Posted: Monday November 8, 2010 12:15PM ; Updated: Monday November 8, 2010 11:34PM
Cory McCartney
Cory McCartney>HEISMAN WATCH

Despite money allegations, Cam Newton is still the one to beat

Story Highlights

Cam Newton shouldn't lose a shot at the Heisman Trophy because of allegations

Heisman voters may go for a safer choice like Kellen Moore or Andrew Luck

After sitting out game, Oklahoma St.'s Justin Blackmon had 242 total yards, 2 TDs

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Cam-Newton.jpg
Auburn's Cam Newton has been the season's most dominant player, rushing for 1,146 yards -- more than any quarterback to win the Heisman.
Nelson Chenault-US PRESSWIRE

It was a Heisman bombshell like nothing in recent memory: Someone claiming to represent Auburn quarterback Cam Newton during his recruitment allegedly wanted a six-figure payday to secure the QB's commitment.

After a four-month period that saw a rash of player-agent scandals and 2005 winner Reggie Bush returning his trophy after it was discovered he received improper benefits while at USC, the question now looms over the current Heisman frontrunner: What impact will this have on Newton's candidacy?

None. Well, at least not in this voter's mind.

What's changed? Newton remains the most dominant player of the season, with more rushing yards (1,146) than any quarterback who has ever won the Heisman. Let's not forget that despite our now cynical outlook whenever these accusations come to light, that's all they are, accusations. There's no guarantee that the NCAA investigation into Newton's recruitment will be finalized before the Dec. 6 voting deadline, and as a voter I have a responsibility to cast my ballot for the most outstanding and eligible player in the nation. Until further notice, Newton qualifies as both.

There will surely be voters who will look elsewhere. Maybe now they'll even skip past Oregon's LaMichael James (who plead guilty to misdemeanor harassment stemming from an altercation with his ex-girlfriend). It may have happened in March, but if the Heisman frontrunner is under the microscope for perceived off-field misdeeds, it could certainly bring James' troubles back into the spotlight.

Maybe they'll go with a "safe pick" like Boise State's Kellen Moore or Stanford's Andrew Luck, who have played brilliantly without generating any negative headlines. It's their vote and they're entitled to do what they want with it. Personally, I don't want to be among the voters unwilling to give Newton the benefit of the doubt if he's innocent of any wrongdoing.

If I'm wrong I could be part of a vote that leads to another scandal the Heisman Trophy doesn't need. But I'd rather be right in awarding the trophy to the most deserving player than let the court of public opinion condemn a player before we know the truth.

Will I be among the few willing to maintain that stance? We'll know more Dec. 11 when the trophy is awarded in New York, but at this point all we really know is that the pursuit for the Heisman has something it didn't have a week ago: unpredictability.

Before the Watchman unveils this weeks' top 10, here's how I stacked things up after Week 9.

1. Cam Newton, QB Auburn, Jr.

Last Week: 15-of-21 passing for 317 yards and four TDs; eight rushes for 24 yards and one TD in 62-24 win over Chattanooga

Season: 123-of-183 passing for 1,890 yards, 19 TDs and five INTs; 176 rushes for 1,146 yards and 15 TDs; two receptions for 42 yards and one TD

A week of drama certainly didn't have any effect on Newton's game. He threw his first TD pass 30 seconds into the Tigers' win on his way to five TDs in the first 17 minutes. Yes, it all came against the FCS' 77th-ranked scoring defense, but he's now scored 16 times this season, one short of the Auburn record shared by Cadillac Williams, Stephen Davis and Bo Jackson.

Next Up: Saturday vs. Georgia

2. LaMichael James, RB Oregon, Soph.

Last Week: 26 rushes for 121 yards and three TDs; three receptions for 19 yards in 53-16 win over Washington

Season: 196 rushes for 1,331 yards and 17 TDs; eight receptions for 138 yards and one TD

He's now averaging a nation's-best 166.3 rushing yards per game, which is 16.5 more Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson and nearly 30 yards more than the nearest running back, Oklahoma State's Kendall Hunter. If James can keep up that pace over he'll follow up his Pac-10 freshman record of 1,546 yards by obliterating the conference's sophomore mark of 1,656 yards set by Oregon State's Stephen Jackson in 2002.

Next Up: Saturday at Cal

3. Kellen Moore, QB Boise State, Soph.

Last Week: 30-of-37 passing for 507 yards, three TDs and two INTs in 42-7 win over Hawaii

Season: 155-of-216 passing for 2,372 yards, 21 TDs and four INTs; one reception for seven yards and one TD; one punt for 54 yards

Chris Petersen had the Broncos running a no-huddle attack for most of the first quarter to quicken the pace. He also gave a boost to his star's stats as Moore completed 19 passes, the longest stretch of his career, and threw for 322 yards in the first half alone. He finished with a career-high 507 yards passing, joining Hawaii's Bryant Moniz as the only QBs to go over 500 yards this season.

Next Up: Friday vs. Idaho

4. Justin Blackmon, WR Oklahoma State, Soph.

Heisman Hopeful: Justin Blackmon
Source: SI
Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon proves why he deserves to be on the list of Heisman hopefuls.

Last Week: 13 receptions for 173 yards and one TD: one rush for 69 yards and one TD in 55-28 win over Baylor

Season: 75 receptions for 1,285 yards and 15 TDs; four rushes for 92 yards and one TD

Blackmon was spectacular in his return from suspension. He had 115 receiving yards and a score on eight receptions by halftime --- it was his eighth straight game with over 100 yards, equaling Hart Lee Dykes' 1988 school record -- and he opened the second half by taking a pitch on an end around 69 yards for a TD. I know we have to wait until Dec. 9's college football awards show, but can we just give him the Biletnikoff?

Next Up: Saturday at Texas

5. Andrew Luck, QB Stanford, Jr.

Last Week: 23-of-32 passing for 293 yards and two TDs; three rushes for 25 yards in 42-17 win over Arizona

Season: 175-of-258 passing for 2,213 yards, 22 TDs and six INTs; 43 rushes for 370 yards and three TDs; one reception for 11 yards

OK, what does Luck have to do to get Stanford Stadium filled? Over the past four games he's completed 75 percent of his passes for nine TDs and two picks and now owns the Cardinal single-season rushing record for a quarterback, breaking Gene Washington's 1966 mark. Against Arizona, with more than a few empty seats, he also flashed that underrated part of his game as he laid a textbook block to free up Anthony Wilkerson. Catch him while you can, Palo Alto, before he's in the NFL.

Next Up: Saturday at Arizona State

 
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