There’s nothing like an 18-hour college football Saturday. Here are a few thoughts on the Heisman race and the rest of it….
— Todd Gurley made the biggest splash of the weekend by rushing for 198 yards and three touchdowns — with another TD on a 100-yard kickoff return — against Clemson. However, I think it’s pretty silly to say that it’s his Heisman to lose or that he is even the front runner right now. For one thing, it’s really no one’s Heisman to lose when it’s this early in the season. If it was early November and Gurley was still producing like he did against Clemson, then it might be his to lose. Point being, you can’t build a Heisman resume off just one game. And in determining the front runner, it’s important to take into account a long view of the season. How does the schedule set up? What kind of numbers is he likely to have when the votes are due? How will his team perform throughout the season? All those factors are why I have Marcus Mariota as the current front runner. Of course, if doesn’t play well on Saturday against Michigan State, that calculus will change a bit.
— More on Gurley. I’ve been high on him since he came out of high school. At that time, Georgia had a rather overhyped, average back named Isaiah Crowell. All the pundits had convinced themselves that Crowell was an elite back. So when he was suspended for a drug charge, the lament was that Georgia’s running game was in trouble. I didn’t think so as I had seen tape of Gurley and knew that he had rare speed for his size (10.75 100m in high school) as well as very good athleticism. Plus, there was also the very talented Keith Marshall coming to Athens. When I tweeted that both were better than Crowell, people didn’t want to believe it. I’d say it turned out well for Georgia.
— It was a good weekend if your surname was Hill. Texas A&M’s Kenny Hill threw for 511 yards and three touchdowns in a thrashing of South Carolina. BYU’s Taysom Hill put up 405 yards of total offense and five combined touchdowns against Connecticut. Oklahoma State’s Tyreek Hill had 278 all-purpose yards in his FBS debut. Arizona’s Austin Hill returned from injury to catch three passes for 110 yards, including a 92-yard touchdown reception. Bronson Hill of Eastern Michigan rushed for 114 yards on 19 carries against Morgan State. And, okay, call it a stretch, but LSU’s Kenny HILLiard rushed for 110 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries against Wisconsin.
— Great players make great plays at crucial moments and that’s what Jameis Winston did against Oklahoma State when he hurdled his way to a decisive 28-yard touchdown against Oklahoma State. But Winston was rather ordinary for much of the game against the Cowboys and his passer rating was below 140 for the second-straight outing. The Heisman talk is now centered around guys like Gurley, Hill and Mariota. Just goes to show you how tough it is to win that second trophy. But there’s plenty of time for Winston to get back in the conversation (though he won’t win, of course).
— I have to admit, it was pretty funny seeing the ‘Kiffin Cam’ during the Alabama-West Virginia game. The body language coming from the Alabama offensive coordinator on the sidelines was priceless — the slumped shoulders, the blank stare, the Why do bad things always happen to me? look after a poorly-executed play. Saban, of course, defended his coach, noting that the Tide had 538 yards of offense against the Mountaineers. Of course, this misses the point as Kiffin is the king of producing meaningless yards.
— Oregon’s offense has a bit of a new twist. It’s using more two-back sets and utilizing Byron Marshall as a wide receiver in some situations. Marshall lined up all over the place and caught eight passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns against South Dakota. The combination of Marshall, Thomas Tyner and Royce Freeman gives the Ducks a formidable and versatile backfield.
— Navy is a machine. That is not a fun team to play. But it certainly is fun to watch.
— As expected, Auburn’s offense was still explosive despite missing Nick Marshall for parts of its game against Arkansas. But I think it was pretty impressive for the Tigers defense to hold the Hogs to 328 total yards. Arkansas’s talented running backs Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams combined for just 102 yards.
— UCLA certainly looks to be a long way from contending for a playoff berth right now, but the Bruins have to be excited about their pass rushing situation. Defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa was impressive against Virginia after returning from an injury that kept him out all last season. Also noteworthy was the play of lightning quick sophomore linebacker Deon Hollins. Both are going to be tough for opposing lines to handle from here on out.
— Hawaii looks much improved in Norm Chow’s third year. I thought quarterback Ikaika Woolsey showed some promise against Washington while 245-pound running back Joey Iosefa was a real load. It appears the Warrior offense is finally getting untracked, as its 424 total yards against a stout Washington defense comes on the heels of 624 and 608-yard efforts to close out last season. I’m hoping Hawaii can find some success this season to hold off the drive to eliminate its football program.
— Finally, this catch by Nebraska wide out Jordan Westerkamp was so impressive, one of my straw poll voters put him on his Heisman ballot this week: