TUSCALOOSA, AL - OCTOBER 08: Trent Richardson #3 of the Alabama Crimson Tide reacts after scoring a touchdown against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 8, 2011 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
In ESPN.com's most recent Heisman "experts" poll, Alabama Crimson Tide halfback Trent Richardson was voted as the likely fourth place finisher in the race for the most pristigious individual award in all of college football, were said award to be decided today. Amongst him are a handful of quarterbacks, all of which deserve legitimate praise as Heisman worthy in their own right, as well as Oregon's LeMichael James, South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore, and LSU's Tyrann Mathieu - the only defensive player on the list.
As the most dominating halfback in the world of college football through six weeks, Richardson deserves the praise he has earned thus far without question. He has had five consecutive games of over 100 rushing yards and is on pace to amass nearly 1,600 yards on the ground along with just over 300 receiving yards and 24 total touchdowns. That's assuming he doesn't play in the SEC Championship game in favor of LSU, by the way, so his season ending totals could easily be projected even higher than that.
He's good, and he'll likely put up 150+ yards and a pair of scores against our hapless defensive front, but is he Heisman good?
That really is a tough question to answer.
The Heisman Trophy is, per the many of us who follow college football as objectively as we can, a largely bogus award. "The outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity," is a terribly vague, subjective, and simple metric by which to annoint the best overall player in the game. This metric is so flawed that, year after year, the winner is nothing more than the "best starting quarterback or halfback for a top-5 college football team, save for Charles Woodson the few receivers who have won it in the modern era." How else does one explain Troy Smith, Matt Leinart, Jason White, Ron Dayne, and others winning the award over the likes of N'Domakung Suh, Drew Brees, Eli Manning, Larry Fitzgerald, and other elite college players who not only met the award's criteria but also were truly instrumental to their program's sustained success?
So to be "Heisman good" really means to be the most highly talked about guy in the game playing for a winning football team. So, sorry Trent, but unless Russell Wilson or Andrew Luck both decide to quit footballin' tomorrow, you're not going to win the Heisman. The Doak Walker award is undeniably yours to lose, though, so there's that.
And even if it were truly based on whoever the "best" player in college football was, how then would you measure that? Is it the person who means the most to his team's success or puts up the gaudiest of statistics, because that'd be Michigan's Denard Robinson or Baylor's Robert Griffin III. Is it the player who is the most valuable player of a likely national championship game participant (remember, the award is given before the national title game is played, hence Reggie Bush's selection over Vince Young in 2005, something which likely never would have happened otherwise), because that'd be LSU's Tyrann Mathieu or Oklahoma's Landry Jones. Should maturity, leadership, academics, and other intangibles be primary factors in the decision making process, because then, hell, you could give Kentrell Lockett the prize tomorrow if you wanted.
So while I don't think that Trent Richardson will win the Heisman Trophy, nor do I think he would earn it under the most sensible circumstances, I do not deny that he's an excellent footballer and worthy of the consensus all-American selection he is likely to receive.
Despite criticism of the Heisman Trophy, it still manages to carry an allure which, regardless of its seemingly silly selection process and results, has endured for as long as it has been around. It gives players the recognition they (feel like they) deserve and programs the bragging rights needed to excite fans and lure recruits. It is still, despite its shortcomings, a big deal. I get why Trent Richardson and Alabama fans in general would want the trophy in their case, but it ain't gonna happen - this season.