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November 24, 2010

Heisman Watch: Still time to catch Cam

The awards watch
A weekly look at the top three candidates for some key postseason awards. An asterisk denotes that the three finalists for the award already have been chosen:
Outland (best interior lineman)*
Butkus (most outstanding linebacker)
Nagurski (most outstanding defensive player)*
Thorpe (most outstanding defensive back)*
Rimington (most outstanding center)
Biletnikoff (most outstanding wide receiver)*
Doak Walker (best running back)*
Mackey (top tight end)*
Lou Groza (top kicker)*
Ray Guy (top punter)*

Heisman ballots arrived late last week with voting instructions and a Dec. 6 deadline for casting a ballot.

That leaves top contenders Cameron Newton of Auburn, Kellen Moore of Boise State and LaMichael James of Oregon with two more games to enhance their "candidacies." Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck has one more game.

Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon has at least one more game and maybe two if the Cowboys can defeat Oklahoma on Saturday and reach the Big 12 championship game.

Newton is the clear-cut leader and probably could clinch the trophy with a big performance against Alabama on Friday. But the uncertainty about his eligibility has cast doubt on his chances, as several voters already have announced a hesitancy to vote for him.

If that movement picks up steam, the race for the trophy is wide open.

Moore is the second choice in a lot of polls, but the substandard caliber of competition he has faced could become an issue. Luck has been consistent more than spectacular, although he was excellent in a victory over California last week. His numbers are similar to Moore's despite facing stronger competition.

James may have slipped some because he did not play last week, while Luck and Moore had strong performances. But he has rushed for more than 100 yards in seven of the nine games in which he has played. If he closes with strong games against Arizona and Oregon State, he would be in good position to challenge Newton.

Here is this week's top five:

1. QB Cameron Newton, Auburn: His most important game -- and the game he may be most judged on -- is this week's Iron Bowl clash against Alabama. Newton has passed for 2,038 yards, rushed for 1,297 and has accounted for 38 touchdowns.

2. QB Andrew Luck, Stanford: His Heisman profile has to have been raised after a brilliant performance in a blowout win over Cal. Luck completed 80 percent of his passes for 235 yards and two touchdowns and also had a 58-yard run. He has passed for 2,746 yards and 24 touchdowns, with seven interceptions. He's also the Cardinal's second-leading rusher with 445 yards.

3. QB Kellen Moore, Boise State: After a 333-yard passing performance in a blowout of Fresno State, Moore remains the national leader in passing efficiency. He has thrown for 2,921 yards and 28 touchdowns, with five interceptions. He's thrown at least two touchdown passes in every game. His competition remains a point of contention: Five of Boise State's 10 opponents are ranked between 92nd and 118th in the nation in total defense.

4. RB LaMichael James, Oregon: An open date hurt James, who was idle while Luck and Moore played well last week. James was limited to 91 yards and no touchdowns against Cal two weeks ago.

5. WR Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State: He continues to lead the nation with 1,560 receiving yards and 17 touchdown catches. Blackmon has had at least one touchdown catch in every game in which he has played. Last week against Kansas, he had 10 catches for 130 yards and a touchdown.

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.

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