Newton all but seals up trophy with comeback win over Alabama
Auburn's dramatic win over Alabama should wrap up Heisman for Cam Newton
Stanford's Andrew Luck threw for 28 TDs against nation's 8th-ranked schedule
OSU's Justin Blackmon is fourth WR to have 100 yards in 11 games in a season
They call them Heisman moments for a reason. They are those highlights that are burned into our memories and define a campaign. From Desmond Howard striking the pose to Johnny Rodgers' punt return to Doug Flutie's Hail Mary they are part of the trophy's lore (though it should be noted that the voting was already completed before Flutie's magical pass).
In his greatest test of the season, Auburn's Cam Newton had his.
This was no singular highlight on par with Newton's TD run against LSU, in which he carried Patrick Peterson into the end zone, or even Stanford's Andrew Luck's stiff-arm vs. Cal. Instead Newton's lasted 2 ½ quarters as he brought the Tigers back from a 24-point deficit on the road against Alabama to keep their BCS title hopes alive.
With that performance, Newton has taken almost all of the drama out of the race -- there does remain some sliver of intrigue given the ongoing investigations into the pay-for-play accusations, though a quick resolution seems unlikely -- making the buildup to the Dec. 11 ceremony a mere formality. The Heisman Trophy is Newton's.
While there's little debate over this race's leading man, Thanksgiving weekend did produce one of the biggest changes to the Watch in weeks.
Let's be clear: Boise State's Kellen Moore didn't hurt his standing as one of the nation's best players in the loss to Nevada -- it was his gutsy throw that set up the would-be game-winning field goal in regulation -- but he did lose some major chips in his stack. For a non-AQ player to win in this era it would likely take a perfect season and keeping a team in the national title hunt. That's over now.
One blemish doesn't mean Moore has disappointed or that he's any less deserving. The FBS leader in passing efficiency has been exceptional in leading a team that returned 20 starters and began the season No. 3 in the AP rankings, but you could also argue that he's doing exactly what we expected out of him on a loaded team playing a schedule ranked 62nd in Jeff Sagarin's ratings. But consider for a moment what Stanford's Luck has done, taking a Cardinal team that wasn't ranked in either poll, and which lost last year's Heisman runner-up Toby Gerhart, and putting it in line for an at-large BCS berth in throwing for 3,051 yards and 28 TDs against the nation's eighth-ranked schedule. As Jim Harbaugh said after the Cardinal's 38-0 win over Oregon State: "He is the best player, the most valuable player, on maybe the best team in the country."
Luck's worth and his impact have been undeniable. That's enough to move him up the Watchman's list as we head into the final week of the regular season.
This week we're trimming the list from eight to five before I unveil my final ballot on Dec. 6. As a refresher, here's how I stacked things up after Week 12. Also, be sure to get me your vote for the People's Choice by completing this survey before 10 p.m. Sunday, ranking your picks from 1-3.
Last Week: 13-of-20 passing for 216 yards and three TDs; 22 rushes for 39 yards and one TD in 28-27 win over Alabama
Season: 148-of-218 passing for 2,254 yards, 24 TDs and six INTs; 228 rushes for 1,336 yards and 18 TDs; two receptions for 42 yards and one TD
If the reports of a pay-for-pay scheme never surfaced, would we be gearing up for a vote that could have rivaled O.J. Simpson's 1968 win for the largest margin of victory (1,750 points)? No player has meant more to his team's success than Newton, who in four games vs. Top 25 teams has been responsible for nearly 70 percent of the Tigers' total yards and has thrown for five TDs and run for nine more. This week he gets a second crack at South Carolina, against whom he amassed 334 yards and five TDs on Sept. 25.
Next Up: Saturday vs. No. 18 South Carolina in SEC Championship Game
Last Week: 28 rushes for 126 yards and two TDs; three receptions for 20 yards in 48-29 win over Arizona
Season: 253 rushes for 1,548 yards and 19 TDs; 13 receptions for 169 yards and one TD
It was an eventful week for the nation's leader in rushing yards per game. James was limited in practice with an ankle injury, he was cleared in an NCAA probe into his use of a family friend's Range Rover and he also suffered a helmet-to-helmet hit in the first half vs. Arizona that he said limited his vision and made his fingers go numb. But he reached the end zone twice in the second half against the Wildcats to give him a Ducks-record 19 touchdowns, the ninth-best single-season total in Pac-10 history.
Next Up: Saturday at Oregon State
Last Week: 21-of-30 passing for 305 yards and four TDs; two rushes for minus-seven yards in 38-0 win over Oregon State
Season: 245-of-349 passing for 3,051 yards, 28 TDs and seven INTs; 51 rushes for 438 yards and three TDs
If it was the final game in Palo Alto for the presumptive No. 1 pick in April's NFL draft, should he declare, Luck made it a memorable one. With four TD passes against Oregon State, he ran his season total to 28, breaking the school record of 27 he shared with John Elway and Steve Stenstrom. He also became the first Cardinal quarterback with four TD passes in a game three times in a season. He ended the regular season on fire, going 93-of-123 for 1,131 yards, eight TDs and one pick over the last four games.
Next Up: Regular season complete
Last Week: 20-of-31 passing for 348 yards and two TDs; two rushes for minus-11 yards in 34-31 loss to Nevada
Season: 221-of-311 passing for 3,269 yards, 30 TDs and five INTs; 14 rushes for minus-34 yards; one reception for seven yard and one TD; two punts for 90 yards
Moore did what he could. His throw to Titus Young was a thing of beauty and he didn't miss two game-winning kicks. It's not out of the question for Moore to earn an invite to New York, but now a win seems like an even further possibility. He could still make a run at Steve McNair (1994) and Colt Brennan (2006), whose third-place finishes are the highest by non-AQ players since Marshall Faulk finished second in 1992.
Next Up: Saturday vs. Utah State
Last Week: Eight receptions for 105 yards and one TD in 47-41 loss to Oklahoma
Season: 102 receptions for 1,665 yards and 18 TDs; four rushes for 77 yards and one TD; one blocked punt recovery for a TD
A severely sprained ankle didn't keep him from keeping up his torrid pace, or winning a Biletnikoff finalist showdown with Oklahoma's Ryan Broyles. Blackmon became the fourth player in FBS history with at least 100 yards receiving in 11 games and the third player to do it in 11 straight games (the last player to do either was BYU's Austin Collie in 2008). But breaking Larry Fitzgerald's sophomore record of 1,672 yards will have to wait until the postseason as he's still seven yards away.
Next Up: Regular season completed