Andrew Luck, Stanford make case for Heisman, BCS bowl

Andrew Luck cemented his status atop Stanford's record books, made his final case for the Heisman Trophy and put the program in position for a second straight BCS bowl.

Now he'll have to wait to see if that's enough.

With no shot at the Pac-12 championship this week, Luck and the fourth-ranked Cardinal (11-1, 8-1) will be watching with everybody else. The resumes for each are remarkably similar to a year ago, when Luck was the Heisman runner-up to Auburn's Cam Newton and Stanford earned an Orange Bowl trip.

The only difference is that the expectations were higher this season.

“I think we're all very proud to be a part of this program,” said Luck, whose college career began a year after Stanford finished 4-8 in coach Jim Harbaugh's first season. “To be a part of this turnaround gives you a lot more satisfaction than coming in and having everything be a cake walk.”

If Luck likes doing things the hard way, he'll enjoy the next few weeks.

The redshirt junior is no longer the clear frontrunner to join college football's most famous fraternity. While he is unanimously projected to be the No. 1 overall in the NFL draft, winning the Heisman is far from certain.

Luck threw for 35 touchdowns this season — breaking his school record of 32 a year ago — and has eclipsed John Elway's career record (77) at Stanford with 80 touchdown passes in only three years. He finished with 3,170 yards passing, a 70 percent completion percentage and only nine interceptions this season without the benefit of an elite wide receiver.

All that might still not be enough.

Luck threw two interceptions and lost a fumble in Oregon's 53-30 stampede past Stanford on Nov. 12, costing Stanford a Pac-12 title and a chance a BCS championship. He also had several shaky moments in the final two games — including another interception against previously No. 22 Notre Dame in a 28-14 victory Saturday night — but kept on winning, turning an otherwise average program into a college football heavyweight.

Stanford coach David Shaw has stumped for Luck to win the Heisman, pleading with voters to look beyond statistics and look at what Luck does at the line of scrimmage: often calling plays, formations and keeping an offense ravaged with injuries — notably to top wide receiver Chris Owusu and two tight ends for the final four games — among the highest scoring in the nation.

“He's one of a kind,” Shaw said. “It's apples and oranges, in my opinion, between him and everybody else. I've seen a lot of the other guys and there are a lot of really, really good football players. There's nobody like this guy.”

Luck's competition has emerged into serious contenders.

Alabama's Trent Richardson, Baylor's Robert Griffin III, Houston's Case Keenum and Southern California's Matt Barkley all could argue they had better seasons than Luck. Stanford's coaches and teammates counter by contending Luck is the best player in the nation and the program would be lost without him.

How far Stanford falls next season will be evidence of that.

In his finale at Stanford Stadium, Luck threw for 233 yards and four touchdowns to build a 21-0 lead against the Fighting Irish (8-4) and hold on late. The victory likely vaulted the Cardinal into consideration for an at-large BCS bowl — with the Fiesta Bowl among the leading possible destinations — a season after rolling past Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl.

Bowl matchups will be announced Dec. 4. The Heisman Trophy ceremony in New York — where Luck will surely be invited — is Dec. 10.

While Luck will have to wait to find out where his legacy stands around the nation, he's already considered about the greatest in Stanford history.

“You look to see what the Heisman stands for, 'The best player in college football,'” safety Michael Thomas said. “He continues to make plays for us, he manages the offense the way nobody else in the NCAA does. To me, that's the characteristics of the best player. He's continued to put us in position to win games, and that's what we do: win games.”

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