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November 9, 2011

Heisman Watch: Luck leads the way

Andrew Luck never said his decision to forego the 2011 NFL draft and play another season at Stanford was to make a run at the Heisman.

the awards watch
A weekly look at the top three candidates for some key postseason awards.
Davey O'Brien
(top quarterback)
Doak Walker
(best running back)
Biletnikoff
(most outstanding wide receiver)
Mackey
(top tight end)
Rimington
(most outstanding center)
Outland
(best interior lineman)
Nagurski
(most outstanding defensive player)
Butkus
(most outstanding linebacker)
Thorpe
(most outstanding defensive back)
1. CB Morris Claiborne, LSU
2. SS Mark Barron, Alabama
3. CB Casey Hayward, Vanderbilt
(NOTE: LSU CB Tyrann Mathieu is not one of the 15 semifinalists for the award.)
Lou Groza
(top kicker)
Ray Guy
(top punter)
Indeed, just last weekend he said his decision wasn't even necessarily made so he could play in big games like this week's much-anticipated showdown with Oregon.

"I didn't come back to solely play in big football games," Luck said following a 38-13 victory over Oregon State. "I came back to play football with my buddies.

"It's going to be exciting, of course. You always want to play in these games. But it wasn't the end-all of the decision."

Luck's performance against Oregon could be the end-all of the Pac-12 North Division and Heisman races. Luck has had an impressive season in which he has been remarkably consistent and has posted strong statistics while leading the Cardinal to a 9-0 record.

All that is missing is a victory over a top-10 opponent. That could come against the Ducks, who are No. 7 in the BCS standings.

Stanford is fourth in the BCS standings, and a victory could vault the Cardinal ahead of Alabama and into third place. A Stanford win also would clinch a place in the Pac-12 championship game as the North Division representative.

But a victory would not clinch the Heisman. The Cardinal would still have games remaining against California, Notre Dame and the conference championship game.

Still, if Luck plays well against the Ducks and leads the Cardinal to victory, the Heisman will be his to lose.

The top five Heisman candidates this week:

1. QB Andrew Luck, Stanford: Luck doesn't always produce eye-popping statistics, but he's thrown at least three touchdown passes in five of the Cardinal's past six games. Few teams are more reliant on one player than the unbeaten Cardinal are on Luck, who masterfully runs that offense. He's fifth in the nation in passing efficiency while throwing for 2,424 yards and 26 touchdowns with five interceptions.

2. RB Trent Richardson, Alabama: Despite Alabama's loss to LSU, Richardson's Heisman candidacy wasn't damaged. He rushed for 89 yards against one of the best defenses in the nation. He also had 80 receiving yards. Richardson is 10th in the nation with 1,078 rushing yards.

3. QB Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State: Weeden set a school record with 502 passing yards in last week's shootout victory over Kansas State in which he threw for four touchdowns. He has thrown at least three touchdown passes in each of the past three games.

4. QB Kellen Moore, Boise State: He's fourth in the nation in passing efficiency and has 2,229 passing yards, 29 touchdowns and five interceptions. Moore has thrown at least four touchdown passes in each of the past four games. He passed for 219 yards and five touchdowns in last week's victory over UNLV.

5. QB Robert Griffin III, Baylor: He's second in the nation in total offense and third in passing efficiency for a team that is completely dependent on him. Griffin has passed for more than 400 yards in each of the past three games. He had 406 passing yards and three touchdown passes and rushed for 64 yards and a touchdown in last week's 42-39 victory over Missouri.

Olin Buchanan is a senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com, and you can click here to follow him on Twitter.

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