Sizing up the Big 12 Heisman contenders

We'll have plenty of Heisman coverage as the season nears (and happens, eventually), but ESPN Stats & Info got the party started with a look at all the contenders, broken up by their classification.

The stats folk took a look at the system quarterbacks, the pro-style quarterbacks, and finally, the spread quarterbacks.

The top two contenders? Both from the Big 12 and both from Oklahoma schools.

Landry Jones, Oklahoma

The blueprint for a pocket passer to win the Heisman is simple: put up big numbers and win games. With the Sooners projected to be one of best teams in the country, Jones will have a chance to achieve both.


Jones could lead the nation in many passing categories because of Bob Stoops’ quick-strike offense. In 2010, Jones attempted more passes than any other quarterback, and almost 28 percent of his pass attempts were at or behind the line of scrimmage.

These slants and screen passes allowed Jones to increase his yards and completion percentage on relatively easy passes. It also allowed his receivers to make plays and gain yards after the catch.

My take: They're on point here. Jones is my frontrunner and the Big 12's best shot at a Heisman. I've taken a look at the value of those short passes on the blog before, and it was clear: they're a huge part of what Oklahoma does.

One more interesting point uncovered by the Stats & Info crew: Of Landry Jones 26 career interceptions, 20 have come on the road. That's astounding.

Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State

If Weeden can replicate his 2010 performance, then he’ll put up the numbers necessary for Heisman consideration. Last season, Weeden ranked third in the nation in passing yards, and his career pass efficiency mark of 155.42 is fourth among active quarterbacks.

Yet Weeden may not even be the best bet for the Heisman Trophy on his team.

If he has a big year in 2011, then Biletnikoff Award winner Justin Blackmon probably will as well. In 2010, Blackmon was one of the best big-play receivers in the country and Weeden’s go-to guy on third down, in the red zone and when facing added pressure.

My take: I don't buy that Justin Blackmon is the biggest detriment to Weeden's Heisman chances. For me, the big question is will Oklahoma State win enough games for Weeden to take it home. If the Cowboys are undefeated, he's going to New York, at the very least. I'd bet quite a bit on that. One loss, it will be close. Two losses? No way, no matter what he does.

Is that right? Maybe not, but don't blame me. That's how the Heisman works. You should know this by now. I've got a vote for a handful of the CFB awards, but the Heisman isn't one of them. (Though I'd like one, Heisman Trust. Hint hint.)

One of the receivers from Oklahoma, Jones and Weeden's top targets, could end up in New York as a Heisman finalist, but the two Biletnikoff finalists from a year ago would shock me if they had a legitimate chance to win the Heisman when it came down to it.

Here's what Stats & Info had to say:

Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma

This season, Broyles’ numbers could be mind boggling.

Last season, he averaged more than nine catches per game and did not drop one ball. In his last two seasons, Broyles has 29 touchdown receptions, 20 of them have been for 10 yards or more. Both figures are tops in college football.

Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State

Last season, Blackmon averaged 10.8 yards on receptions made at or behind the line of scrimmage. He also caught 63.6 percent of passes that targeted him 15 yards or more downfield. The ability to turn any throw into a big gain helped Blackmon lead FBS last season in receiving yards per game.

What could possibly haunt Blackmon in 2011? He dropped five passes last season, which may not seem like a lot. But it is when you consider that [South Carolina's Alshon] Jeffery had just one drop last season and Broyles had none.

My take: Those drop numbers are interesting, and I don't know about you, but I hadn't seen those stacked up against each other before. Stats & Info described Blackmon as a "monster," and I'd agree. The big advantage he has over Broyles is his ability to go up and get jump balls, but Broyles' experience (he's been a major contributor for three seasons already vs. Blackmon's one) may make him an even more difficult cover. I still consider Blackmon No. 1 and Broyles No. 2 nationally for receivers, but like I've said, it's a stretch to see either of these guys actually win the Heisman. Biletnikoff? Yeah, one of them will get it.

No Big 12 running backs made the list, but a big attraction? ESPN Insider's a look at a few dark horses. It's a fascinating list full of Big 12 talent. Most of these could, in theory win it. They're all dark horses for a reason, but I could see it happening for almost all these guys.

3. Jeff Fuller, WR, Texas A&M

If Aggies quarterback Ryan Tannehill continues to progress as he did after taking over in the middle of last season, Fuller could end up vaulting over Oklahoma wideout Ryan Broyles as the best pass-catcher in college football.

My take: Disagree! Fuller's great, and probably a top 5 receiver in the college game, but I don't see him overtaking Broyles in any scenario that involves both Broyles and Jones staying healthy. And what about Blackmon?

4. Roy Finch, RB, Oklahoma

Finch had a higher rushing yards per attempt (YPA) average last season than DeMarco Murray and, unlike Murray, all of his numbers were posted against Big 12 competition.

My take: Finch has already missed more games in one year than Murray did his entire career. Oklahoma is likely to employ a committee approach at running back, but if Finch proves he can handle 20-25 carries a game and stays healthy, he's got the best chance of any Big 12 back to win it. (If they're both healthy, Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael will siphon too many carries from one another to have a realistic chance to win, even if A&M goes undefeated.)

6. James Franklin, QB, Missouri

This might seem like a complete long shot on its face, but consider this: Over the past five seasons, Missouri's two starting quarterbacks (Chase Daniel and Blaine Gabbert) averaged the following Heisman Trophy-caliber statistical line: 324 completions, 493 attempts, 3,789 yards, 28 touchdowns/11 interceptions (including more than 3,500 yards each in their debut seasons).

My take: This boils down to winning games. I doubt Missouri's ability to win the 11-12 necessary for Franklin to win it, but if they do, he'll be a big reason why. He'll have a lot of help with his entire receiving corps returning, all of his running backs and four offensive linemen back, and supporting casts can make quarterbacks look great.

Ask Garrett Gilbert.