Online Now 1839

Hardly a level playing field

TUSCLOOSA _ One can’t blame any of the University of Alabama football players if they had a little déjà vu Saturday evening at Mississippi State.

Trent Richardson's Heisman run has come against much tougher competition than his closet rivals.

With the Crimson Tide looking to put the game away, it went to its best player, junior running back Trent Richardson, and gave him the ball nine straight snaps including some out of the wildcat formation. It led to an 11-play, 73-yard drive, capped by sophomore running back Eddie Lacy’s 32-yard touchdown to wrap up the 24-7 victory.

It reminded many of Mark Ingram two years ago against South Carolina, when in the words of senior offensive lineman Alfred McCullough he was a “One-man wrecking crew.” During what many thought was his signature moment he led the offense 68 yards on six straight plays and set up his own touchdown en route to setting the Bryant-Denny Stadium rushing record of 246 yards.

“I think it did,” said senior center William Vlachos, who liked the play-calling by offensive coordinator Jim McElwain. “We haven’t run the wildcat much this year, and as soon as we went wildcat, we said, ‘Here we go, Coach Mac. Here we go with the wildcat.’

“When you have great players like that and you’re trying to kill some clock, get a couple of first downs to seal the game, it’s always fun to do that as an offensive lineman. The defense knows we’re running it, the crowd knows we’re running it, everybody knows we’re running it with our Heisman Trophy candidate at tailback, bring in Eddie and score a touchdown. There were some well-blocked plays on that drive, but there were also some great moves by running backs.”

But that’s not where the parallels end, especially when it comes to the Heisman. Whereas Ingram was involved in the closest voting ever when he edged Stanford running back Toby Gerhart for the trophy in 2009, Richardson may be destined for a similar tight finish.

Even their numbers are almost identical. With 1,205 rushing yards on 204 carries, 595 after contact, Richardson is slightly behind Ingram’s rushing pace but a little ahead in total yards, and Ingram scored 13 touchdowns while Richardson already has 19.

However, while Ingram obviously got a lot of “best player on the best team” consideration from voters, Richardson will have to overcome the Crimson Tide’s 9-6 overtime loss to LSU.

"A lot people want to say I didn't have a good game, but you don't see any other running back or any other team that's getting over 50 yards on LSU's defense," Richardson said. "To have 89 or however many yards I had rushing, and to have so many in receiving, I don't call that a bad day against a team like that at all."

Trent Richardson will likely benefit from being the region's only strong candidate.

Actually, Richardson’s competition should be taken into consideration regarding of all his numbers, especially when compared to the other Heisman favorites.

For example, Richardson has faced five teams ranked in the top 25 in total defense, and against them he’s averaged 105 rushing yards to go with six touchdowns.

In comparison, of the other top Heisman contenders only one has had to play against more than one top 25-defense and Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck has yet to see a defense ranked better than 49th.

Here are the players involved, the opponents’ rankings and average yards allowed in both the primary category (rushing for the running backs, passing for the quarterbacks), and total defense. With Football Championship Subdivision opponents tossed out, the averages are referenced back to where it would be in the original rankings.

For example, while Alabama’s opponents are 56-44, their combined rushing yards allowed average out to rank 55th among 120 Bowl Championship Subdivision teams, and 36th in total defense.

No one else comes close:

Trent Richardson, Alabama
Opponent, rush yards, total yards

Kent State (4-6); 24 (116.2); 25 (332.1)
Penn State (8-2); 28 (119.5); 8 (287.2)
North Texas (4-6); 64 (157.0); 102 (443.8)
Arkansas (9-1); 74 (172.2); 56 (375.2)
Florida (5-5); 45 (132.5); 12 (305.4)
Vanderbilt (5-5) 32 (122.9); 22 (327.6)
Ole Miss (2-8) 108 (209.9); 94 (425.7)
Tennessee (4-6); 68 (166.0); 44 (358.6)
LSU (10-0); 3 (83.8); 2 (253.2)
Miss. State (5-5); 69 (167.4); 40 (353.0)
Total/Avg: (56-44); 55 (144.7); 36 (346.2)

LaMichael James, Oregon
Opponent, rush yards, total yards

LSU (10-0); 3 (83.8); 2 (253.2)
Nevada (6-3); 59 (151.22); 54 (374.78)
Missouri State (1-9) (FCS team)
Arizona (2-8); 81 (179.8); 109 (457.0)
California (6-4); 29 (120.3); 16 (319.1)
Arizona State (6-4); 53 (142.8); 77 (404.9)
Colorado (2-9); 80 (179.45); 103 (444.0)
Wash. State (4-6); 63 (155.8); 84 (412.4)
Washington (6-4); 61 (152.8); 93 (425.0)
Stanford (9-1); 7 (94.2); 24 (330.3)
Total/Avg: (51-39); 52 (140.0); 60 (380.1)

