Blog Entry

Fischer's Heisman vote: RGIII, Luck, Moore

Posted on: December 9, 2011 2:27 pm
Edited on: December 9, 2011 2:29 pm

Posted by Bryan Fischer

Earlier this year, I was given the prestigious honor of voting for the Heisman Trophy for the first time. The award's illustrious history of selecting the country's most outstanding player has been well chronicled and I was happy to lend my expertise. As the weeks went by however, it became clear that this would be among the most difficult votes in some time - there was no runaway favorite like Cam Newton this year.

There did seem to be some resolution towards the end of the season but, in talking with other voters, it became clear that there was no easy pick. After sitting down and looking at stats, highlights and other things, who to vote number one became pretty clear. It was spots two and three (you only have three spots on your ballot) that caused me the most angst. Without further ado, my Heisman ballot and why I voted for them.

1. Robert Griffin III, quarterback, Baylor

Like my colleague Bruce Feldman, it's difficult to wrap your head around the fact that a player from Baylor is the most outstanding player in college football. I grew up in Texas and it always seemed the Bears were the ones everybody scheduled for homecoming. Thanks to the Big 12 television deal they were rarely on television unless they were playing a major school. Baylor, for most college football fans across the country, was irrelevant before Griffin burst onto the scene.

During September, the nation was transfixed on what, exactly, RGIII was doing but figured he couldn't keep it up. The first three games he was completing 85% of his passes, had 13 touchdown passes and no picks and flirted with a touchdown-incompletion ratio that was unheard of. The opener against No. 14 TCU was Baylor's first win over a ranked team since 2004 and the signal-caller was the chief reason why. Many expected the close loss to Kansas State to end any hopes of him making it to New York but in the deepest league in the country (sorry SEC fans), Griffin won nine games despite the Bears defense being ranked in the 100's in most major defensive categories. Safe to say that without RGIII, the Bears would have been 3-9.

What sealed the deal for me was the game-winning drive to beat Oklahoma for the first time in school history and an efficient game against what was the 9th-best defense in the country at the time in Texas to end the year. It's rare for any player in the conference to beat both schools but RGIII did accomplish the rare feat. He finished first in the country in passing efficiency with what would be an NCAA record 192.31 rating, edging out Russell Wilson despite attempting 85 more passes. He also finished second in the country in total offense and led the nation in points responsible for.

In January, Griffin was invited to speak at the NCAA convention in San Antonio by new president Mark Emmert. He was lauded for his achievements outside athletics such as getting a degree in three years and beginning his masters' with sights set on law school not his backup plan to the NFL, but his primary one. The attention and applause were genuine on that chilly day at the convention, just as it should be Saturday in New York City when he likely accepts the Heisman Trophy. On and off the field this year, Robert Griffin III was my pick for the most outstanding college football player.

2. Andrew Luck, quarterback, Stanford

He was supposed to be a shoe-in for this award. For most of the year, it looked like he wouldn't lose the Heisman, even if he didn't necessarily win it. I saw Luck up close several times this season and can confirm that he's the best quarterback in college football. He throws on the run better than anybody, his pocket awareness is uncanny, he calls his own plays and - like RGIII - has taken a program lacking success and turned it into a winner.

The Cardinal are 23-2 over the past two seasons and that is almost entirely due to Luck. Unfortunately his worst game of the year came when he needed it most, against Oregon. Even then, he threw for three touchdowns and the team was in things for three quarters. The offense scored fewer than 30 points just once all year - against Notre Dame when they could have topped the mark had they tried - and was more balanced than any other in the country as coaches had no issues sticking to running the ball if it was working.

A lot of people turn the Heisman race into a stats race. Luck's were good (3,170 yards passing, 35 touchdowns, 9 interceptions) but didn't top others. The thing I always kept in mind was what he did given the talent around him. Sure he had a good offensive line, so did Trent Richardson, Montee Ball, Wilson and Griffin. Nobody, however, put up the kind of numbers Luck did throwing to three tight ends who didn't have separation speed and with his best wide receiver sitting on the sidelines the second half of the year. Griffin had the dynamic Kendall Wright, Luck had Griff Whalen. That was a factor in my mind.

