The Athlon editors cast their final ballots for the 2011 Heisman Trophy.
-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)
Each week, the Athlon editors vote on the most prestigious award in all of college football. In Athlon Sports' final Heisman ballot of 2011, the nine-man conglomerate of college football gurus will vote for the five finalists — even if we do disagree with some of the names headed to New York.
Note: A first place vote earns a player five points. A second place votes earns four points - so on and so forth until the fifth place vote receives one point.
Three of the five finalists received at least two first-place votes, futher illustrating just how close this year's balloting could turn out. Stanford's Andrew Luck is college football's most talented player and will be selected No. 1 overall by any NFL front office lucky enough to pick first. Alabama's Trent Richardson is the nation's most talented running back for what could be considered the nation's best team. Baylor's Robert Griffin III is the nation's most valuable player and has taken the Bears to levels they have not reached in three decades. Wisconsin's Montee Ball is producing at an unprecedented level on the Big Ten championship squad. And LSU's Tyrann Mathieu made flashy plays all season long for the BCS' No. 1 team.
So without further ado, Athlon Sports' 2011 Heisman Trophy winner is...
1. Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor (39/45, 5 first place)
Stats: 267/369, 3,998 yards, 36 TD, 6 INT, 161 att., 644 yards, 9 TD
The Case: Griffin III is the most important, most indispensible player in all of college football. Baylor will play in back-to-back bowl games for the first time since 1991-1992 and has won nine games for the first time since 1986 . Griffin's 16 combined wins are the most in a two-year span for Baylor since '85-86. RG3 finished the regular season as the nation's most efficient passer at 192.31 with a chance to set the single-season NCAA efficiency mark (186.00). He was No. 2 in total offense (386.8 ypg) behind only Case Keenum. Baylor has beaten Texas twice since 1998 — both times under the leadership of Griffin III. The school's first-ever win over Oklahoma took place three weeks ago. Additionally, the first wins over TCU and Texas Tech since 1995 took place this season, and two of the program's four wins over Missouri have come under RG3 the last two years. Griffin III posted nine 300-yard passing games and threw an interception only once every 62 pass attempts. At 22.7 points per game, Griffin III led the nation in points responsible for in 2011. The Baylor quarterback landed five of the possible nine first place votes from Athlon.
2. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford (36/45, 2 first place)
Stats: 261/373, 3,170 yards, 35 TD, 9 INT, 43 att., 153 yards, 2 TD
The Case: Luck is best amateur football player on the planet. The NFL scouts will be sure to confirm that when he is selected No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft. His overall blend of size, athleticism, accuracy, football IQ and work ethic makes him the most gifted athlete in the college game today. He has won 23 of his last 25 games and finished 2011 as the nation's No. 5-rated passer (167.5). Luck's 35 touchdown passes were fourth nationally, and his 18.8 points responsible for were sixth-best nationally. And he did it with very little talent on the outside of the offense — no Stanford Cardinal ranked in the top-15 in the Pac-12 in receptions per game, and only Griff Whalen (55.3 ypg) ranked in the top 15 in receiving yards in the league.
3. Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama (28/45, 2 first place)
Stats: 263 att., 1,583 yards, 20 TD, 27 rec., 327 yards, 3 TD
The Case: Richardson was the offensive catalyst for what many believe could be the best team in the nation. He led the SEC in rushing yards and yards per game (131.9) — which was good for fifth nationally. His 20 rushing touchdowns mark the first time an SEC running back has ever reached 20 in a single season, and he appeared to be the best player on the field in the 9-6 overtime loss to LSU (28 touches, 169 yards from scrimmage). T-Rich had nine 100-yard games and likely would have won this award had his team beaten the Tigers on November 5 — and had the extra game to play on the final weekend.
4. Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin (22/45, 0 first place)
Stats: 275 att., 1,759 yards, 32 TD, 20 rec., 255 yards, 6 TD, 2/2, 57 yards, TD
The Case: The argument for Ball is very simple: He was statistically the nation's best player on the Big Ten championship team. He led the nation in scoring with 38 touchdowns (and one TD pass) and led the nation in rushing. He posted nine 100-yard games, and his 38 trips to paydirt rank No. 2 all-time for a single season behind only Barry Sanders' 39 (which is really 44, counting the bowl game). He even completed both of his pass attempts. The Badgers ball carrier scored at least three touchdowns in eight games this season and was the only running back (No. 7) ranked in the top 30 nationally in points responsible for — the other 29 were quarterbacks. In 297 touches, Ball fumbled only once — which was recovered by Wisconsin.
5. Tyrann Mathieu, DB, LSU (10/45, 0 first place)
Stats: 70 tackles, 6.5 TFL, 2 INT, 1.5 sacks, 6 FF, 4 FR, 2 DEF TD, 26 PR, 420 yards, 2 TD
The Case: By far the biggest reach on this list, the Honey Badger's trip to New York is more a function of his high-profile position as a return man (and nickname), plus the fact that he plays for the nation's top-rated team. He scored four touchdowns without touching the ball on offense and was involved in 10 different fumbles. As a return man, he finished No. 2 in the nation in punt returns at 16.2 yards per return. He was not nearly the game-changer people believe, however, as his two punt return touchdowns came in 24- and 32-point victories while his touchdown against Kentucky was a small part of the 28-point win. He was suspended for the Auburn game (a 45-10 win) and might not be the best cornerback on his own team — which is why he was picked last of the five finalists by eight of our nine voters. He is an electric athlete who makes big plays, but it would shock the nation if he won this award.
How the voting turned out:
|Name||Pos.||Team||Pts (of 45)||1st||2nd||3rd||4th||5th|
|1.||Robert Griffin III||QB||Baylor||39||5||2||2||-||-|
Names who got left out:
Matt Barkley, QB, USC (10-2)
Stats: 308/446, 3,528 yards, 39 TD, 7 INT, 28 att., 14 yards, 2 TD
Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin (11-2)
Stats: 206/284, 2,879 yards, 31 TD, 3 INT, 73 att., 320 yards, 5 TD, 3 rec., 56 yards, TD
Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State (11-1)
Stats: 379/522, 4,328 yards, 34 TD, 12 INT, 15 att., minus-95 yards
Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State (11-1)
Stats: 300/405, 3,507 yards, 41 TD, 7 INT, 19 att., minus-65 yards
LaMichael James, RB, Oregon (11-2)
Stats: 222 car., 1,646 yards, 17 TD, 17 rec., 210 yards, 1 TD, 12 PR, 135 yards, TD
Case Keenum, QB, Houston (12-1)
Stats: 383/534, 5,099 yards, 45 TD, 5 INT, 50 att., 25 yards, 3 TD
Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State (10-2)
Stats: 145/251, 1,745 yards, 12 TD, 5 INT, 293 att., 1,099 yards, 26 TD
Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan (10-2)
Stats: 133/237, 2,056 yards, 18 TD, 14 INT, 208 att., 1,163 yards, 16 TD
Bobby Rainey, RB, Western Kentucky (7-5)
Stats: 369 car., 1,695 yards, 13 TD, 36 rec., 361 yards, 4 TD
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