Todd Gurley’s suspended indefinitely. So now what?

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The news broke on Thursday that Georgia running back Todd Gurley has been suspended indefinitely while his school investigates any contact he might’ve had with sports memorabilia brokers.

So, what’s this mean for the Heisman?

Gurley just recently took over the lead in the race after Oregon’s upset loss to Arizona last Thursday knocked Marcus Mariota down a peg or two. Gurley’s combination of size, speed and athleticism was really beginning to resonate with the Heisman electorate and his production — 773 yards and nine touchdowns through five games — had him on pace for an excellent season.

That’s all in doubt now.

If he misses one game under these circumstances, it’s going to be very difficult for Gurley to win the Heisman. There is an unusually strong field of contenders arrayed against him, so a slip up of this magnitude is going to be hard for voters to overlook. After all, there are plenty of Heisman fish in the sea this year.

Now, it’s possible a precedent could be set and Gurley overcomes missing a game or two, but it’s rare for a Heisman winner to miss games, especially in the modern era.  It’s happened just four times in the last 35 years. Consider:

  • In 1979, USC running back Charles White missed a game and a half early in the season.
  • In 1982, Georgia running back Herschel Walker missed a game.
  • In 1985, Auburn running back Bo Jackson missed parts of two games with thigh and knee injuries (and Auburn lost both times). That ended up being the closest race in Heisman history to that point.
  • In 1993, Charlie Ward missed a game due to sore ribs.

None of those college football legends missed their games due to suspension. Voters will forgive an injury, especially if the overall production is good, but not an NCAA transgression.

And if Gurley misses more than one game, it’s a no-brainer that his Heisman campaign will die.

The only real hope for Gurley is if Georgia makes quick work of its investigation and clears his name. That’s happened before — think of Cam Newton in 2010. Newton survived his NCAA allegations and voters ended up giving him the benefit of the doubt. But he didn’t miss any games and, besides, the season was coming to a close.

That’s not the case with Gurley. We’ve got a long way to go in this Heisman race. If Gurley stays suspended and misses this game, then voters will end up falling in love with some other player. But if he survives and ends up playing on Saturday — and the rest of the season — I think he’ll be okay.

Assuming Gurley does not play against Missouri, who becomes the front runner?

I’d say it depends on what Dak Prescott does against Auburn and what Mariota does against UCLA. Either could take charge in the race with a big performance on Saturday.

I also think Melvin Gordon and Ameer Abdullah will garner closer looks from voters since both running backs are putting together fantastics seasons in their own right.

Stay tuned. It looks like we’re about to go on another wild Heisman ride.

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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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