What to make of a running back who has 431 yards and three touchdowns in his first two games (one of them against a ranked team) and leads the nation in rushing while averaging 10.5 yards per carry? In almost every case, I’d call him a Heisman candidate.
In this case–at least for now–let’s call him my Heisman Player of the Week. UCLA senior Johnathan Franklin earns the honors after rushing for 217 yards on 26 carries and catching three passes for 59 yards (and a score) in the Bruins’ 36-30 win over Nebraska.
Given UCLA’s recent history, perhaps I can be forgiven for being a bit slow to jump on the Franklin-for-Heisman bandwagon. I think he’s a really good back and he’s certainly blossomed in UCLA’s new offense directed by Noel Mazzone. And the way the schedule sets up, with the likes of Houston and Colorado on tap within the span of the next three weeks, he should have several opportunities to pile up the yardage. Looking even further ahead at the schedule, he’ll close things out with USC and Stanford in games that a lot of people will be watching, especially if the Bruins are ranked and in contention for a decent bowl.
But I think the best early-season test for Franklin will come two Saturdays from now when the Bruins host Oregon State. If Franklin can glide by a Beaver defense that made mincemeat of Montee Ball, he’ll give a lot of Heisman voters something to think about.
This one included.
Note: Chris Foster of the LA Times made note of my commentary about Franklin on Monday night and seemed skeptical of my logic. I stick by my contention that voters will not be that impressed if Franklin goes off against Houston on Saturday since the Cougars are a team that lost to Texas State. However, they will be impressed if he has a big game against Oregon State given that the Beavers are fresh off an upset of Wisconsin in which they held Montee Ball in check. It’s pretty simple: If Franklin can do against Oregon State what Ball could not, he’ll be seen as legit.