Heisman Watch: Robinson a threat despite passing game downturn
Denard Robinson's passing game may have regressed, but he's still a threat
Marcus Lattimore could take the No. 1 spot with a stellar showing against Auburn
After rushing for 288 yards, LaMichael James climbed back into the rankings
The Watchman has reached the fifth and final stage in processing Denard Robinson: acceptance.
We're not talking acceptance in terms of Shoelace's worth. No, this is more about perception and how we should be judging the Michigan quarterback in the realm of Heisman contenders.
The detractors will say that he hasn't been able to make the transition from athlete to complete quarterback like Baylor's Robert Griffin III. You can blame it on the move to a West Coast offense, but there has been a regression in his passing game. Robinson's completions, yards and completion percentage are all down from the first four games of 2010. His passer rating of 132.1 is 62nd in FBS and he has thrown as many touchdown passes (six) as interceptions.
Look, Robinson may never blossom into the kind of player who can take over games with his arm. Performances like he had against Notre Dame, in which he threw for 338 yards and four TDs, probably won't become the norm. But he need only be effective enough to keep teams on their heels, because really the passing game should be viewed as a distant secondary in Robinson's arsenal.
Ask yourself this: If we had a running back who finished second nationally in 2010 with 1,702 yards and was currently leading FBS with 160.6 yards per game, wouldn't he be a Heisman favorite? If you took that same player and said that he had thrown for six TDs out of the Wildcat in four games, would we be knocking his accuracy?
Shoelace, at his core, may just be a glorified Wildcat triggerman -- and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. There may not be a more dangerous player who touches the ball on every down and that's the hook that makes Robinson a true threat for the Wolverines first Heisman since Charles Woodson in 1997.
Last week: Idle
Season: 57-of-85 passing for 786 yards, eight TDs and one INT; five rushes for 11 yards and one TD.
So far, the preseason favorite has lived up to the hype and statistically speaking, the runner-up in 2010 could be in for an even bigger season. After passing for 3,051 yards, 28 TDs and seven picks through 12 games in 2010 (remember, Heisman voting takes place before the bowls), Luck is on pace for 3,144 yards, 32 TDs and four picks. Yes, he's taken advantage of a schedule that hasn't exactly been daunting -- none of the Cardinal's first three opponents have a winning record -- but few expected Luck to be truly tested until the latter half of the season anyway.
San Jose State (1-3), Duke 2-2, Arizona 1-3
Next up: Saturday vs. UCLA
Last week: 20 rushes for 77 yards and one TD; three receptions for 73 yards and one TD in 21-3 win over Vanderbilt.
Season: 107 rushes for 611 yards and eight TDs; 12 receptions for 139 yards and one TD.
Quarterback Stephen Garcia's struggles didn't aid Lattimore's cause, allowing Vanderbilt to load up to stop the run. The end result was the Gamecocks' first sub-100-yard game of the season as Lattimore lost the FBS rushing lead by two yards to LaMichael James. Still he found a way to impress with 150 combined yards from scrimmage, including a screen pass he took 52 yards for a score to go along with a 22-yard TD run. Lattimore has a chance to regain the No. 1 spot this week as South Carolina takes on Auburn, which ranks 112th nationally in rush defense.
Next up: Saturday vs. Auburn
Last week: 23-of-29 passing for 279 yards and four TDs in 41-21 win over Tulsa.
Season: 83-of-105 passing for 995 yards, 12 TDs and two INTs.
It was a short night of work for Moore, who left the game with 9:25 left in the third quarter. He delivered when the Broncos needed it most, going 7 of 9 for 133 yards and TD on third and fourth downs over the first two quarters and for the third straight game he hit nine different receivers. Moore wasn't perfect. He fumbled a snap and a handoff, but it was a strong warm-up as Boise State looks to exact a little payback against Nevada, which ended the Broncos' BCS title game aspirations last season.
Next up: Saturday vs. Nevada
Last week: 29-of-33 passing for 338 yards and five TDS; six rushes for 51 yards and one TD; one punt for 39 yards in 56-31 win over Rice.
Season: 70-of-82 passing for 962 yards and 13 TDs; 24 rushes for 167 yards and one TD; one reception for 15 yards.
If RG3 hasn't dazzled us enough, he's added another dimension to his game: punter. Griffin had a 39-yard boot on a quick kick, the only time Baylor punted against Rice. Of course it's Griffin's arm that has him in the Heisman hunt, and he continues to have more TD passes (13) than incompletions (12) and has gone 143 attempts without throwing an interception. It's early and he has yet to face a Big 12 opponent, but with a 236.2 passer rating, Griffin stands a chance to obliterate the FBS record of 186.0 Colt Brennan set in 2006.
