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Pac-12 Confidential

Bud Withers offers an inside look at the Pac-12 Conference and the national college scene.

December 7, 2011 at 6:20 PM

And the winner of my Heisman ballot is . . .

This was a a tough one, tougher than I remember in a while. Most of the season, I was squarely in the Andrew Luck camp. Terrific quarterback, maybe the best in the league in almost 30 years. A true student-athlete, seemingly a guy who represents what’s good about college athletics.

Then the Oregon game happened Nov. 12, and Luck turned the ball over and looked very mortal. Now it was murky for me. In the next couple of weeks, I probably vacillated back to him, but in the end . . .

1. Robert Griffin III, Baylor.

2. Andrew Luck, Stanford.

3, Matt Barkley, USC.

I don’t think there’s any doubt that Luck is going to be hurt not only by Griffin’s late push (big games against Oklahoma and Texas), but by the fact Luck was out of sight, out of mind the final weekend. That happened just by the dumb luck of Baylor’s schedule, which gave Griffin a big opening against Texas.

In the Texas and Oklahoma games combined, Griffin, by my count, completed 36 passes for 799 yards. That’s a ridiculous average of 22 yards a completion. Griffin threw for 828 yards more than Luck.

Not that stats are the end-all, but Stanford never seemed inclined to let it loose with Luck, so his numbers tended to be modest. No doubt that had to do with its lack of big-time receivers.

That’s a factor that’s going to be much-discussed if Luck doesn’t win it — that there were probably eight or nine programs in the Pac-12 that had better wideouts. I’ll concede that readily. It’s just that it’s difficult to award a Heisman on the basis of what would have been otherwise. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to vote only on the basis of what we’re actually seeing.

Griffin has 36 touchdown passes, six interceptions, and he leads the NCAA in pass-efficiency. If he doesn’t fall off dramatically from that pace, he’ll break the PE record of Hawaii’s Colt Brennan (186.0). Griffin was also a running threat; he rushed for 644 yards, or a 4.0-per-carry average, including 188 yards of sacks.

Luck threw nine interceptions, a figure I think is troubling. You can bring this shortcoming back to the lack of great receivers. But I thumbed through the NCAA’s top-100 pass-efficiency leaders, and found 51 guys who have thrown fewer interceptions.

Luck’s supporters will also cite his acumen at the line of scrimmage, and, as his coach, David Shaw, has pointed out stridently, his ability in actually calling the plays during certain series. That’s significant stuff . . . but I think it’s hard for voters to quantify, and something I don’t know how to judge completely.

They talk about Heisman moments. Luck probably had his Oct. 1 against UCLA, with a one-handed catch of a pass on the sideline. Griffin had the Oklahoma and Texas games in the late-season. In today’s what-have-you-done-lately world, Heisman momentum seems important.

I thought it was significant that Luck has been, and seems to remain, the consensus No. 1 pick for the 2012 NFL draft. I don’t believe the Heisman should be selected on pro potential, but the fact the NFL savants recognize that he has prodigious talent was important to me.

In the end, though, it was performance against projection — what Luck and Griffin actually did this year, as opposed to how much we think Luck was penalized for not having phenomenal receivers. So for me: Griffin.

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