The HP Heisman Watch, week 5

Big Ten Championship Football

Here is the week 5 edition of the 2014 HP Heisman Watch. After taking into account the games played so far, these are the players who have the best chance of actually winning the Heisman. This is not a prediction of the final order of the race, nor is it an endorsement of who would or should win if the vote were held today. It’s a long view of the race that takes into account schedule and statistical trends.

1. Marcus Mariota, JR, QB, Oregon

Oregon had the week off, but Mariota’s numbers remain pristine. He leads the nation in passing efficiency (217.9) and completion percentage (74%) and is second in yards per attempt (11.8). He is one of six quarterbacks with over 90 throws not to have an interception. He has the spotlight to himself on Thursday when the Ducks will try to exact revenge for last year’s loss to Arizona, so it’s a good opportunity to bolster his status as the front runner in this race.

Season Stats: 71 of 96, 1,135 yards, 74.0%, 13 TDs, 0 INTs, 217.9 rating, 33 carries, 214 yards, 3 TDs

Season Pace: 3,689 passing yards, 42 TDs, 696 rushing yards, 10 TDs.

2. Todd Gurley, JR, RB, Georgia

Gurley had a career day in Georgia’s thrilling 35-32 win over Tennessee, rushing for 208 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries. He is now sixth nationally in rushing yards per game and is averaging nearly nine yards per carry. More importantly, he is very close to getting on pace for the magical 2,000-yard mark. It may take a Bulldog appearance in the SEC title game for him to get there, which means Gurley has to lead his team to the SEC East title. Otherwise, he may be sitting at home on the last weekend of college football. It will be hard to win the Heisman if that happens, but he appears to be on pace to get to New York as a finalist no matter what.

Season Stats: 69 carries, 610 yards, 8.8 YPC, 6 TDs, 9 receptions, 29 yards, 100 yard kickoff return for a TD.

Season Pace: 1,830 rushing yards, 18 touchdowns.

3. Everett Golson, SO, QB, Notre Dame

Golson had another fine outing this past weekend, this time in a victory over Syracuse. Golson completed 32 of 39 passes for 362 yards and four touchdowns (with two picks). At one point, he completed an FBS-record-tying 25-straight passes. The Irish take a step up on in class this weekend when they take on Stanford, which boasts one of the country’s top defenses. If Golson performs well and leads Notre Dame over the Cardinal, he will establish himself as the leading quarterback rival to Mariota in this race.

Season Stats: 94 of 135, 1,142 yards, 69.6%, 11 TDs, 2 INTs, 164.6 rating, 104 rush yards, 4 TDs.

Season Pace: 3,426 passing yards, 33 TDs, 312 rushing yards, 12 TDs.

4. Ameer Abdullah, SR, RB, Nebraska

I said last week that voters love 200-yard rushing games and Abdullah came back with yet another, his third of the season and second in as many weeks, as the Cornhuskers ripped Illinois. Abdullah had 208 yards and three touchdowns on just 22 carries. He is now second nationally in rushing yards per game and is on pace to reach the 2,000-yard mark — and that doesn’t even count a potential extra outing in the Big Ten title game. As he continues his march toward the all-time Nebraska rushing record, he’ll start to reap the benefits of being mentioned alongside the school’s all-time greats, which will give him an extra edge over other backs in the race.

Season Stats: 114 carries, 833 yards, 7.31 YPC, 8 TDs, 5 receptions, 108 yards, 2 TD.

Season Pace: 1,999 yards, 19 TDs, 12 catches, 259 yards, 5 TDs.

5. Melvin Gordon, JR, RB, Wisconsin

Gordon is starting to get on a bit of a tear. He rushed for 181 yards and two touchdowns against South Florida and now has 434 yards and seven scores in the last two weeks. No other back on this list can pile up chunks of yardage the way Gordon can. Like Gurley, he’s approaching the 2,000-yard pace and there’s a good chance he’ll get there even if the Badgers don’t make it to the Big Ten title game. The schedule from her on out is certainly favorable, though only a late-season showdown with Nebraska promises to be high-profile enough for voters to want to zero in. Given the schedule and the strength of the field arrayed against him, Gordon’s best chance of winning the Heisman will probably require him to average around 180 yards and 2.5 touchdowns the rest of the way, which would give him roughly 2,200 yards and 31 scores for the season. I think he can do it.

