Here is the week 6 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. Todd Gurley, JR, RB, Georgia
Gurley had another fine outing against Vanderbilt, rushing for 163 yards and two touchdowns, while catching two passes for 24 yards, plus a 50-yard pass completion. The combination of his consistent production and his status as the consensus top offensive player in the SEC makes him, for the moment, the Heisman front runner. The key for his candidacy going forward will be whether he helps lead Georgia to the SEC title game. Not only will that mean the Bulldogs will have had a somewhat successful season, it will also provide him one more opportunity to showcase his talents in a huge matchup and allow him a chance to eclipse the 2,000-yard rushing mark. An uber-talented Georgia running back with over 2,000 yards rushing on a 10-3 team will be very attractive to Heisman voters, though some might not like it if the Bulldogs fall in that last game before the votes are due.
Season Stats: 94 carries, 773 yards, 8.2 YPC, 8 TDs, 11 receptions, 53 yards, 100 yard kickoff return for a TD.
Season Pace: 1,855 rushing yards, 19 touchdowns.
2. Marcus Mariota, JR, QB, Oregon
Oregon’s loss to Arizona knocked Mariota from the front runner’s perch, but his candidacy remains viable for three reasons. First, he played pretty well against the Wildcats, throwing for 276 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions, while also catching a touchdown pass. Though he was stripped of the ball on the Ducks’ final drive, I don’t think viewers came away thinking Mariota was to blame for the loss. Second, those who watched the game got to see up close how dire the situation is for Oregon’s offensive line. Injuries have decimated the unit and Mariota is paying the price by taking tons of sacks. While this situation shows that the Ducks are less formidable than believed, it also has the effect of making Mariota’s sterling production seem that much more impressive. Finally, this loss came relatively early in the schedule and Mariota will have several more chances to lead the Ducks against ranked opponents, starting with this Saturday’s game against UCLA. If the Ducks win out and Mariota keeps up his statistical pace, he’ll have unparalleled production for a 12-1 team and Heisman voters will have a hard time keeping him off their ballots. If Oregon loses again somewhere along the line, it’s going to be very difficult for Mariota to take home the trophy unless his stat line is too ridiculously good to ignore.
Season Stats: 91 of 128, 1,411 yards, 71.1%, 15 TDs, 0 INTs, 202.3 rating, 42 carries, 215 yards, 3 TDs, 1 TD reception.
Season Pace: 3,669 passing yards, 39 TDs, 559 rushing yards, 8 TDs, 1 TD reception.
3. Dak Prescott, JR, QB, Mississippi State
Prescott came up big on the national stage, throwing for 259 yards and rushing for 77 while totaling five touchdowns as Mississippi State easily defeated Texas A&M, 48-31. Given his combination of efficient passing and physical running, it’s hard not to see Prescott as a Tim Tebow-like player and, sure enough, his stats through five games mirror what Tebow did during his 2007 Heisman run. He is on pace to have over 4,000 yards of offense and 45 total touchdowns in 12 games, which would put him right in line with the production by recent Heisman winning quarterbacks. Aiding and abetting Prescott’s candidacy is MSU’s rise in the polls and its foray into the college football playoff picture. As with Robert Griffin III in 2011, Prescott could be seen as a transformative player for what has been, over the years, a rather lackluster program. The reason I do not have him as the front runner at the moment is due to the Bulldogs’ remaining schedule. Auburn comes to Starkville this Saturday and trips to Alabama and Ole Miss close out the slate. If Prescott leads MSU to a win over Auburn, then he’ll rightfully take his place as the leading Heisman candidate. But if the Bulldogs stagger to the finish, he’ll probably have to settle for a trip to New York at best.
Season Stats: 77 of 121, 1,223 yards, 63.6%, 13 TDs, 2 INT, 180.7 rating, 85 carries, 455 yards, 6 TD.
Season Pace: 2,935 passing yards, 31 TDs, 1,092 rushing yards, 14 TDs.
4. Everett Golson, JR, QB, Notre Dame
Golson didn’t light it up in Notre Dame’s rain-soaked 17-14 win over Stanford, but his game-winning touchdown pass on 4th and 11 with a minute to go was about as dramatic as it gets. He remains a candidate with high potential, as the matchup with No. 1 Florida State two Saturdays from now gives him a clear-cut shot at making his case for the Heisman. If the Irish knock off the Seminoles, there’s a good chance that Notre Dame will finish the regular season undefeated. Will Heisman voters be able to resist voting for an Irish quarterback who puts up quality production while leading his team to its second undefeated regular season with him starting? I doubt it.
