Who are the Heisman dark horses?

james conner

With the third week of the 2014 season now in the books, the Heisman race is starting to take shape.

However, we’ve seen some late-breaking runs at the Heisman in recent years, which means there could be some candidacies out there that are still in the percolating stage.

Here are a four to keep an eye on:

James Conner, So., RB, Pittsburgh — Conner’s 544 rushing yards are the most in the opening three games of a season in Pitt history. The prior mark was held by Tony Dorsett, who had 487 yards in the first three games of his 1973 freshman season. Is the 6-2, 250-pound Conner the next great Pitt tailback? If he’s still churning out yardage at or near his current clip (181 yards per game) by mid-season, the answer to that question will be ‘yes’.

D.J. Foster, Jr., RB, Arizona State – Foster has 510 yards and five rushing touchdowns in the first three games and he’s averaging a whopping 9.4 yards per carry. He also has 11 catches for 139 yards and a score. Big games against UCLA, USC and Stanford in consecutive weeks could put him on the Heisman map.

Gunner Kiel, So., QB, Cincinnati – You can’t get much better than Kiel’s debut against Toledo. The Notre Dame transfer threw for 418 yards and six touchdowns (with no interceptions) and opened with a passer rating of 215.97. Kiel is a big-time talent who has the potential to put together a monster season for the Bearcats.

Dak Prescott, Jr., QB, Mississippi State – Recent years have shown us that to compete for the Heisman as a quarterback, you pretty much have to put up over 4,000 yards of offense and at least 40 combined touchdowns. After three games, Prescott is on pace for 3,876 and 44 scores, so he’s in that wheelhouse.  It helps, too, that the Bulldogs might have their best team in quite a while.

Are there any redshirt freshmen on the horizon with a chance to emerge the same way Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston did in recent years?  Doesn’t look like it at this point.

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The HP Heisman Watch, Week 3


Here is the week 3 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

It was another highly-productive day for Mariota as he threw for 221 yards and rushed for 71 with four total touchdowns against Wyoming (he played a little over one half of the game). He continues to be the clear front runner in this race and it looks like he may not face a true challenge to this status until early November.

Season Stats: 50 of 71, 806 yards, 70.4%, 8 TDs, 0 INTs, 202.9 rating, 20 carries, 156 yards, 3 TDs

Season Pace: 3,497 passing yards, 35 TDs, 676 rushing yards, 13 TDs.

2. Todd Gurley, JR, RB, Georgia

The beauty of playing running back is that if your team loses, you don’t get as much blame as the quarterback. Gurley certainly did as much as he could do in Georgia’s 38-35 loss to South Carolina, carrying the ball 20 times for 131 yards and one touchdown. He’ll remain a strong contender for the Heisman as long as he continues to churn out this kind of production. But to actually win, he’s going to need a magical game or two against some ranked opponents down the road.

Season Stats: 35 carries, 329 yards, 9.4 YPC, 4 TDs, 5 receptions, -1 yards, 100 yard kickoff return for a TD.

Season Pace: 1,974 rushing yards, 24 touchdowns.

3. Nick Marshall, SR, QB, Auburn

Marshall’s team had off this past weekend, but he’ll have a shot at making a splash in front of a national TV audience when the Tigers take on Kansas State on Thursday night. This is an important game for Marshall’s Heisman hopes as he needs a big outing to get back on a strong statistical pace.

Season Stats: 15 of 25, 151 yards, 56%, 1 TD, 0 INTs, 119.9 rating, 19 carries, 122 yards, 2 TDs.

4. Everett Golson, SO, QB, Notre Dame

Golson continues to play at a high level as Notre Dame moved to 3-0 after beating Purdue, 30-14. He threw for 259 yards and two touchdowns and added 56 yards and a touchdown on the ground. He’s off to a great start, but circle October 4 (Stanford) and October 18 (Florida State) on the calendar. Those dates will be Golson’s Heisman proving ground.

Season Stats: 62 of 92, 780 yards, 64.6%, 7 TDs, 0 INTs, 156.8 rating, 83 rush yards, 4 TDs.

Season Pace: 3,120 passing yards, 28 TDs, 332 rushing yards, 16 TDs.

5. Trevor Knight, SO, QB, Oklahoma

Knight threw for 308 yards and a touchdown and also added a rushing touchdown in the Sooners’ 34-10 victory over Tennessee. The next four games against West Virginia, TCU, Texas and Kansas State should tell us if he’s going to have the combination of production and team success needed to validate this ranking.

