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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, December 2, 2011 at 11:28 AM

The 77th annual Heisman Trophy will be handed out on the night of Saturday, Dec. 10th and - even at this late stage of the campaign - there are plenty of folks in denial.

It seems that many media members don't wish to acknowledge the following:

Stanford QB Andrew Luck is the leader of the pack for this bronzed statue - and he's been the leader since Day One of this 2011 season.

Here we'll release our penultimate Jim Sez Heisman Trophy Watch List - it's our top five as we head into this weekend's games when the aforementioned Luck won't be in action as his club's regular-season wrapped up last Saturday night with the 28-14 win against Notre Dame - with a reminder that late next week we'll have our final Jim Sez Heisman Watch List as we declare the winner (guess who!).

Here's the next-to-last Heisman Trophy look at the top five:

#1 -- ANDREW LUCK, QB, STANFORD - The redshirt junior slinger exited the aforementioned regular-season finale win against Notre Dame with 3,170 passing yards and 35 touchdown passes with just 9 interceptions and note Luck also rushed for 153 yards and two TDs this year. P.S., his Stanford team finished regular-season play 11-1 SU (straight-up) and a nifty 9-2-1 ATS (against the spread) as this Pac-12 team scored 40-or-more points seven different times.

No doubt that the 53-30 loss to Oregon back on Nov. 12th puts a slight dent into Luck's Heisman Trophy case but - than again - everyone else on this short list has lost at least once during this 2011 season and now the future #1 NFL draft pick is the frontrunner for this year's most glamorous college football award.

#2 -- TRENT RICHARDSON, RB, ALABAMA - Let the numbers speak for themselves here as this 'Bama back has carried the ball 263 times for 1,583 yards and than there's the 27 receptions worth 27.3 yards a play with 23 overall touchdowns for the nation's #2 team according to the latest BCS Standings.

The 5-foot-11, 225-pound junior has been the key figure in this 11-1 SU squad and keep in mind his final outing prior to the Heisman Trophy vote was truly scintillating as Richardson rushed for 203 yards including the tackle-breaking 57-yard dash in the 42-14 win against archrival Auburn.

If there's one thing that hurts Richardson it's that he did not have a monster game in the epic 9-6 overtime home loss against LSU back on Nov. 5th (see just 89 yards rushing on 23 carries) but he still could get enough South votes to make him the second Tide back in three years to cop this award (see Mark Ingram in 2009).

#3 -- CASE KEENUM, QB, HOUSTON - Note that this 6-foot-2, 210-pounder has set all sorts of career FBS records this year including most completions and most passing yards and his up-to-date stats this year include 4,726 passing yards with 43 TDs and 3 INTs for a Coogs team that's won all 12 of its regular-season affairs while heading into Saturday's Conference USA Championship Game against Southern Miss in the Cougars' own backyard at Robertson Stadium.

It's worth mentioning here that Houston's been a real smash hit versus the vig this season with a 10-2 ATS mark so far and keep in mind Keenum is averaging nearly 394 aerial yards per game and he's only thrown an interception once every 156 pass attempts.

The arguments against having Keenum cop this year's Heisman Trophy include the fact he does not play against BCS competition but he's accomplished everything you can ask for on this level.
#4 -- ROBERT GRIFFIN III, QB, BAYLOR - This 6-foot-2, 220-pound junior is making a major late-year run at the Heisman Trophy after his back-to-back glitzy showings against Oklahoma and Texas Tech. Griffin enters this weekend's duel against rival Texas with 3,678 yards passing (that's 508 more aerial yards than Luck already) with 34 TDs and 5 INTs plus he's rushed for 612 yards with another 7 TDs.

The single-most exciting player in FBS-land has the proverbial "it factor" with late-game heroics against TCU and Oklahoma the stuff of college QB legends and keep in mind Baylor enters this Texas game at 8-3 overall mark (and a decent 6-4 ATS).

To be honest, however, right now we'd rate Griffin's odds to win the Heisman Trophy at no better than 15-to-1.

#5 -- MONTEE BALL, RB, WISCONSIN - This relative late-comer to this year's Heisman Trophy chase likely deserves an invite to NYC after having rushed for 1,622 yards with 29 ground scores prior to Saturday's inaugural Big 10 Championship Game against the Michigan State Spartans.

Ball averages a hefty 6.5 yards a tote and he's chipped in 17 pass receptions and 5 TDs as a pass-catcher for a Wisconsin crew that is 10-2 overall following that 45-7 win against Penn State last weekend when Ball battered the Nittanies with 156 yards rushing on 25 carries with four TDs.

As you've seen for yourself, Ball is "money in the bank" when rushing the ball behind that Wisconsin offensive line anytime he is inside the 10-yard line and a 200-plus yard ground game against "Sparty" in Indianapolis on Saturday night could seal an invite to the ritzy Heisman Trophy ceremony and maybe even a third- or fourth-place finish in the balloting.

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