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September 28, 2011

Heisman Watch: Weeden in the mix

Impressive statistics are only one mark of a true Heisman candidate. In fact, they shouldn't necessarily be the most important factor in a strong candidacy.

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)
Performance against strong competition in big games and leadership are key factors, too, and this past Saturday, Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden demonstrated all the necessary qualities.

He set school single-game records for passing attempts (60), completions (47) and yards (438) against Texas A&M. More important, he rallied the Cowboys from a 17-point deficit to a 30-29 victory over the host Aggies.

Weeden threw two touchdown passes. He would have had three, but star wide receiver Justin Blackmon lost a fumble into the end zone after catching one of Weeden's passes.

"I felt like I made pretty good decisions," Weeden said after the game. "I felt like I just took what they gave us and didn't try to do too much and that's why we didn't turn the ball over and were able to move forward."

The Heisman rankings can change weekly. After the first month of the season, there are at least 10 players who are strong contenders.

[ Video: Can a 28-year old win the Heisman? ]

Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson leads the nation in rushing. Oregon tailback LaMichael James has exceeded 200 rushing yards in consecutive games. Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson is second in the nation in passing efficiency. Alabama tailback Trent Richardson has exceeded 100 rushing yards in three consecutive games. Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones is sixth in the nation in passing for a national championship contender.

Weeden is playing as well as anyone.

"He's got a special gift to throw the football," Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. "I haven't been around anybody that can throw it like he can."

The top five Heisman candidates this week:

1. RB Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina: He dropped to third in the nation in rushing (with 611 yards) after being limited to 77 on 20 carries in a victory over Vanderbilt. But he compensated with three catches for 73 yards, including a 52-yard touchdown.

2. QB Robert Griffin, Baylor: He threw for 338 yards and accounted for six touchdowns (five passing, one rushing) in a 56-31 victory over Rice. He has thrown for at least three touchdowns in each of Baylor's three games. But he needs to continue this level of performance against better defenses. This week, Baylor faces Kansas State, which ranks sixth in total defense. Griffin leads the nation in passing efficiency, has yet to throw an interception and has more TD passes (13) than incompletions (12).

3. QB Andrew Luck, Stanford: Stanford was off this past weekend. Luck has passed for 786 yards, eight touchdowns and one interception, though Stanford has yet to be seriously challenged.

4. QB Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State: Though interceptions (six this season) have been an issue, Weeden breaks into the top five after throwing for 438 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Cowboys to a come-from-behind victory over Texas A&M. He has passed for more than 350 yards and at least two touchdowns in every game and leads the nation in passing yards with 1,592.

5. QB Kellen Moore, Boise State: Moore ranks third in the nation in passing efficiency. He has completed more than 76 percent of his attempts and has thrown at least three touchdown passes in all three games. He's coming off a 279-yard, four-touchdown performance in a 41-21 victory over Tulsa.

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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