Season Stats: 60 of 101, 860 yards, 59.4%, 4 TDs, 2 INT, 140.0 rating, 14 carries, 69 yards, 2 TD.

Season Pace: 3,444 passing yards, 16 TDs, 276 rushing yards, 8 TDs.

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

Hill threw for 309 yards and four touchdowns in A&M’s 38-10 victory over Rice. It’s pretty clear at this point that Hill is on his way to a very productive season in Kevin Sumlin’s system. The only question is how he and his team will perform against the likes of Auburn, Alabama and LSU in the second half of the season.

Season Stats: 81 of 117, 1,094 yards, 69.2%, 11 TDs, 0 INTs, 178.8 rating, 49 rush yards.

Season Pace: 4,368 passing yards, 44 TD passes, 196 rushing yards.

7. Bryce Petty, SR, QB, Baylor

Petty did exactly what he needed to do to stay in the Heisman race, throwing for 416 yards and four touchdowns in Baylor’s 63-21 win over Buffalo on Friday. If he can build on this game and go on a tear against the next five opponents, it will set the stage for a huge Heisman death match with Trevor Knight and Oklahoma.

Season Stats: 36 of 57, 577 yards, 63.2%, 6 TDs, 0 INTs, 182.9 rating, 4 carries, 32 yards, 1 TD.

Season Pace: 3,179 passing yards, 33 TDs, 176 rushing yards, 6 TDs.

8. Taysom Hill, JR, QB, BYU

The Mormon Manziel continues to impress in the air and on the ground. He threw for 200 yards, rushed for 160 and had two total touchdowns in BYU’s 33-25 win over Houston. His accuracy has really improved this year. It looks like the Cougars have a good shot at going undefeated, which means if Hill’s production continues at this pace, he stands a good shot at getting to New York.

Season Stats: 67 of 98, 689 yards, 68.4%, 4 TDs, 3 INT, 134.8 rating, 62 carries, 356 rush yards, 6 TDs.

Season Pace: 2,760 passing yards, 16 TDs, 1,428 rushing yards, 24 TDs.

9. Ameer Abdullah, SR, RB, Nebraska

Abdullah rushed for 110 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries in Nebraska’s 55-10 thrashing of Fresno State. There just aren’t that many marquee opponents on the Cornhusker schedule, so Abdullah is going to have to make the most of every opportunity. Some voters might perk up a bit if he has big games against Miami and Michigan State in the next few weeks.

Season Stats: 57 carries, 396 yards, 6.95 YPC, 3 TDs, 4 receptions, 105 yards, 1 TD.

Season Pace: 1,584 yards, 12 TDs, 16 catches, 420 yards, 4 TDs.

10. Melvin Gordon, JR, RB, Wisconsin

Gordon and Wisconsin had off last week and will now face a very soft stretch in the schedule. At this point, Gordon needs to churn out yards and touchdowns like there’s no tomorrow to steal some of the spotlight away from Todd Gurley.

Season Stats: 33 carries, 178 yards, 5.4 YPC, 1 TD, 4 receptions, 22 yards, 1 TD.

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The College Football Experience Podcast: Episode 7.

Kent Brown & HeismanPundit Jr. wrap up week two’s biggest games & look ahead to week three’s top matchups.

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The Round Up

Here’s the latest on what media are saying about the Heisman Trophy —

Taysom Hill and Everett Golson are on the rise according to USA Today.

Marcus Mariota leads the Orlando Sentinel’s Heisman Watch. And Sports Ilustrated’s.

Mariota gets two of three first-place votes from Heisman voters at the Columbus Dispatch.

A question about Kevlin Taylor no one should be asking.

Cory McCartney of Fox Sports asks if a wide receiver like Amari Cooper can win.

Heisman hype is building for Golson!

LSU freshman TB Leonard Fournette regrets popping the Heisman pose after scoring his first career touchdown against Sam Houston State last Saturday. I guess this is the kind of stuff that happens when people say you are going to win the Heisman as a true freshman.


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Mariota retakes lead in Heisman Straw Poll


Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota has recaptured the lead in HeismanPundit.com’s latest Heisman Straw Poll following his 318-yard, 3-TD performance in the Ducks’ 46-27 victory over No. 7 Michigan State this past Saturday.

The weekly survey of Heisman voters from around the country gave Mariota 7 out of 10 first-place votes and 24 total points, which allowed him to supplant last week’s leader, Georgia running back Todd Gurley, who placed second with 3 first-place votes and 18 total points (Gurley was off due to a bye week).

Texas A&M quarterback Kenny Hill was third with eight points, while Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper made his first appearance on the list with four points to place fourth.

Defending Heisman winner Jameis Winston was fifth with three points while Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson and USC running back Javorius Allen tied for sixth (1 point each) in their Straw Poll debut.

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, 9/9/2014

Total Points (with first place votes in parentheses)

1. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon — 24 (7)

2. Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia — 18 (3)

3. Kenny Hill, QB, Texas A&M — 9

4. Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama— 4

5. Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State — 3

6. (tie) Everett Golson, QB, Notre Dame  — 1

Javorius Allen, RB, USC  — 1

Number of ballots

Mariota, Gurley — 8

Kenny Hill  — 4

Winston, Cooper — 3

The rest — 1 each

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The HP Heisman Watch, Week Two

Discover BCS National Championship - Notre Dame v Alabama

Here is the week 2 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

Mariota is the strong leader in the Heisman race after leading Oregon to an impressive 46-27 victory over Michigan State. Mariota was 17 of 28 for 318 yards and three touchdowns (with no interceptions). He also rushed for 42 yards on nine carries. This kind of performance against such an elite defense gives him a potential trump card against his competition down the road. If he maintains his production and finally leads Oregon to a win over Stanford, he could cruise to the Heisman.

Season Stats: 31 of 48, 585 yards, 64.6%, 6 TDs, 0 INTs, 208.2 rating, 15 carries, 85 yards, 1 TD

2. Todd Gurley, JR, RB, Georgia

Gurley had off this week but moved up as the result of others moving down. He could further solidify his status as the main challenger to Mariota with a big game against South Carolina on Saturday.

Season Stats: 15 carries, 198 yards, 13.2 YPC, 3 TDs, 1 reception, -5 yards, 100 yard kickoff return for a TD.

3. Nick Marshall, SR, QB, Auburn

Marshall moved back into his starter’s spot at Auburn and led the Tigers to a 59-13 crushing of San Jose State. He threw for 101 yards and a touchdown and also added 103 rushing yards and a score. He’ll have his first chance to make some Heisman waves next Thursday when Auburn takes on Kansas State on the road.

Season Stats: 15 of 25, 151 yards, 56%, 1 TD, 0 INTs, 119.9 rating, 19 carries, 122 yards, 2 TDs.

4. Trevor Knight, SO, QB, Oklahoma

Knight was 21 of 34 for 299 yards and two touchdowns as Oklahoma beat Tulsa, 52-7. He also rushed for 35 yards and a score. The next two games against Tennessee and West Virginia should provide an opportunity to gain some early traction in the race.

Season Stats: 40 of 68, 552 yards, 58.8%, 3 TDs, 1 INT, 138.8 rating, 9 carries, 52 yards, 1 TD.

5. Everett Golson, SO, QB, Notre Dame

It’s been eight years since an Irish quarterback was in the Heisman mix and Golson is playing like he wants to break that string. He went 23 of 34 for 226 yards and three touchdowns in Notre Dame’s 31-0 whipping of Michigan. Games against Stanford and Florida State in October should determine his ultimate Heisman fate, but he’s off to a nice start.

Season Stats: 37 of 56, 521 yards, 66.1%, 5 TDs, 0 INTs, 173.6 rating, 27 rush yards, 3 TDs.

6. Brett Hundley, JR, QB, UCLA

The Bruins have looked far from sharp, which might not portend well for Hundley’s Heisman hopes. Nonetheless, he threw for 396 yards and three touchdowns on 33 of 44 passing against Memphis and remains a legitimate contender. Looming games against Texas, ASU and Oregon should tell us a lot more about the Bruins and their star quarterback.

Season Stats: 53 of 77, 638 yards, 68.8%, 3 TDs, 1 INT, 148.6 rating, 65 rush yards, 1 TD.

7. Ameer Abdullah, SR, RB, Nebraska

The argument that Nebraska should not have been struggling with McNeese State is besides the point. Abdullah’s remarkable catch and run with seconds to play saved the Cornhuskers from an embarrassing defeat. Great players make great plays at crucial moments and that’s what Abdullah did. He was held to 54 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries, but he did catch three passes for 96 yards (and the decisive score) and also returned a kickoff 34 yards.

Season Stats: 38 carries, 286 yards, 7.53 YPC, 2 TDs, 4 receptions, 105 yards, 1 TD.

8. Javorius Allen, JR, RB, USC

Allen had a career-high 154 yards to help lead the Trojans to a mild upset of Stanford in Palo Alto. It looks like Allen has the potential to be the most productive USC running back since Reggie Bush. If he manages to break off big games against the likes of UCLA and Notre Dame at season’s end, he’ll probably be in the Heisman mix.

Season Stats: 45 carries, 287 yards, 6.4 YPC, 1 TD, 1 reception, 23 yards.

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

Hill went 17 of 26 for 283 yards and four touchdowns in a 73-3 laugher against Lamar. The next four games should be relatively smooth sailing for the Aggies…and then the fun begins. Matchups with Ole Miss, Alabama, Auburn, Missouri and LSU will be quite the gauntlet for Hill. If he makes it to New York, he will have earned it.

Season Stats: 61 of 86, 794 yards, 71%, 7 TDs, 0 INTs, 11 rush yards.

Season Stats:

10. Taysom Hill, JR, QB, BYU

Hill threw for 181 yards and rushed for 99 yards and three scores in BYU’s 41-7 romp over Texas. Hill’s continued improvement as a passer plus his running ability makes him a very intriguing candidate. Unfortunately, the Cougars don’t have any marquee opponents left on their slate, so Hill’s production is going to have to speak for itself.

Season Stats: 46 of 63, 489 yards, 73%, 3 TDs, 1 INT, 36 carries, 196 rush yards, 5 TDs.

11. Melvin Gordon, JR, RB, Wisconsin

Gordon needs to rush for 2,000 yards to have a shot at the Heisman, so getting 38 yards on 17 carries against Western Illinois isn’t going to help his cause much. It could well be that Gordon is not 100%, so that could hamper his production moving forward.

Season Stats: 33 carries, 178 yards, 5.4 YPC, 1 TD, 4 receptions, 22 yards, 1 TD.

12. Bryce Petty, SR, QB, Baylor

It’s going to be hard for Petty to win the Heisman after missing what amounts to 1.5 games so far this season. He sat out Baylor’s win over Northwestern State due to a cracked vertebrae and will return to action this Friday against Buffalo. But he’ll need to go on a major tear to get back in the race. Of course, this is quite possible given his talent and the system in which he plays, but the margin for error is pretty thin.

Season Stats: 13 of 23, 161 yards, 56.5%, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 2 carries, 21 yards, 1 TD.

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FSU paid a heavy price when it beat Citadel

Clemson will visit Florida State on September 20, and the most important thing that the Seminoles had to do last Saturday against The Citadel was to make sure that their players would be in full health after the game, but price per head agents saw that this didn’t seem to work.

FSU beat the Bulldogs, 37-12, but the Seminoles paid a price as three of their defensive linemen had no choice but to pull out due to lower leg injuries thanks to the Bulldog’ cut-blocking system.

“When you play these kinds of teams [triple-option offenses] they’re constantly cutting those knees and ankles,” Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher said. “Those guys that cut and chop like this, it’s crazy. I’d rather play more conventional teams.”

Nile Lawrence-Stample, Eddie Goldman, and Justin Shanks ended up leaving the game and were not able to return to action.

In the first half, Goldman – who after the game was in crutches and wearing a boot – left the field after going down. The player doesn’t just weigh 320 and is 6-foot-4, but he happens to be one of the team’s defensive linemen with the most experience. If the player is out of action for a lengthy amount of time, all of the defense could be affected.

“He’s a threat to O-linemen, so obviously they wanna double team him,” said Reggie Northrup. “That frees me up to go make plays.”

Derrick Mitchell Jr – another defensive lineman – was able to make it all the way through without being injured, and after the player’s teammates went down, he knew that he had no choice but to intensify his game.

“I wasn’t going to go out there and play conservatively,” said Mitchell. “I feel like when you do try and play conservative because of things like that, that’s when you get those injuries.”

If the player’s injuries prove to be serious, the Seminoles will use the services of freshmen Giorgio Newberry, Demarcus Christmas, and Derrick Nnadi. This change could end up being be very tough for other teams, but many price per head agents believe that

Florida State, being the No.1 team in NCAA football, should be fine.

“I feel like coach Odell Haggins and coach Sal Sunseri do a good job distributing the reps among the first and second string,” said Mitchell. “We all just rotate, first and second string, no matter what.”

Now the Seminoles hope that there will be enough time for Shanks, Goldman, and Lawrence-Stample to fully recover before their ACC showdown in two weeks.

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