Stanford Football: Trent Richardson

Stanford mailbag

January, 24, 2012
TJ in San Francisco writes: (Regarding Darron Thomas is leaving early). I think most of us (including me) had chalked up next year's game at Oregon as a loss... what do you think our chances of beating them are now? Should we be more worried about Oregon or Washington in the Pac 12 North?

Kevin Gemmell: If I can steal an old cliché that's pretty popular around The Farm, worry about yourselves, not the other guys. Worry about who is going to play the two safety spots and who will make the defensive calls against the Ducks, not who is under center or in their backfield. Oregon has plenty of firepower -- and will for the foreseeable future. Are they any more vulnerable without Thomas? Maybe. Just as Stanford is more vulnerable without Andrew Luck. And yes, I think Washington is also a big concern -- especially since that is a road game next year with a new starting quarterback for Stanford. If Keith Price continues to mature at the rate he's going, Washington will be a player in the North.

Tyler in "The District" writes: Hey Kevin. If the Heisman trophy voting happened today, would Robert Griffin III still win? To me, it seems that some voters may have previously voted erroneously; more in tune with a fad than sound judgment. Now that time has passed, would voters sober up from the intoxicating RG3 performance against the Longhorns? (By the way, Texas isn't what they used to be and no one seems to care.) Or would they vote for a guy like Luck who wasn't losing 49-3 against Okie State? PS: Don't try to say that RG3's bowl game performance means anything. The convoy of moving trucks in Seattle this past month aren't there because of RG3.

Kevin Gemmell: Tyler, I've long held the belief that Heisman voting should be done after the bowl season. Just a personal opinion. With that said, did anything change in the bowl season that would make you think people who were going to vote for Griffin are suddenly going to change their vote? The fact is, those who wanted to vote for Griffin did, and the people that wanted to vote for Luck did. RG3 didn't do anything to "lose" votes. Maybe Luck would have picked up a few more votes from those who voted for Montee Ball or Trent Richardson or Tyrann Mathieu based on his bowl performance. It was pretty darn good. But RG3's wasn't exactly horrific -- and his team won. I don't think anyone who voted for Griffin is suddenly feeling like they blew it. Time to let this one go.

Kory in Hillsborough, Calif., writes: Any word as to why Coby Fleener and Delano Howell declined their Senior Bowl invitations? I hope they weren't scared to compete because that completely goes against the Stanford football we've come to know.

Kevin Gemmell: No official word, so this is just me speculating. First, both were pretty banged up toward the end of the year. Howell, you'll remember, missed a lot of time due to that hand injury and Fleener's ankle looked like it had a softball sticking out of it after the Fiesta Bowl (he missed the fourth quarter). Both of them have enough of their resumes on film that I don't think one game would make a difference either way. That's my best guess.

Sean in Palo Alto, Calif., writes: You gave Stanford a B+ in the Pac-12 report card. Explain yourself.

Kevin Gemmell: Well, Sean, I'm assuming you think the grade should be higher. Let's look at the facts. They didn't win their conference, that right there drops them from an A to an A-. They didn't win their bowl game. That should drop them down as well. I gave the offense an A- and the defense a B. Average that together and you come out with a B+. Don't think that was too harsh of a grade.

Luck second in Heisman voting, again

December, 10, 2011
The bridesmaid dresses are starting to pile up for Stanford.

That's three consecutive years now that a Cardinal player has finished second in the Heisman Trophy balloting -- Toby Gerhart in 2009, Andrew Luck in 2010 and now Luck again in 2011.

[+] EnlargeAndrew Luck
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty ImagesAfter another runner-up Heisman finish, Andrew Luck has an NFL payday on the horizon.
No need to wake up Katherine Harris or start recounting hanging chads. This one is in the books. The voters have spoken, and they say Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III.

Luck entered the season as the Heisman favorite after his silver-medal finish last season. But a loss to Oregon swayed voters and Luck didn't excite the way the flashier Griffin did.

"I think obviously Robert is a great player and very much well-deserved," Luck said when asked during the Heisman presentation show what he could have done differently. "I'm not going to lament on something that I could have done or had an opportunity to do. I think it's very much well-deserved for Robert. I'm just proud to be here and very honored to be here."

Griffin received 405 first-place votes. Luck, who won the Far West region, received 247 first-place votes. Alabama running back Trent Richardson had 138, LSU defensive back Tyrann Mathieu had 34 and Wisconsin running back Montee Ball had 22.

Despite a late campaign push over the past couple of weeks by head coach David Shaw -- who attempted to show voters what Luck does mentally at the line of scrimmage (which far exceeds anything any college quarterback has done previously) -- voters still picked the exciting and athletic Griffin over Luck and Richardson.

