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Andrew Luck, Stanford's Success, and the Heisman Trophy

Heisman Trophy favorite Andrew Luck doesn't place much emphasis on individual awards and he doesn't want to talk about a BCS Championship, either.

"For us, it's the Pac 12 championship. We figure if we can get there, we'll keep our fingers crossed and everything will be taken care of and our goals can be reached."

While the Heisman Trophy may or may not be one of Luck's goals, getting to the Pac-12 championship probably increases the odds that he returns to New York City as a finalist for the award. CSN Bay Area's Grant Cohn points out that only two preseason favorites have won the Heisman since 2000, and since both of those players (Eric Crouch - 2001, Matt Leinart - 2004) finished on top-three teams, Luck needs to lead the Cardinal back to the BCS to buck the trend. Cohn writes:

"So Andrew Luck needs to lead his team to a BCS Bowl game just to have a shot, and with Stanford’s soft schedule he’s got to win every single game. That means he’s got to beat Oregon at home and he’s got to win the new Pac-12 Championship game.

He’s got to go 13-0, and he’s got to do it with an inferior version of last year’s Stanford Cardinal."

Hey now. Winning every game would guarantee Stanford a BCS berth, and likely a spot in the BCS National Championship, but it's neither Stanford's only path to a BCS game nor Luck's only hope to win the Heisman. Yes, Cam Newton led Auburn to a national title last season. One year earlier, Toby Gerhart finished runner-up to Mark Ingram in the closest race in Heisman history despite the fact that Stanford had four losses at that point and was bound for the Sun Bowl. Ingram led Alabama to the BCS Championship, but if Gerhart had scored one more touchdown to win Big Game, I think he would've won the award.

Of the nine other Heisman trophy winners since 2000, seven led their teams to the BCS National Championship. But Florida had four losses and played in the Capital One Bowl when Tim Tebow won the Heisman in 2007 and USC had two regular season losses when Carson Palmer won in 2002. Granted, Tebow and Palmer weren't preseason favorites, and Cohn's argument could rest on the idea that the preseason favorite to win the Heisman isn't afforded the same leeway as a darkhorse candidate. I guess I can buy that, but to say that Stanford needs to run the table in the regular season for Luck to have a shot at the Heisman seems a bit much. (Not that the Cardinal won't win every game, of course.)

I don't think this is the last we'll hear of this debate.