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October 26, 2011

Heisman Watch: A contender in any language

So, Alabama coach Nick Saban opts to speak French to express his disdain for questions about Trent Richardson's Heisman "campaign."

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)
Lou Groza
(top kicker)
Ray Guy
(top punter)
In truth, Saban didn't speak French. But when asked what a Heisman winner means for a program, Saban answered, "I don't give a [expletive]," then followed up with, "Excuse my French."

Well, excusez-moi.

Though Saban's focus on the next opponent is understandable because Alabama has national championship aspirations, having a Heisman contender is a good thing. It brings positive attention. It's embraced by most programs.

That's why Oregon once paid to put up a giant image of Joey Harrington in Times Square. It's why BYU sent out neckties to hype Ty Detmer. It's why Notre Dame quarterback Joe Theismann changed the pronunciation of his last name from "ThEEEsman" to rhyme with the award.

Even Bear Bryant didn't mind commenting on the award, way before it became so popular. When asked about John David Crow's candidacy back in 1954, Bryant -- then the coach at Texas A&M -- responded, "If John David Crow doesn't win the Heisman Trophy, then they ought to stop giving it."

And he said it in English.

[Power rankings: Smarts, not luck, lift Luck ]

In any language, Richardson remains a strong Heisman contender. Halfway through the season there are still nine or 10 players who would seem to be legitimate contenders for the trophy.

Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden is among the nation's passing leaders and stars for an undefeated team in the national championship race. The same could be said for Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd, who has thrown at least three touchdown passes in six games. There is growing push for Texas Tech quarterback Seth Doege, who leads the nation in passing and just led the Red Raiders to an upset of Oklahoma. And then there's Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones. He is ranked third in the country in total passing yards. He's thrown for more than 360 yards and at least three touchdown passes in five consecutive games.

[Yahoo! Sports Radio: Clemson QB Tajh Boyd]

Yet some would argue that those guys aren't even among the leading candidates.

C'est la vie.

The top five Heisman candidates this week:

1. QB Andrew Luck, Stanford: He didn't put up staggering numbers vs. Washington, but with the Cardinal's running game rolling up more than 400 yards, it wasn't necessary. Of course, his passing ability opens up opportunities for the running game because defenses first try to limit him. Yet, he still was 16-of-21 for 169 yards and two touchdowns in the 44-point rout of the Huskies.

2. RB Trent Richardson, Alabama: Richardson's streak of six consecutive 100-yard games came to an end against Tennessee, but he still scored two touchdowns. Richardson has rushed for 989 yards, which is the second-highest total in the country, but he has 10 more touchdowns and 15 fewer carries than Virginia Tech's David Wilson, who leads the nation with 1,037 yards.

3. QB Robert Griffin III, Baylor: The Bears were idle last week. Griffin leads the nation in passing efficiency, has completed 78 percent of his attempts for 1,950 yards and 22 TDs and just two interceptions.

4. QB Russell Wilson, Wisconsin: Don't blame the loss to Michigan State on him. When he last was on the field, he had just led the Badgers on a tying touchdown drive against one of the top defenses in the country. Wilson passed for two touchdowns and rushed for another against the Spartans. He's second in the nation in passing efficiency.

5. QB Kellen Moore, Boise State: He tied Colt McCoy for most career victories for a starting quarterback in the Broncos' win over Air Force. Moore is fourth in the nation in passing efficiency. He has thrown for 2,010 yards and 24 touchdowns while completing 76.3 percent of his attempts.

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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