Stanford Football: Case Keenum

Luck wins Maxwell Award

December, 8, 2011
Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck won the Maxwell Award at "The Home Depot College Football Awards" show, beating out Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore and Alabama running back Trent Richardson.

The Maxwell Award is given to the best all-around player in college football.

"I feel a lot of pride for this award, to have tangible evidence for all of the work on the practice field," Luck said.

Earlier in the evening, Luck missed out on the Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award, which went to Baylor's Robert Griffin III. Houston's Case Keenum was the other finalist.

Stanford offensive guard David DeCastro was beat out for the Outland Trophy -- which goes to the nation's top interior lineman -- by Alabama offensive tackle Barrett Jones of Alabama. Penn State defensive tackle Devon Still was the third finalist.

In typical Luck fashion, he praised his coaches and teammates for his success.

"(Give credit) to a great scheme," Luck said. "The coaches put us in a great situation and it's trusting the offensive line, the running backs and the wide receivers to make plays. It all comes with practice time."

How do Luck, DeCastro stack up?

December, 8, 2011
Tonight, two Stanford players will hope to hear their names called when "The Home Depot College Football Awards Show" airs at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Quarterback Andrew Luck is up for a pair of awards -- the Maxwell award, given to the best all-around player -- and the Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award (pretty self explanatory).

Offensive lineman David DeCastro is up for the Outland Trophy, given to college football's top interior lineman.

Thought it would be fun to compare the finalists and see what sort of chances Stanford's players have.

  • Finalists: Luck, Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore and Alabama running back Trent Richardson.
  • Scouting the field: Apples and oranges. Hard to compare quarterbacks and running backs. Moore gets labeled as a system or spread quarterback, but Boise was almost 50-50 in run vs. pass attempts. Moore attempted 405 passes to Luck's 373. Richardson is arguably the best running back in the country.
  • Why Luck will win: Since the award goes to the best all-around player, you start by looking at what that player does "all-around." Luck does it all, pass, run, play calling, scrambling, reading defenses, efficient in the red zone, arm strength etc. etc. etc. Nothing you haven't heard before.
  • Why he won't: Sometimes these awards become career achievements -- and it's hard to argue with what Moore has done over a sensational career. Voting closed before the BCS games were announced, but those who thought Boise would get stiffed (which they did) might also throw Moore a make-up call. If you're a voter and a fan of running back play, tough to argue with Richardson, or his 20 touchdowns/6 yards per carry average.
  • Finalists: Luck, Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, Houston quarterback Case Keenum.
  • Scouting the field: Three very different players. Keenum has the gaudy numbers. Griffin has the "wow" factor and Luck is the prototypical NFL quarterback.
  • Why Luck will win: When you evaluate simply on quarterback skills, it's tough to say anyone in the country is a more complete quarterback than Luck.
  • Why he won't: Griffin is red-hot right now. His stock has never been higher. Keenum has the video-game stats voters love.
  • Finalists: DeCastro, Alabama offensive lineman Barrett Jones, Penn State defensive tackle Devon Still.
  • Scouting the field: It's a good, talented crop with no clear front-runner. All three play their respective positions well (in Jones' case, four different positions). A convincing argument can be made for all three. DeCastro and Jones headline highly-ranked running attacks and Still is the most disruptive defensive tackle in college football.
  • Why DeCastro will win: Considered the most NFL-ready run blocker in the nation, DeCastro has the athleticism to pull to either side, the muscle to bulldoze straight ahead and the quick hands and feet to pass block. He's the most complete player of the group. Stanford is also sixth nationally in sacks allowed while Alabama is 28th.
  • Why he won't: The award has gone back and forth between offense and defense the past four years (Wisconsin offensive tackle Gabe Carimi won last year). The recent trend says a defensive player wins it this year. Plus, Still has stats to draw upon (55 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 15 solo tackles for a loss) whereas the offensive players predominantly rely on their running backs' stats. Though if it goes to Jones, it will be because Richardson is a far-more notable running back than Stepfan Taylor and the group of three other backs he platoons with. Alabama's running attack ranks 15th nationally (219.8 YPG). Stanford is 22nd (207.9 YPG). As noted, Jones is extremely versatile, having played both tackle spots, left guard and center this season, though his primary spot is left tackle.

My Heisman Trophy ballot has changed every week for the last couple of months.

I'm not surprised there are more than three players going to the trophy presentation.

Five players were invited to New York for Saturday night's Heisman Trophy presentation -- quarterbacks Andrew Luck of Stanford and Robert Griffin III of Baylor, tailbacks Montee Ball of Wisconsin and Trent Richardson of Alabama and cornerback Tyrann Mathieu of LSU.

It's a shame the Heisman Trust didn't have room for three more quarterbacks because Houston's Case Keenum, USC's Matt Barkley and Boise State's Kellen Moore were just as deserving.

With five finalists going to New York, it figures to be one of the closer votes in recent Heisman Trophy history.

The closest vote in Heisman Trophy history came just two years ago, when Alabama tailback Mark Ingram edged Stanford's Toby Gerhart by only 28 points. Ingram received 227 first-place votes, Gerhart got 222 and Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, the second runner-up, received 203.

Given the number of finalists and their geographical regions, we could have another really close finish on Saturday night.

Luck, the runner-up to Auburn's Cam Newton last season, entered the 2011 season as the Heisman Trophy favorite. His performance didn't slip much this season, as he completed 70 percent of his passes for 3,170 yards with 35 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

I still feel Luck might be the most valuable player on any team in the country. Without him, there's no way the Cardinal is ranked No. 4 in the country and playing No. 3 Oklahoma State in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. Luck has done more with less, as Stanford lacks the game-changing playmakers that other teams have.

But Luck might still be the second-best quarterback in New York. Griffin, who is widely known as RG3, completed 72.4 percent of his passes for 3,998 yards with 36 touchdowns and six interceptions. He also ran for 644 yards with nine touchdowns.

Without him, the Bears wouldn't have beaten TCU, Oklahoma and Texas. Griffin's one drawback: He had a late interception that sealed the Bears' fate in a 36-35 loss at Kansas State on Oct. 1 and threw two picks in a 59-24 loss at Oklahoma State on Oct. 29. But with everything else RG3 has done this season, it's easy to give him a mulligan for the miscues.

LSU defense
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesRunning back Trent Richardson has been at his best in Alabama's biggest games.
I still believe Richardson is the best player in the country. He looked like the best player on the field in No. 2 Alabama's 9-6 loss in overtime to No. 1 LSU on Nov. 5. He had 89 rushing yards and 80 receiving yards in a game where every yard mattered. He finished the season with 1,583 yards with 20 touchdown runs and three touchdown catches. He's also Mr. Dependable, not losing a fumble in his past 520 touches and only once in 614 career touches.

Ball has been a scoring machine for the No. 10 Badgers this season, running for 1,759 yards with 32 touchdown runs and six touchdown receptions. His 38 total touchdowns are one shy of matching former Oklahoma State running back Barry Sanders' NCAA single-season record of 39 set in 11 games in 1988. Ball's production helped lead the Badgers to a Jan. 2 date against Oregon in the Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO.

Mathieu fell off my ballot after he was suspended from playing in the Tigers' 45-10 victory over Auburn on Oct. 22 for smoking synthetic marijuana. But his big plays helped the Tigers overcome deficits in each of their last two victories, over Arkansas and Georgia in the SEC championship game.

Mathieu -- aka the "Honey Badger" -- is the best player on the top-ranked team. He leads the Tigers with 70 tackles and has forced six fumbles and recovered five. He also is the most dynamic punt returner I've seen since Florida State's Deion Sanders. Mathieu has scored four touchdowns -- two on fumble returns and two on punt returns.

To penalize Mathieu for one foolish mistake wouldn't have been right. After all, Newton was briefly ruled ineligible at Auburn last season and 2010 Heisman Trophy finalist LaMichael James of Oregon was suspended from playing in last season's opener.

Heisman ballot: Week 13

November, 22, 2011
It's getting down to the wire. As many as three different players have had the opportunity to seize it and pull ahead from the pack in the last two weeks, but no one has. Here are the latest results, as always, followed by my ballot.
  1. Andrew Luck, quarterback, Stanford: Back atop my ballot (11th time in 13 weeks) after a very steady performance in an emotional rivalry game. He overthrew a few balls to start the game and his receivers couldn't keep their feet on the rain-soaked field, but he was 16-of-21 (76 percent) for 216 and two touchdowns from the second quarter on. His performance against Cal was smooth, calming and efficient -- exactly what the Cardinal needed coming off the Oregon loss.
  2. Trent Richardson, running back, Alabama: With LaMichael James fading in the USC loss, Richardson is once again the top running back on my ballot. Showed a nice balance of power and shiftiness in totaling 175 yards on the ground in the Crimson Tide's victory over Georgia Southern. It was his third-highest output of the season and his highest yards-per-carry average since the middle of October. All in all, a strong week.
  3. Case Keenum, quarterback, Houston: Has been and continues to be the stats guy -- though he only threw one touchdown last week against Southern Methodist -- the first game all season he's had just one passing touchdown. It was also his third-lowest passing total of the season. But that in no way negates what a special season this has been for Keenum and Houston.
  4. Montee Ball, running back, Wisconsin: Since Wisconsin lost back-to-back games in the middle of the year, Ball has been making a statement. In the past three games, he's rushed for 613 yards, seven touchdowns and an average of 7.6 yards per carry. And Wisconsin has been leaning on him more, giving him the ball a season high 38 times in last week's road victory over Illinois. However, he probably doesn't have enough time or momentum to catch Luck or Richardson.
  5. Robert Griffin III, quarterback, Baylor: Played his way back in to the conversation with a phenomenal performance against Oklahoma. He threw for 479 yards and tossed four touchdowns, leading Baylor to its first-ever victory over Oklahoma. But like Ball, probably not enough chances to make a late-season push against players who have been more consistent.
  • Brandon Weeden, quarterback, Oklahoma State: Doesn't matter if you are at home or on the road, you can't throw three picks and lose to an unranked team when the national championship game is in your grasp.
  • LaMichael James, running back, Oregon: I'm still a huge James fan, but with the time he missed because of injuries, he couldn't afford a mediocre game the rest of the way.
Two Stanford football players have been tabbed as finalists for three of college football's biggest awards.

When "The Home Depot College Football Awards Show" airs Dec. 8 at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN, keep your ears open for Andrew Luck and David DeCastro.

Luck has been named a finalist for the Maxwell Award, which goes to the best all-around player and the Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award.

For the Maxwell Award, Luck is joined by Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore and Alabama running back Trent Richardson.

For the Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award, he's joined by Baylor's Robert Griffin III and Houston's Case Keenum as finalists.

Guard David DeCastro has been selected a finalist for the Outland Trophy, given annually to college football's top interior lineman. Barrett Jones of Alabama and Devon Still of Penn St. are the other finalists.

