Point/counterpoint: Who will win the 2011 Heisman Trophy?

BY DI STAFF | AUGUST 30, 2011 7:20 AM

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Andrew Luck, Stanford QB

In bypassing the NFL draft and giving up potentially millions of dollars, Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck has solidified himself as the front-runner to receive the 2011 Heisman Trophy.

There’s good reason Luck is the preseason favorite, too. The Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year earned second place in Heisman voting last season, losing to national champion and eventual overall No. 1 draft pick Cam Newton.

In his college career, Luck has turned a once-ailing Stanford program into a national-title contender.

Luck put up excellent numbers last season, throwing for 3,338 yards and 32 touchdowns against just eight interceptions. He led Stanford to a 12-1 record and broke John Elway’s school touchdown-pass record.

Luck showed he has some wheels as well, scampering for 453 yards and an additional three touchdowns.

Although the Cardinal lost former head coach Jim Harbaugh to the NFL, the Woody Hayes Coach of the Year award-winner’s absence will hardly be noticed on campus. Offensive coordinator Donald Shaw takes the helm this year, and Luck’s numbers should only improve.

Three of Luck’s top five pass-catchers will be returning this season, as is starting running back Stepfan Taylor. With all of these returning weapons, creating fireworks in Palo Alto should be no problem.

Stanford’s excellent defense and talent on both sides of the ball should allow it to streak through a relatively weak Pac-12 schedule. Don’t be surprised to see an undefeated Cardinal team contending for the national title later this season.

— by Ben Ross

Landry Jones, Oklahoma QB

Last year, Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones was honored with the Sammy Baugh Award as the country’s best passer.

This year, the redshirt junior will not only be the best quarterback in the nation, he’ll be the most outstanding player in Division-I.

In other words, Jones will win the Heisman Trophy.

While some may argue for Oregon’s LaMichael James, Stanford’s Andrew Luck, Alabama’s Trent Richardson, or South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore as eventual winners, Jones’ situation is much friendlier for a run at the Heisman.

The 22-year-old is coming off an impressive first full year as the starter in Norman, Okla. He threw for 4,718 yards and 38 touchdowns, ranking second nationally in both categories. Given that Jones led the country in completions (405) and attempts (617) in 2010, coupled with the graduation of do-it-all running back DeMarco Murray, Jones should be given every opportunity to throw often and produce as much — if not more — than last season.

Jones’ biggest weapon on the outside will be All-American wideout Ryan Broyles. Arguably the most prolific receiver to ever wear the Crimson and Cream, the senior has caught the most touchdowns (35) and passes (206) and has the most receiving yards (3,429) in Sooner history.

Another plus for Jones: Outside of Oklahoma’s trip to Florida State in the second week of the season, the Sooners have a favorable schedule. The team plays both No. 21 Missouri and No. 8 Texas A&M at home, a place Bob Stoops’ team has won 36-consecutive games.

It also helps that Jones will play big games in prime time or on national TV at least five times, with the potential for more. In other words, he’ll have ample opportunities to become a household name.

And at season’s end, that name will be prefaced with “Heisman Trophy winner.”

— by Ben Schuff

Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina RB

South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore entered the Gamecocks’ lineup last season and started as a true freshman.

This season, the sophomore tailback aims to do something else: win the Heisman Trophy as college football’s best player.

The native of Duncan, S.C., electrified the nation last year as perhaps the most dominant freshman tailback in college football since Oklahoma’s Adrian Peterson in 2004.

The unanimous choice for National Freshman of the Year led the Gamecocks with 1,197 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns. Lattimore also showed he was a reliable receiver out of the backfield for quarterback Stephen Garcia — he caught 29 balls for 412 yards and two scores.

Lattimore has bulked up to around 232 pounds after playing last season at around 218, which doesn’t bode well for SEC defenders.

In only his second career game, against Georgia, he toted the rock 37 times for 182 yards and two touchdowns. He also had 40 carries, 212 yards, and three touchdowns against the Florida Gators.

In that game, he put the team on his back by single-handedly outgaining and outscoring the entire Florida team by himself.

The sophomore sensation is poised for even a bigger year for South Carolina, and he will take pressure off of Garcia and star receiver Alshon Jeffery with his ability to generate big plays.

Similar to former sophomore Heisman winners Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow, and Mark Ingram, Lattimore is ready for the big stage. This season, he will prove why he’s the best running back in the country — and be rewarded for his efforts.

— by Ben Wolfson

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