I’ll be the first to admit that the Heisman Trophy race is as much of a toss-up at this point in the season as I can remember in a long time.
It’s difficult to pinpoint a front-runner, although according to the ESPN Experts’ poll this week, the top three are Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, Alabama running back Trent Richardson and Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden, in that order.
Only seven points separate the three.
All three have excellent numbers, and all three play on teams that are or have been in the national championship race all season.
How a player fares in big games has always been one of the main components I take into account when filling out my ballot.
The other is how a player fares against top competition, and in the case of these three players since they’re all offensive players, how they’ve fared against the toughest defenses.
Richardson blows the other two away in that category.
The Alabama junior running back has faced five teams ranked in the top-25 nationally in total defense. Weeden has faced one and Luck none.
In those five games, Richardson is averaging 105 rushing yards and has scored six touchdowns.
If you count the top 50 teams nationally in total defense, Richardson has faced seven, while Weeden and Luck have each faced one.
Everybody has his or her own method of voting for the Heisman Trophy, but the caliber of defense a player is going against on a weekly basis shouldn’t be left out of the equation.
Here’s something else that Richardson has going for him: He gets a lot of his yards on his own.
Sure, his offensive line is outstanding, but Richardson has gained 595 of his 1,205 yards after contact this season. He had 127 yards last week against Mississippi State, and 40 of those yards came after contact. It was the sixth straight game that Richardson had gained at least 40 yards after contact, and all six were SEC games.