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Baylor’s Griffin is the late Heisman Trophy favorite

By Chris Dufresne, Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES — The Heisman Trophy that seemed to be Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck’s to lose may be lost Saturday night to a Baylor quarterback.

Momentum in recent days has shifted swiftly and favorably toward Robert Griffin III.

Heismanpundit.com, an Internet site run by former USC assistant sports information director Chris Huston that tracks college football’s most coveted award, has predicted a victory for Griffin.

In a final survey of 13 Heisman voters, Griffin received eight first-place votes to four for Luck. Griffin received 32 points to Luck’s 23.

Griffin also bested Luck in a Heisman Watch survey by USA Today and several other straw polls.

Joining Griffin and Luck in New York for the 77th Heisman Trophy ceremony are Alabama running back Trent Richardson, Wisconsin tailback Montee Ball and Louisiana State defensive back Tyrann Mathieu.

More telling of this year’s race are the players who didn’t get invited to New York, namely quarterbacks Matt Barkley (USC), Kellen Moore (Boise State) and Case Keenum (Houston). Oregon running back LaMichael James ran for more than 200 yards four times this year but won’t hear his named called in New York.

“This was one of the more impressive fields in recent memory,” Huston wrote on his website.

Griffin had better statistics than Luck and is the more spectacular player. Griffin’s rating of 192.31 set an NCAA passing efficiency record. He completed 72 percent of his passes for 3,998 yards and 36 touchdowns, with only six interceptions. Griffin also rushed for 644 yards.

He also enjoyed a stand-alone moment last weekend against Texas with Luck completing his season a week before against Notre Dame.

Griffin closed with 320 yards passing and four total touchdowns in a 48-24 win.

“I think he’s done enough this season to win a Heisman,” Baylor coach Art Briles said after the game.

Luck finished second in Heisman balloting last year behind Auburn’s Cam Newton and entered this season as the front-runner. It was difficult for Luck to live up to the lofty expectations, but he came close. Luck passed for 3,170 yards and 35 touchdowns, with 153 yards rushing. Last year, Luck had 32 touchdown passes but ran for 453.

Stanford coach David Shaw has spent considerable time in recent weeks lauding Luck’s intangibles. Luck many times called his own plays and was perfect in the red zone with 26 touchdowns and no interceptions.

“There’s no player in America like him,” Shaw said recently. “There really isn’t. Forget the stats, forget about the comparisons with other guys or whatever.”

Luck did not help his cause with a two-interception, one-fumble performance in Stanford’s 53-30 home loss to Oregon on Nov. 12.

Griffin won the Davey O’Brien Award this week, awarded to the top quarterback, while Luck captured the Maxwell Award, given to college player of the year.

Luck would become only the fourth player to finish second in consecutive years while Stanford would be the first school to finish second three straight years (Toby Gerhart was runner-up to Mark Ingram in 2009).

Two of the finalists, Richardson and Mathieu, will face each other in this year’s Bowl Championship Series title game.

Richardson led Alabama with 1,583 yards and 20 rushing touchdowns; LSU’s Mathieu was a game-changer on defense, and as a punt returner. Mathieu recovered five fumbles, returning two for touchdowns and also had two scores on punt returns.

Wisconsin’s Ball is trying to be the first Badger to win the Heisman since Ron Dayne in 1999. He has 38 touchdowns this year, one short of Barry Sander’s NCAA record of 39.

___
©2011 the Los Angeles Times

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