The HP Heisman Watch, Week One

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Here is the week 1 edition of the 2014 Heismanpundit 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

Mariota looked sharp (as expected) in Oregon’s 62-13 victory over South Dakota, but that was just a tune up for the mega tilt this Saturday against No. 8 Michigan State. The Heisman front runner will further solidify his status if he plays well against the tough Spartans defense.

Week One Stats: 14 of 20, 267 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs, 231.64 rating, 6 carries, 43 yards, 1 TD.

2. Nick Marshall, SR, QB, Auburn

Marshall sat out portions of Auburn’s 45-21 win over Arkansas due to a suspension. His numbers were dampened as a result, but they should pick up as the season progresses. While the schedule sets up nicely for Marshall, it will be interesting to see if Jeremy Johnson eats into his production a bit in subsequent games. If so, then Marshall will tumble down this list.

Week One Stats: 4 of 6, 50 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs, 136.67 rating, 8 carries, 19 yards, 1 TD.

3. Todd Gurley, JR, RB, Georgia

Gurley jumped four spots from last week’s Heisman Watch thanks to a monstrous effort in Georgia’s 45-21 win over No. 16 Clemson. He rushed for 198 yards and three scores and also added a touchdown on a 100-yard kickoff return. So far, so good, but staying healthy will be the key for him this season. If he has another great game against South Carolina this weekend, he’ll likely emerge as Mariota’s main challenger for the Heisman.

Week One Stats: 15 carries, 198 yards, 3 TDs, 1 KOR, 100 yards, 1 TD.

4. Trevor Knight, SO, QB, Oklahoma

There aren’t many marquee games on Oklahoma’s early-season schedule, which means Knight’s performances probably won’t be getting much attention for a while. He had a decent game against Louisiana Tech, but he’ll need to pick up his statistical pace in the next few weeks in order to stay in contention for the Heisman.

Week One Stats: 19 of 34, 253 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 122.21 rating, 4 carries, 17 yards.

5. Bryce Petty, SR, QB, Baylor

Petty had an abbreviated outing against SMU due to an injured back. It doesn’t look to be a serious matter, but it did result in a rather un-Petty-like stat line. We won’t hear much from him until the Bears take on Texas a month from now.

Week One Stats: 13 of 23, 161 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 144.02 rating, 2 carries, 21 yards, 1 TD.

6. Brett Hundley, JR, QB, UCLA

The Bruins offense looked sluggish in a closer-than-expected win against Virginia, but there will be plenty of opportunities for Hundley to showcase his talents this season. For now, the question is whether UCLA’s rather porous offensive line will be able to keep him off the ground.

Week One Stats: 20 of 33, 242 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs, 122.21 rating, 15 carries, 39 yards, 1 TD.

7. Melvin Gordon, JR, RB, Wisconsin

Gordon was brilliant against a very athletic LSU defense, gaining 140 yards and scoring a touchdown on just 16 carries. For some reason, he only had two carries in the second half, which led to the Badgers blowing a 24-7 lead before losing to the Tigers. The schedule ahead should allow for high-level production by Gordon, but he won’t play another team of consequence until mid November.

Week One Stats: 16 carries, 140 yards, 1 TD.

8. Everett Golson, JR, QB, Notre Dame

Golson looked sharp in his first game back after missing all of 2013, totaling five touchdowns in Notre Dame’s thrashing of Rice. This week’s game against Michigan will give us an inkling into whether this kind of production will be a trend or an aberration. If it becomes a trend, he’ll rocket up this list.

Week One Stats: 14 of 22, 295 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 206.28 rating, 12 carries, 41 yards, 3 TDs.

9. Ameer Abdullah, SR, RB, Nebraska

Abdullah is already ahead of his junior year pace after cranking out a career-high 232 yards against Florida Atlantic. If he can get to 600 yards by the time the Cornhuskers face Miami, he might have a shot at reaching the magical 2,000-yard mark, which would make him a serious Heisman candidate.

Week One Stats: 21 carries, 232 yards, 1 TD, 1 rec., 9 yards.

10. Javorius Allen, JR, RB, USC

Allen got off to a nice start with 133 yards against Fresno State. If he goes off against Stanford on Saturday, he’ll be viewed as the Pac-12′s top running back and move up this list.

