November 16, 2011

Heisman Watch: Cowboys at it again

Beware of Oklahoma State players who follow record-setters.

The Cowboys seem to have a knack for immediately replacing great players with greater ones.

the awards watch
A weekly look at the top three candidates for some key postseason awards.
Davey O'Brien
(top quarterback)
Doak Walker
(best running back)
Biletnikoff
(most outstanding wide receiver)
Mackey
(top tight end)
Rimington
(most outstanding center)
Outland
(best interior lineman)
Nagurski
(most outstanding defensive player)
Butkus
(most outstanding linebacker)
Thorpe
(most outstanding defensive back)
1. CB Morris Claiborne, LSU
2. SS Mark Barron, Alabama
3. CB David Amerson N.C. State
(NOTE: LSU CB Tyrann Mathieu is not one of the 15 semifinalists for the award.)
Lou Groza
(top kicker)
Ray Guy
(top punter)
1. Jackson Rice, Oregon
2. Ian Campbell, UTEP
3. Bobby Cohen, Idaho
(NOTE: Oklahoma State's Quinn Sharp is not one of the semifinalists for the award.)
In 1987, All-America running back Thurman Thomas departed Stillwater as the school's career rushing leader. The next season, his successor, Barry Sanders, set an NCAA single-season rushing record with 2,628 yards and won the Heisman.

Then, after All-American wide receiver Dez Bryant, who set a school record for single-season touchdown receptions, finished his career in 2009, Justin Blackmon stepped up and won the Biletnikoff Award.

The Cowboys are at it again.

Zac Robinson set 14 Oklahoma State records as the Cowboys' quarterback. When he completed his eligibility two seasons ago, he was replaced by Brandon Weeden, who has emerged as a strong contender in the Heisman race.

Weeden, 28, a former minor league baseball player, is in the top 10 in all the major passing statistical categories and has led the Cowboys to a perfect season so far.

"The Heisman has turned into a team award," Weeden said. "The guys that are up there and go to New York, they are usually on teams that win a lot of games. If I were to get a trip up there I would be stoked but that really just means we're winning games here and we're doing something special as a team."

They're absolutely doing that. The Cowboys are No. 2 in the BCS standings. If they defeat Iowa State on Friday and Oklahoma on Dec, 3, they will play in the BCS national championship game.

In that case, history would be on Weeden's side in the Heisman race: During the 14-season BCS era, seven quarterbacks who have led their teams into the championship game have won the Heisman (Auburn's Cameron Newton, Oklahoma's Sam Bradford and Jason White, Ohio State's Troy Smith, USC's Matt Leinart, Nebraska's Eric Crouch and Florida State's Chris Weinke). Weeden could make it eight.

The top five Heisman candidates this week:

1. QB Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State: In the past two weeks, he has completed 80.1 percent of his passes for 925 yards and nine touchdowns. For the season, Weeden has passed for 3,635 yards and 31 touchdowns.

2. QB Andrew Luck, Stanford: Though Stanford fell to Oregon in last week's showdown, Luck still threw for 256 yards and three touchdowns, though he also tossed two interceptions. Luck remains fifth in the nation in passing efficiency. He has passed for 2,695 yards and 29 touchdowns.

3. RB Trent Richardson, Alabama: He rushed for 127 yards and a touchdown in last week's 24-7 victory over Mississippi State. It was the seventh time this season he's exceeded 100 rushing yards. Richardson has gained 1,205 rushing yards and rushed for 18 touchdowns despite facing six defenses that ranked among the nation's top 40. He has 318 receiving yards, too.

4. QB Case Keenum, Houston: Keenum routinely faces some of the nation's weakest defenses, but the numbers he's posting cannot be ignored. Keenum leads the nation by averaging 395.1 passing yards per game. He has thrown for more than 300 yards and at least two touchdowns in every game. Overall, he has passed for 3,951 yards and 37 touchdowns with just three interceptions for the undefeated Cougars. He also is going to graduate with NCAA career records in yards, completions and TDs.

5. TB LaMichael James, Oregon: His 146-yard, three-touchdown performance against Stanford gets James back in the discussion. He has rushed for 1,207 yards and 12 touchdowns and leads the nation with an average of 150.9 rushing yards per game. But he missed two games and has been held to fewer than 70 yards three times.

Olin Buchanan is a senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com, and you can click here to follow him on Twitter.

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