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September 15, 2010

Heisman Watch: Robinson clear-cut leader

The awards watch
A weekly look at the top three candidates for some key postseason awards:
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)

Sophomores are on a roll.

The past three Heisman recipients were second-year players, and the leader in this season's Heisman race is, too.

Seriously, how could anyone doubt that is the top early candidate is Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson after his incredible performance in a 28-24 victory over Notre Dame?

A week after setting the school single-game quarterback rushing record with 197 yards against Connecticut, Robinson broke it with 258 rushing yards against the Irish; his performance included an 87-yard touchdown run.

"Our offense came together," Robinson said after the game. "The offensive line blocked, the receivers were catching, everything was clicking. ... I'm a team player and I don't look at stats."

Those kinds of numbers demand a second look, even if Robinson doesn't pay attention to them. Yet Robinson's rushing performance wasn't even the most impressive part of his day against the Irish.

He also passed for 244 yards and a touchdown, but that wasn't the most impressive part of his performance, either.

Rather, it was his play in the final minutes, when he accounted for all the yardage on a 12-play, 72-yard drive that he capped with a 2-yard touchdown run with 27 seconds remaining.

Robinson was 5-of-6 for 55 yards on that drive, including a clutch 15-yard completion on third-and-3. He also ran for a crucial first down on a fourth-down play.

With that kind of showing, even the most Terrelle Pryor-adoring Ohio State fan would have to acknowledge Robinson as the Heisman leader at this point.

1. QB Denard Robinson, Michigan: He accounted for 502 yards of offense and led a clutch touchdown drive in the final minute against Notre Dame.

2. QB Terrelle Pryor, Ohio State: Though he was sharp in a season-opening victory over Marshall, some still doubted the legitimacy of Pryor's candidacy. That no longer be an issue after he passed for 233 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 113 and a score in leading the Buckeyes past Miami.

3. RB Trent Richardson, Alabama: Sure, there are backs with more yardage after two weeks, but keep it all in perspective. Richardson had 66 yards on just 10 carries in the season-opener against San Jose State. Obviously, he could have had much more. Then, he followed that up with 144 yards against Penn State. His workload will decrease when Mark Ingram comes back from injury, but for now, Richardson is a candidate.

4. QB Kellen Moore, Boise State: The Broncos were off last week, but he should remain in consideration for his strong performance in the season-opening win over Virginia Tech, which included leading a game-winning drive in the final minute.

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

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