At look at the games from week one that will play a part (however small) in determining the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner….
North Carolina at South Carolina (6 p.m. ET, ESPN)
A lot of fans who know Jadeveon Clowney primarily from the hit he made in last year’s Outback Bowl will finally get a chance to see him up close. I expect the announcing crew will fawn over the All-American defensive end more than anyone has ever been fawned over before. For Clowney’s Heisman hopes to take root, though, he needs to come up big in a game that everyone will be watching. I’m talking multiple sacks and a play or two that clearly affects the game’s outcome. Barring that, we’re likely to get more raving about triple teams and the like, which never turns out well for pure defenders trying to win the Heisman. Of course, a loss would be devastating to his already-dim chances.
Utah State at Utah (8 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1)
After the battle of the Carolinas, be sure to check out the Chuckie Keeton Show. The matchup with in-state rival Utah is the first of two early-season opportunities for the Aggies quarterback to show he is a worthwhile Heisman candidate (the other being a game at USC). Keeton needs to have the kind of outing he had last season in a victory over the Utes — 216 passing yards, 86 rushing yards — and of course come away with another win to make his mark in the race.
USC at Hawaii (11 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)
Marqise Lee, last year’s fourth-place Heisman finisher, starts up his campaign against Hawaii. This game could serve to let us know how much (or if) USC’s quarterback issues will affect Lee’s Heisman chances down the road. If Lee has a huge game, it might point to another productive season for the junior dynamo. If not, it could portend some trouble.
FAU at Miami (8 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
Exciting Hurricane all-purpose running back Duke Johnson is front and center in this one. If he puts up big yardage against FAU he could establish himself as one of the running back candidates we need to keep a close eye on. A ho-hum game, however, will make it that much harder for him to put up the kind of stats he’ll eventually need to become a legitimate contender.
Buffalo at Ohio State (Noon ET, ESPN 2)
Braxton Miller starts out with a patsy, but he needs to be productive in these kinds of games if he is to end up with Heisman-worthy numbers at season’s end. If he has a 200/100 game with four touchdowns or more, then he’ll put himself on that kind of pace. If he isn’t very productive purely because Ohio State doesn’t really need him to be against a team like Buffalo, he’ll have to make up those numbers later against more difficult competition.
Texas A&M vs. Rice (1 p.m. ET, ESPN)
The wild ride continues. Despite the non-marquee matchup, this will be one of the most watched games of the day, at least to start out. The reigning Heisman winner’s every move in this game will be analyzed to see if, just maybe, it was affected by something he did or didn’t do in the offseason. Yet another Johnny Football-style statistical day will probably serve to put everything back into perspective, while a subpar outing will be grist for the hater mill.
Northern Illinois at Iowa (3:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)
If Jordan Lynch is going to make a real run at the Heisman, he has to lead his team to a victory over Iowa. It’s one of the few opportunities he’ll have all season to play a BCS-level school and he must make the most of it. It’s hard to see him getting to New York without good production in a win over the Hawkeyes.
Nicholls State at Oregon (4 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1)
Marcus Mariota and De’Anthony Thomas probably won’t play more than a couple quarters in this one, which means they’ll need to produce what they can when they can. As with other major candidates taking on lower level opponents, this game will mostly affect how their overall stat sheet looks once Heisman votes are due.
Virginia Tech vs. Alabama (5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
I expect this to be a romp for the Tide and it should give AJ McCarron an opportunity to display his mastery of Bama’s efficient and powerful offense. Since McCarron isn’t a numbers guy, leading his team to a win in impressive fashion is paramount. All he’ll have to do afterwards, then, is bask in the praise that’s sure to come his way.
Wofford at Baylor (7:30 .m. ET, FSN)
This game will mostly serve to give us a peak at the Bears’ new quarterback, Bryce Petty. Is he ready to live up to expectations? Can Lache Seastrunk pick up where he left off last season? I expect both answers to be ‘yes’, but these two won’t truly be tested until October.
New Mexico State at Texas (8 p.m. ET, Longhorn Network)
Texas unveils an uptempo offense this year and this game will give us a good sense as to whether David Ash is ready to use that new style to jump into the upper echelon of college quarterbacks.
Wyoming at Nebraska (8 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)
Taylor Martinez begins his senior season as a dark horse Heisman candidate. He needs to be productive running and passing against the Cowboys.
Nevada at UCLA (10 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network)
This should be a shootout and give Brett Hundley a good chance to get a statistical jump on a lot of his Heisman competitors.
Ohio at Louisville (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Teddy Bridgewater gets a great time slot all to himself to show off his skills against an overmatched opponent. He needs to be extra sharp in this one to keep his name alive in the early going of this year’s race.
HEISMAN GAME OF THE WEEK
Georgia at Clemson (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, ABC)
This is a bonafide showdown between at least two legitimate Heisman candidates (Aaron Murray, Tajh Boyd) with the possibility that two others (Todd Gurley, Sammie Watkins) could also emerge. If Murray has a huge game and leads the Bulldogs to an impressive win, he immediately jumps into the top three of the race with a chance to become the front runner the following week after playing South Carolina. If Boyd plays well in a win, he becomes a top five candidate and sets himself and his team up for a possible dream season. But maybe Gurley goes for 200 yards and upends the whole equation, or Watkins breaks the game open with a kick return. There’s lots of ways this game could influence the Heisman race, which is why it is our game of the week.