By all measures, he was outstanding this season but fell just short of being the most outstanding player in college football. He put up more points against USC in that school's history (against some defensive coordinator name Monte Kiffin) and had he had good defense, might be playing for the national title. He is the only quarterback ever to go undefeated against USC and Notre Dame. Listen to head coach David Shaw state his case for the quarterback and you can't help but consider him worthy of this award. I couldn't put him above RGIII so Luck wound up second on my ballot.

3. Kellen Moore, quarterback, Boise State

For many seeing this, the thought is that I gave Moore the third spot as a career achievement award. I did not.

For most of the week leading up to voting I had a running back (Ball or Richardson) penciled in.  But before I was making my choices I looked again at what the diminutive but excellent quarterback had done this year. Statistically he was great: 300-of-405 passing (74%), 3,507 yards, 41 touchdowns and seven picks. I watched a lot of Boise State games this year (even the blowouts) and know that most of the numbers were accomplished in three quarters or less. A great season was hampered by the loss to TCU but it's safe to say that Moore did all he could game-in and game-out to lead the Broncos to another top 10 ranking.

Moore's best strength this year was spreading the ball around. He lost his two best receivers from last season but didn't lose a step despite several of his young pass catchers dealing with drops from time-to-time. The running game wasn't as good but Moore made up for it through the air. Were it not for a one-point loss to a good team, he'd be in New York this year.

There were three things that caused me to put the quarterback on my ballot ahead of others however. The first was just the way he played. He's good as much as every person in the country likes to knock him for the competition he faces. He'd be the best quarterback in most power conferences, easily, and can drop the ball in on downfield routes perfectly. Second, he became the NCAA's all-time, winningest quarterback at the FBS level. How is that not outstanding? There's no knocking a winner, which Moore rightfully is. Finally, as a starting quarterback Moore has never trailed by more than seven points his entire career. Never. The combined margin of defeat in his three losses total is just five points. Those are just jaw-dropping stats and a measure of someone who not only starts good but doesn't panic if put into a difficult situation.

Moore was great this season and if you sort through it all, you'd see that too.

Why I didn't vote for them (in the order I would have)

Montee Ball, running back, Wisconsin: Ball was on my ballot for the stretch run but fell just short after considering Moore. He led the country in rushing with 1,759 yards and in scoring with 17.54 points per game. His 38 touchdowns is just one shy of Barry Sanders' record and more than 45 entire teams. It hurt that Russell Wilson was the man Wisconsin picked to campaign for earlier in the year but Ball without a doubt had a season to remember and was an outstanding college football player in 2011.

Matt Barkley, quarterback, USC: I wanted to put Barkley in my top three because he has not only been outstanding on the field leading USC back to the top 10, but he has been the face of the program that was put through the ringer. He set a school and conference record for touchdown passes in a season and tossed six TDs in a game twice. It was a season for the ages but he was hampered by a very slow start to the year, the Arizona State game and the head-to-head loss to Luck.

Trent Richardson, running back, Alabama: He was the best offensive player in the SEC and a great player who I'd want on my team in a heartbeat but I didn't think Richardson was the best running back in the country. He played only four games against schools with a winning record and faced just two defenses ranked in the top 40 against the rush. 46% of his yards came against North Texas, Ole Miss, Georgia Southern and Auburn and nearly the same percentage of his touchdowns came against those four defensive powerhouses. I get that he was hurt at times and shared carries; Richardson is a great player but just wasn't the best this season.

Tyrann Mathieu, cornerback, LSU: I love the Honey Badger - he's a game changer unlike any other in the way he forces turnovers and returns kicks. That said, he wasn't the most outstanding player on his own team (punter Brad Wing was) and wasn't even the best player in the secondary (Morris Claiborne was). His coverage skills were solid but not spectacular and had he not had two big games against Arkansas and Georgia to end the season, wouldn't have been invited to New York. The suspension during the season also played a factor.