Season Stats: 78 carries, 612 yards, 7.85 YPC, 8 TD, 5 receptions, 27 yards, 1 TD.

Season Pace: 1,836 yards, 24 TDs, 15 catches, 84 yards, 2 TDs.

6. Kenny Hill, SO, QB, Texas A&M

Hill had his most difficult outing of the season in A&M’s overtime win over Arkansas, completing just 51.2 percent of his throws. However, he did toss four touchdowns to bring his season total to 17, which puts him at second nationally. He’s on pace for a stellar season, but three-straight top 12 opponents are coming up, which could make-or-break his Heisman candidacy. If he leads the Aggies through that gauntlet, he’ll probably be on his way to New York.

Season Stats: 118 of 180, 1,745 yards, 65.6%, 17 TDs, 2 INTs, 175.9 rating, 136 rush yards.

Season Pace: 4,188 passing yards, 41 TD passes, 326 rushing yards.

7. Bryce Petty, SR, QB, Baylor

Petty threw for 336 yards and one touchdown and rushed for two more as Baylor crushed Iowa State, 49-28, this past Saturday. The Bears quarterback is starting to put up the yardage needed to challenge for the Heisman, but his touchdown production is lagging behind a bit. Since the Big 12 does not feature a championship game, Petty has just eight more games to make his case. He’ll probably need to average around 375 yards of  total offense and four total touchdowns per game the rest of the way to have a shot against this very strong field — which is totally doable in Baylor’s offense — though voters might not care as much about the details of his production if he leads the Bears to an undefeated season (including an impressive win over Oklahoma).

Season Stats: 66 of 101, 913 yards, 65.3%, 7 TDs, 1 INTs, 162.18 rating, 13 carries, 79 yards, 3 TD.

Season Pace: 3,347 passing yards, 26 TDs, 289 rushing yards, 11 TDs.

8. Dak Prescott, JR, QB, Mississippi State

Prescott and the Bulldogs are coming off a bye after defeating LSU in Baton Rouge. If Prescott leads MSU over the Aggies this Saturday and then past Auburn the following Saturday, he could move into this list’s top four.  Defeating ranked teams on three consecutive weekends might give him enough momentum to survive a loss later in the season and propel him to the Heisman, so long as he keeps up his statistical pace.

Season Stats: 58 of 96, 964 yards, 60.4%, 11 TDs, 2 INT, 178.4 rating, 62 carries, 378 yards, 3 TD.

Season Pace: 2,892 passing yards, 33 TDs, 1,134 rushing yards, 9 TDs.

9. Taysom Hill, JR, QB, BYU

Hill and BYU had off this past weekend and will face Utah State on Friday night. Hill remains on pace for an excellent season and, if BYU finishes 12-0 with no playoff berth available to it, some voters might send him to New York as a nice consolation prize.

Season Stats: 80 of 121, 876 yards, 66.1%, 6 TDs, 3 INT, 138.3 rating, 79 carries, 428 rush yards, 7 TDs.

Season Pace: 2,628 passing yards, 18 TDs, 1,284 rushing yards, 21 TDs.

If the vote was held today

1. Marcus Mariota*

2. Todd Gurley*

3. Ameer Abdullah*

4. Amari Cooper*

5. Dak Prescott*

6. Kenny Hill

7. Everett Golson

8. Melvin Gordon

9. Bryce Petty

10. Brett Hundley

* — finalist

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About Heismanpundit

Chris Huston, A.K.A. ‘The Heisman Pundit‘, is a Heisman voter and the creator and publisher of Heismanpundit.com, a site dedicated to analysis of the Heisman Trophy and college football. Dubbed “the foremost authority on the Heisman” by Sports Illustrated, HP is regularly quoted or cited during football season in newspapers across the country. He is also a regular contributor on sports talk radio and television.

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