Week One Stats: 22 carries, 133 yards, 1 TD, 1 catch, 23 yards.

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

It was just one game, but Hill’s incredible debut in a win on the road against South Carolina was probably the most talked-about performance of the weekend. He plays in a system that almost guarantees elite production, so if he proves his mettle in wins against Alabama, Auburn and LSU, he’ll be in the Heisman conversation all season.

Week One Stats: 44 of 60, 511 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs, 161.37 rating, 7 carries, 5 yards.

12. Taysom Hill, JR, QB, BYU

Hill was almost effortless in piling up 405 yards of total offense and five touchdowns in BYU’s 35-10 crushing of Connecticut. It looks like his passing skills have really improved, which means he has the potential to have a 3,000/1,000 season. If he has the kind of game he had this past week while beating Texas on Saturday, look for the Heisman chatter to begin.

Week One Stats: 28 of 36, 308 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs, 177.15 rating, 12 carries, 97 yards, 2 TDs.

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Is Kenny Hill a Heisman candidate now?

NCAA Football: Texas El Paso at Texas A&M

Johnny who?

Texas A&M sophomore quarterback Kenny Hill had a remarkable debut on Thursday night, completing 44 of 60 passes for a school-record 511 yards and three touchdowns in the Aggies’ 52-28 thumping of No. 9 South Carolina.

As a result, the idea of Hill as a legitimate Heisman candidate has started to percolate. He has already debuted on an online gambling site with 20/1 odds.

And with good reason.

This game gave us a lot of information. Not just about Hill, but about the players who surround him, as well as the the offensive system employed by Kevin Sumlin.

Remember that Sumlin’s scheme has, in the past, produced high-powered attacks at both Oklahoma (with Heisman winner Sam Bradford) and at Houston (with NCAA all-time passer Case Keenum). Nonetheless, a school of thought emerged that held that his success in College Station has had as much to do with Johnny Manziel as anything else. Without Manziel, the thought went, Sumlin’s offense would fall back to earth against ‘tough’ SEC defenses.

That school of thought dissolved somewhere in the middle of the first quarter against the Gamecocks. Indeed, Hill now looks like he could be the latest in an illustrious line of Sumlin quarterbacks. It helps that he’ll be throwing to a deep and talented receiving corps that includes future NFLers Ricky Seals-Jones and Speedy Noil.

What’s more, Hill’s talent is not in question. When he signed with A&M in 2013, I listed him as a future Heisman candidate. But you never know how a quarterback is going to turn out. After Thursday night, we have a much better idea, which means we can look ahead a bit to project what Hill might be able to accomplish as Sumlin’s trigger man.

I think a ,000-yard passing season is very realistic, especially since he only has to average 317 yards per game the rest of the way. After all, that’s what Sumlin quarterbacks do. If the touchdowns continue to come in bunches and the interceptions remain low, then we’re looking at a bonafide contender for the Heisman.

In other words, a key part of the equation that helps to produce a Heisman — the elite production — could be already baked in the cake for Hill, the same way it is for Marcus Mariota, Nick Marshall, Bryce Petty and, to some extent, Brett Hundley and Trevor Knight.

While his ultimate fate will be decided by how he and his team fares in games against Alabama, Auburn and LSU, this is an important element to have in place.

Does this automatically mean Hill is going to win the Heisman? Of course not. But it does increase his chances.

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Super Quarterbacks

Bryce-Petty-1

A stat to remember as the 2014 season starts:

The last six Heisman-winning quarterbacks have averaged the following in these important categories (at the time of the Heisman vote):

4,292 yards of total offense, 47 combined touchdowns, 181.3 passer rating.

Compare this to the previous five quarterbacks who won the Heisman:

3,257 yards of total offense, 33 combined touchdowns, 153.8 passer rating.

That’s over 1,000 more yards of offense, 14 more touchdowns and almost 30 more passer rating points than the previous trend line.

This is the era of the Super Quarterback. If you want to find out who the next Heisman winner will be, just figure out the identity of this year’s Super Quarterbacks.

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The College Football Experience: Ep. 4 – Week 1 Preview

The season is finally here and @kentbrown34 & @HeismanPunditJr are breaking it all down with previews for all of the biggest matchups in week one. Plus, they give you week one locks & upset specials. Tune in and share!