Several times over the last couple of weeks, Shaw made an appeal to voters, comparing Luck to 1997 winner Charles Woodson for doing something that no other player had done with his play calling. But that plea apparently fell on deaf ears.

Luck will leave Stanford as one of its most celebrated players -- going 23-2 over the past two seasons and landing the Cardinal in a second consecutive BCS bowl game. He passed John Elway (another Heisman runner-up) as the all-time touchdown leader and is expected to be the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft.

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.

History at stake for Heisman hopefuls

December, 5, 2011

On Monday the five finalists invited to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony were revealed. This year has featured one of the most interesting races for the Heisman as no one player has stood from the rest.

Here's a look at what a Heisman Trophy win -- or loss -- would mean to these players and their respective schools.

Trent Richardson, Alabama
Two seasons ago Trent Richardson was a part of a National Championship team with a Heisman Trophy winner, when running back Mark Ingram became Alabama's first winner. Richardson has nearly identical numbers to Ingram this season, and has already totaled 23 touchdowns compared to Ingram's 20 TD's.

If Richardson were to win the award it would put him and Ingram in some rare company. In the history of the Heisman Trophy only three times have two different players playing the same position at the same school won the award in a span of three seasons. It last happened when USC QB Matt Leinart won it in 2004 after Carson Palmer had taken home the award in 2002.

Andrew Luck, Stanford
Luck is listed second here as he finished second for the Heisman last season and Stanford has actually had the Heisman runner-up in each of the past two seasons (Toby Gerhart, 2009).

If Luck wins he would be the second player in Stanford history to win the award (Jim Plunkett, 1970) and join 1981 Herschel Walker as the only Heisman runner-ups to win the award the next season.

If Luck finishes second, Stanford would set a record. No school has ever had a Heisman runner-up in three consecutive seasons.

Montee Ball, Wisconsin
Montee Ball earned his invite thanks to his impressive numbers. Ball needs one touchdown in the Rose Bowl to tie Barry Sanders' FBS record for touchdowns in a season (39). Sanders won the Heimsan trophy during that 1988 season.

Ball's 38 touchdowns are the most by a Big Ten player since Eddie George had 25 in his Heisman Trophy winning 1995 season.

Robert Griffin III, Baylor
RGIII finished off a great regular season in which he threw 36 touchdowns compared to only six interceptions, while also leading Baylor to nine wins, its most since the 1986 season.

Griffin's invite is an accomplishment in its own considering he plays for Baylor. The Bears have only had one player finish in the top five of the Heisman vote in school history. In 1963 Don Trull finished fourth.

If Baylor's Robert Griffin III wins the Heisman Trophy this year, he will be just the third player since the BCS was established in 1998 to win the Heisman without his team playing in a BCS bowl game.

Tyrann Mathieu, LSU
The Honey Badger will take the trip to New York looking to join Charles Woodson as the only defensive backs to win the Heisman trophy.

Despite being a defensive player, recent history is on Mathieu's side to take home the award. Since 2003, seven of the past eight Heisman Trophy winners have come from the team at number one in the BCS standings entering the National Championship Game.

Stanford lunchtime links

November, 29, 2011
Lots of Luck, Heisman chatter today.

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.

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.

Stanford mailbag

November, 4, 2011
Another great week of questions. Thanks for the feedback and queries.

Jay in Palo Alto writes: Kevin, I'm wondering why the D-line is getting beat up in the press, including your post because they didn't get a sack on (Matt) Barkley. Anyone who watched that game saw Barkley on his butt probably a dozen times, and a lot of those knock-downs looked like they hurt. He always managed to get rid of the ball, but it was pretty rare that he had any extra time in the pocket. It's ironic that people are talking about how great Barkley's quick release was, but ignoring the flip side: Stanford's pass rushers made him get rid of it quickly, over and over. That's about all you can ask of them, never mind the sack stats.

Kevin Gemmell: Jay, I don't recall "beating them up" in a post, but your point is well-taken and certainly valid. I was addressing the pass rush as a whole. Now give credit to a very good USC offensive line -- and I gave Barkley his due on the quick release -- some were by design, others were not. And they did hit him. But you can't "never mind" the sack stats because sacks are game-changers. When a quarterback gets hit and still completes the pass, he feels better about himself. The hits don't hurt as much (at least during the game). When a quarterback gets hit and takes the ball with him, it's a sinking feeling. I'm not saying the defensive line had a bad game -- but it wasn't a great game on the whole. And that falls on the linebackers as well. There were long runs, significantly fewer tackles for a loss and USC's offensive line did a pretty good job keeping them out. I've been a big supporter of the defensive line this year, but it wasn't their best game. But they did make the plays when they had to make them. In the end, that's all that matters.