Others under consideration: Case Keenum, Houston; LaMichael James, Oregon; Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State.


Since: Dec 10, 2011
Posted on: December 10, 2011 9:23 pm

Fischer's Heisman vote: RGIII, Luck, Moore

While the Heisman voting has turned into as big a farce as BCS rankings, wishing a player gets hurt and never plays again is as tasteless as you accuse Griffin as being arrogant.  Most SEC fans display a little more class than that.  And the correct spelling is H-E-I-S-M-A-N. 

Since: Apr 13, 2008
Posted on: December 10, 2011 9:05 pm

Fischer's Heisman vote: RGIII, Luck, Moore

Once again,Rush Limbaugh is correct.

Since: Aug 12, 2006
Posted on: December 10, 2011 8:59 pm

Fischer's Heisman vote: RGIII, Luck, Moore

Bull NCAA should force schools to play final game prior to The Championship games. You don't get the spotlight unless you deserve it. RG# what a ego maniac. I hope he gets hurt and can't Play football EVER again! Baylor enjoy your Hiesman rip off! We will NEVER See you in a National Championship game.

Since: Aug 12, 2006
Posted on: December 10, 2011 8:51 pm

Fischer's Heisman vote: RGIII, Luck, Moore

Bama should move to Big twelve oops 10 oops 9 oop 8 oop 9 oops 10 ooops oh yea stayed 10 for a week now so We right. Anyway Move there Trent rushes for 3,000 yards and everyone talks about how great his team is. Of course Bama wins confrence every yr and goes undefeated to NC game.

Since: Oct 13, 2011
Posted on: December 10, 2011 8:25 pm

Fischer's Heisman vote: RGIII, Luck, Moore

Richardson was the funnest to watch in my opinion.

Since: Oct 13, 2011
Posted on: December 10, 2011 8:24 pm

Fischer's Heisman vote: RGIII, Luck, Moore

Seems like RG# JR's to lose. As long as we dont have to listen to Billy Simms yelling "BOOMER, SOONER!"

Since: Dec 10, 2011
Posted on: December 10, 2011 8:13 pm

Fischer's Heisman vote: RGIII, Luck, Moore

And the church said, "Amen!"

Since: Dec 10, 2011
Posted on: December 10, 2011 7:59 pm

Fischer's Heisman vote: RGIII, Luck, Moore

It's difficult for me to find any sound logic in your rationale.  While Griffin is a good player who has had a great year, two of his first three games were against a subdivision team (formerly NCAA Division II), Stephen F. Austin, and Conference USA doormat Rice. 

You discount Trent Richardson's achievements because a sizable percentage of his accomplishments came against what you consider questionable competition.  Yet, Andrew Luck plays in a weak conference (Pac 12), and in the only game that Stanford played that mattered this year (against Oregon), Luck was humbled for the second year in a year--this time, at home.  Noting that he is the only QB to go undefeated against USC and Notre is not a mark of distinction when you consider USC is on probation and Notre Dame is just mediocre.  Notre Dame was totally outclassed at home by the University of South Florida ( a program still in its infancy), and it couldn't keep Michigan from marching down the entire field with less than a minute to play.

Your argument against voting for Monte Ball (his university campaigned for another player) is ridiculous!  Does his university control your vote?  Ball's accomplishments against stiffer competition than Griffin or Luck speak volumes.  In fact, I would even vote Russell Wilson ahead of Luck this year, because it's about this year's performance, not last year's.

You argue that Stanford and Baylor are teams that only have one player each--Luck and Griffin.  Well, unless they are also blocking for themselves, catching their own passes, and making tackles and interceptions, your sweeping dismissals of their teams and coaches are amateurish.  I am not disputing the talent and skill of these players, but your assertions read more like a starry-eyed juvenile fan than a journalist with insight into the game.  I'm sure Baylor would have won more than three games without Griffin, as there are more than three cupcakes on its schedule.

