Here is another MNC Wednesday miniseries entry analyzing Heisman Trophy history, and in 55 seasons overall so far now, we have confirmed just 17 winners—which is pretty ridiculous, overall. We’re in the middle of an era where the sport’s powerbrokers were trying so hard to rig everything for cash that they ended up blowing it wide open with the introduction of a small playoff within a few seasons. This trend is reflected in the most recent Heisman votes, too, sadly, making the media complicit. No surprise.

2011 Heisman Trophy winner: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor (original); Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford (revised)

We are not sure how this happened, but Baylor Bears quarterback Robert Griffin III won the Heisman vote despite his team losing three conference games in the Big XII and ending up in a distant third place behind our MNC pick. RG3 certainly put up some eye-popping stats, though: 5,007 total yards with 47 touchdowns and just 6 interceptions for a 189.5 QB rating (second in the nation)—all against the No. 10 SOS. This earned the Bears only an Alamo Bowl bid against the 5-loss Washington Huskies.

As is often the case, there are always other quality candidates to consider, and this is our final list of firmly vetted Heisman candidates for the 2011 Heisman Trophy, a list that is long but somewhat bloated by circumstance as we detail below:

  • Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin: 3,569 total yards with 40 TDs and 4 INTs for a 191.8 QB rating (No. 53 SOS)
  • Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin: 2,286 total yards with 40 TDs
  • Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford: 3,680 total yards with 39 TDs and 10 INTs for a 169.7 QB rating (No. 30 SOS)
  • Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama: 2,083 total yards for 24 TDs (No. 17 SOS)
  • Matt Barkley, QB, USC: 3,542 total yards with 41 TDs and 7 INTs for a 161.2 QB rating (No. 23 SOS)
  • Case Keenum, QB, Houston: 5,666 total yards with 51 TDs and 5 INTs for a 174.0 QB rating (No. 104 SOS)
  • Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State: 3,800 passing yards with 43 TDs and 9 INTs for a 175.2 QB rating (No. 74 SOS)
  • LaMichael James, RB, Oregon: 2,175 total yards with 20 TDs (No. 27 SOS)
  • Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State: 1,529 receiving yards and 18 TDs (No. 3 SOS)

Somehow, Wilson finished just ninth in the Heisman voting despite leading the nation in QB efficiency and leading his team to a B1G title with its associated Rose Bowl berth. Yeah, we know the SOS is pretty middling, but still. Ninth?! It’s because his teammate in the backfield, Ball, had such a crazy season himself to finish fourth in the vote. But our key is this: Wilson didn’t play for the Badgers in 2010, and Ball literally doubled his yardage total with Wilson as his QB from the prior season. Enough said.

Meanwhile, Luck led the Cardinal to an 11-1 regular season and a berth in the Fiesta Bowl. Only a tiebreaker kept them out of the Pac-12 title game and a shot at the Rose Bowl. But the QB rating is lower than both Griffin and Wilson, so that’s a big ding. Richardson had a great season for the Crimson Tide, a team that didn’t even win their own division in the SEC—yet somehow still got invited to the BCS “Championship” Game over several other more-deserving teams. A lot of hype there, for sure.

The fact Richardson had one of his worst games of the year in the loss that cost Alabama a chance to win its conference is somewhat revealing, too. Elsewhere, Barkley led his team to the Pac-12 South Division title while playing a decent schedule. However, we see Luck’s season being better than Barkley’s year, overall. Also, Keenum’s season is nuts, but his team lost its conference title game as the No. 7 team in the country to get relegated to the Ticket City Bowl, whatever that is. He’s out.

Moore’s team lost one game by one point, finished No. 8 in the country, and got shunted to the Maaco Bowl. Yeah, the BCS really didn’t want smaller schools anywhere near its money grab, did it? But the SOS is eliminating enough for Moore’s Heisman hopes. Our winner from last season, James, had another great season for the Pac-12 champions who earned a Rose Bowl bid. The SOS is good enough to stay in this convo. Blackmon helped his team to the Big XII title and a Fiesta Bowl bid against an elite schedule.

How do we break down this list now? Well, the two Wisconsin players cancel each other out, even though Wilson’s presence was the key to Ball’s stunning season, as noted above. It’s just bad luck for Wilson in this analysis. Richardson finished sixth in the country for rushing yards, behind both Ball and James. We can’t take the “sixth-best” RB. Blackmon and James were the best at their positions, so we have to do the analysis on the QBs, and in the end, those three conference losses just sink RG3 in our minds.

So, it’s Luck, James, or Blackmon:

  • Blackmon played with a solid QB (4,727 passing yards and a 159.7 rating) and a good RB (1,482 total yards and 26 TDs)
  • James played with solid QBs (39 TDs, 7 INTs, around 160 rating total) and two fellow RBs who were awesome (299 ypg)
  • Luck played with a good RB (1,330 rushing yards) but no single receiver gaining more than 749 yards in the air

The thing that stands out to us here is James’ backfield mates were just as good as he was, in terms of effectiveness, even though he got most of the volume, and the Ducks had few decent receiving options (no one gained over 605 yards). The RBs made the QBs, but there were three RBs doing it together. James was the most experienced, but all three were very good; that reduces his value, tremendously. Meanwhile, Luck had a good RB next to him, but the Stanford receiving corps were nondescript nobodies.

Hmmm. It’s clear to us that the elite QB made Stanford’s offense go, and the one-loss Cardinal finished the regular season ranked No. 4 in the country, with a shared Pac-12 division title. The schedule strength was good enough, and Blackmon’s numbers weren’t dominant in his balanced, high-powered offense, even against that SOS, to warrant the Heisman. Luck carried the biggest load on the most successful team here in our analysis, and he deserves this hardware the most.

Congratulations to Andrew Luck, the real Heisman Trophy winner for 2011.