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Other QBs join Luck in Heisman race
When Andrew Luck, Stanford's All-World, All-Galaxy 2010 Heisman runner-up quarterback, announced he'd be returning to school for his redshirt junior campaign back in January, you could almost etch the next eight to 10 months of overzealous media love (and eventual hate) in stone.
There'd be an ESPN The Magazine cover shoot in July. There was.
There'd be a Sports Illustrated cover featuring Luck and a few teammates in August. There was.
There'd be a flurry of headlines, blog postings and Twitter buzz around something new and silly from his summer that really made him unique. With Luck's beard being the star of Pac-12 Media Days, there certainly was.
Andrew Luck provided a few talking points at the Pac-12 media day.
Then the season would start and it'd be Luck, Luck, Luck, Luck and Luck. And then, after some of that, it'd be more Luck, Luck, Luck, Luck and Luck.
Slowly but surely, the "haters" would emerge. The same folks who took the national media to task for "worshipping" Tim Tebow would come out of the woodwork, no doubt dripping in snark, to complain about the amount of attention the national networks and websites were giving the kid.
There'd be drinking games around the amount of times we heard about his major being architectural design, the fact he was a high-school valedictorian, and about his childhood spent in London. Whether he had the greatest collegiate season or not, the Stanford QB was doomed — by October, we'd all be "Lucked Out."
But a funny thing happened on the way to the inevitable combustion of Andrew Luck's media hype machine.
He got some company along the way.
A handful of quarterbacks who weren't the 2010 Heisman Trophy runners-up have put their stamps on the 2011 season and done their best to derail the "Season of Luck" we expected to have forced down our throats.
Hey, don't get me wrong, Luck's been great this season. The quarterback and unquestioned leader of the undefeated sixth-ranked team in the nation, he's completed nearly 70 percent of his passes, has an 8-to-1 TD-to-interception ratio and has run the ball for 50 yards and a score. He's polished, pro-ready and efficient. He's been as wonderful as advertised.
But, here we are just days from October, and the 2011 season has been anything but the Andrew Luck Show. If anything, he's taken a backseat to his quarterback cohorts around the nation.
Oklahoma QB Landry Jones has comparable numbers, better wins and far more national exposure than Luck thus far. If Luck gets Peyton Manning comparisons, Jones — a third-year starter himself — often is mentioned in the same breath as another former Sooner gunslinger, Sam Bradford.
On Saturday night, Jones looked like Bradford and more. On national TV in FX's primetime game, the 6-foot-4, 230-pound junior went 35-for-48 for 448 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-28 win over Missouri in Norman.
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Across the Sooner State in Stillwater, 27-year-old former Yankees farmhand Brandon Weeden is putting together one eye-raising performance after another. Saturday's heroic effort at Kyle Field was his best of the year. Rallying his troops back from a 17-point deficit on the road, Weeden threw for a school record 438 yards in the nationally televised 30-29 comeback win.
If Weeden — currently the nation's leader in passing yards — gets through that gauntlet and continues to put up the numbers he's been posting, it'd be awfully hard keeping him off the Heisman podium come December.
Down in Waco, meanwhile, Baylor's off to a surprising 3-0 start, and it all begins and ends with the star quarterback, Robert Griffin III. After earning Big 12 Freshman of the Year Honors in 2008, the fleet-footed Griffin missed the bulk of the '09 season with a devastating injury, and had a strong, but not spectacular, '10 campaign.
This year? On top of pretty much single-handedly throwing his team on his back and upsetting TCU in a nationally televised Friday night home opener, he's had off-the-chart numbers. Consider this — Griffin has more touchdowns (13) than incomplete passes this season (12).
The list goes on. Several of the quarterbacks off to fast starts — Michigan's Denard Robinson, Nebraska's Taylor Martinez, Wisconsin's Russell Wilson and Boise State's Kellen Moore to name a few — are hardly new names.
Then, there are others we didn't expect big things from, coming up huge.
Down at Clemson, sophomore dynamo Tahj Boyd has the upstart Tigers at 4-0 and on top of the ACC standings, with 1,255 passing yards and 13 touchdowns. A week after a 386-yard, four-touchdown performance versus Auburn, Boyd tossed for 344 yards and three touchdowns in Clemson's upset of Florida State on Saturday.
Few expected Case Keenum to come back the way he has this season, but he's been perhaps better than ever. The sixth-year senior is second in the nation in passing yards, has 12 touchdowns to just two interceptions and his Coogz are 4-0 on the year.
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Collin Klein, a 6-5 junior at Kansas State, has the Wildcats at 3-0, too, with a bevy of gutsy plays and highlights. Even Jarrett Lee, the much maligned "fill-in" quarterback at LSU, has been impressive this season.
Everywhere you look, quarterbacks — both the expected and the unexpected — are making their impacts felt.
The 2011 season hasn't been an over-the-top Andrew Luck media lovefest because the other quarterbacks in college football simply aren't letting it be one.
The meat of Luck's big-stage games doesn't really start until late October, when in the matter of five weeks, Stanford plays Pac-12 rivals USC, Oregon State, Oregon and Cal, and closes the season against Notre Dame in Palo Alto.
Perhaps in that window, when the BCS standings become the be-all, end-all and when Heisman votes are being cast, Luck becomes the all-encompassing story of the 2011 college-football season that I expected he'd already be by now.
Or maybe he doesn't.
Instead, maybe he shares the spotlight with a gifted crop of gunslingers and signal-callers found lighting up boxscores and energizing college campuses across the country.
Perhaps 2011 isn't merely the "Year of That One Quarterback."
But rather, it's the "Year of Those Quarterbacks," instead.
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