Shirin in Boston writes: My fellow Stanford alum friend and I were having a big debate on who we should be rooting for this weekend in the LSU vs. Alabama game. My thought is to root for Alabama because I don't want LSU to have a home game when we play the winner in the national championship game. However, my friend Matt said I should be rooting for LSU because an Alabama loss will hurt (Trent) Richardson's Heisman case and an LSU win will help our strength of schedule and Pac-12 perception due to Oregon's loss to LSU. However, I think Luck is going to win the Heisman anyway and the strength of schedule argument won't matter as much if we beat Oregon! Please let us know your thoughts. Thanks!

Kevin Gemmell: Shirin, I'd be more focused on the Oklahoma State-Kansas State game. But if I had to pick, I'd back you up. Going to be a tough trip to New Orleans regardless of who they play. But LSU would make it tougher. Then again, I covered the USC-Texas national championship game a few years back and that was essentially a home game for the Trojans. And we all remember how that turned out.

Matt in Austin, Texas writes: Kevin, I'm concerned about the pressure that USC's front four got on Luck throughout the game this past Saturday. To me, their pressure schemes most closely resembled Duke's defensive line's strategy (at least through the first half of that game). If you recall, Duke utilized their quick defensive ends to run stunts behind their defensive tackles, confusing Stanford's interior offensive line as to whom to pick up in the rush coming up the middle. USC mirrored this strategy, and was successful with it throughout the game thanks to their superior athletes. Tell me why I shouldn't be worried about Oregon also copying this stunt-rush strategy two Saturdays from now, given their athletic front four and speedy defensive ends.

Kevin Gemmell: Matt, from my recollection, Duke was using delayed blitzes to complement the defensive line, and that was the reason for the confusion up front. Plus, it was just the second game for the three new starters and it took a half for them to figure out the adjustments. USC was getting pressure with just its front-four. And in that case, I'd be a little concerned. There were some injuries to the offensive line, which might have contributed. But the pressure on third downs was alarming. I can't tell you not to be worried, sorry. I think Stanford will have a good blocking scheme in place for that game. But I'd like to see how they rebound against Oregon State first before jumping too far ahead to Oregon.

Ryan in San Francisco writes: One thing Stanford has always struggled with is recruiting speed and athleticism on the defensive side of the ball. The recent recruiting classes have definitely helped in this area but it seems the team was still a step or two slow on the long runs by (Chris) Polk and (Curtis) McNeal the last two weeks. In your opinion do you chalk this up as still lacking some athleticism to keep up with the true burners, bad angles by the defense, and/or injuries to (Shayne) Skov and (Delano) Howell as the main culprits?

Kevin Gemmell: Ryan, all of the above. As we know, Stanford has a different recruiting strategy and criteria than most schools. It's tough to find elite athletes who also fit the Stanford mold. But it's not just Stanford -- Polk and McNeal are darn good running backs. Would it be different with Skov and Howell -- probably. No doubt those two are missed. But bad tackling/angles also played a major role.

Manny in Fremont, Calif writes: Would you call the OSU game a trap game for the Cardinal (given the emotional USC game and the upcoming showdown with Oregon)?

Kevin Gemmell: I think all of the ingredients for a trap game are there -- except for the other team. As I wrote in my prediction, I just don't think OSU has the horses to keep up with Stanford. And I don't see a special season being lost to a 2-6 team. I like Mike Riley a lot. I covered him when he was with the Chargers and always found him to be an innovative coach. But innovation can only go so far without the players. I will say that the Cardinal need to start fast -- something that's hampered them on the road this season -- to not let OSU get any illusions of an upset.

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.

Heisman ballot: Week 8

October, 25, 2011
A lot of movement this week in the Heisman Expert's poll. A new face joined the ranks of the Top 5 and a familiar one stayed at the top. I cast my ballot like I'm picking stocks. I try not to let the highs get too high or the lows too low.
  1. Andrew Luck, quarterback, Stanford: Another game that's probably a seven in the stats department and a 10 in the brains department. Luck is so much more than a passer, and we saw that Saturday night against Washington when he called the plays that put the running backs in position to rush for a school record 446 yards. Oh yeah, he threw a couple of touchdowns, also.
  2. Kellen Moore, quarterback, Boise State: Having previously covered the Mountain West the last few years, I know how disciplined Air Force can be. Sure, they aren't LSU, but they are tough, cerebral players who rely on scheme and smarts to make up for a lack of athletic depth. With that said, completing 79 percent of your passes with three touchdowns against the Falcons is a good game.
  3. Trent Richardson, running back, Alabama: He's not going to average 15.2 yards per carry every week. Not a bad game -- certainly not worth dropping him over. His 77 yards and two touchdowns were well earned. And though Tennessee doesn't have the greatest defense in the world, I loved the way he fought for yards and dragged defenders along the way. Speed alone is good, but speed and power are impressive.
  4. Robert Griffin III, quarterback Baylor: On bye, so as always, he won't drop on my ballot. He actually benefited this week from Russell Wilson's bad game and moved back up to the four hole. Like Wilson (read on) he's one questionable game away from falling out of the top five.
  5. Russell Wilson, quarterback, Wisconsin: Just as I wasn't quick to rocket him to the top of the rankings, I'm not going to be as quick to drop him out completely. He's still an amazingly talented quarterback. But with the weight of a major game on his shoulders, he looked anything but poised. He still threw a pair of touchdowns and ran for another. I won't judge his body of work on one game where he wasn't horrible, but he wasn't great. But one more game like that and he's done.

