Richardson delivers Heisman-worthy performance

Posted Nov. 28, 2011 @ 11 a.m.
Posted By Nolan Nawrocki

At this time two years ago, Alabama could not boast of a single Heisman Trophy winner in the illustrious history of the program, but Mark Ingram was very talented. Although only a freshman at the time, Trent Richardson was more special.

After lighting up Auburn for a career-high 203 rushing yards and brandishing his trademark wicked stiff-arm twice on a powerful, reverse-field run that has defined his college career, Richardson could give the Tide their second Heisman Trophy in three years, and allow that 2010 national championship backfield to go down in the college football annals as the most talented ever to share time. 

Week after week, Richardson has faced stacked boxes designed to shut him down. Yet, the bowlegged, bruising back has ripped through the best in the Southeastern Conference, which figures to boast a rematch between LSU and Alabama in this year's BCS championship game, and creased the best defenses in the country.

He doesn't have exceptional long speed, as evidenced when he was tracked down from behind against the Tigers after a 57-yard run, but there are few college or NFL backs with his combination of run strength, hip power, balance and vision. He is seldom knocked off his feet, and it takes a small army to bring him down.

For one half, the game was reminiscent of last year's Iron Bowl, when Cam Newton rallied the Tigers back from a three-TD deficit after a horrendous first half on the road, showing competitiveness in that contest that largely convinced Panthers' brass to take a chance on his immense talent.

This year, there was no Newton and no let-up from Alabama, thanks to the nation's most stingy defense, led by savvy defensive coordinator Kirby Smart and captained by two first-round LB talents — Dont'a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw. Both players have come on strong late in the season with the help of a suffocating D-line.

Hightower is the most stout, run-stuffing inside 'backer in this year's draft, and Upshaw, who notched a sack and was an energetic force behind the line against Auburn, might prove to be the best power-leverage rusher.

It was Richardson, however, who took over the second half, wearing down the clock and powering the Tide to a 42-14 victory. He deserves to keep the Heisman in the state of Alabama for the third consecutive year. 

• Boston College junior MLB Luke Kuechly picked off Miami (Fla.) QB Jacory Harris and returned it 45 yards for a TD in the Eagles' 24-17 victory on Friday. Kuechly became Boston College's all-time leading tackler in the first half when he notched his 525th stop in only his third season. His three-year production is off the charts and indicative of the best instincts of any linebacker in college football. He might not test through the roof to guarantee a place in the first round, should he declare early, but he will prove to be a tackling machine in the pros.

• Baylor junior QB Robert Griffin III went down with a head injury before the half after taking an impactful hit from Texas Tech's Cornelius Douglas while sliding feet first. Douglas was given a personal-foul penalty and Griffin returned for a few snaps but remained out in the second half. The Bears turned to senior RB Terrance Ganaway in the second half, allowing him to rush for a career-high 246 yards on a school-record 42 carries with two TDs in the 66-42 victory. Ganaway is a thick, bruising back who has worked his way into a draftable standing with a strong senior showing.

• As a converted tight end, evaluators have reason to be intrigued by Auburn senior ORT Brandon Mosley, but he was overmatched vs. Alabama, getting beaten by Courtney Upshaw and mammoth junior DL Jesse Williams and struggling to handle the strength of the Tide's aggressive rush pressure.  

• Illinois and Arizona feature two of the most physically talented rosters in college football, and they both started the season superbly before falling apart. A six-game skid after a 6-0 start cost Ron Zook his job, and Dennis Erickson's seat was hot after losing for the fifth time in six games. Coaching changes tend to push young talent, such as Illini DE Whitney Mercilus and Sun Devils LB Vontaze Burfict, out of school early, and could lead to more departures.

• Oregon junior RB LaMichael James did not return after awkwardly bending his left elbow while putting down his hand to brace himself from a fall midway through third quarter. He missed two other games with a dislocated right elbow earlier this season and is proving to be a china doll.

• A week before Wisconsin and Michigan State meet in the inaugural Big Ten Conference championship game, their offensive stars entered the record books. Spartans senior QB Kirk Cousins set the school mark for career TD passes (62) in a 31-17 win over Northwestern with a 29-yard toss to B.J. Cunningham in the fourth quarter. Wisconsin junior RB Montee Ball notched four TDs in a 45-7 rout of Penn State to give him 34 on the season, only five short of Barry Sanders' single-season NCAA record.