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September 29, 2010

Heisman Watch: Does Peterson have a shot?

The awards watch
A weekly look at the top three candidates for some key postseason awards:
Outland (best interior lineman)
Butkus (most outstanding linebacker)
Nagurski (most outstanding defensive player)
Thorpe (most outstanding defensive back)
Rimington (most outstanding center)
Biletnikoff (most outstanding wide receiver)
Doak Walker (best running back)
Mackey (top tight end)
Lou Groza (top kicker)
Ray Guy (top punter)

LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson is locking down receivers the same way former Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson did back in 1997.

He's also scoring on punt returns, just as Woodson did in '97

That brings up the obvious question: Can Peterson win the Heisman just as Woodson did in '97?

Based on what Peterson has shown in the first third of the season, he cannot be counted out.

Peterson struck a Heisman pose after returning a punt 60 yards for a touchdown in Saturday's victory over West Virginia. "I got caught up in the moment," he said of his pose, which resulted in a 15-yard penalty. "I've got to control myself on the celebration next time."

Next time? That implies Peterson expects to return another punt for a touchdown this season. He already has two, as he took one back 87 yards against North Carolina.

Last season, only one player had three touchdowns on returns (Ohio's LaVon Brazill), so that's a trifecta not often accomplished. Woodson returned only one punt for a touchdown in '97.

Peterson almost has three. He almost scored on an earlier punt return against West Virginia, but was ruled to have stepped out of bounds and settled for a 26-yard return.

Through four games, Peterson is second in the nation with an average of 28.1 yards on nine punt returns. He also has two interceptions.

That's enough to establish Peterson as a bona-fide Heisman candidate. But the question persists of whether a primarily defensive player can win it again.

"I believe so," Peterson said after the game Saturday night. "We're out there dedicated to our football team and making plays as well."

Also making plays and deserving of Heisman consideration are Auburn quarterback Cameron Newton, Oregon running back LaMichael James and Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, among others. Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett had two late interceptions against Alabama that hurt his "candidacy."

Here are this week's top five:

1. QB Denard Robinson, Michigan: He still hasn't done anything that warrants dropping him in the rankings. Robinson rushed for 129 yards, a good but not great total. Of course, he had only five carries in a 65-21 blowout of Bowling Green. Robinson scored two touchdowns - one on a 47-yard run - before leaving the game in the first quarter with a slight injury.

2. QB Terrelle Pryor, Ohio State: Had the Buckeyes played almost any team other than bottom-feeder Eastern Michigan, Pryor's performance would have vaulted him to No. 1 on the list. He was 20-of-26 for 224 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for 104 yards and a touchdown in a 73-20 victory.

3. RB Mark Ingram, Alabama: The reigning Heisman winner missed the first two games because of knee surgery, but he has made up for lost time. He followed up a 151-yard performance against Duke with 156 yards in a big victory over Arkansas in which he scored the game-winning touchdown. In two games, Ingram has rushed for four touchdowns and 308 yards; he's averaging 9.3 yards per carry.

4. QB Kellen Moore, Boise State: Moore threw for 288 yards and three touchdowns in a big win over Oregon State. He's thrown at least two touchdown passes in all three of Boise State's games. Overall, he has passed for 873 yards and eight touchdowns while completing more than 65 percent of his attempts. He's thrown just one interception.

5. CB Patrick Peterson, LSU: He's second in the nation in punt returns with a 28.1 average and has two touchdowns. He also has two interceptions.

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.



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