Heisman ballot: Week 12

November, 15, 2011
With Andrew Luck and Kellen Moore losing last week, there was quite a bit of movement, as expected. Here's the results of the writers' poll, as always, followed by my ballot.
  1. Brandon Weeden, quarterback, Oklahoma State: While the two quarterbacks ahead of him suffered setbacks, he went out and had one of his best games of the season, throwing five touchdowns and completing 83.8 percent of his passes. His numbers are comparable or better than almost every other quarterback in the field and he has his team in position to play for a national championship. He might not be the NFL prospect that Andrew Luck is, but he's got the numbers and the undefeated season (with wins over three Top 25 teams) to back up his top billing.
  2. LaMichael James, running back, Oregon: He was the best player on the field Saturday night in Palo Alto, Calif., darting and dashing his way to 146 yards and three touchdowns -- including a scoring run of 58 yards. He averaged 7.3 yards per carry against the Cardinal and was equally effective between the tackles or bouncing to the outside. He's the best running back in the nation for one of the best offensive teams in the nation. For the year, he averages almost 8 yards per carry and 150.8 yards per game. Those are Heisman numbers.
  3. Andrew Luck, quarterback, Stanford: This is not a knee-jerk reaction to Saturday night. Over the past few games, Luck has not looked as good as he had earlier in the year. Consider: In the first five games of the season, Luck was completing 73 percent of his passes with 14 touchdowns and two interceptions with an average of 286.5 yards per game. In the last five, the completion percentage dropped to 68 percent with 15 touchdowns, five interceptions and 259.4 passing yards per game. Saturday night, he accounted for three turnovers in the biggest game in school history. Lots of blame to go around, but fair or not, the quarterback usually shoulders the bulk of it. Comes with the job. No other player in the last couple of weeks was able to make a push that justified dropping Luck. This week, two players did.
  4. Case Keenum, quarterback, Houston: With Moore dropping, Keenum is the lone non-AQ player still in the mix. And it's hard not to be impressed with his accuracy and efficiency. It's been said before about Keenum: if the Heisman was a pure numbers award, it would be his. But his team's non-AQ status and the fact that almost every team he's faced this year ranks in the bottom half nationally in defense has to be considered.
  5. Trent Richardson, running back, Alabama: A nice bounce-back performance after the loss to LSU, going for 127 yards against Mississippi State. But it took him 32 carries to get there on 4 yards per carry -- his third-lowest average of the season. Very good player, but I think James put a little distance between the two with his performance Saturday night.
  • Kellen Moore, quarterback, Boise State: If only this guy had a kicker. But that's not the real reason he dropped. The past two weeks, he's had his worst games of the season in terms of accuracy (58.1 percent against UNLV, 73.7 against TCU). While the latter is still pretty good, combine it with a loss and it's enough to knock a non-AQ contender out of the picture.

Heisman ballot: Week 11

November, 8, 2011
Quarterbacks are still at the top -- but this weekend will sort out a lot. Here are the results of the expert’s poll, as always followed by my ballot.
  1. Andrew Luck, quarterback, Stanford: He shook off a poor start to finish with three touchdowns against Oregon State. But it wasn’t his best game in terms of decision-making. Rain and cold didn’t help, plus he was without three of his favorite targets for the majority of the game -- Chris Owusu for a half, Zach Ertz for the game and Levine Toilolo for three quarters. When you take all of that into account, his performance doesn’t seem as bad. But it was still well below his standards. This weekend’s game against Oregon could wrap it up for him -- or blow the race wide open.
  2. Kellen Moore, quarterback, Boise State: Just as Luck has a big game this week, so does Moore against TCU -- probably the toughest game Boise State has remaining on its schedule. Five touchdown passes are great -- even if they are against UNLV. But his completion percentage was his lowest of the season against a sub-par defense. Hard to argue though with what he’s done over a magnificent career.
  3. Case Keenum, quarterback, Houston: Who says this guy only does it in the air? He had two rushing touchdowns -- his first two of the season no less -- in a game where he had his highest completion percentage of the season at 88.6 percent. If the Heisman was strictly a statistical award (and it is to some voters), it would be his. But there is more to it than just numbers. But it’s still hard to ignore the amazing stats he’s put up in his career and this season.
  4. Trent Richardson, running back, Alabama: He had a chance to make huge gains in the Heisman race this week, but he didn’t “wow” against LSU. Granted, the Tigers have the best defense in the country, but Heismans are won and lost in such games and 89 yards with no touchdowns and 3.9 yards per carry isn’t going to cut it if you’re making your name as a running back. The five catches for 80 yards shouldn’t be ignored, but his absence from the end zone was notable.
  5. LaMichael James, running back, Oregon: Despite missing two games because of a dislocated elbow, James has played his way back into the conversation. He regained the top spot in the nation with 151.57 yards per game and is once again the most explosive running back in college football. Like Luck, much will be determined this weekend.

