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November 30, 2011

Heisman Watch: Down to the wire

In 2009, Alabama running back Mark Ingram edged Stanford running back Toby Gerhart in the closest Heisman race ever. Ingram received 1,304 points to Gerhart's 1,276.

the awards watch
Mike Huguenin and Steve Megargee take a weekly look at some key postseason awards. The three finalists have been announced for each award except where noted.
Davey O'Brien
(top quarterback)
Doak Walker
(best running back)
(most outstanding wide receiver)
(top tight end)
Rimington (no finalists announced yet)
(most outstanding center)
1. Ben Jones, Georgia
2. David Molk, Michigan
3. Scott Wedige, Northern Illinois
(best interior lineman)
Nagurski (five finalists announced)
(most outstanding defensive player)
Butkus (six finalists announced)
(most outstanding linebacker)
(most outstanding defensive back)
Lou Groza
(top kicker)
Ray Guy
(top punter)
Now, Alabama running back Trent Richardson and Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck are involved in a campaign that's just as uncertain, though it's by no means a two-man race.

While several contenders won't play again until the bowl games, there are others who will be in action this week, meaning there are about a half-dozen Heisman hopefuls who can make their case one more time.

[Forde-Yard Dash: Handing out pre-bowl awards]

All of the contenders had impressive games last week.

Luck threw four touchdown passes in a 28-14 victory over Notre Dame, setting a school career record for TD passes in the process. Richardson, a junior, rushed for a career-high 203 yards in a 42-14 triumph over Auburn. USC quarterback Matt Barkley passed for 423 yards and six touchdowns in a 50-0 rout of UCLA. Baylor QB Robert Griffin passed for one touchdown and rushed for two while playing just one half in a 66-42 victory over Texas Tech. Houston quarterback Case Keenum passed for 457 yards and five touchdowns in leading the Cougars past Tulsa 48-16. Wisconsin running back Montee Ball, who has made a late charge, rushed for 156 yards and four touchdowns in a 45-7 blowout of Penn State.

Richardson, Luck and Barkley have completed their regular seasons (Barkley is done because USC is ineligible for the postseason), while the others still have a chance to impress Heisman voters this weekend.

Griffin leads Baylor against Texas. Houston faces Southern Miss in the Conference USA championship game, and Wisconsin and Michigan State play in the Big Ten championship game.

The top five Heisman candidates this week:

1. QB Robert Griffin, Baylor: He only played a half in the win over Texas Tech and still passed for a touchdown and ran for two more. He remains second in the nation in passing efficiency and total offense, and has thrown for 3,678 yards and 34 touchdowns with just five interceptions. Thanks to Griffin, Baylor has a legitimate shot at a 10-win season, which would be just the second in school history.

2. QB Andrew Luck, Stanford: He led the Cardinal to an 11-1 regular-season record while passing for 3,170 yards and 35 touchdowns; he also tossed nine interceptions. He's fifth in the nation in passing efficiency. Luck threw at least three touchdown passes in four of the final five regular-season games.

3. RB Trent Richardson, Alabama: Richardson has rushed for 1,583 yards - the fourth-highest total in the country - and has nine 100-yard games. He has rushed for 20 touchdowns.

4. QB Matt Barkley, USC: He came on strong in the second half of the season, throwing at least three touchdown passes in five of the Trojans' final six games. He ranks in the top 10 in the nation in all passing categories. He threw for 3,528 yards, with 39 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

5. RB Montee Ball, Wisconsin: Ball has the country's second-highest rushing total with 1,622 yards. He also has a national-best 29 rushing touchdowns and has 34 TDs overall. He has gained at least 115 yards in seven of the past eight games and has rushed for at least 156 yards in each of the past four games.

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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