Season Stats: 114 of 178, 1,383 yards, 64.0%, 13 TDs, 3 INTs, 150.5 rating, 138 rush yards, 4 TDs.
Season Pace: 3,319 passing yards, 31 TDs, 331 rushing yards, 10 TDs.
5. Ameer Abdullah, SR, RB, Nebraska
Abdullah was stopped cold against Michigan State, as he rushed for just 45 yards on 24 carries in a 27-22 loss to the Spartans. Still, Abdullah remains on pace for a stellar season and has a chance to top 2,000 yards. Given the remaining schedule, its seems quite possible that the Cornhuskers will win out and land in the Big Ten title game. So Abdullah might get a chance to redeem himself against either Ohio State or Michigan State. The matchup with Wisconsin on Nov. 15 will determine which Big Ten running back gets the most votes in the Midwest region.
Season Stats: 138 carries, 878 yards, 6.36 YPC, 10 TDs, 7 receptions, 130 yards, 2 TD.
Season Pace: 1,902 rushing yards, 22 TDs, 15 catches, 282 yards, 4 TDs.
6. Melvin Gordon, JR, RB, Wisconsin
Gordon is really tearing it up now. The nation’s leading rusher put up 259 yards and a touchdown on just 27 carries in Wisconsin’s 20-14 loss to Northwestern. He is averaging 231 rushing yards per game over his last three games. Gordon’s production is getting to the point where it will soon stand on its own, with the Badgers’ win-loss record receding in importance for Heisman voters. Keep in mind that Troy Davis finished second in the Heisman vote in 1996 despite playing for a 3-8 team because he rushed for over 2,100 yards. Last year, Andre Williams was a Heisman finalist on a 7-5 team because he rushed for over 2,100 yards. Gordon’s name recognition and talent reputation is such that he could win the Heisman for an 8-4 Wisconsin team so long as his season production is seen as being head and shoulders above that of his competitors. If Gordon were to average 204 yards per game the rest of the way — a feat that seems viable given the schedule and his role in Wisconsin’s offense — he’d have 2,300 yards on the season, which would put him in the same group as Barry Sanders, Kevin Smith and Marcus Allen. He’d be a very attractive candidate to voters in that scenario.
Season Stats: 105 carries, 871 yards, 8.30 YPC, 9 TD, 5 receptions, 27 yards, 1 TD.
Season Pace: 2,090 rushing yards, 22 TDs, 12 catches, 65 yards, 2 TDs.
7. J.T. Barrett, FR, QB, Ohio State
This could’ve been Braxton Miller’s spot. In fact, if Braxton Miller was healthy and doing what Barrett has been doing, he’d be in the top three of the Heisman race right now. As its stands, the redshirt freshman is on pace to have the best season for a quarterback in Ohio State’s long and storied history. It’s looking more and more like the Buckeyes will be 7-1 when they take on Michigan State in East Lansing. If Barrett continues to play like he’s been playing while leading OSU over Sparty, he’s going to have a shot at being the third-straight redshirt freshman to win the Heisman. He’s currently on pace for almost 4,000 yards of offense and 45 touchdowns in 12 games. Beat Michigan State and he’ll be able to add to those numbers in the Big Ten title game. If Ohio State is 12-1 at that point and primed for a playoff spot, Barrett’s production could propel him to the Heisman.
Season Stats: 88 of 133, 1,354 yards, 66.2%, 17 TDs, 5 INTs, 186.3 rating, 276 rush yards, 2 TDs
Season Pace: 3,249 passing yards, 41 TDs, 662 rush yards, 4 TDs.
8. Kenny Hill, SO, QB, Texas A&M
The wheels came off a bit for Hill and the Aggies against Mississippi State. The sophomore threw for 365 yards and four touchdowns, but was picked off three times. It’s going to be tough sledding the rest of the way as A&M still must play Ole Miss, Alabama, Auburn, Missouri and LSU. If Hill leads the Aggies through that schedule unblemished, then he’ll have a good case for the Heisman. But if A&M loses again, his Heisman hopes will have to be put on the shelf until 2015.
Season Stats: 155 of 242, 2,110 yards, 64.0%, 21 TDs, 5 INTs, 161.8 rating, 171 rush yards.
Season Pace: 4,220 passing yards, 42 TD passes, 10 INTs, 342 rushing yards.
If the vote was held today
1. Todd Gurley*
2. Dak Prescott*
3. Marcus Mariota*
4. Melvin Gordon
5. Amari Cooper
6. Ameer Abdullah
7. Everett Golson
8. Kenny Hill
9. Trevone Boykin
10. Connor Halliday
* — finalistPowered by Sidelines