The HP Heisman Watch, week 7

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Here is the week 7 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 and Mariota bounced back this past Saturday against UCLA, as the Ducks whipped the Bruins, 42-30. Mariota passed for 210 yards and two touchdowns and added 75 yards and two touchdowns rushing. This performance in a high-profile matchup, combined with the suspension of Todd Gurley, puts Mariota back into the front runner spot in the Heisman race. Barring injury, it appears that Mariota is on his way to a special season statistically. He’s on pace to have over 4,100 yards of offense and 49 combined touchdowns by the time the Heisman votes are due. As we’ve mentioned many times before, this type of production is in line with what the previous six Heisman-winning quarterbacks have produced. Mariota also leads the nation in passing efficiency and has an eye-popping 17-to-0 TD-to-INT ratio. Furthermore, he retains, arguably, the season’s most-impressive single-game outing against a quality defense thanks to his performance in Oregon’s win over Michigan State. The most likely scenario going forward in my estimation is that Mariota will continue to add to this sterling production while helping lead Oregon to the Pac-12 title. If this comes to fruition, Mariota is a fairly safe bet to win the Heisman. If other factors intrude — like another Ducks meltdown, a debilitating injury, or a dominant finish to the season by Dak Prescott — then Mariota’s road to the Heisman will be much tougher. As it stands, he and Prescott are the players with the best shot at winning and we could soon see this race evolve into a very tight two-man competition going into the season’s final stretch.

Season Stats: 108 of 155, 1,621 yards, 69.7%, 17 TDs, 0 INTs, 193.7 rating, 49 carries, 290 yards, 5 TDs, 1 TD reception.

Season Pace: 3,513 passing yards, 37 TDs, 624 rushing yards, 11 TDs, 1 TD reception.

2. Dak Prescott, JR, QB, Mississippi State

Prescott has now emerged as the main challenger to Mariota for the 2014 Heisman after leading the Bulldogs to their third-straight win over a top 10 team. Prescott threw for 246 yards and a touchdowns (with two picks) and rushed for 121 yards and two touchdowns in MSU’s surprisingly comfortable 38-23 win over then-No. 2 Auburn. As a result, the Bulldogs are now the No. 1 team for the first time in school history, giving Prescott’s candidacy a powerful narrative to support it. He is on pace for a remarkable season and, if he ups his production a bit, he could approach or even surpass the touchdown totals put up by Tim Tebow in 2007 (29 passing TDs, 22 rushing TDs). If he continues on his current statistical pace and the Bulldogs win the rest of their games, Prescott is going to win the Heisman going away. The only reason I have him No. 2 on this list right now is that it might be too much to ask for MSU to go undefeated given the remaining schedule that includes Alabama and rival Ole Miss. It’s certainly possible that Prescott can win the Heisman without having his team go undefeated, but one loss might have the damaging effect of removing the Bulldogs from the SEC title game, which means he’ll be sitting home on the final Saturday before the Heisman vote is due instead of adding to his already-impressive production. Nonetheless, Prescott is a lock for a trip New York and one of two main candidates to take home the trophy.

Season Stats: 96 of 156, 1,478 yards, 61.5%, 14 TDs, 4 INT, 165.6 rating, 106 carries, 576 yards, 8 TD.

Season Pace: 3,198 passing yards, 30 TDs, 9 INTs, 1,248 rushing yards, 17 TDs.

3. Everett Golson, JR, QB, Notre Dame

Golson threw for 300 yards and three touchdowns (with a pick) and helped the Irish avert a look-ahead disaster in vanquishing North Carolina, 50-43. As impressive as he’s been through six games, everything Golson has done up this point is merely prologue to the huge matchup in Tallahassee this Saturday against defending national champion Florida State. If Golson plays well and leads the Irish over the Seminoles, the Heisman race is going to be very interesting indeed the rest of the way. A potentially undefeated Notre Dame team headed for the college football playoff led by a quarterback with quality production and a sterling career record as a starter is going to be very attractive to a large swath of Heisman voters. On the other hand, it’s highly unlikely that Golson will be able to overtake Mariota and Prescott if FSU beats Notre Dame. The spotlight will be on Golson this week. Will he be ready for his closeup?

Season Stats: 135 of 216, 1,683 yards, 62.5%, 16 TDs, 4 INTs, 148.6 rating, 209 rush yards, 4 TDs.

Season Pace: 3,366 passing yards, 32 TDs, 8 INTs, 418 rushing yards, 8 TDs.

4. Melvin Gordon, JR, RB, Wisconsin

Gordon continues to spew out yards and touchdowns. He rushed for 175 yards and four touchdowns in Wisconsin’s 38-28 win over Illinois. As impressive as the yardage numbers were, they were actually a little below where he needs to be to remain on pace for the kind of production he needs to win the Heisman.  However, he’s such an explosive back, he could easily make up for it in subsequent games. As it stands, he’s on pace for nearly 2,100 yards and 28 total touchdowns in 12 games. The key is going to be whether he can help the Badgers get to the Big Ten title game. That extra matchup against a marquee opponent will give him a chance to pad his already-impressive numbers. If some of the quarterbacks in this race slip up along the way, Gordon’s monster season could attract considerable Heisman attention. It also helps that Gurley’s exit removes an extra running back from the competition. Whatever the case, I like his chances of getting to New York.

Season Stats: 132 carries, 1,046 yards, 7.92 YPC, 13 TD, 6 receptions, 27 yards, 1 TD.

Season Pace: 2,092 rushing yards, 26 TDs, 12 catches, 65 yards, 2 TDs.

5. Ameer Abdullah, SR, RB, Nebraska

Abdullah and Nebraska were off this past weekend. While he was stopped cold against Michigan State in his last outing, Abdullah remains on pace for a stellar season with 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 on the weekend before the Heisman votes are due.

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. J.T. Barrett, FR, QB, Ohio State

Barrett was off this past weekend.  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 and some of the other candidates in this race slip up, he might 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.

If the vote was held today

1. Marcus Mariota*

2. Dak Prescott*

3. Melvin Gordon*

4. Everett Golson*

5. Bryce Petty

6. Ameer Abdullah

7. Amari Cooper

8. Bo Wallace

9. Trevone Boykin

10. Shaq Thompson

* — 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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2 Responses to The HP Heisman Watch, week 7

  1. Starkweather October 13, 2014 at 2:22 pm #

    What a weird bunch of contenders this year.

  2. TheTruth October 13, 2014 at 3:06 pm #

    Todd Gurley is the best football player in America, but the Heisman hasn’t gone to the best player most years anyway. This should make all the SEC haters happy as maybe they can get another one of their undeserving players the award. Remember when Peyton Manning got screwed?