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November 2, 2011

Heisman Watch: Richardson takes center stage

It's Alabama running back Trent Richardson's move.

The speedy Richardson hasn't lost many races, but he'll need an impressive showing Saturday against LSU to keep up with Stanford's Andrew Luck in the Heisman race.

the awards watch
A weekly look at the top three candidates for some key postseason awards.
Davey 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)

1. SS Mark Barron, Alabama
2. CB Casey Hayward, Vanderbilt
3. CB Jayron Hosley, Virginia Tech
(NOTE: LSU CB Tyrann Mathieu is not one of the 15 semifinalists for the award.)
Lou Groza
(top kicker)
Ray Guy
(top punter)
Luck leads the way after a four-touchdown performance (three passing, one rushing) in leading the Cardinal to a triple-overtime victory at USC last week. But Richardson has a great opportunity to answer in the most anticipated and hyped clash of the season.

Richardson could upstage Luck with a strong performance against LSU, which is third in the nation in total defense and hasn't allowed an opposing running back to gain more than 70 yards.

Throughout history, there have been numerous occasions in which a tremendous performance in a big game has helped a player win the Heisman.

In 1946, Army running back Glenn Davis had a big effort against Michigan in which he rushed for 105 yards, threw two touchdown passes and had two interceptions.

A legendary 89-yard punt return on Halloween propelled LSU's Billy Cannon to the Heisman in 1959.

Auburn quarterback Pat Sullivan was spurred on in 1971 by a four-touchdown performance against unbeaten and sixth-ranked Georgia.

Notre Dame wide receiver Tim Brown's 1987 campaign was highlighted by two punt returns for touchdowns in a two-minute span against Michigan State.

In 1995, Ohio State running back Eddie George's campaign was propelled by a 314-yard, three-touchdown performance against Illinois.

Michigan's Charles Woodson clinched it in 1997 with a memorable performance against Ohio State in which he returned a punt for a touchdown, made an interception in the end zone and caught a 37-yard pass to set up a touchdown.

Texas' Ricky Williams clinched the 1998 Heisman by rushing for 259 yards in an upset of sixth-ranked Texas A&M.

Perhaps Richardson can be added to that list.

"I've got a lot of friends at LSU who play on the team," Richardson told TideSports.com last week. "We've called each other and, you know, said, 'Hey, be ready.' And that's what it is. Friends before the game, but when we're in the game, there ain't no friends out there. It's every man for himself."

Richardson can help himself - maybe even boost himself to the Heisman - if he can star in an Alabama victory.

The top five Heisman candidates this week:

1. QB Andrew Luck, Stanford: Luck strengthened his Heisman candidacy by leading the Cardinal to a triple-overtime victory at USC. He threw for 330 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another score against the Trojans. Yes, he threw an interception returned for a TD, but he responded by leading the Cardinal on a clutch tying drive in the final minutes. He's fifth in the nation in passing efficiency and has thrown for 2,218 yards and 23 touchdowns (against four picks) while completing 71.9 percent of his attempts.

2. RB Trent Richardson, Alabama: A huge opportunity awaits Saturday against LSU's powerful defense. Richardson's campaign would get a significant boost if he has a strong showing against LSU, which is third in the nation against the run. A 100-yard game against LSU would be more impressive than a 200-yard game against most opponents. Richardson has rushed for 989 yards and 17 touchdowns this season.

3. QB Kellen Moore, Boise State: The main reason Boise is undefeated, Moore is fourth in the country in passing efficiency. He has completed more than 76 percent of his passes for 2,010 yards, with 24 touchdowns and only five interceptions.

4. QB Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State: Weeden is ranked among the nation's top 10 in passing, passing yards per game and total passing yards. He has thrown for 2,710 yards and 22 touchdowns with seven interceptions while completing 71.3 percent of his passes. Weeden has thrown at least three touchdown passes in three of the past four games.

5. QB Landry Jones, Oklahoma: Jones is second in the nation in passing and total passing yardage. He has thrown for 3,094 yards and 26 touchdowns, but he also has been intercepted nine times. Still, he has thrown at least three touchdown passes in each of the past six games and has thrown five in each of the past two.

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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