Robert Griffin III is certainly a worthy Heisman Trophy winner. And for the second straight year, Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck finished second in the voting. Luck becomes only the 10th college football player ever to be a two-time Heisman finalist without winning the trophy.
Why did Andrew Luck fall short again?
Only two of Stanford’s victories were against teams that won as many as eight games—Notre Dame (8-4) and USC (10-2).
The Cardinal’s other two OOC wins were against uninspiring foes (San Jose State and Duke), and their Pac-12 wins came against some of the worst teams in BCS conferences—Colorado, Arizona, Wazzu, Oregon State.
2. Flat Finish
Stanford raced to a 8-0 record in September and October, but looked comparatively pedestrian in November.
Beset by injuries to several star players, the Cardinal struggled in the first half against Oregon State, then got whacked 53-30 by Oregon, barely eked by Cal 31-28 in the Big Game, and in the regular season finale handled Notre Dame in convincing but not overwhelming fashion, 28-14.
3. Duck Disaster
Stanford’s 53-30 loss to Oregon on November 12 cannot be overemphasized.
That defeat came on national TV, with ESPN's College GameDay having broadcast from Stanford’s campus that morning for the first time ever. The Cardinal had a chance to make a national statement, not to mention ensure a spot in the inaugural Pac-12 title game,keep itself in the NCG conversation, and last but not least, provide another national showcase for Luck's Heisman hopes.
Instead, Luck played a less than perfect game, his worst of the season, and the Ducks won going away.
4. Not Enough Luck
Andrew Luck has put up some sensational numbers, but Stanford’s other skill position players lacked the pure electrifying athleticism that makes the highlight reels and dazzles voters.
And, unlike many elite CFB offenses, Stanford’s attack is not predicated on speed and thrills.
In 2009, the Cardinal were led by Heisman Trophy runner up RB Toby Gerhart. In 2010 and again this fall, Stanford was a run-first offense, rushing the ball on nearly 55 percent of its snaps in 2011.
5. Conspiracy Theory
For those who subscribe to conspiracy theories, perhaps the Stanford snub is payback by the CFB establishment against a university that sometimes seems too good to be true. 2011 is the third year in a row that a Stanford player finished second in the Heisman voting, as Luck was preceded by 2009 runner-up Toby Gerhart.
Unlike virtually every other FBS school, Stanford has never been sanctioned by the NCAA. It is recognized as one of the finest academic institutions worldwide, with a distinguished faculty featuring Nobel laureates and other world renowned scholars, and an endless list of prominent alumni in government, technology, sports and arts.
Every year over 30,000 high school seniors apply for admission to Stanford’s freshman class of only 1,600. Indeed, one sign at GameDay read, “Stanford < 7, Oregon > 79,” in reference to the schools’ respective admittance rates.
Does such a pedigree rub the Heisman voters the wrong way? We’ll never know, but Andrew Luck, one of the greatest college QBs ever and seemingly destined for a spectacular NFL career, will never hoist the Heisman Trophy.