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September 21, 2011

Heisman Watch: Luck shows his skill

While throwing for 325 yards in a 37-10 victory over Arizona, Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck increased his career total of touchdown passes to 53.

the awards watch
A weekly look at the top three candidates for some key postseason awards.
Davy O'Brien
(top quarterback)
Doak Walker
(best running back)
Biletnikoff
(most outstanding wide receiver)
Mackey
(top tight end)
Rimington
(most outstanding center)
Outland
(best interior lineman)
Nagurski
(most outstanding defensive player)
Butkus
(most outstanding linebacker)
Thorpe
(most outstanding defensive back)
Lou Groza
(top kicker)
Ray Guy
(top punter)
That's significant because that gives him more career touchdown passes than Jim Plunkett, Stanford's only Heisman recipient. Luck will have a great chance to join Plunkett as a Heisman winner if he continues to play at the level he showed against Arizona, a game in which he lost his favorite receiver, tight end Coby Fleener, to a concussion.

Not that it mattered. Luck just threw touchdown passes to tight ends Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo. Seven of Luck's eight touchdown passes this season have been to tight ends.

That's another factor in Luck's amazing career. Most passing quarterbacks who have won the Heisman were blessed with at least one elite receiver.

Florida's Tim Tebow had Percy Harvin. Oklahoma's Sam Bradford had Jermaine Gresham. Ohio State's Troy Smith had Ted Ginn Jr. and Anthony Gonzalez. USC's Matt Leinart and Carson Palmer had Dwayne Jarrett and Mike Williams, respectively. Florida State's Chris Weinke had Marvin Minnis. Florida's Danny Wuerffel had Ike Hilliard and Reidel Anthony. All those receivers were All-Americans and/or NFL first-round picks.

Luck never has thrown to even a first-team all-conference receiver.

Through three games this season, Luck has thrown for 786 yards and ranks 25th in the country in passing yards per game. He will have a great opportunity to enhance his statistics in Stanford's next four games; UCLA, Colorado, Washington and Washington State are all ranked between 61st and 115th in the nation in pass defense.

The top five Heisman candidates this week:

1. RB Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina: The sophomore currently leads the nation with 534 rushing yards. He followed up 176-yard performance against Georgia with a career-best 246-yard, three-touchdown effort in a 24-21 victory over Navy.

2. QB Robert Griffin, Baylor: After a huge showing against TCU in the season opener, Griffin was 20-of-22 for 265 yards and three touchdowns in a 48-0 victory over FCS member Stephen F. Austin in a game called after three quarters because of lightning.

3. QB Andrew Luck, Stanford: Luck had his strongest competition of the season so far in a game against Pac-12 rival Arizona and responded with 325 passing yards and two touchdowns in a 37-10 victory. He has thrown for 786 yards and eight touchdowns with one interception.

4. QB Kellen Moore, Boise State: He threw for 455 yards and five touchdowns as the Broncos stormed past Toledo 40-15. In two games, Moore has thrown for 716 yards and eight touchdowns while completing 78.9 percent of his attempts.

5. QB Denard Robinson, Michigan: A week after leading an amazing fourth-quarter comeback over Notre Dame, he rushed for 198 yards and a touchdown and threw for two more touchdowns in an easy win over Eastern Michigan. He ranks fourth in the nation in total offense.

Olin Buchanan is a senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com, and you can click here to follow him on Twitter.

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