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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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The HP Heisman Watch, week 7

everett-golson-ou

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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The Round Up

Here’s the latest in Heisman news and chatter…

Grantland wrote something about the Heisman. Let me know if you garnered any value from it.

Everett Golson leads Paul Myerberg’s Heisman Watch.

Todd Gurley leads USA Today’s survey of Heisman voters.

Zac Ellis has Dak Prescott atop SI’s Heisman Watch.

The Jackson Clarion-Ledger says Prescott’s numbers stack up historically with recent winners.

How many wins is a Heisman winner worth?

Ohio State’s student paper says J.T. Barrett is not yet a Heisman contender.

The WaPo states the obvious: Taysom Hill is no longer a candidate.

A Pac-12 coach wants to give Marcus Mariota the Heisman…now!

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Some people are going to need some convincing

Griffin back

I’m a big proponent of Heisman campaigns. They aren’t always absolutely vital to winning the trophy, but they never hurt and, in some cases, they can end up making quite a difference.

However, when the prospect of mounting a Heisman campaign comes up for public discussion, you invariably get naysayers — especially coaches — who claim they’re not needed and that the player’s performance on the field is what constitutes a campaign.

Georgia head coach Mark Richt sums up that attitude here: Continue Reading →

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Can JT Barrett make it three redshirt freshmen Heisman winners in a row?

JT Barrett

Redshirt freshmen have won each of the last two Heismans, leading some to wonder whether there were any redshirt freshmen who could challenge for the Heisman in 2014.

It’s a tough question, since one never knows for certain how a freshman is going to perform. Over the years, I’ve kept tabs on incoming recruits, taking note of those who I think might challenge for the Heisman during their college careers. But those lists are based mostly on assessments of raw physical ability and projections of how players might fit into various offenses. It’s much harder to assess which players possess the mental makeup to impact a team in the early going.

Five games into the season, however, I think we do have a potential redshirt freshman candidate for 2014: Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett. Continue Reading →

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The HP Heisman Watch, Week 6

NCAA Football: Mississippi State at South Carolina

Here is the week 6 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. Todd Gurley, JR, RB, Georgia

Gurley had another fine outing against Vanderbilt, rushing for 163 yards and two touchdowns, while catching two passes for 24 yards, plus a 50-yard pass completion. The combination of his consistent production and his status as the consensus top offensive player in the SEC makes him, for the moment, the Heisman front runner. The key for his candidacy going forward will be whether he helps lead Georgia to the SEC title game. Not only will that mean the Bulldogs will have had a somewhat successful season, it will also provide him one more opportunity to showcase his talents in a huge matchup and allow him a chance to eclipse the 2,000-yard rushing mark. An uber-talented Georgia running back with over 2,000 yards rushing on a 10-3 team will be very attractive to Heisman voters, though some might not like it if the Bulldogs fall in that last game before the votes are due.

Season Stats: 94 carries, 773 yards, 8.2 YPC, 8 TDs, 11 receptions, 53 yards, 100 yard kickoff return for a TD.

Season Pace: 1,855 rushing yards, 19 touchdowns.

2. Marcus Mariota, JR, QB, Oregon

Oregon’s loss to Arizona knocked Mariota from the front runner’s perch, but his candidacy remains viable for three reasons. First, he played pretty well against the Wildcats, throwing for 276 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions, while also catching a touchdown pass. Though he was stripped of the ball on the Ducks’ final drive, I don’t think viewers came away thinking Mariota was to blame for the loss. Second, those who watched the game got to see up close how dire the situation is for Oregon’s offensive line. Injuries have decimated the unit and Mariota is paying the price by taking tons of sacks. While this situation shows that the Ducks are less formidable than believed, it also has the effect of making Mariota’s sterling production seem that much more impressive. Finally, this loss came relatively early in the schedule and Mariota will have several more chances to lead the Ducks against ranked opponents, starting with this Saturday’s game against UCLA. If the Ducks win out and Mariota keeps up his statistical pace, he’ll have unparalleled production for a 12-1 team and Heisman voters will have a hard time keeping him off their ballots. If Oregon loses again somewhere along the line, it’s going to be very difficult for Mariota to take home the trophy unless his stat line is too ridiculously good to ignore.

Season Stats: 91 of 128, 1,411 yards, 71.1%, 15 TDs, 0 INTs, 202.3 rating, 42 carries, 215 yards, 3 TDs, 1 TD reception.

Season Pace: 3,669 passing yards, 39 TDs, 559 rushing yards, 8 TDs, 1 TD reception.

3. Dak Prescott, JR, QB, Mississippi State

Prescott came up big on the national stage, throwing for 259 yards and rushing for 77 while totaling five touchdowns as Mississippi State easily defeated Texas A&M, 48-31. Given his combination of efficient passing and physical running, it’s hard not to see Prescott as a Tim Tebow-like player and, sure enough, his stats through five games mirror what Tebow did during his 2007 Heisman run. He is on pace to have over 4,000 yards of offense and 45 total touchdowns in 12 games, which would put him right in line with the production by recent Heisman winning quarterbacks. Aiding and abetting Prescott’s candidacy is MSU’s rise in the polls and its foray into the college football playoff picture. As with Robert Griffin III in 2011, Prescott could be seen as a transformative player for what has been, over the years, a rather lackluster program. The reason I do not have him as the front runner at the moment is due to the Bulldogs’ remaining schedule. Auburn comes to Starkville this Saturday and trips to Alabama and Ole Miss close out the slate. If Prescott leads MSU to a win over Auburn, then he’ll rightfully take his place as the leading Heisman candidate. But if the Bulldogs stagger to the finish, he’ll probably have to settle for a trip to New York at best.

