Originally written on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 11/23/11

The Heisman Award is supposed to go to the most outstanding player in college football, but in recent years, it’s been most often given to the most outstanding player on one of the best teams in college football that season. After a weekend of chaos in the BCS standings, several top-ranked teams have fallen in the rankings, creating confusion in the Heisman race as well.

While the race is still up in the air with just two weeks of voting remaining, the Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award finalists were announced Monday, offering some clarification to the pecking order of Heisman hopefuls.

As the projected #1 draft pick, Andrew Luck is the favorite for the Davey O'Brien Award and Heisman Trophy.

The Heisman Award is open to players from all positions, but the recent trend has been to give the trophy to quarterbacks;  eight of the last ten winners were quarterbacks. Of those eight, six won the Davey O’Brien Award the same year (the two exceptions: USC’s Carson Palmer in ’02 and Matt Leinart in ’04).

The 2011 O’Brien finalists – Houston’s Case Keenum, Baylor’s Robert Griffin III, and Stanford’s Andrew Luck – have all been part of the Heisman conversation in different capacities over the course of the season.

Luck was the preseason favorite who might take it wire-to-wire. He’s completing 70.3% of his passes, and has thrown 31 touchdowns and eight interceptions on the year. He’s the projected number one draft pick in 2012, but his Heisman stock has fallen ever so slightly since his less-than-stellar performance in Stanford’s loss to Oregon, 53-30.

Griffin burst onto the national scene in the first week of the season, when he and the Bears ran all over TCU on national television. Since then, Baylor is 7-3 and Griffin has blossomed into one of the elite quarterbacks in a quarterback-heavy class. He’s currently second in the nation in pass efficiency, completing 72.9% of his passes for 3,572 yards, 33 touchdowns, and just five interceptions on the season, and he’s one of the most exciting, dynamic players in the country.

Sixth-year senior Case Keenum burned through the NCAA passing records in 2011.

Of the three finalists, Case Keenum has the most impressive numbers, and he’s the only one quarterbacking a team that’s still undefeated with just one game left in the regular season. He’s thrown for 4,269 yards, 38 touchdowns, and just three interceptions all year, and he’s setting new records every week. Keenum holds the NCAA records for career touchdown passes, passing yards, career completions (1,427) and total offense (18,771 yards). A 2009 O’Brien finalist, he received a medical redshirt after being sidelined with a knee injury last season and has silenced anyone who doubted he could make a full recovery, but he’ll have to overcome the perception that he plays against weak competition each week in order to win.

While Keenum’s been known as a prolific passer for several seasons, Griffin is just beginning to emerge on the national scene, and he’s quickly become a big star. He’s doing it the right way, too, saving his best performances for the games when everyone’s watching, like the opener against TCU and last week’s upset of Oklahoma. If he can consistently play at the same level now that the spotlight’s on him, RGIII just might be the guy to beat.

 

Robert Griffin III catapulted himself onto the national scene when Baylor upset TCU and Oklahoma.

He’ll first have to overtake the guy to beat, Andrew Luck. As the top prospect in April’s draft, Luck has been the frontrunner for nearly every quarterback award, as well as the Heisman. For much of the season, it seemed like the honors were his to lose, but with competition like Keenum and Griffin, the race is far from over.

A lot of names are still being tossed around in the Heisman discussion, and while there’s a chance someone like Matt Barkley or Brandon Weeden could make a late run, the announcement of the O’Brien finalists just might have helped narrow the choices for some voters, and it’s safe to say Keenum, Griffin, and Luck will still be in the mix down the stretch.

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