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Weekly picks

I was pretty solid picking games against the spread last year. Time to get started for week one of the 2014 season. All lines courtesy of Docsports. These are the 10 games I think are the best plays of the week:

Texas A&M +10.5 at South Carolina — This should be a shootout and I think the total of 61 will be surpassed. A&M freshman Speedy Noil should have a fine debut as the Aggies upset the Gamecocks in a close one.

Texas A&M 38, South Carolina 34

Arkansas at Auburn (57.5 total) — I like the OVER on this game as we should see a lot of points, with Auburn scoring the vast majority of them.

Auburn 45, Arkansas 24

Fresno State +22 at USC — The Trojans are installing a new scheme and have been hit by some key injuries on defense. I think Bulldogs quarterback Brandon Connette, the Duke transfer, will give USC enough trouble to keep this one from getting out of hand. Look for a big game from Buck Allen.

USC 35, Fresno State 17

Colorado (-3) vs. Colorado State — The Buffaloes will be much improved in Year 2 under Mike MacIntyre and we’ll see the first signs of that against their in-state rival.

Colorado 28, Colorado State 21

Nebraska (-21.5) vs. Florida Atlantic — Big Red should be improved this year behind Ameer Abdullah. I like Tommy Armstrong’s potential.

Nebraska 45, FAU 17

Washington (-17) at Hawaii — The Huskies are as talented as they’ve been in 15 years and should roll in this one despite starting a young quarterback.

Washington 41, Hawaii 17

LSU (-5) vs. Wisconsin – Too much athleticism and talent for Wisconsin to handle in this one.  The Badgers will keep Leonard Fournette in check, but that will open things up for quarterbacks Jennings and Harris.

LSU 24, Wisconsin 17

Idaho (+36.5) at Florida — I know it’s Idaho, but that’s a lot of point for an offense like Florida to cover, even if improvement is shown under new OC Roper.

Florida 41, Idaho 10

California at Northwestern (60 points) — I like the OVER on this. The combination of Cal’s offense and its (lack of) defense should ensure a lot of points being scored.

Northwestern 45, California 41

Arizona (-23.5) vs. UNLV — New quarterback Anu Solomon will have a big game throwing to his stellar receiving corps and the Running Rebels will have a tough time against the Wildcats defense.

Arizona 55, UNLV 21

Penn State (+2) at UCF — Christian Hackenberg picks up where he left off last year and James Franklin wins his debut as Nittany Lions head coach.

Penn State 27, UCF 17

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Marcus Mariota tops HeismanPundit’s preseason Heisman Straw Poll

Marcus_Mariota_Oregon_2013

Oregon junior quarterback Marcus Mariota leads the 2014 preseason HeismanPundit.com Heisman Straw Poll, released on Wednesday (Aug. 27).

This year’s early survey saw the Ducks quarterback collect six first-place votes from the 10-person panel of Heisman voters from around the country. Mariota totaled 24 points to finish five points in front of last season’s trophy winner, Jameis Winston of Florida State, who had three first-place votes and 19 total points.

“It’s Mariota’s turn,” said one voter. “He’s a really talented player who should have a great season for a Ducks team that should challenge for a national title. If he stays healthy, he’ll win.”

Thought Mariota is the front runner, Winston’s strength in the survey shows that, just like Billy Sims, Ty Detmer, Jason White, Matt Leinart, Tim Tebow and Johnny Manziel before him, he’s not going to go down quietly in his quest for that elusive second Heisman.

UCLA junior quarterback Brett Hundley was third in the balloting with six points, while Baylor senior quarterback Bryce Petty was fourth with five points. Hundley’s teammate, linebacker/running back Myles Jack, picked up the panel’s other first-place vote to place fifth.

Running back Melvin Gordon of Wisconsin, defensive tackle Leonard Williams of USC and wide receiver Ty Montgomery of Stanford also appeared on ballots.

It’s important to keep in mind that the HeismanPundit Heisman Straw Poll is merely a snapshot of what voters are thinking at the moment. No preseason top selection in the poll’s history has ever gone on to actually win the Heisman.

“It provides a starting point for the race and shows us what voters are thinking heading into the season,” said Chris Huston, who runs HeismanPundit.com. “But historically it hasn’t been a prediction of where the race will end up.”