Season Stats: 77 of 121, 1,223 yards, 63.6%, 13 TDs, 2 INT, 180.7 rating, 85 carries, 455 yards, 6 TD.

Season Pace: 2,935 passing yards, 31 TDs, 1,092 rushing yards, 14 TDs.

4. Everett Golson, JR, QB, Notre Dame

Golson didn’t light it up in Notre Dame’s rain-soaked 17-14 win over Stanford, but his game-winning touchdown pass on 4th and 11 with a minute to go was about as dramatic as it gets. He remains a candidate with high potential, as the matchup with No. 1 Florida State two Saturdays from now gives him a clear-cut shot at making his case for the Heisman. If the Irish knock off the Seminoles, there’s a good chance that Notre Dame will finish the regular season undefeated. Will Heisman voters be able to resist voting for an Irish quarterback who puts up quality production while leading his team to its second undefeated regular season with him starting? I doubt it.

Season Stats: 114 of 178, 1,383 yards, 64.0%, 13 TDs, 3 INTs, 150.5 rating, 138 rush yards, 4 TDs.

Season Pace: 3,319 passing yards, 31 TDs, 331 rushing yards, 10 TDs.

5. Ameer Abdullah, SR, RB, Nebraska

Abdullah was stopped cold against Michigan State, as he rushed for just 45 yards on 24 carries in a 27-22 loss to the Spartans. Still, Abdullah remains on pace for a stellar season and has 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. The matchup with Wisconsin on Nov. 15 will determine which Big Ten running back gets the most votes in the Midwest region.

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. Melvin Gordon, JR, RB, Wisconsin

Gordon is really tearing it up now. The nation’s leading rusher put up 259 yards and a touchdown on just 27 carries in Wisconsin’s 20-14 loss to Northwestern. He is averaging 231 rushing yards per game over his last three games. Gordon’s production is getting to the point where it will soon stand on its own, with the Badgers’ win-loss record receding in importance for Heisman voters. Keep in mind that Troy Davis finished second in the Heisman vote in 1996 despite playing for a 3-8 team because he rushed for over 2,100 yards. Last year, Andre Williams was a Heisman finalist on a 7-5 team because he rushed for over 2,100 yards. Gordon’s name recognition and talent reputation is such that he could win the Heisman for an 8-4 Wisconsin team so long as his season production is seen as being head and shoulders above that of his competitors. If Gordon were to average 204 yards per game the rest of the way — a feat that seems viable given the schedule and his role in Wisconsin’s offense — he’d have 2,300 yards on the season, which would put him in the same group as Barry Sanders, Kevin Smith and Marcus Allen. He’d be a very attractive candidate to voters in that scenario.

Season Stats: 105 carries, 871 yards, 8.30 YPC, 9 TD, 5 receptions, 27 yards, 1 TD.

Season Pace: 2,090 rushing yards, 22 TDs, 12 catches, 65 yards, 2 TDs.

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

This could’ve been Braxton Miller’s spot. In fact, if Braxton Miller was healthy and doing what Barrett has been doing, he’d be in the top three of the Heisman race right now. 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, he’s going to 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.

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

The wheels came off a bit for Hill and the Aggies against Mississippi State. The sophomore threw for 365 yards and four touchdowns, but was picked off three times. It’s going to be tough sledding the rest of the way as A&M still must play Ole Miss, Alabama, Auburn, Missouri and LSU. If Hill leads the Aggies through that schedule unblemished, then he’ll have a good case for the Heisman. But if A&M loses again, his Heisman hopes will have to be put on the shelf until 2015.

Season Stats: 155 of 242, 2,110 yards, 64.0%, 21 TDs, 5 INTs, 161.8 rating, 171 rush yards.

Season Pace: 4,220 passing yards, 42 TD passes, 10 INTs, 342 rushing yards.

If the vote was held today

1. Todd Gurley*

2. Dak Prescott*

3. Marcus Mariota*

4. Melvin Gordon

5. Amari Cooper

6. Ameer Abdullah

7. Everett Golson

8. Kenny Hill

9. Trevone Boykin

10. Connor Halliday

* — finalist

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What Oregon’s loss means for Marcus Mariota’s Heisman hopes

Washington State v Oregon

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota entered Thursday night’s game with Arizona in Eugene as the Heisman front runner.

He left it with his Heisman status in doubt, as the Wildcats came away with a 31-24 victory.

Let’s first go over what Mariota did in the game. The final stats show that he completed 20 of 32 passes for 276 yards and two touchdowns, rushed for one yard on nine carries (he was sacked several times), and caught a 26-yard touchdown pass from running back Royce Freeman.

While this was his worst passing outing of the season, it was still pretty productive. Certainly anyone who watched the game did not come away thinking that Mariota was the reason the Ducks lost. That fault would most definitely lie with the decimated Oregon offensive line, the tackle-averse Duck defense and (perhaps) the flag-happy Pac-12 referees.

However, Mariota did let Arizona’s Scooby Wright strip the ball from his hands on Oregon’s final drive, which enabled the Wildcats to secure the huge upset. Mariota was robbed of a chance to pull off a dramatic Heisman moment.

All that ultimately matters, though, is what this game meant to Heisman voters. How did it play in Heisman Peoria, so to speak? Continue Reading →

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