Heisman Watch: Luck dethroned

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Heisman Watch: Luck dethroned

It's still not the appropriate time to destroy the BCS. Several different scenarios have to play themselves out before we go down that road.

Therefore, let's get straight to the Heisman Watch...

Rank Player, Position, School Recent Game Stats Season Stats Next Game 1 Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State 31-37, 423 yards, 5 TD in 66-6 win at Texas Tech 313-428 (73), 3635 yards, 31 TD, 9 INT At Iowa State 2 Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford 27-41, 271 yards, 3 TD, 2 INT in 53-30 loss to No. 7 Oregon 221-313 (71), 2695 yards, 29 TD, 7 INT, 2 rush TD California 3 Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama 32 rush, 127 yards, TD in 24-7 win at Mississippi State 204 rush, 1205 yards (5.9 YPC), 18 TD, 318 rec. yards, rec. TD Georgia Southern 4 Case Keenum, QB, Houston 22-29, 325 yards, 3 TD in 73-17 win over Tulane 279-376 (74), 3951 yards, 37 TD, 3 INT, 2 rush TD Southern Methodist 5 LaMichael James, RB, Oregon 20 rush, 146 yards, 3 TD in 53-30 at No. 4 Stanford 153 rush, 1207 yards (7.9 YPC), 12 TD, 175 rec. yards, rec. TD USC (No. 18 AP Poll)
On the bubble: Landry JonesQBOklahoma, Kellen MooreQBBoise State

Analysis:

1) Brandon Weeden -- Weeden was ranked fifth in last week's standings and and I also said, "Trap game coming up this weekend as the Cowboys head to Lubbock to take on Texas Tech." Well, the 28-year old, former 2nd round pick of the New York Yankees, had a near perfect performance in the Cowboys' 66-6 beatdown of the Red Raiders (I still don't know how Oklahoma lost to Texas Tech at home a few weeks back). Weeden has a better completion percentage and has thrown more touchdowns than Andrew Luck. He has also thrown for nearly 1,000 more yards than Luck, but it's hard to take this into account given that he has thrown the ball 115 more times (Luck averages 8.6 yards per attempt compared to Weeden's 8.5 yards per throw). Ultimately, Weeden is in the driver's seat now because if the he plays exceptionally well in two more Oklahoma State victories, the Cowboys will be playing in the national title game and he could very well win the Heisman.2) Andrew Luck -- Oddly enough, Luck was able to overcome a pick-six he threw near the end of regulation against USC three weeks ago, but wasn't able to lead Stanford back after his first quarter interception was turned into eight Oregon points (they characteristically went for two and were successful). The reason? Oregon is flat-out better than Stanford. Luck wound up throwing two interceptions (the second was a dropped pass that deflected right to an Oregon defender who returned it for a touchdown) and he also lost a fumble. He also throw three touchdowns and for the majority of the game looked every bit like the Andrew Luck we are accustomed to seeing. However, he admitted it was the worst game he played all season and Stanford suffered a blowout loss that dropped them to No. 9 in the BCS. Thus, Luck was knocked off his perch by Weeden. But do not fear Stanford fans -- because Luck has two more opportunities on national television to regain the top spot.
3) Trent Richardson -- The future Doak Walker Award winner received a season-high 32 carries against Mississippi State, and racked up a modest 127 yards and a touchdown. It will be hard for Richardson to leap both Weeden and Luck at this point, and because his team only has two games left, he could end up getting leaped by either Case Keenum or the other running back who checks in at No. 5 (who both have three games left to accumulate stats). Forget the Heisman, Richardson just hopes that either LSU or Oklahoma State slip up so he can showcase his talent in the BCS title game.4) Case Keenum -- Shockingly, Keenum wasn't able to break any more NCAA records over the weekend after he did so three consecutive weeks prior (what's left to break?). He has done everything needed to become a legitimate Heisman candidate, and will definitely be in New York for the presentation if Houston finishes 13-0. Consider yourself warned Case -- if your team loses, you will not make a BCS game and you will fall out of the Heisman race. See: Kellen Moore.
5) LaMichael James -- Remember when Oregon lost to LSU back on September 3 and LaMichael James' Heisman hopes were dashed because he only rushed for 54 yards (he also rushed for a TD and led Oregon with 61 receiving yards)? Well, despite the fact he missed two games because of a gruesome elbow injury he sustained against Cal on October 6, James is back in the Heisman hunt after rushing for 146 yards and three touchdowns against the No. 4 ranked Stanford Cardinal. In two fewer games than Richardson, James has rushed for two more yards -- made possible by his three straight 200-plus-yard performances against Missouri State, Arizona and Cal. James should put up huge numbers over the Ducks' final three games, cementing an invitation to New York City.
Drew Shiller is a Web Producer at CSNBayArea.com. You can follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller

Local college players turn heads at respective Pro Days

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AP

Local college players turn heads at respective Pro Days

Last week both Stanford and Cal held “Pro Day,” an annual showcase where each school’s departing players audition for NFL scouts. 

To those unfamiliar with Pro Days, these events typically feature lots of men with stopwatches, a few TV news crews, and a group of players running 40-yard dashes, cone drills and 20-yard shuttles. The objective is to give NFL teams an opportunity to evaluate prospects up close and personal.

Since 1982, the top 300 or so prospects in the country have been invited each year to the NFL Scouting Combine, a centralized evaluation for all pro teams. Subsequent Pro Days held by individual schools provide a stage for players who weren’t invited to the combine. They also offer participants a chance to improve their combine performance or give interested teams another look.

