Posted by Adam Jacobi
The Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, given annually to the top senior (or graduating 4th-year junior) pared its list of contenders to 10 on Wednesday. And look out: the field this season is absolutely loaded with deserving candidates. It really might be the best crop of candidates in the award's history. Here's a breakdown of all ten in alphabetical order, and whether we think each of them has a shot at taking this coveted award home.
Nick Foles, Arizona: Foles isn't going to win this award, not with Arizona struggling so badly, but his career's been better than you think. Foles is currently at 7,932 yards passing and 54 touchdowns on his career with an outside shot to hit 10,000 yards and 70 TDs before it's time for him to hang up his Wildcat helmet.
Robert Griffin III, Baylor: On statistics alone, nobody's having a better year thus far than Robert Griffin III; RG3 has gone for 142-182, 1950 yards, 22 touchdowns, and only interceptions, combining both production and efficiency better than anybody else in the field. Also, Griffin isn't just a fourth-year junior on track to graduate; he graduated after his third year at Baylor with a degree in political science, and is currently in grad school for corporate communications. Griffin is a strong contender for this award thus far.
Landry Jones, Oklahoma: It wasn't that long ago that Jones was thrust into the starting role for Oklahoma, taking over for Sam Bradford in 2009 after the returning Heisman winner suffered a major shoulder inury (twice). And yet even though Jones is slightly off his pace from his brilliant 2010 campaign, he's already over 10,000 yards on his career with 80 touchdowns (and a legitimate shot at topping triple digits there). Also, Oklahoma's undefeated with an inside track at another national championship bid.
Case Keenum, Houston: If Keenum's knee had stayed healthy in 2010 and he'd have set all those all-time career marks then, he probably would have taken home the Golden Arm award over Scott Tolzien. As it stands now, Keenum might not be a finalist for the trophy; the competition is that much better this year. Still, Keenum's on pace for more astronomical numbers, and if the voters feel like saluting a record-breaker, Keenum could definitely be in the mix here.
Andrew Luck, Stanford: It would sound pretty much derogatory to describe Luck as the pre-anointed No. 1 pick of the NFL draft, but being that some NFL fans want their teams to tank on the season in order to draft Luck (to his chagrin), it's clearly true -- and for good reason. The Stanford senior has his team undefeated and rolling thus far, and he's third in the nation in passing efficiency. If Stanford can make it to the Rose Bowl this year, look for Luck to be a finalist for this award.
Kellen Moore, Boise State: Moore has been so indispensable at QB for Boise State that it almost seems unfathomable that he won't be there next year. Moore has racked up a 44-2 record as a starter with the Broncos, and it would be a shock if he doesn't get to 50 wins for his career. Moreover, his QB play has elevated the BSU offense to judo in football form, able to skillfully counteract anything and everything a defense throws at it, and usually without undue exertion. Boise will likely need to run the table in order for Moore to have a chance to win this trophy.
Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M: Tannehill's probably not even going to be a finalist without an insane last half of the season and a Big 12 championship under his belt, but even being on this list is a heck of an accomplishment for a guy who was playing wide receiver 52 weeks ago. Tannehill's numbers in the 13 games (essentially one full season) since taking over for Jerrod Johnson? 290-440, 3355 yards, 26 TD, 12 INT. Not too shabby, but not a game-changer in this class of candidates.
Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State: The 28-year-old quarterback is back in Stillwater with his favorite target, Justin Blackmon, and as a result the Cowboys are undefeated and ranked fourth in the initial BCS standings, with wins over Texas, Texas A&M, and a surprising 6-1 Louisiana Lafayette already under their belt. Weeden's only ranked 17th in passing efficiency nationally (and sixth among Golden Arm Award candidates), so he's going to need to find a way to stand out from the pack.
Russell Wilson, Wisconsin: In terms of passer efficiency, Wilson leads the entire nation with a ridiculous 210.93 rating thus far. Sure, he's also got an offensive line full of mashers and an elite stable of tailbacks behind him, but numbers are numbers, and Wilson's numbers are phenomenal. It'll be interesting to see if the voters punish Wilson for his departure from North Carolina State and one-year shot with Wisconsin, but if he's on this short list of contenders, he's probably in good shape.
Tyler Wilson, Arkansas: Given the slate of competitors already mentioned above, it seems pretty clear that Tyler Wilson is not winning this award. He's been doing a fine job of helping Razorback fans adjust to life without Ryan Mallett under center, at least, and with any lucky he'll be back for his senior campaign to take another run at this trophy when the field isn't quite as crowded.