Kellen Moore, Boise State
Opponent, pass yards, total yards

Georgia (8-2); 15 (186.2); 4 (273.3)
Toledo (6-4); 108 (278.5); 80 (407.2)
Tulsa (7-3); 105 (273.2); 79 (406.1)
Nevada (6-3); 60 (223.56); 54 (374.78)
Fresno State (3-7); 97 (261.2); 103 (444.0)
Colorado State (3-6); 13 (180.67); 74 (400.67)
Air Force (5-5); 12 (178.6); 71 (397.1)
UNLV (2-7); 109 (278.78); 106 (446.67)
TCU (8-2); 75 (234.7); 43 (358.4)
Total/Avg: (48-39); 71 (232.8); 65 (389.8)

Andrew Luck, Stanford
Opponent, pass yards, total yards

San Jose State (6-3); 65 (229.0); 96 (431.5)
Duke (3-7); 85 (243.1); 76 (404.8)
Arizona (2-8); 107 (277.2); 109 (457.0)
UCLA (5-5); 61 (224.0); 87 (414.2)
Colorado (2-9); 101 (264.55); 103 (444.0)
Wash. State (4-6); 94 (256.6); 84 (414.4)
Washington (6-4); 104 (272.2); 93 (425.0)
Southern Cal (8-2); 100 (263.4); 49 (363.8)
Oregon State (2-8); 46 (211.3); 70 (395.0)
Oregon (9-1); 78 (236.7); 61 (383.9)
Total/Avg: (47-53); 92 (247.8); T86 (413.4)

Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State
Opponent, pass yards, total yards

La.-Lafayette (8-3) 79 (237.36); 62 (384.0)
Arizona (2-8); 107 (277.2); 109 (457.0)
Tulsa (7-3); 105 (273.2); 79 (406.1)
Texas A&M (5-5); 119 (308.2); 90 (420.4)
Kansas (2-8); 113 (286.8); 120 (537.0)
Texas (6-3); 48 (212.56); 14 (313.78)
Missouri (5-5); 95 (258.0); 73 (399.3)
Baylor (6-3); 81 (283.33); 110 (458.22)
Kansas State (8-2); 117 (293.6); 82 (410.7)
Texas Tech (5-5); 66 (229.2); 113 (472.0)
Total/Avg: (54-45); 102 (265.9); 95(425.9)

Case Keenum, Houston
Opponent, pass yards, total yards

UCLA (5-5); 61 (244.0); 87 (414.2)
North Texas (4-6); 113 (286.8); 102 (443.8)
La. Tech (6-4); 103 (280.2); 57 (375.4)
Georgia State* (2-8) (FCS team)
UTEP (5-5); 92 (205.9); 98 (433.8)
East Carolina (4-6); 19 (188.7); 58 (375.8)
Marshall (4-6); 99 (263.1); 97 (432.0)
Rice (3-7); 118 (300.2); 115 (488.8)
UAB (2-8); 116 (293.4); 115 (488.8)
Tulane (2-9); 89 (246.64); 89 (419.6)
Total/Avg: (35-56); 102 (256.5); 95 (430.2)

Landry Jones, Oklahoma
Opponent, pass yards, total yards

Tulsa (7-3); 105 (273.2); 79 (406.1)
Florida State (7-3); 25 (194.5); 5 (279.5)
Missouri (5-5); 95 (258.0); 73 (399.3)
Ball State (6-4); 111 (280.7); 118 (490.7)
Texas (6-3); 48 (212.56); 14 (313.78)
Kansas (2-8); 113 (286.8); 120 (537.0)
Texas Tech (5-5); 66 (229.2); 113 (472.0)
Kansas State (8-2); 117 (293.6); 82 (410.7)
Texas A&M (5-5); 119 (308.2); 90 (420.4)
Total/Avg: (51-38); 97 (259.6); 98 (414.4)

The discrepancy is even greater when considering scoring defense.

Richardson, who has scored 18 of his 19 touchdowns on the ground, has faced four teams ranked in the top 20 in scoring defense (No. 2 LSU, No. 3 Penn State, No. 17 Mississippi State and No. 20 Florida), and four more in the top 50 (No. 30 Arkansas, No. 31 Vanderbilt, No. 45 Kent State, and No. 50 Tennessee).

The only challenger to have faced four in the top 50 was the player at the same position, James.

Among the quarterbacks only Jones has faced more than one opponent in the top 50, while Luck, Moore and Weeden have all faced just one and Keenum has opposed none.

In the flip side, against teams 80th or worse in scoring defense, Luck has faced eight teams, Keenum seven, Weeden six, Jones five, and Moore and James both four.

Richardson has seen two, Ole Miss and North Texas.

Heisman voters use different criteria when filling out their ballot, but for those who believe the winner should be someone who plays his best in big games Richardson’s numbers clearly stand alone.

Already have an account? Sign In