Thoughts from week one

kiffinsaban

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:

 

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Todd Gurley takes early lead in Heisman race

Gurley (2)

Todd Gurley’s 293-yard, four touchdown all-purpose performance in Georgia’s 45-21 victory over Clemson this past Saturday has vaulted the Bulldogs running back to the top of HeismanPundit’s Heisman Straw Poll released on Tuesday (Sept. 2).

The junior from Tarboro, N.C., collected five first-place nods from the 10-member panel of Heisman voters from around the country. He appeared on every ballot and totaled 23 points, placing him well ahead of Texas A&M quarterback Kenny Hill, who placed second with 14 points (and two first-place votes). Hill’s 511 yards passing in A&M’s rout of South Carolina led to the sophomore being named on seven ballots.

Preseason straw poll leader Marcus Mariota dropped to third with three first-place votes and 13 points. Oregon’s showdown with Michigan State this coming Saturday will present an early-season test for the Ducks quarterback.

Reigning Heisman winner Jameis Winston dropped to fourth place with five points. Five other players — three of them with the surname Hill — tallied one point each.

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, 9/2/2014

Total Points (with first place votes in parentheses)

1. Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia — 23 (5)

2. Kenny Hill, QB, Texas A&M — 14 (2)

3. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon — 13 (3)

4. Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State — 5

5. (tie) Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska — 1

Tyreek Hill, RB, Oklahoma State — 1

Eric Kendricks, LB, UCLA — 1

Jordan Westerkamp, WR, Nebraska — 1

Taysom Hill, QB, BYU  — 1

Number of ballots

Gurley — 10

Kenny Hill  — 7

Mariota — 5

Winston — 3

The rest — 1 each

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The HP Heisman Watch, Week One

gurley (1)

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 4,000-yard passing season is very realistic, especially since he has to average just 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

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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