You also write that there's more to factor in than stats but go on to list a bevy of stats to support your argument.  Well, here's a stat for you.  This season, Case Keenum threw for more than 5,000 yards for the third time in his career.  I don't want to hear about how much tougher the Pac 12 is, because outside of Oregon and Stanford, most of the league has been downright awful over the past few years.  I also don't want to hear about how deep the Big 12 is, because no one plays defense in that league.  It's a quarterback and wide receiver's dream!  I'm inclined to respect Tyler Wilson's 3,400 passing yards a bit more because the SEC plays lockdown defense.

Now, let's turn for the most ridiculous argument of all--Tyrann Mathieu's supsenson impact on Heisman voting.  There have been many in media who have argued that Mathieu's suspension hurt his Heisman chances.  If the argument revolved around the spirit of the Heisman and what it respresents, then maybe, I would consider it a valid point.  But, to suggest that because he missed ONE game and couldn't produce more Heisman-worthy statistics is just asinine!  His team has played 13 games this season.  Because of Mathieu's one-game suspension, he's played in 12.  Oregon and Wisconsin are the only other teams in the BCS top 10 that have played 13.  Griffin and Luck have only played in 12 games this season, as well.  Yet, your arguments why Mathieu doesn't deserve the Heisman do not make much sense.  According to you, he's not the best corner.  His teammate is.  According to you, he's not even the best player on his team.  LSU's punter is.

Well, here's a question for you.  Is there another player in college football who has made more game-changing plays in big games this year than Tyrann Mathieu?  It's much easier for QBs and RBs to gain Heisman recognition and consideration, because they dominate possession of the football.  It's statistically much more difficult to factor in teams not throwing to a Charles Woodson, the only DB to ever win the Heisman.  It's also much more difficult to factor in the emotional lift Mathieu provides LSU with a huge punt return, a forced fumble, or broken-up pass play.  Mathieu played and made huge impacts against more top-ranked opponents than anybody else in the running for the Heisman.

Here's the Heisman Trust mission statement:

"The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit

of excellence with integrity. Winners epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance, and hard work."

It would be wonderful if voters and seasoned journalists would start there instead of with the hype of the previous season.  It never shouldn't have been Luck's to lose, but his to win.  There's a big difference, and the inherent bias of journalists proclaiming (throughout the end of last season and beginning of this one) the Heisman was Luck's to lose tarnishes the voting process as much as the broken BCS system itself.

Since: Sep 3, 2007
Posted on: December 10, 2011 7:28 pm

Fischer's Heisman vote: RGIII, Luck, Moore

Its between RGIII and Monte Ball in my opinion.  They are the best two college players in the country at their respective positions.  While Luck is going to be a stud in the pros and was in college, he didnt do anything that tells me that he should surpass the leader in pass efficiency and offensive yards in RGIII.  Richardson is a total bad ass for sure, but Ball has better numbers from top to bottom.  If you are not the best at your position then you cannot win the Heisman.  Still think that Gerhart should have taken home the Heisman over Ingram in 2009.  More yards and carried the whole load while Ingram had a one two punch with Richardson.  Take into account Toby ran behind a Stanford line and you have yourself a shoe in any other year that Bama wasnt in the title game.

Honey Badger is exciting, but lets face it, it takes more than a few key punt returns to get the Heisman for the entire year.  Try taking snaps under center for every play and consistently picking teams apart, or being the workhorse like Ball or Richardson.  Great player, not heisman material from the guy out of LSU.

Dont know why Moore is on the short list, pathetic call. 

My ballot would be 1) RGIII, 2) Monte Ball, 3) Trent Richardson/Luck, 4) Mathieu, and 5) Matt Barkley.    &nb

Since: Sep 30, 2008
Posted on: December 10, 2011 7:28 pm

If Suh wasn't worthy last yr..........

I don't see how any defender ever could be.................Suh should have won. He was the best player in CF.

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