Luck, Stanford make case for Heisman, BCS bowl

Andrew Luck cemented his status atop Stanford’s record books,

made his final case for the Heisman Trophy and put the program in

position for a second straight BCS bowl.

Now he’ll have to wait to see if that’s enough.

With no shot at the Pac-12 championship this week, Luck and the

fourth-ranked Cardinal (11-1, 8-1) will be watching with everybody

else. The resumes for each are remarkably similar to a year ago,

when Luck was the Heisman runner-up to Auburn’s Cam Newton and

Stanford earned an Orange Bowl trip.

The only difference is that the expectations were higher this

season.

”I think we’re all very proud to be a part of this program,”

said Luck, whose college career began a year after Stanford

finished 4-8 in coach Jim Harbaugh’s first season. ”To be a part

of this turnaround gives you a lot more satisfaction than coming in

and having everything be a cake walk.”

If Luck likes doing things the hard way, he’ll enjoy the next

few weeks.

The redshirt junior is no longer the clear frontrunner to join

college football’s most famous fraternity. While he is unanimously

projected to be the No. 1 overall in the NFL draft, winning the

Heisman is far from certain.

Luck threw for 35 touchdowns this season – breaking his school

record of 32 a year ago – and has eclipsed John Elway’s career

record (77) at Stanford with 80 touchdown passes in only three

years. He finished with 3,170 yards passing, a 70 percent

completion percentage and only nine interceptions this season

without the benefit of an elite wide receiver.

All that might still not be enough.

Luck threw two interceptions and lost a fumble in Oregon’s 53-30

stampede past Stanford on Nov. 12, costing Stanford a Pac-12 title

and a chance a BCS championship. He also had several shaky moments

in the final two games – including another interception against

previously No. 22 Notre Dame in a 28-14 victory Saturday night –

but kept on winning, turning an otherwise average program into a

college football heavyweight.

Stanford coach David Shaw has stumped for Luck to win the

Heisman, pleading with voters to look beyond statistics and look at

what Luck does at the line of scrimmage: often calling plays,

formations and keeping an offense ravaged with injuries – notably

to top wide receiver Chris Owusu and two tight ends for the final

four games – among the highest scoring in the nation.

”He’s one of a kind,” Shaw said. ”It’s apples and oranges, in

my opinion, between him and everybody else. I’ve seen a lot of the

other guys and there are a lot of really, really good football

players. There’s nobody like this guy.”

Luck’s competition has emerged into serious contenders.

Alabama’s Trent Richardson, Baylor’s Robert Griffin III,

Houston’s Case Keenum and Southern California’s Matt Barkley all

could argue they had better seasons than Luck. Stanford’s coaches

and teammates counter by contending Luck is the best player in the

nation and the program would be lost without him.

How far Stanford falls next season will be evidence of that.

In his finale at Stanford Stadium, Luck threw for 233 yards and

four touchdowns to build a 21-0 lead against the Fighting Irish

(8-4) and hold on late. The victory likely vaulted the Cardinal

into consideration for an at-large BCS bowl – with the Fiesta Bowl

among the leading possible destinations – a season after rolling

past Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl.

Bowl matchups will be announced Dec. 4. The Heisman Trophy

ceremony in New York – where Luck will surely be invited – is Dec.

10.

While Luck will have to wait to find out where his legacy stands

around the nation, he’s already considered about the greatest in

Stanford history.

”You look to see what the Heisman stands for, `The best player

in college football,”’ safety Michael Thomas said. ”He continues

to make plays for us, he manages the offense the way nobody else in

the NCAA does. To me, that’s the characteristics of the best

player. He’s continued to put us in position to win games, and

that’s what we do: win games.”

Follow Antonio Gonzalez at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP