Now for my list of the players who currently stand the best chance of actually winning the Heisman. This is not a predicted order of the final vote, nor the order of how the vote would go if held today. Some players not on this list are likely to receive support, but not enough to win.
So, here is the HP Heisman Watch after seven weeks of football. One of these guys is going to win the 2010 Heisman:
1. LaMichael James, RB, Oregon–Things went about as well as they could go this past weekend for James, who did not play due to a bye week. The top candidates for the Heisman fell by the wayside and he moves up into the top spot as a result. Right now, he’s the nation’s leading rusher and he plays for the No. 1 team. This week, he’ll get a chance to put an exclamation point on his front runner status with a Thursday night game against UCLA that will get a LOT of attention due to it being the first game as No. 1 in Oregon’s history. The schedule the rest of the way is favorable in the sense that James will have chances to shine in a few more high-profile games, including at USC, versus Arizona and at Oregon State to close the year. I believe that if the Ducks finish unbeaten and James leads the nation in rushing, he’ll win the Heisman, but he’s a narrow leader in this watch right now.
Current Stats: 114 att, 848 yards, 9 TDs, 7.44 ypc; 3 catches, 96 yards, 1 TD
Projected Season Stats*: 1,868 yards, 18 TDs; 6 catches,192 yards, 2 TDs
2. Cameron Newton, QB, Auburn–Last May, I mentioned that Newton could be a darkhorse Heisman candidate if his transition into Gus Malzahn’s offense went smoothly. Well, I think we can safely say that it has gone very well to date. Newton is flourishing in the Auburn attack and seems to be single-handedly winning games for the Tigers. This past Saturday, Auburn beat Arkansas 65-43 behind Newton’s 188 rushing yards, 140 passing yards and four total touchdowns. The Tigers have LSU up next, but I don’t think that will be too much of an obstacle. It looks like Newton’s Heisman candidacy could all boil down to the showdown with Alabama at season’s end. However, there is also a chance that Newton could win the Heisman even with a loss to the Tide. In that scenario, Oregon suffers a loss or James falls off a bit statistically, but Newton plays well in a close loss to the Tide and his season numbers remain too impressive to ignore. Also, if Alabama loses one more game before then, the Tigers could clinch the SEC West regardless and give Newton another chance to redeem himself in an SEC title game.
Current Stats: 80/122 (65.6%), 1,278 yds, 13 TDs, 5 INTs, 180.52 rtg; 1129 att, 860 rush yds (6.7 ypc), 12 TDs
Projected Season Stats*: 2,191 passing yds, 22 TDs, 9 INTs; 1,476 rush yds, 21 TDs
3. Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State–Moore’s Heisman hopes are humming along quite nicely, thank you. He remains the candidate of last resort in that voters find him to be a perfectly acceptable choice but are not exactly rushing to proclaim him to be the most outstanding player just yet. His campaign for the Heisman mirror his team’s quest for the BCS title. It will require the more exciting players ahead of him to falter a bit for him to have a shot. At the same time, he’s probably already assured himself of no worse than a third-place finish in the race. He will appear on almost every ballot, so he’s within striking distance. It helps that his numbers are quickly becoming ridiculous. He leads the nation in passing efficiency with a mark of 190.36, which as it stands is an NCAA record. Furthermore, after throwing for 231 yards and two scores last Saturday against San Jose State, he now has 55 touchdowns and just four interceptions in his last 20 games. It could well be that his numbers alone end up making his case–not to mention his status as the quarterback for an undefeated team–but it would really help him if James or (especially) Newton mess up.
Current Stats: 105/151 (69.5%), 1,567 yds, 16 TDs, 1 INTs, 190.36 rtg
Projected Season Stats*: 3,132 passing yards, 32 TDs, 2 INTs
4. Terrelle Pryor, QB, Ohio State–The rationale for Pryor’s candidacy was always centered around the Buckeyes being prime contenders for the national title. The thinking was that Pryor couldn’t do it on his numbers alone. With Ohio State losing to Wisconsin, it looks like Pryor’s only chance at the Heisman is if he finishes out on a torrid pace and the Buckeyes work their way back into title game contention. This certainly is a possibility–and maybe Pryor will shine more now that the pressure is off–but it’s not one that I would bet on.
Current Stats: 118/181 (65.2%), 1,505 yds, 15 TDs, 4 INTs, 157.97 rtg; 75 att, 410 yards, 3 TDs
Projected Season Stats*: 2,580 passing yds, 26 TDs, 7 INTs; 129 att, 703 yards, 6 TDs
5. Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan–While Pryor’s Heisman rationale was centered around his team’s lofty ranking, Robinson’s was centered around his incredible statistics. But thanks in large part to being knocked out early in the second half against Iowa, Robinson’s numbers have suffered a setback. Unless he can get back on that pace he set in the season’s first half, he’s going to have to defer his Heisman hopes until next year. He did rush for 105 yards and throw for 96 before exiting against the Hawkeyes, so he showed he could still produce against a top flight defense, but his lack of durability has always been the main obstacle to his winning this race. And so it remains. He’s still on pace for some great season numbers, but his penchant for injury will probably prevent him from getting there.
Current Stats: 97/143 (67.8%), 1,319 yds, 9 TDs, 5 INTs, 159.09 rtg; 137 att, 1,096 rush yds (8.0 ypc), 9 TDs
Projected Season Stats*: 2,260 passing yds, 15 TDs, 8 INTs; 1,884 rushing yds, 15 TDs
If the vote were held today
1. Cameron Newton
2. LaMichael James
3. Kellen Moore
4. Denard Robinson
5. Terrelle Pryor
6. Andrew Luck
7. Demarco Murray
8. Justin Blackmon
9. Matt Barkley
10. Andy Dalton