getting one second place vote, and two 3rd place votes. Mathieu received a pair of second place votes.

Despite all the love that Stanford QB Andrew Luck has received from the media, he appeared on only one of our ballots, and finished tied for fifth. Luck’s performance this season just didn’t match up with the other candidates.

The individual ballots looked like this:

Mitchell: 1. Robert Griffin III, 2. Trent Richardson, 3. Montee Ball
Strobl: 1. Robert Griffin III, 2. Tyrann Mathieu, 3. Montee Ball
Bigalke: 1. Montee Ball, 2. Robert Griffin III, 3. Kellen Moore
Menn: 1. Montee Ball, 2. Case Keenum, 3. Trent Richardson
Guerra: 1. Robert Griffin III, 2. Tyrann Mathieu, 3. Matt Barkley
Ford: 1. Robert Griffin III, 2. Andrew Luck, 3. Trent Richardson

For my own personal ballot it came down to Robert Griffin and Trent Richardson. As much as I would have liked to vote Trent Richardson #1, I believe that Griffin was the most outstanding player in college football this season.

Griffin led a perennial cellar-dwelling Baylor team to a 9-3 season that included victories over Oklahoma and Texas. The Bears were ranked high enough to be invited to a BCS Bowl, but instead they will play Washington in the Alamo Bowl.

As for Richardson, no Heisman candidate went up against as good of defenses each Saturday as him. Montee Ball put up better numbers, but Ball had much more help on offense from his QB than Richardson, and it could be argued that Russell Wilson was more important to the Badgers’ offense than Ball. You can’t make that argument for anybody on the Tide’s offense.

I do believe Tyrann Mathieu was one of the best players in the nation this season, but the integrity clause in the Heisman creed made me shy away from him. I’m not saying that smoking a joint is a huge deal, but he was suspended for a game, and that very well could have cost his team. Of course it didn’t because the Bayou Bengals handled Auburn like every good team did this season, but what if the Honey Badger had been suspended for the Alabama game? Would we had a different outcome on November 5th?

Maybe, maybe not, but I just couldn’t put someone in my top three that made a dumb decision that very well could have cost his team.

I also considered Andrew Luck, but his numbers were better last season, and he struggled at the end of the season.

Despite my personal objection to Andrew Luck in the top three, you should expect him to more than likely finish #2 in the Heisman voting on Saturday evening behind Robert Griffin III. I’d say Trent Richardson will come in 3rd, Montee Ball 4th, and Tryann Mathieu 5th.

That’s just an educated guess, and I expect the voting to be incredibly close on Saturday night.


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