Heisman Front Runners

22 Sep 2010

Editor’s note: Each Tuesday this season, one of ESPN.com’s Heisman Watch voters will offer his or her take on the Heisman Trophy race. On Sunday, TV analyst Dari Nowkhah will examine the race after Saturday’s action.

1. Denard Robinson, Michigan: After making his first mistake of the season — an interception on Michigan’s opening drive — Robinson did nothing else wrong and produced yet another huge performance in a Wolverines victory. He threw only four incomplete passes and racked up 345 total yards (241 pass, 104 rush) and three touchdowns against Massachusetts. Robinson’s improved passing is no fluke, and as a multidimensional player, he’ll be very tough to stop the rest of the season. He continues to lead the nation in rushing, but perhaps more importantly, he ranks 19th nationally in passing efficiency. Big numbers continue to be the norm for Robinson. Given Michigan’s defensive struggles, he needs to keep it up.

2. Kellen Moore, Boise State: Both Boise State and its quarterback need to be consistently impressive to maintain a high ranking, and Moore has met the challenge so far this season. After showing once again against Virginia Tech why he’s one of the nation’s best leaders, he put on the type of passing performance (370 yards, two touchdowns against Wyoming) necessary to remain part of the Heisman discussion. Moore needs similar stats against weak WAC defenses, but his candidacy will be determined largely by his play Saturday night against No. 24 Oregon State. The national spotlight will be focused on the Broncos and Moore, and they all need to step up.

3. Ryan Mallett, Arkansas: It’s one thing to be loved by the pro scouts and another to perform in big games. Mallett satisfied both objectives Saturday in leading Arkansas to a huge road win over Georgia. The Razorbacks quarterback had the most impressive performance of any Heisman contender, completing 21 of 33 passes for 380 yards and three touchdowns. But we really saw what Mallett is all about when he led the winning drive and found Greg Childs for the decisive touchdown after Georgia mounted a fourth-quarter rally. Mallett could really help his Heisman cause this week against top-ranked Alabama in Fayetteville.

4. Terrelle Pryor, Ohio State: If not for Pryor’s two interceptions this past Saturday, we’d be talking about his best overall performance as a Buckeye. He set a team record with 16 consecutive completions against Ohio and passed for 235 yards and two touchdowns. After Pryor’s completion percentage dipped to 56.6 percent in 2009, his accuracy so far this season has been very encouraging. He still makes too many risky throws and was fortunate not to get picked off in Ohio State’s first two games. If Pryor can limit those mistakes and continue to make good decisions with his passing and know when to take off and scramble, he should stay in the Heisman mix.

5. Andrew Luck, Stanford: The Stanford quarterback has played his way right into this race. Luck did it all against Wake Forest, accounting for five total touchdowns (four pass, one rush) and complementing his superb passing skills with an impressive 52-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. Cardinal coach Jim Harbaugh said Luck “played a flawless game,” and the box score backs it up. Luck will receive some much-needed national attention this week against a very vulnerable Notre Dame defense in South Bend. Another big performance would be huge for Luck’s candidacy before he and the Cardinal visit Eugene on Oct. 2 to face Pac-10 front-runner Oregon.