HP on hiatus

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It seems like an odd time to do so, but we’re going to be putting HeismanPundit.com on hiatus for a few months.

That’s because the Heisman Trust itself has called and I’ve agreed to begin providing content for Heisman.com, the trophy’s official site. It’s an opportunity for me to become even more closely-associated with an award that’s been an integral part of my life these past 12 years.

Since I’ll be working directly for the Heisman Trust, it becomes a bit of a conflict of interest on my part to be commenting on the merits of the various candidates.  Unfortunately, that means my straw poll will have to be set aside for now, as well as my ongoing public analysis of the race.

Luckily, there is no shortage of quality Heisman discussion out there, so I look forward to seeing what others have to say about the very interesting competition that is taking place this fall. On the other hand, if you remain intrigued by the Heisman and are a fan of its tradition, I hope you stop by Heisman.com to see what we have to offer. My goal is to make the official site a vital resource for those who follow the race for the most prestigious trophy in sports.

Much gratitude is due to all those who’ve helped support this site over the years and to those who gave me an outlet elsewhere to air my opinions on this subject. We’re going to see how it goes with the Heisman for now, but it could be that I return here in a few months to continue the discussion. One never knows.

In the meantime, I’ll see you at Heisman.com later this week. Be sure to bookmark it. I hope you enjoy.

— HP

 

 

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Will Missouri kill the SEC’s playoff hopes?

One of the most intriguing matchups coming up on championship weekend in college football is the one between Alabama and Missouri for the SEC title.

On paper, this looks like a walk in the park for the Crimson Tide. The oddsmakers agree, establishing Bama as a 14.5 point favorite over the Tigers.

But while there is a significant talent disparity between these two teams — the Tide is loaded with NFL prospects — keep in mind that there are a few factors working in Mizzou’s favor.

Namely, there is the fact that the Tigers are working under the radar, with very little expectations. They were in the SEC title game last year, so they have some understanding of the stage on which they’ll play. Don’t expect Missouri to be wide-eyed and scared in this one. All the pressure is on the other side of the field.

Second, if there’s one tendency that Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin has in games like this, it is to go conservative. We are likely to see the Tide play things close to the vest and try to ‘out-talent’ the Tigers. This should create an opening for Mizzou to out-scheme Bama.

The Tide struggled at times this year on offense, producing 10 points against Mississippi, 14 against Arkansas and 13 against LSU in regulation. If Kiffin decides to open things up, this game shouldn’t be a contest and Alabama will roll. But if he puckers, look for this one to go down to the wire.

If Missouri pulls off the upset, we’re likely to see the SEC left out of the four-team playoff. Who would’ve thought THAT would happen just a few weeks ago?

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Dak Prescott the new leader in HeismanPundit straw poll

Dak Prescott

Mississippi State became college football’s new No. 1 this week thanks to three-straight wins over top 10 teams.

Now, Bulldogs quarterback Dak Prescott is the Heisman race’s new No. 1 after taking over the lead in HeismanPundit’s latest Heisman Straw Poll released on Tuesday (Oct. 14).

Prescott captured seven out of 10 first-place votes from the weekly survey of Heisman voters from around the country, tallying 25 total points while appearing on nine ballots. Prescott moved to the top spot after finishing second to Georgia running back Todd Gurley last week. The junior has a combined 22 touchdowns running and passing after six games.

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota moved back up into second place, close behind Prescott with 21 points and three first-place votes. He has a sterling 17-to-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio and leads the nation in passing efficiency.

Voters seem settled on the top two candidates in this race at this point, but the rest of the field appears to be in flux.

Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon took third place in the poll with just four points, while Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty and Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper tied for fourth with two points each.

Six other players appeared on ballots and tied for sixth place with one point to their credit, including last week’s poll leader Gurley, who is currently suspended while being investigated for improper dealings with a sports memorabilia dealer.

Washington linebacker/running back Shaq Thompson is one of the those tied for sixth and the first defensive player to appear in the HP poll during the 2014 season.

Now in its ninth season, HeismanPundit.com’s 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 seven seasons, with the final 2012 poll correctly picking the top five finishers and the final 2011 poll picking the top seven. This year’s poll is made up of 10 anonymous Heisman voters from across the country. Each week during the season they will pick three players. 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 HeismanPundit.com Heisman Straw Poll, 10/14/2014

Total Points (with first place votes in parentheses)

1. Dak Prescott, QB, Miss. State — 25 (7)

2. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon — 21 (3)

3. Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin — 4

4. (tie) Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor — 2

Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama — 2

6. (tie) Bo Wallace, QB, Ole Miss — 1

Everett Golson, QB, Notre Dame — 1

Buck Allen, RB, USC — 1

Tevin Coleman, RB, Indiana — 1

Shaq Thompson, LB, Washington — 1

Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia — 1

Number of ballots

Prescott, Mariota — 9

Gordon — 3

Petty  — 2

All others — 1

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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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Picking this week’s games

Last week was rough for picking winners against the spread. I had my first losing week, going 4-6 (but with 2-3 very narrow losses), but considering all the upsets in college football that went on, I think that’s an okay mark. On the year, I’m now 28-22 (.560), so things are still on the plus side of the ledger.

Here are my top 10 picks for this week, with spreads courtesy of DocSports.com. Picks are in bold.

Michigan State – 21 at Purdue

The Spartans defense will dominate a lackluster, non-athletic offense like Purdue’s. The MSU offense is actually underrated and does not try to control the ball like most great defensive teams. It likes to score as much as possible, so I expect a blowout on the order of 42 – 10.

LSU -1 at Florida

Florida is a mess. The Gators had been starting a true freshman at QB and he’s suspended, so they’ll go with former starter Jeff Driskel against LSU. The Tigers are also starting a true freshman QB, but I thnk he’s actually pretty solid. LSU is just better and will win this one easily, 24 – 9.

OVER 70 total Washington at California
California’s offense is a juggernaut and UW has real issues in the secondary. At the same time, California’s defense can’t stop anybody and UW’s offense has shown signs of life at times. Both teams should be in the 40s in this one so I like the OVER. Cal 52, Washington 42

NC State -3.5 vs. Boston College

The Wolfpack have a mobile QB in Jacoby Brissett who can also throw. They gave FSU all it could handle before losing and then they had a letdown last week vs. Clemson, but I think they’ll put it together to beat BC. NC State 31, Boston College 24

Clemson -10 vs. Louisville
Deshaun Watson is the best young quarterback in the country and Clemson offense is turning into a monster. I think the Tigers start slow but eventually overwhelm the Cardinals in Death Valley. Clemson 35, Louisville 17

Auburn -3 at Mississippi State
I see Auburn as the best team in the country with the best coach. This is going to be a back and forth game, but the Tigers will find a way to win by a touchdown or more. Auburn 38, Mississippi State 27

Arizona +3 at USC
The Wildcats just have too much offense for USC to handle, but I think the Trojans will put up a good fight. This should be a barn burner with Arizona coming out on top, 41-31.

Oregon -3 at UCLA

One of these teams is going to leave with a two-game losing streak. I see Oregon as being mentally tougher than the Bruins right now. Having arguably the best player in the country  to work with in Marcus Mariota gives the Ducks the edge. Oregon 45, UCLA 35

Notre Dame -17 vs. UNC

North Carolina’s defensive struggles will continue in South Bend. I don’t see the Tar Heels doing too much on the offensive side of the ball either. Another big game for Everett Golson and the Irish romp, 35-13.

OVER 64 total TCU at Baylor
As well as these two defenses have played so far this year, I don’t think either has seen an offense as good as what they’ll see on Saturday in Waco. I’m not sure who’s going to win this, but I think we’ll see a lot of points so I’m taking the OVER. Let’s go with Baylor 38, TCU 37.

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The CFB Experience Podcast – Week 7 Preview

As the unbeaten teams continue to dwindle, Kent Brown & HeismanPundit Jr. break down the 2 top-10 matchups involving undefeated conference foes. Plus, Kent & David disagree on a couple of road favorites’ chances of winning on Saturday.

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Report: Gurley might be finished for the season

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is reporting on Friday that Georgia running back Todd Gurley might be out for the rest of the season.

A person familiar with investigation of the possible violations by Georgia running back Todd Gurley told the AJC on Friday that it’s a “significant” case of the sale of memorabilia and there is a possibility that Gurley may not be cleared to return to the field this season.

So, it looks like Gurley’s Heisman hopes are pretty much shot.

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