Matt Barkley’s Heisman campaign began on December 22nd, 2011, the day he decided to return for his senior season. Denard Robinson’s and Montee Ball’s began even earlier in the month, on December 10th immediately after Robert Griffin III won the trophy.
That’s the way the Heisman works these days. The first thing I was asked when last years winner was announced was, “Who is the favorite for next year”? Here on Heisman Pundit we had a full piece on early Heisman contenders posted just three days after the ceremony (what took us so long?).
Even relative newcomers to the Heisman scene, Collin Klein, Braxton Miller, or De’Anthony Thomas have been on watch lists all offseason and their schools have been working to push them on us as if they were Heisman shoe-ins.
For some though, their Heisman campaign begins tomorrow.
Take Le’veon Bell of Michigan State. Before week one he was a relative Heisman unknown (We did have him as a preseason dark horse). After his monster game against Boise State on the opening Friday of the season his name was on the tongue of every Heisman prognosticator in the game.
He followed up his stellar week one performance with a mediocre outing this past weekend and was quickly forgotten. At Heisman Pundit we know that one mediocre game isn’t going to kill your Heisman chances completely, but two will.
Bell used his bad game card pretty early in the going so he’s going to have to be an absolute beast for the rest of the season. Bell’s campaign for the Heisman begins this week against a ranked Notre Dame team on national television in primetime. I couldn’t think of a better place for a campaign kickoff (or concession speech).
In Los Angeles, Bruin die hards are complaining that the Jonathan Franklin for Heisman bumper stickers should have been printed a week ago after he had arguably the best rushing performance of week one. I actually gave Franklin my player of the week honors (HP gave it to an also deserving Geno Smith) in week one but he stayed off of our Heisman Watch as we waited for more statistics on him.
The data is in and it’s impressive. Two weeks into the season Franklin is the nations leading rusher and averages over ten yards per carry. You could argue that Franklins first campaign tour stop went right through the Nebraska defense but I’d have to disagree. Watching that game it felt like it was Brett Hundley time. Franklin didn’t come on strong until late in the game and by then it was more about the upset than any specific player. Franklin’s greatness in that game had to be digested and computed for a few hours before we could see it for what it was worth.
Now all eyes are on Westwood (via Pasadena) as Franklin takes on his second team from Houston in the past three weeks. This Saturday it becomes official, there are two Heisman campaigns in Los Angeles.
Or three? Marqise Lee probably thinks there should be three. Lee is caught in a tough position, all of his production (which has been prolific thus far) comes from the current Heisman favorite, Matt Barkley. Even with that rather large hinderance Lee has put up numbers that if sustainable for a full season would at least warrant his presence in New York City in early December.
Games of the Week
There are three match ups of ranked opponents (there would have been four but Arkansas couldn’t hold up its end of the bargain with Alabama) this weekend led most notably by the USC-Stanford and Notre Dame-Michigan State games. Florida takes on Tennessee in a very important SEC East match up to round out the trifecta.
Barkley, Lee, and Bell will obviously be the spotlight of these match ups but don’t forget about Tennessee quarter back Tyler Bray, a Heisman dark (very dark) horse candidate. Bray has been impressive in his first two games of the season and a win over Florida with say 350 yards and three (or four) scores might be enough to make him a serious contender (it might also cool Derek Dooley’s hot seat).
Almost every other Heisman hopeful faces a cupcake (Braxton Miller faces California) so there will be impressive numbers put up this weekend but take them with a grain of salt. Geno Smith is expected to put up insane numbers against James Madison, it would be more alarming if he didn’t. The same goes for Aaron Murray against Florida Atlantic, Robinson versus UMass, Franklin against Houston and Klein versus North Texas.
HP v HP Jr. picks coming up this afternoon.