Next up: Saturday at Kansas State
Last week: 19-of-25 passing for 345 yards and three TDs; five rushes for minus-two yards in 59-10 win over South Dakota
Season: 69-of-91 passing for 1,136 yards, 11 TDs and one INT; 16 rushes for 108 yards and one TD
In just three quarters of work, Wilson became the fourth Badger to throw for 300 or more yards in two straight games and the first with at least 325 yards twice in a season. He also threw for three TDs for the third week in a row, putting him well on his way to obliterating John Stocco's single-season school record of 21. It was a strong tune up for a spotlight game that could catapult him up this list as Wisconsin takes on Nebraska in the first meeting of top-10 teams at Camp Randall since 1962.
Next up: Saturday vs. No. 8 Nebraska
Last week: 8-of-17 passing for 93 yards and two INTs; 21 rushes for 200 yards and three TDs in 28-7 win over San Diego State.
Season: 35-of-72 passing for 624 yards, six TDs and six INTs; 71 rushes for 552 yards and five TDs.
Forget about the season-low 93 passing yards. Behind runs of 53 and 34 yards, Robinson posted his third straight 100-yard game and the third 200-yard game of his career to join Mike Hart and Ron Johnson as the only players in Michigan history to have three or more. He also bumped Juice Williams for second for most rushing yards by a Big Ten quarterback and now trails only Antwaan Randle-El on the alltime list.
Next up: Saturday vs. Minnesota
Last week: 35-of-48 passing for 448 yards, three TDs and two interceptions; four rushes for 11 yards and one TD in 38-28 win over Missouri.
Season: 88-of-122 passing for 1,022 yards, five TDs and four INTs; eight rushes for three yards and two TDs.
Jones bounced back from his lowest output in more than two seasons with one of his most prolific days as a Sooner. He lit up Missouri with his fifth 400-yard game, giving him 15 games with at least 300 yards to move ahead of Sam Bradford and Josh Heupel for the Oklahoma career record. But it was also Jones' second consecutive game in which he's thrown two interceptions as his passer rating dipped to 149.4, which ranks 33rd nationally and fifth among all Big 12 QBs.
Next up: Saturday vs. Ball State
Last week: 17 rushes for 126 yards; three receptions for 85 yards and one TD; one kick return for 24 yards in 38-14 win over No. 14 Arkansas.
Season: 67 rushes for 441 yards and eight TDs; nine receptions for 121 yards and one TD; one kick return for 19 yards.
For the first time this season Richardson failed to score a rushing TD, though he did rack up 235 all-purpose yards behind his third straight 100-yard game on the ground. He also had his third touchdown of 50-plus yards, this time on a 61-yard screen pass. It continued a string of success against the Razorbacks. As a freshman, he burned them on a 52-yard TD run and last season he had 110 total yards on just 10 touches. Richardson will face a stiff test this week in Florida, which is allowing just 56.5 yards on the ground, fifth nationally.
Next up: Saturday at No. 12 Florida
Last week: 23 rushes for 288 yards and two TDs; two receptions for 15 yards; three punt returns for 60 yards in 56-31 win over Arizona.
Season: 65 rushes for 613 yards and seven TDs; 11 receptions for 159 yards and one TD; five punt returns for 114 yards and one TD; one kick return for 21 yards.
Last season's rushing king reclaimed his crown -- and a spot on the Watchman's list -- in resounding fashion. James ran for 133 yards, including a 12-yard score, on 11 carries in the first quarter en route to breaking Ontario Smith's single game Ducks record of 257 yards and Derek Loville's mark of 42 career rushing TDs. He also moved up the Pac-12 career rushing list, bypassing Jacquizz Rodgers for sixth-most alltime with 3,890 yards. James gets a week off before facing, Cal, which hasn't allowed a back to hit 100 yards so far this season.
Next up: Thursday, Oct. 6 vs. Cal
Last week: 29-of-34 passing for 415 yards and two TDs in 56-0 win over Georgia State.
Season: 110-of-155 passing for 1,534 yards, 12 TDs and two INTs; 21 rushes for 18 yards.
Now only Timmy Chang stands between Keenum and a spot in NCAA history. He moved ahead of Dan LeFevour and Graham Harrell for second on the career yardage list at 16,000 yards and is just 910 away from Chang's alltime record. He got there in just 2 ½ quarters as he dominated a Georgia State defense that came in 90th in FCS in pass efficiency D for his 14th 400-yard game. With an average of 383.5 passing yards per game, Keenum's third season with at least 5,000 yards seems well within reach.
Next up: Thursday at UTEP