• Get the Blackhawks Championship Package
    Get the Blackhawks Championship Package
  • Give the Gift of SI
    Give the Gift of SI
Heisman Watch: Robert Griffin III
Source: SI
Heisman hopeful Robert Griffin III made a strong final statement in leading Baylor to a key win over Texas.
Posted: Monday September 5, 2011 11:53AM ; Updated: Monday September 5, 2011 11:53AM
Cory McCartney
Cory McCartney>HEISMAN WATCH

Heisman Watch: Moore, Griffin nip at Luck's heels after strong openers

Story Highlights

Baylor's Robert Griffin showed he could deliver against a quality opponent like TCU

Though he still trails Andrew Luck, Kellen Moore was strong in Boise St.'s opener

Oregon's loss to LSU delivered a blow to LaMichael James' Heisman prospects

Email
Print
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font

If first impressions are everything, there's a lot to be said about Robert Griffin.

Griffin looked every bit a candidate as Baylor ended then-No. 14 TCU's 25-game, regular-season winning streak. But this is truly a marathon and Griffin, a former All-America in the 400-meter hurdles -- is just out of the starting blocks.

Give Griffin this: he delivered against a quality opponent. While others feasted on confections, RGIII was dining on meat and it propelled him into the thick of the race. While that certainly means more than a candidate facing a lesser opponent, it doesn't mean we can't learn something from those games.

Case in point: Nebraska's Taylor Martinez.

In a 37-point win over Chattanooga, the sophomore quarterback showed no signs of the toe and ankle injuries that slowed him down last season. But more importantly, we also saw the unveiling of an offense that could be T-Magic's ticket to New York.

Sure, new coordinator Tim Beck's scheme had some kinks. The Cornhuskers averaged two yards on first down and were 9 of 18 on third and Martinez at times looked shaky in the pocket, going 11 of 22 passing. But the no-huddle attack which features plenty of triple-option allowed Martinez to do what he does best: run (135 yards in the win).

Operating in an offense that allows Martinez to audible and freelance should only strengthen his candidacy. As for now, it was a strong statistical opening against an FCS squad, which will only get him so far on this list.

On to this week's rankings. Remember, this list shows how my ballot would look if the season ended today. As a refresher, here's how the Watchman saw things coming into the season.

1. QB Andrew Luck, Stanford, Jr.

Stanford's Andrew Luck hit seven of his first 10 passes to seven different receivers.
Stanford's Andrew Luck hit seven of his first 10 passes to seven different receivers.
Paul Sakuma/AP

Last week: 17-of-26 passing for 171 yards, two TDs; two rushes for nine yards and a TD in 57-3 win over San Jose State.

By his own standards, Luck wasn't sensational. His longest completion was 17 yards -- the lowest of his 26 career games -- and you have to go back to Week 2 of last season to find the last time he threw for fewer yards. But he didn't exactly hurt his chances or his standing as the frontrunner. After losing his top two receivers from a year ago, Luck distributed the ball effectively, hitting seven of his first 10 passes to seven different receivers. Plus, he put that often-discussed moxie on display, diving head-first to reach the pylon on a 1-yard TD run.

Next up: Saturday at Duke

2. QB Kellen Moore, Boise State, Sr.

Last week: 28-of-34 passing for 261 yards, three TDs and an interception in 35-21 win over No. 19 Georgia.

Another year, another statement in a high-profile opener for Moore, who went over 100 touchdown passes for his career. It wasn't that he put on a display of arm strength -- he never threw a pass over 25 yards in the air -- but Moore simply picked apart the Bulldogs secondary to the tune of an 82.3 completion percentage. He hit nine different receivers, including five on one TD drive. The effort was made all the more impressive considering he did it without two receivers who combined for 142 yards last season. He's still trailing Luck, but not by much.

Next up: Friday, Sept. 16 at Toledo

3. QB Robert Griffin, Baylor, Jr.

Last week: 21-of-27 passing for 359 yards, five TDs; 10 rushes for 38 yards and one reception for 15 yards in 50-48 win over No. 14 TCU.

If you weren't hip to RGIII before, you are now. He has always been captivating -- he set or broke 27 Baylor records last season -- but Griffin had yet to deliver a performance like this on a national stage. But given that TCU's defense had lost six starters from 2010, the question remains: does he have staying power? The Bears don't play a currently ranked opponent again until Oct. 15, so we'll be hearing plenty about Griffin, and his socks over the coming weeks, before he enters a pivotal stretch vs. Texas A&M, Oklahoma State and Missouri.

Next up: Saturday, Sept. 17 vs. Stephen F. Austin

4. QB Landry Jones, Oklahoma, Jr.

Landry Jones trails only Sam Bradford as Oklahoma's leading passer.
Landry Jones trails only Sam Bradford as Oklahoma's leading passer.
Alonzo Adams/Southcreek Global/ZUMAPRESS.com

Last week: 35-of-47 passing for 375 yards, one TD; one rush for two yards in 47-14 win over Tulsa.