Heisman ballot: Week 9

November, 1, 2011
A new top five this week with Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III droppoing out. Here's this week's results and how I voted this week.
  1. Andrew Luck, quarterback, Stanford: We finally got to see him respond to a little adversity. He lost one of his tight ends before ever taking the field and threw a pick six that almost cost Stanford the game. But the key here is that it didn't. Luck looked extremely poised when his back was against the wall. He threw for 330 yards and three touchdowns and also ran for another. He was clutch in overtime and never once looked apprehensive or as if the game was in doubt.
  2. Kellen Moore, quarterback, Boise State: No movement on bye week. Excited to see what happens on Nov. 12 when Boise faces TCU.
  3. Trent Richardson, running back, Alabama: On bye. Does this week make or break his Heisman campaign?
  4. Case Keenum, quarterback, Houston: As one-week wonders come and go, Keenum has just been doing his thing, and doing it well. It's been hard keeping him off my ballot the last few weeks, but Wilson and Griffin III made it easier. The 32-3 touchdown-interception ratio is ridiculous. Maybe he doesn't have a legitimate chance to win. But if you throw nine touchdowns in a week, you deserve to get mentioned.
  5. Landry Jones, quarterback, Oklahoma: Welcome back to the top 5. How do you get back in the conversation? Throw for 505 yards and five touchdowns -- on the road, against a ranked team -- to rally your team after a tough loss. His interceptions are still too high and his completion percentage too low, but he certainly made a statement last week not to count him out just yet.

My Heisman ballot, Week 2

September, 13, 2011
I’ve kept my Heisman ballot the same through the second week. But changes will likely be coming once the teams that had byes last week get back on the field.

Here’s the results from this week’s poll in case you missed it.

My ballot:
  1. Andrew Luck, quarterback, Stanford: He had better numbers in Week 2 than he did against San Jose State. He was 20-of-28 for 290 yards and four touchdowns. He did have one interception, but it was a deflection off his receivers hands that dropped into a waiting defender. On the road, across three time zones and in a tougher climate than he’s used to, he looked poised – even when he took more hits than he should have – and was very efficient. Again, he was relieved in the fourth quarter so the numbers would have been higher had he gone the full 60 minutes. From what I've seen through two weeks, he is the best player in college football.
  2. Kellen Moore, quarterback, Boise State: The Broncos were on a bye, so I won’t drop him down because he didn’t play.
  3. Landry Jones, quarterback, Oklahoma: See above.
  4. Denard Robinson, quarterback, Michigan: Four touchdowns, three interceptions, 338 on the air, 108 on the ground and a last-second win over Notre Dame. I don’t know what to make of this guy. But I know I love watching him play. Check out The Heisman Predictor, which has Robinson leading the pack through two weeks. He's still a little too erratic for my tastes to crack him into the top three, but if he keeps having games like he did against Notre Dame, it's going to be hard to keep him out.
  5. Ronnie Hillman, running back, San Diego State: Hillman battled three time zones and immeasurable emotional factors playing at Army on the 9/11 anniversary weekend. He still had 117 rushing yards and two touchdowns and is the No. 2 runner in the country. He hasn't fumbled in 119 carries. But because of the school he plays for and the conference he is in, those numbers won’t be good enough. To get noticed by the country, he’ll need 175-plus every week and needs to be No. 1 in rushing for people to start turning heads. If he does it against Washington State and at Michigan, people will start to notice.
On the rise:
  • Marcus Lattimore, running back, South Carolina: He's on the verge of cracking my top 5. It's almost a dead draw with him and Hillman right now.
  • Robert Griffin III, quarterback, Baylor: He had a lot of hype after the TCU win. But he also had four months to prepare for that game. I’d like to see a couple more games like that one before passing judgment.
  • Russell Wilson, quarterback, Wisconsin: If his completion percentage stays near 80 percent -- look out. This was a nice breakdown of Wilson from ESPN The Magazine's Ryan McGee.
  • Case Keenum, quarterback, Houston: I'm slowly becoming a believer. But not enough yet to put him in the top 5.


Pac-12 Weekend Wrap: Jan. 27
Recruiting reporter Erik McKinney discusses top recruiting news from the Pac-12.