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November 3, 2010

Heisman Watch: Griffin lifting Baylor

The awards watch
A weekly look at the top three candidates for some key postseason awards:
Outland (best interior lineman)
Butkus (most outstanding LB)
Nagurski (most outstanding defensive player)
Thorpe (most outstanding DB)
Rimington (most outstanding center)
Biletnikoff (most outstanding WR)
Doak Walker (best running back)
Mackey (top tight end)
Lou Groza (top kicker)
Ray Guy (top punter)

The term "RG III" sounds like some new computer model, maybe a sports car or perhaps a sequel to an action movie.

Instead, it's just the shortened identification for Baylor sophomore quarterback Robert Griffin III, but the long-suffering fans down in Waco might suggest he's similar to the aforementioned items, too.

He has operated Baylor's offense with a computer-like efficiency, he adds an element of speed and excitement and he has had repeated impressive showings to lead the once-struggling Bears to a 7-2 record, including a 30-22 victory over Texas last week, and the lead in the Big 12 South Division race.

"The goal is always to win the Big 12 South," Griffin said after the win over Texas. "This is our time. A lot of people want to talk about teams of destiny. I think this is one of them. We're playing at a high level, and we can go out and play with anybody, day in and day out."

Nobody is playing at a higher level than Griffin for Baylor, which had endured 14 consecutive losing seasons before this season. He's even emerging as Baylor's first Heisman candidate since Don Trull finished fourth in 1963.

Griffin has passed for 2,592 yards and rushed for 401, and has 2,993 yards in total offense. He's averaging 332.5 yards per game to rank third in the nation in that category, behind Hawaii's Bryant Moniz (373.4) and Michigan's Denard Robinson (349.5).

But unlike Robinson, who struggled in losses to Michigan State and Iowa, Griffin has been at least respectable in the Bears' two losses.

He passed for 164 yards and a touchdown in a 45-10 loss to TCU, which leads the nation in total defense, pass defense and scoring defense. Griffin passed for 384 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for two touchdowns in a 45-38 loss to Texas Tech.

He passed for 404 yards and four touchdowns in a victory over Kansas State, then passed for 219 and two touchdowns in a victory over Texas.

The question now is how far Baylor can go with him at the controls. Actually, the question might be how he ended up at Baylor in the first place.

"Every school is a good fit for certain people. Baylor felt like a good fit for me," said Griffin, who also was a champion hurdler at Copperas Cove (Texas) High, which is less than an hour from Baylor's campus in Waco. "I wanted to run track and Baylor has a prestigious track program.

"Football-wise, things hadn't been good here. But there's something about doing something at a place that hadn't been done in a while. You can go to powerhouse programs around the nation and just be another guy. I wanted to see myself as a difference-maker."

Everyone else sees RG III that way, too.

This week's top five:

1. QB Cameron Newton, Auburn: Last week, he added a touchdown catch to his list of accomplishments this season. And it was a great catch at that. Most important, though, Newton had a solid performance to help Auburn avoid becoming an upset victim at Ole Miss. He passed for 209 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for another 45. He's passed for 15 touchdowns, he's rushed for 15 and now he has a touchdown catch, too. Newton has rushed for 1,122 yards and has passed for 1,573 for the unbeaten Tigers.

2. RB LaMichael James, Oregon: Although still listed second, he has gained on Newton. Heisman winners have big performances in big games, and James has had his two best outings in the Ducks' two biggest games. Last week, he rushed for 239 yards and three touchdowns in a 53-32 victory at USC. Earlier this season, he had 257 yards and three touchdowns in a 52-31 win over Stanford. Overall, James has the nation's second-highest rushing total (1,210 yards) despite not playing in the first game of the season.

3. QB Kellen Moore, Boise State: A model of consistency, Moore has thrown for multiple touchdowns in every game. He has thrown 18 touchdown passes and only two interceptions, and leads the nation in passing efficiency. He has completed better than 70 percent of his passes in each of the past five games.

4. QB Andrew Luck, Stanford: In case nobody noticed, Luck rushed for 92 yards and a touchdown in last week's rout of Washington. He also passed for 192 and a touchdown. Overall, Luck has completed 67.3 percent of his passes for 1,920 yards and 20 touchdowns with just six interceptions.

5. QB Robert Griffin, Baylor: Although an accomplished runner, Griffin is picking up most of his yardage through the air this season. He has passed for 2,592 yards and has rushed for another 401. More important, he's the main reason Baylor is 7-2 and has emerged as a contender in the Big 12 South race.

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.

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