He completed 74.5 percent of his passes, re-established his connection with All-America receiver Ryan Broyles and didn't throw a pick. It was exactly the kind of tune-up Jones needed heading into a showdown with sixth-ranked Florida State. Even if he did say he was a "little off" Jones also continued his climb up the Sooners record books, passing Jason White as the school's second-leading passer, trailing only Sam Bradford. For those looking ahead, the Seminoles allowed all of 92 passing yards in their opener, but it was against UL-Monroe.

Next up: Saturday, Sept. 17 at No. 6 Florida State

5. WR Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State, Jr.

Last week: Eight receptions for 144 yards in 61-34 win over Louisiana-Lafayette.

The reigning Biletnikoff Award winner is working on another one. Despite constant double-teams, Blackmon extended his NCAA record of consecutive games with at least 100 receiving yards to 13, though he did fail to extend his streak of triple-digit receiving games with a score. The Cowboys step up their level of competition with Arizona coming to Stillwater, but the conditions are right for him to continue his 100-yard game streak; the Wildcats allowed 145 fist-half through the air vs. Northern Arizona, which ranked 68th in FCS in passing offense last season.

Next up: Thursday vs. Arizona

6. RB Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina, Soph.

Last week: 23 rushes for 112 yards, three TDs; three receptions for 33 yards in 56-37 win over East Carolina.

After a sluggish start, which included just the second fumble of his Gamecocks career, Lattimore turned it up in the second half, running 13 times for 72 yards and two TDs. Just one game into his second season, he's eight on South Carolina's all-time TD list (20). This week he returns to the matchup that was his national coming out party as S.C. faces Georgia. He could be in for another big day after an already suspect Bulldogs defense will be without one of its key pieces after middle linebacker Alec Ogletree broke his foot in the opener.

Next up: Saturday at Georgia

7. QB Taylor Martinez, Nebraska, Soph.

Last week: 11-of-22 passing for 116 yards; 19 rushes for 135 yards and three TDs in 40-7 win over Chattanooga.

It was a return to the Martinez who ran for 870 yards over the first seven weeks of 2010. He scored a rushing TD for the first time since Oct. 7 -- his runs of 43 and 47 yards were the longest since that date -- and went over 100 yards for the first time in six games. But there was concern: Martinez left the game midway through the fourth quarter after tying a career high with 19 carries. After he missed two games last season, and ran for 95 yards over the last five, Nebraska can't afford him not to be at full strength.

Next up: Saturday vs. Fresno State

8. RB Trent Richardson, Alabama, Jr.

Alabama's season opener did little to boost Trent Richardson's Heisman stock.
Alabama's season opener did little to boost Trent Richardson's Heisman stock.
Romeo Guzman/CSM /Landov

Last week: 13 rushes for 37 yards and three TDs; one reception for 16 yards in 48-7 win over Kent State.

Other than hitting the end zone three times, his stats were pretty underwhelming in his debut as the Crimson Tide's No. 1 RB, especially against an opponent that allowed 183 ypg last season. He averaged 2.8 yards per carry, the lowest of any game in which he's had at least 11 touches -- though TD runs of 1, 9 and 1 yard are bound to bring that number down -- and his longest run was for 10 yards. Here's thinking Richardson will get a few more opportunities to show his Heisman worth next week in Happy Valley.

Next up: Saturday at Penn State

9. QB Denard Robinson, Michigan, Jr.

Last week: Nine of 13 passing for 98 yards; eight rushes for 46 yards in 34-10 win over Western Michigan.

A lightning delay led both schools to call the game with 1:27 remaining in the third quarter, but what we saw of Robinson, and how he fits into the new offense, are enough to keep Shoelace's candidacy afloat. Operating out of the shotgun, he took off on a designed run on the first play, a QB sweep he turned into an 11-yard gain. In all, Robinson ran 26 plays out of the shotgun and 12 from under center. It was a far cry from the 383 yards in last year's opener, but Robinson won't be handcuffed by this scheme.

Next up: Saturday vs. Notre Dame

10. RB LaMichael James, Oregon, Jr.

Last week: 18 rushes for 54 yards and one TD; six receptions for 61 yards in 40-27 loss to No. 4 LSU.

Is it harsh to put him 10th? Maybe. One game can't kill a campaign, but it may take a while to make up for this one. Playing against what is likely the best defense he'll see all season, James failed to live up to the moment. It was just the third time in the 19 regular-season games he was held under 100 yards, but considering the last time we saw James he was limited to 54 yards by Auburn, that makes two spotlight games in which he's faltered. He's had his mulligan and needs to get back on track this weekend.

Next up: Saturday vs. Nevada

Click here for more 2011 season preview content from SI.com.

 
SI.com
Hot Topics: Washington Wizards Albert Pujols Mock NFL Draft Drake Russell Allen Toronto Raptors
TM & © 2014 Time Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you. Read our privacy guidelines, your California privacy rights, and ad choices.
SI CoverRead All ArticlesBuy Cover Reprint