With the lone exception of Tim Tebow in 2007, the Heisman race in the past decade has not been about the "most outstanding player" in college football. Rather, its been the best player on the best team or, as is the case this season, the player with the brightest NFL future. Heisman votes everywhere need to reconsider what the award is meant to represent. The Heisman is for the BEST player in the nation, regardless of his future NFL prospects or his team's chances of winning the National Championship.
From the outset of the 2011 season, Andrew Luck has been considered the frontrunner for the top college football honor, and with good reason. In 2010, Luck finished the season with outstanding numbers in leading Stanford to an Orange Bowl victory. But, thus far in 2011, Luck has struggled in big games. Everyone raves about Luck's comeback drive against USC to force OT, but why was that drive needed? Because Luck threw a costly (and terrible) pick six that handed USC the go ahead score. The following game, against a lowly Oregon State Beaver team, Luck threw a second pick six that would have given the Beavers the lead in the second quarter, but it was called back for a (bogus) "targeting" penalty on a Beaver defensive back. Finally, in the biggest game of Stanford's season, Luck fell apart against a lackluster Oregon defense. He tossed two INTs (including ANOTHER pick six) and Stanford was embarrassed on national television.
Still think Luck is the "most outstanding" college player this season? Consider the fact that he is not even the center of his own offense. Stanford is first and foremost a power running team. That's best displayed in the fact that he only threw for 169 yards in a 65-21 romping over Washington. The running backs and offensive line won that game. Luck also only threw for 171 yards against San Jose State and 206 yards against Oregon State. Luck has surpassed 300 yards just four times in 10 games. He has thrown six interceptions (should be seven if that OSU one counted) in his last six games. And he lost (convincingly) the biggest game on Stanford's schedule. Luck may have the brightest future of any player in college in 2011, but he is not the "most outstanding" individual player this season.
Who do I offer as the "most outstanding?" The individual I truly believe to be the best in the business this season: Case Keenum of Houston. Keenum is 100% the center of the offense at Houston. Every team he plays knows EXACTLY what he is going to do. There is no running threat. His offensive line is mediocre at best. His receivers are generally equally matched up with the Conference USA defensive backs they are facing. And still, Keenum has thrown for 300+ yards in each of his 10 games, 400+ yards in four games, and threw for 534 yards in a dissection of the Rice secondary in a 73-34 win. Keenum currently ranks first in the NCAA in passing yards and touchdowns and ranks second in quarterback rating. Yes, the opposition he is facing is lackluster compared to the defenses faced by quarterbacks in BCS conferences. BUT, the point people fail to consider: the players surrounding him on offense are equal to the talent-level of the defenses he is facing! He, Case Keenum, is the one making the difference. Without Keenum, what would happen to Houston? Luckily, we can just look to last season. Houston went 3-7 in games without their quarterback last season, proving, as a team, they are as mediocre as the competition they are facing. Keenum is the the difference maker. Without him, the team falls apart.
Consider this: Which of the following teams falls apart without their potential Heisman contender - Alabama (Trent Richardson), Oklahoma State (Justin Blackmon), Oregon (LaMichael James), Boise State (Kellen Moore). The only argument to be made of those contenders is Kellen Moore of Boise State, but I think they would win out their remaining games without him. In Houston, though, it's all about Mr. Keenum. It's time for Heisman voters to reconsider how they vote for this award. If they really want to give it to the "most outstanding" player in the nation, they should look beyond the BCS and National Championship contenders and give it to the most deserving player in the nation: Case Keenum.