Updated Big Board: Stanford movement

October, 19, 2011
There has finally been movement on Mel Kiper's Big Board involving a Stanford player. But Stanford fans probably won't like it.

While quarterback Andrew Luck remains the top player on this week's updated Big Board, offensive tackle Jonathan Martin slipped from No. 6 to No. 7, swapping spots with Alabama running back Trent Richardson.
Writes Kiper:

Martin has great footwork, gets good leverage and is a really athletic type on the left side. He could improve his power as a run-blocker but does pretty well given his athletic build; he's trusted in the passing game.

Pretty obvious why Richardson gets the bump this week. He's coming off a career game against Ole Miss where he carried 17 times for 183 yards and four touchdowns. But I wouldn't feel too bad for Martin. He's still one of the top two offensive tackles in the country and he helps captain the nation's top pass-blocking unit. As Kiper has said in the past, as long as Luck stays clean, Martin's star will continue to rise.

Speaking of Luck -- nothing new on this front. He's the most sought-after NFL prospect in years.
Writes Kiper:

A great year so far, but Luck really could use some competition. Washington may offer the first real challenge. He's the total package. Arm strength, size, smarts, demeanor. A safe bet to be No. 1 overall.

Luck is coming off his least polished performance of the season against Washington State, in which he threw his third interception of the season and the offense struggled to move the ball efficiently in the first half. But he exploded in the second half for four touchdowns and finished the game 23-of-36 for 336 yards.

Heisman ballot: Week 7

October, 18, 2011
Alabama running back Trent Richardson made a big splash this week on the field and in the polls, but it's still a quarterback heavy field. Here's the results of the poll and how I voted.
  1. Andrew Luck, quarterback, Stanford: For the first time this season, I saw Andrew Luck throw a bad ball. I guess he's allowed one every once in a while. But one bad pass is no reason to dock him. And his performance -- specifically in the second half against Washington State, was sensational. Despite having his least polished performance of the season, he still ended up 23-of-26 for 336 yards and four touchdowns. Even when he's off, he's on.
  2. Kellen Moore, quarterback, Boise State: He completed 86.7 percent of his passes against Colorado State, finishing 26-of-30 with four touchdowns. It was his highest-rated game of the season. Say what you want about him being a system quarterback. He runs the Boise system to near perfection almost every week. That kind of accuracy is remarkable, regardless of the competition.
  3. Trent Richardson, running back, Alabama: We've been waiting all season (at least I have) to see if there was a non-quarterback that could make a legitimate run at the Heisman. Richardson appears to be that threat. He's rushed for more than 100 yards in six straight games, and this last one against Ole Miss was a beauty, 10.8 yards per carry, 183 yards and four touchdowns. Look out QBs, someone is trending up.
  4. Russell Wilson, quarterback, Wisconsin: Luck had his reception. Wilson one-upped him with a touchdown reception (though Luck's one-handed haul was pretty spectacular, even if it only went for 13 yards). It was an efficient performance on 12-of-17 passing for one touchdown. He also showed some athleticism on two carries for 42 yards.
  5. Robert Griffin III, quarterback, Baylor: This guy is doing everything in his power to help his team hang on. But unfortunately, he can't play defense. It was a season high in pass attempts (40) and yards (430) against Texas A&M with three touchdowns and an interception, but it still wasn't enough to help his team in a 55-28 loss.
  • Denard Robinson, quarterback, Michigan: It's almost impossible to recover from a 9-of-24 performance and only 42 rushing yards -- especially with someone like who Robinson relies on the run when his passing game isn't working. It was a heck of a run, but on my ballot, I can't justify keeping him in the top 5.


Stanford Blanks UC Davis
Kevin Hogan threw for 204 yards and three touchdowns as Stanford took down UC Davis 45-0.