Posted: Monday November 15, 2010 11:18AM ; Updated: Monday November 15, 2010 11:38AM
Cory McCartney

Heisman options beyond Newton don't come without own baggage

Story Highlights

LaMichael James, Kellen Moore likeliest challengers to Cam Newton for Heisman

Newton first in SEC to get 2,000 yards passing, 1,000 yards rushing in one season

Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon has caught 16 TDs, tops in the nation

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Oregon's LaMichael James leads the country in rushing yards per game and has six touchdowns vs. Top 25 teams this year.

Unlike any Heisman Trophy race before it, this one is defined and tangled in a mess of allegations, speculations and uncertainties.

If Cam Newton had never been implicated in a pay-for-play scandal, if his character had never come into question because of past academic improprieties, the only debate would be over who would finish second to the Auburn quarterback in the Heisman voting.

But it's not that simple.

Last week the Watchman stated his case as to why these reports won't impact my voting, but as the storm clouds continue to build over the loveliest village on the plains, the question has to be asked: if Newton doesn't win the Heisman, then who will?

That's where it gets tricky. The most logical choices are Oregon's LaMichael James, the nation's leading rusher and the most dangerous weapon on the nation's most dangerous offense, and Boise State's Kellen Moore, the cool, polished passer who rarely looks like he's breaking a sweat.

Both generate their own debates.

James' numbers -- he's on pace to break the Pac-10 sophomore rushing record -- can't be ignored, and neither can his past. Last March he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor harassment, and if character suddenly becomes a sticking point amid the Newton controversy, will that transgression cost James?

Moore's battling the specter of the past and voters' tendencies. No player from outside the current BCS conferences has won the Heisman since consecutive victories by Houston's Andre Ware in 1989 and BYU's Ty Detmer in 1990. In the 20 years since, only one non-BCS player has finished higher than third in voting (San Diego State's Marshall Faulk in 1992). Therein may lay the biggest test of the Bronco's legitimacy. Earning a lofty ranking among voters whose names are public is one thing, but getting 900-some anonymous voters (outside the living Heisman winner) to get behind him would truly signal a change in the landscape of the game.

If pressed I'd likely pick James. He has more total yards, averages more yards per game and has more TDs than any other RB despite sitting out a game. In two matchups with Top 25 teams he ran for 496 yards and six TDs. In the end, though, either James or Moore would seem a suitable replacement for Newton, but that's the optimum word -- replacement. This season has been defined by Newton -- for better, and potentially for worse -- which is why trying to anoint a potential new Heisman leader simply feels forced.

Before I unveil this week's top 10 contenders, here's a look back at how the Watchman stacked things up after Week 10.

1. Cam Newton, QB Auburn, Jr.

Last Week: 12-of-15 passing for 148 yards, two TDs and one INT; 30 rushes for 151 yards and two TDs in 49-31 win over Georgia

Season: 135-of-198 passing for 2,038 yards, 21 TDs and six INTs; 206 rushes for 1,297 yards and 17 TDs; two receptions for 42 yards and one TD; one punt for 22 yards

Heisman Hopeful: Cam Newton
Source: SI
Auburn QB Cam Newton illustrates why he deserves to be on the list of Heisman hopefuls.

If the allegations are getting to Newton, you'd never know it by his on-field production -- or his postgame comments, since he wasn't made available to the media. He was brilliant as the Tigers clinched the SEC West, accounting for at least four TDs for the sixth time this year as he became the eighth player in NCAA history and the first in the conference with 2,000 yards passing and 1,000 rushing in a single season.

Next Up: Friday, Nov. 26 at No. 10 Alabama

2. LaMichael James, RB Oregon, Soph.

Last Week: 29 rushes for 91 yards; two receptions for 11 yards in 15-13 win over Cal

Season: 225 rushes for 1,422 yards and 17 TDs; 10 receptions for 149 yards and one TD

The Duck had a few less push-ups to do as Cal kept James out of the end zone for the first time since the Rose Bowl and held him to a career-low 3.1 yards per carry. But the most concerning sight was James being helped off the field with an ankle injury. He was on crutches after the game but insisted he's fine. He'll get a week off before facing the Pac-10's top rushing defense.

Next Up: Saturday. Nov. 26 vs. No. 23 Arizona

3. Kellen Moore, QB Boise State, Jr.

Last Week: 19-of-26 passing for 216 yards and three TDs in 52-14 win over Idaho

Season: 174-of-242 passing for 2,588 yards, 24 TDs and four INTs; one reception for seven yards and one TD; one punt for 54 yards

The nation's most efficient passer flashed his inner gunslinger -- and showed he's got a little improve in his game. Flushed from the pocket, Moore scrambled left and threw on the run to Gabe Linehan in the back of the end zone for a 21-yard TD, capping his day as the Broncos won their 23rd straight game and kept the Governor's Trophy for the 12th straight year. Now Moore turns his sights toward another rivalry trophy -- the Milk Can.

Next Up: Friday vs. Fresno State

4. Justin Blackmon, WR Oklahoma State, Soph.

Last Week: Nine receptions for 145 yards and one TD in 33-16 win over Texas

Season: 84 receptions for 1,430 yards and 16 TDs; four rushes for 77 yards and one TD; one blocked punt recovery for a TD

The breakout star of the season just keeps delivering. For the third straight game Blackmon had over 100 yards receiving in the first half as he's now hauled in a nation's-best 16 receiving TDs. Through 10 games he's averaging 158.8 receiving yards per game, putting him on pace for a higher average than Michael Crabtree in either of his Biletnikoff-winning seasons and the highest in FBS since Nevada's Trevor Insley averaged 187.3 yards per game in 1999.

Next Up: Saturday at Kansas

5. Andrew Luck, QB Stanford, Jr.

Last Week: 33-of-41 passing for 292 yards and one INT; three rushes for three yards in 17-13 win over Arizona State

Season: 208-of-299 passing for 2,505 yards, 22 TDs and seven INTs; 46 rushes for 373 yards and three TDs; one reception for 11 yards

It wasn't pretty. Arizona State's pass rush was getting to Luck as he committed two turnovers in Sun Devils' territory and for the first time this season he failed to throw a TD pass. But he came through when it mattered, hitting on all four of his pass attempts in leading the Cardinal on a 10-play, 85-yard drive to set up the decisive score and keep Stanford's Rose Bowl hopes alive.

Next Up: Saturday at Cal
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