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Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck is going to be the No. 1 pick in next year's NFL draft, but will he also get college football's top individual award?

Paul Sakuma, Associated Press

Scoggins: Worthy Heisman candidates cause writer's block

  • Article by: CHIP SCOGGINS
  • Star Tribune
  • December 2, 2011 - 11:45 PM

Online voting for the Heisman Trophy ends Monday afternoon. Ballot No. 748 remains blank.

That's because this voter is still torn over who deserves college football's most prestigious individual honor, though my list has been trimmed to single digits.

Most years the voting is fairly straightforward, the choice obvious by now or at least narrowed to a few. Not this season. No fewer than six candidates deserve serious consideration, their résumés worthy of a long, hard look.

Several get the opportunity to make a final impression Saturday. That could help alleviate the logjam. Maybe make the decision easier.

Heisman straw polls have fluctuated from week to week. No one has distanced himself from the pack, at least not enough to be declared the overwhelming favorite.

Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck began the season in that seat and has performed admirably under a bright spotlight and a catchy campaign of hope by depressed NFL fans. But ...

USC's Matt Barkley passed for more yards and touchdowns than Luck, with fewer interceptions. Which is impressive except ...

Houston's Case Keenum has nearly 5,000 yards passing and 43 touchdowns with only three interceptions for a 12-0 team. He didn't face elite competition in Conference USA, but those statistics would be gaudy in intramurals. However ...

Baylor's Robert Griffin III -- or RG3 for short -- might be the most dynamic player in college football. Yet ...

All Wisconsin running back Montee Ball does is score touchdowns. He has scored a Big Ten-record 34 touchdowns, which is more than 29 teams. Of course ...

We can't forget about Alabama's Trent Richardson, who accounted for 1,910 total yards and 23 touchdowns in college football's toughest conference.

"This is as jumbled as I've seen it this late," said Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com.

Even college football players disagree on who's the best player in their sport. In a poll of nine Gophers players, the voting was hardly unanimous: Three picked RG3, two Luck, two Keenum and two Richardson.

A spokesman for the Heisman Trophy Trust said that since online voting began in 2002, most ballots are submitted in the final 48 hours. Schools know it, too.

Wisconsin sent an e-mail late this week promoting Ball with a detailed list of his accomplishments compared to Richardson, who shrewdly never was mentioned by name. The subject line: "Why you should vote for Wisconsin's Montee Ball ahead of the other guy."

Schools often use gimmicks to promote players as Heisman candidates. Not sure that stuff works, but it speaks to the power and prestige of the award.

The sports world is saturated with individual honors, but the Heisman Trophy remains a cut above in its historical significance. One doesn't need to be a college football fan to recognize that. That's why voting for it remains a privilege and deserves full attention.

So is it Luck, the future No. 1 draft pick who completed 70 percent of his passes for 3,170 yards and 35 touchdowns?

Or Barkley, who threw a Pac-12-record 39 touchdown passes?

Or Ball, who ranks second in the nation in rushing (1,622 yards) and has scored the second-most touchdowns in a single season in NCAA history?

Or Griffin, who has accounted for 41 touchdowns and ranks second nationally in pass efficiency and total offense?

Or Richardson, who became the first running back in SEC history to rush for 20 touchdowns in a season?

Or Keenum, who set NCAA records for career total offense, passing yards and touchdown passes?

The Heisman ballot states that voting should be kept confidential until after the announcement. Not that it matters, because we're still going back and forth.

Maybe this is a year to go against conventional thinking and vote for LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, a wonderful player known affectionately as "Honey Badger."

Come to think of it, Honey Badger Heisman does have a nice ring to it.

Chip Scoggins •  ascoggins@startribune.com

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