At Cal’s Pro Day on Friday, Khalfani Muhammad turned a lot of heads with a 4.35 40-yard dash, faster than any running back recorded at the combine earlier this month. In fact, Muhammad’s time would have tied for fourth best overall. Wide receiver Chad Hansen also impressed with a 4.45 in the driving rain. Quarterback Davis Webb, who had some accuracy issues at the combine, had a good outing despite throwing a wet ball for much of the day. His predecessor, Jared Goff, was the No. 1 pick in last year’s NFL draft.

Stanford’s “Pro Timing Day” on Thursday attracted a lot of attention because of the presence of two projected first round draft picks — running back Christian McCaffrey and defensive lineman Solomon Thomas. Over 40 NFL representatives were on hand, including 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan and Carolina Panthers head man Ron Rivera. Several sportswriters and local TV anchors covered the proceedings, which were also streamed live on ESPN3.

It was a far cry from the pre-Jim Harbaugh and David Shaw days, when Stanford had few pro prospects and Pro Days drew sparse turnouts. However, 31 Stanford players have been drafted in the last seven years, including four in the first round and six in the second. McCaffrey and Solomon will boost those numbers.

McCaffrey has been the Cardinal’s marquee player for the past two seasons. He set an NCAA record with 3,864 all-purpose yards in 2015, finishing second in the Heisman Trophy balloting, and then rushed for 1,639 yards in ’16. Thomas had 25 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks in the last two seasons and was named the Pac-12’s defensive lineman of the year last fall.

Surprisingly, most pundits now believe Thomas will go higher than McCaffrey in the draft. McCaffrey is currently projected to go middle or late first round. Thomas is expected to go in the top five. In fact, NFL draft guru Mel Kiper now has Thomas being taken with the No. 2 pick in the draft by that team down the road in Santa Clara.

NFL teams are split as to whether McCaffrey can be an every down back. Some see him as more of a complimentary, third-down type. At the combine, he excelled in the 40-yard dash (4.48), vertical jump (37.5”), cone drill (6.57) and both 20 and 60-yard shuttles (4.22 and 11.03), but did only 10 reps in the bench press. His overall rating at the combine was 5.99 (out of a possible 8.0). At Pro Day on Thursday, he put on a brilliant display in a number of receiving drills, showing off the versatility that many teams crave.

Thomas was one of the top performers at the combine, registering a 4.69 40, 30 reps in the bench press, a 126” broad jump, 6.95 cone drill and 4.28 shuttle. His overall rating was 6.85. On Pro Day, he did a number of position specific drills.

Unlike McCaffrey, who elected to skip the Cardinal’s post-season game, Thomas played in the Sun Bowl and elevated his pro stock with several game-changing plays. The NFL’s post-combine analysis noted: “Thomas' bowl performance against North Carolina opened a lot of eyes, as he was all over the field in the Cardinal's win in a way that isn't even reflected in an impressive stat line (seven tackles, two for loss, sack).”

According to one NFL observer at Pro Day, “In the bowl game, Thomas went from the second round to maybe the second pick in the draft.”

Stanford coach David Shaw, understandably, is a huge fan of both players. He chafes at the suggestion McCaffrey can’t be an every down back.

“People may not want to talk about it, but race is a component in that discussion,” he told me at Pro Day. “Some teams want to put Christian in a box. ‘He’s a white running back, another Danny Woodhead.’ Well, he’s not. If you look at the film, what he did at the combine, and here today, he’s more of a Reggie Bush or a Ladainian Tomlinson. He’s a difference maker.”

Shaw also marveled at Thomas’s rise up the draft boards since his Sun Bowl performance.

“That’s the beauty of bowl games,” Shaw said. “What might seem meaningless to one guy can make 10 million dollars for another.”

Stanford rallies to beat Notre Dame, punches ticket to Final Four

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USATSI

Stanford rallies to beat Notre Dame, punches ticket to Final Four

BOX SCORE

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Alanna Smith's jumper with 23 seconds left capped Stanford's rally from a 16-point deficit in the second half, Erica McCall blocked a last-second shot and the Cardinal edged top-seeded Notre Dame 76-75 Sunday to reach its first Final Four since 2014.

Brittany McPhee scored 27 as the second-seeded Cardinal (32-5) won its eighth in a row overall. This was the third straight year Stanford and Notre Dame have met in the NCAA Tournament, with the Cardinal winning twice.

Down 47-31 in the third quarter, Stanford surged to end Notre Dame's 17-game winning streak. The Irish (33-4) had a final shot, but McCall blocked Arike Ogunbowale's drive near the basket.

The win in the Lexington Regional gives Stanford a chance to pursue its third national championship under coach Tara VanDerveer.

Among those in the crowd at Rupp Arena was Jon Samuelson, whose daughter, Karlie, scored 15 for Stanford. A day earlier, he was at the Bridgeport Regional to see another daughter, UConn star Katie Lou Samuelson, help the Huskies win their 110th straight game.

Smith finished with 15 points.

Ogunbowale had 25 and Marina Mabrey 20 for Notre Dame, which had sought its sixth Final Four in seven seasons.

After driving for a basket with 51 seconds left, Smith added her biggest shot for the go-ahead score. Stanford then denied Notre Dame's Lindsay Allen and Ogunbowale on successive attempts in the final 15 seconds to spark a wild celebration.

THE BIG PICTURE:
Stanford once again proved no deficit was too big to overcome. The Cardinal shot 12 of 26 on 3-pointers, Samuelson and McPhee each making five. Not bad, considering Stanford shot 2 of 15 overall in the second quarter while getting outscored 23-7. ... McCall had 15 rebounds.

Notre Dame seemed to do everything right for most of the game but couldn't stop Stanford's perimeter game in the second half. The Irish also made just 11 of 31 shots after halftime and were topped 33-32 on the boards.

UP NEXT:
Stanford faces the South Carolina-Florida State winner in the Final Four in Dallas next weekend.