Sunday, July 24, 2011
Matt Chandik's Heisman Predictions...No.3
The last time we saw the Stanford Cardinal play football, Jim Harbaugh was the head coach, David Shaw was the offensive coordinator, Vic Fangio was the defensive coordinator and the Cardinal had just laid waste to ACC champion Virginia Tech, 40-12, in the Orange Bowl. It was a beatdown of epic proportions that saw Stanford outscore the Hokies 27-0 in the second half, thanks in large part to redshirt sophomore quarterback Andrew Luck throwing for 287 yards and four touchdowns.
Flash forward to mid-July, and the landscape in Palo Alto is looking quite a bit different. Harbaugh remains in Northern California, though it's the San Francisco 49ers that sign his checks now. He took Fangio with him and Shaw was promoted to head coach. The one constant? Luck. After nearly everyone in America expected him to bolt for the NFL draft and be the No. 1 overall selection, he shocked the world when he turned down millions of dollars to come back to Stanford for at least one more season. Luck cited the importance of getting his degree and he's a college athlete that you can actually believe when he says something like that. He's as cerebral and intelligent a quarterback as the college world has seen in quite some time and Stanford is one of the nation's finest institutions.
How does Luck improve on a season that saw a 70.7 completion percentage, a 4:1 touchdown:interception ratio and nine yards per pass attempt? He probably doesn't, and standards will be higher for him than for nearly everyone else after he finished second in the Heisman voting last year behind Auburn hired hand/quarterback Cam Newtown and ahead of Oregon running back and proud member of the Smackaho tribe, LaMichael James. Luck lost his top two receivers in wideouts Doug Baldwin and Ryan Whalen. He does get Chris Owusu back from injury and some targets should step up, but I fear that voters will expect unrealistic things from Luck that he won't be able to deliver.
For my money, Luck is the best quarterback in the country, but I don't know that his team will be as good as they were a year ago. Stanford also replaces three offensive linemen, so the new offensive linemen's ability to mesh together will have a major impact on Luck's play. Nonetheless, I still expect Luck to produce an outstanding season, but I don't know that Stanford will be a good enough team for Luck to warrant the Heisman, since there's the well-known “Heisman must go to a player on a national title contender” clause in college football (Tim Tebow being a notable exception).
Luck will still be the best, but not necessarily most productive or highest on the Heisman food chain, quarterback in the nation and should still be the top quarterback whether he decides to come out in 2012 or 2013. I suspect he'll put up roughly 3,200 yards with 35 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He's also capable of putting up solid numbers on the ground. Not Denard Robinson-esque, but not Ryan Mallett, either.
Look for Matt Chandik's prediction for the No. 2 pick for the Heisman Trophy later this week. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.