Now in its ninth season, the HeismanPundit.com Heisman Straw Poll is the college football world’s most trusted gauge of Heisman voter sentiment. It has been the most accurate Heisman poll in the country during the past eight seasons, with the final 2012 edition correctly picking the top five finishers while the final 2011 survey nailed the top seven. This year’s poll is made up of 10 anonymous Heisman voters from across the country selecting three players each. Tabulations for the preseason poll are tabulated like a real Heisman ballot, with three points awarded for a first-place vote, two points for a second-place vote and one point for a third-place vote.

Each week’s poll is released on Tuesdays throughout the season at HeismanPundit.com.

The 2014 preseason HeismanPundit.com Heisman Straw Poll

Total Points (with first place votes in parentheses)

1. Marcus Mariota, Jr., QB, Oregon — 24 (6)

2. Jameis Winston, So., QB, Florida State — 19 (3)

3. Brett Hundley, Jr., QB, UCLA — 6

4. Bryce Petty, Sr., QB, Baylor — 5

5. Myles Jack, So., LB/RB, UCLA — 3 (1)

6. (tie) Leonard Williams, Jr., DT, USC — 1

Melvin Gordon, Jr., RB, Wisconsin — 1

Ty Montgomery, Sr., WR, Stanford — 1

Previous preseason straw poll selections (with eventual finish in parentheses)

2013 — Johnny Manziel (5th)

2012 — Matt Barkley (n/a)

2011 — Andrew Luck (2nd)

2010 — Mark Ingram (n/a)

2009 — Tim Tebow (5th)

2008 — Tim Tebow (3rd)

2007 — Darren McFadden (2nd)

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Predicting the four-team playoff

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This is the first year of the four-team playoff format, so it’s time to make my fearless preseason prediction on which teams will make it in. Here goes:

Auburn – Gus Malzahn is the best football coach in America. Who else could’ve taken over a team that was 3-9 the previous season and guided it to within one minute of a national title?  And all with a first-year starting quarterback and a defense that couldn’t really stop anybody. Sure, Nick Saban is great. But he even he needed a throwaway season before getting Alabama back into the sport’s upper crust. Malzahn didn’t have time for that nonsense. This year, Auburn’s offense will be the SEC’s best and one of the top two or three in the country. That’s what Malzahn does, you know. He’s done it practically every year he’s been a coach. The defense will be better than last year, too. So…better offense and better defense plus very good recruiting class means a better team, in my book. Book their place in the playoff as the SEC champ.

Oklahoma – I was very high on Trevor Knight coming out of high school, so I was surprised by his early struggles as the OU starter last season. But his brilliant performance against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl made it clear to me that he’s ready to play at a high level as a sophomore. The Sooners have very good talent all around, especially on the defensive front, and a schedule that is favorable. Bob Stoops made it to the BCS title game four times with three different style quarterbacks. The dual-threat Knight will lead him to his first playoff appearance.

Florida State – All it took was one great season for the benefit of the doubt to be returned to Florida State. In seasons past, the mantra by pundits was that the Seminoles would always find some way to screw things up against at least one lesser opponent. Now that FSU finally made it through its slate unscathed, that assumption has been turned on its head and nothing less than dominance is expected in every outing. Based on talent and the ease of the schedule, that should indeed be the case in 2014. FSU returns too many key components on offense and defense for a letdown to have a deleterious effect. I don’t think the ride will be as smooth as it was last season, but the soft ACC should once again put up little fight against the ‘Noles.

Oregon – This is the Ducks’ year, at least on paper. They have the Heisman front runner in Marcus Mariota. They have a stable of talented running backs. They have most of their offensive line back. They’ve got a premier deep threat at wide receiver and some good athletes at tight end. The defense is Oregon’s most talented in the modern era. The offensive system is formidable. The only question is whether Mark Helfrich has what it takes to lead the Ducks to a Pac-12 title. Oregon is almost unstoppable when the sun is shining, but it tends to struggle when the sky gets dark and cloudy (I’m talking metaphorically here). Helfrich needs to teach this team how to overcome adversity, which is tough to do when things go your way so easily most of the time. If he figures out how to do it, the Ducks could win them all.

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