The 2011 Heisman Trophy Watch is in full effect as the college football season enters its final weeks.
In recent years, there has been a clear favorite, but this season has a large collection of candidates with a strong chance to win.
The Heisman Memorial Trophy Award is given each year to a player deemed the most outstanding player in collegiate football. The highly coveted award will be presented Dec. 10, 2011, just before the postseason bowl games.
Candidates are primarily chosen by sports writers, whom Heisman.com calls informed, competent, and impartial, but the voting also includes former Heisman winners and fan votes on ESPN.com.
Though players of all ages and divisions are eligible for the award, winners are usually upperclassmen from Division I schools, with Tim Tebow being the first sophomore to win the college football award in 2007.
This year, seven candidates are gunning for a big payoff in Heisman Watch 2011, with the finalists traveling to New York to await the committee's decision.
The top candidates include Andrew Luck (QB - Stanford), Trent Richardson (RB - Alabama), Brandon Weeden (QB - Oklahoma State), Case Keenum (QB - Houston), LaMichael James (RB - Oregon), Kellen Moore (QB - Boise St.), and Robert Griffin III (QB - Baylor).
Here is a breakdown of the leading Heisman candidates.
1. Andrew Luck (Quarterback, Stanford University, Junior)
Season Rundown: 241-of-343 passing for 2,937 yards, 31 TDs and eight INTs; 39 rushes for 133 yards and two TDs; one reception for 13 yards
This Week: Luck threw for 257 yards and two touchdown passes despite sloppy playing conditions against a struggling Cal team.
Heisman Watch 2011 Chances: For all his consistency, Luck has never quite dominated this season. Luck probably needs a big performance against Notre Dame on Nov. 22, to sway voters.
2. Trent Richardson (Running Back, University of Alabama, Junior)
Season Rundown: 236 rushes for 1,380 yards and 20 TDs; 26 receptions for 322 yards and two TDs; three kick returns for 66 yards.
This Week: Richardson was on fire. Alabama's Crimson Tide heavily relied on their star running back as Richardson raked up a career-high 32 carries for the second straight game.
Heisman Watch 2011 Chances: Richardson now has 20 rushing touchdowns on the season, which is certainly impressive. Another big effort from Richardson, and he could eclipse the yardage of former teammate and 2009 Heisman winner Mark Ingram. Ricahrdson already has more touchdowns than Ingram.
3. Brandon Weeden (Quarterback, Oklahoma State, Senior)
Season Rundown: 355-of-486 passing for 4,111 yards, 34 TDs and 12 INTs
This Week: Oklahoma State saw their chances to play at the BCS National Championship end this week, as Iowa State scored a 37-31 victory. Numerous turnovers however, couldn't distract from Weeden's excellent performance despite the loss, with the Oklahoma State senior passing for 476 yards and three touchdowns.
Heisman Watch 2011 Chances: Weeden has been on a meteoric rise this season. The quarterback has thrown for over 1,000 yards in the past three games alone, as well as 12 touchdown passes. But his effort against Iowa State didn't help his chances. Weeden's three interceptions were glaring as Oklahoma State may have lost out on a BCS title bid. His mistakes may have even cost him a trip to New York, but he's still in contention after seven games of racking up 350 yards or more.
4. Case Keenum (Quarterback, University of Houston, Senior)
Season Rundown: 309-of-421 passing for 4,269 yards, 38 TDs and three INTs; 41 rushes for 106 yards and three TDs
This Week: Keenum continues to shine. Houston remains undefeated after its 37-17 win over SMU. Keenum was a big part of that victory, completing 30-of-45 passes for 318 yards and a touchdown.
Heisman Watch 2011 Chances: Keenum's statistics are astounding. His worst game of the season was against Louisiana Tech, where he still managed to throw for 351 yards. Against Rice, Keenum threw nine touchdown passes and for 534 yards. Despite these almost cartoonish statistics, the Cougars have played weak competition, and it will be difficult to look past that. Houston has yet to face a single Top 25 team, but Friday's game against Tulsa (8-3) should be Keenum's first real test of the season.
5. LaMichael James (Running Back, University of Oregon, Junior)
Season Rundown: Rushing 1,285 yards, 13 TDs, 7.4 YPC; 14 receiving, 180 yards and one TD.
This Week: Oregon's loss to USC were a major blow to James's chances, and the speedy running back didn't do much to help his cause. He ran for just 78 yards and a touchdown, and was overshadowed by Kenjon Barner, who rushed for 123 yards and two touchdowns. James also fumbled inside the USC 10 yard-line, just before halftime.
Heisman Watch 2011 Chances: James's Heisman chances always seemed to be difficult to gauge as Oregon's high-octane style is more about the team effort rather than individual play. Like Weeden, last week's loss may have severely hurt his chances with Oregon out of the BCS title picture.
6. Kellen Moore (Quarterback, Boise State, Senior)
Season Rundown: 248-of-336 passing for 2,915 yards, 35 TDs and six INTs
This Week: Moore completed 28 passes on 48 attempts, to go along with four touchdown passes in the Broncos' route of San Diego State.
Heisman Watch 2011 Chances: Moore will probably get added consideration based on his career with Boise State. With two more games against Wyoming and lowly New Mexico, the four-year starter will get to pad his stats to finish with more than 40 touchdown passes. Like James, though, Heisman voters tend to undercut an individual's performance if they're in a high-scoring offense. Moore will need voters to recall his strong effort against No. 13 Georgia, which represents the only prestigious program the Broncos beat this season.
7. Robert Griffin III (Quarterback, Baylor University, Junior)
Season Rundown: 236 rushes for 1,380 yards and 20 TDs; 26 receptions for 322 yards and two TDs; three kick returns for 66 yards
This Week: In a season known more for its steady plays than for fantastic Heisman moments, RG3, as he is affectionately known, may have already delivered his signature moment of the season. With seconds left in a tied game against the fifth-ranked Sooners, Griffin's 24-yard run, and his game-winning touchdown pass to Terrance Williams were among the most memorable plays in the program's history. Saturday's win as Baylor's first victory over Oklahoma in 21 tries.
Heisman Watch 2011 Chances: Griffin's most recent plays have broken many of his own records, so his legend continues to grow in Waco. If Heisman voters didn't know about Griffin before the Oklahoma game, they sure do now.
Our Pick for 2011 Heisman Trophy
ESPN ranks Andrew Luck and Trent Richardson at the top, while Sports Illustrated and several sports bloggers are placing their bets on new hotshots like RG3, and rising stars like Case Keenum.
For Heisman Watch 2011, we're placing our bets on Trent Richardson, with Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck fighting for second.
Richardson is statistically dominant, his team is strong, and his record-breaking moves are accompanied by consistently solid supporting plays this season.
Griffin is still relatively new to the field, and is a bit of a wild card. His recent stellar plays make him an unexpectedly strong contender -- something that can be rewarded by journalists' votes.
Luck deserves consideration simply because of how much Stanford rely on their senior quarterback. The Cardinal have played tough competition this season, and Luck has not let them down.
In the end, Richardson is the best player on one of the best teams in the nation and has huge stats to back his bid, and that willl likely be enough to win the 2011 Heisman Trophy.