Oh, what a wonderful Heisman race


I admit to preferring some Heisman races to others over the years. As much as I love the Heisman selection process, it’s true that some campaigns have fallen short in the drama category, while a couple others have left a bit of an aftertaste, so to speak.

But I’m bullish on this year’s Heisman race to this point, mainly because it features the most varied and talented field in recent memory. I’d rate these candidates over the stellar groups from 2008, 2009 and 2011.

First, consider the quarterbacks:

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Marcus Mariota leads HeismanPundit’s Straw Poll for fourth week in a row


Oregon’s Marcus Mariota remained on top of HeismanPundit’s latest Heisman Straw Poll released on Tuesday (Sept. 30).

The Ducks quarterback received seven out of 10 first-place votes from the weekly panel, which consists of Heisman voters from around the country. He totaled 23 points to beat out Georgia running back Todd Gurley, who finished second with 18 points while capturing the remaining three first-place votes.

It’s the fourth week in a row (and fifth time in six weeks) that Mariota has led HeismanPundit’s poll. The junior leads the nation in passing efficiency and has totaled 16 touchdowns with no turnovers through four games.

Texas A&M quarterback Kenny Hill moved up to third place with seven points, while Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper dropped from second place to fourth place with five points.

Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah (4 points), Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon (2 points) and Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston (1 point) rounded out the rest of this week’s poll.

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, 9/30/2014

Total Points (with first place votes in parentheses)

1. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon — 23 (7)

2. Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia — 18 (3)

3. Kenny Hill, QB, Texas A&M — 7

4. Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama — 5

5. Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska — 4

6. Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin — 2

7. Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State — 1

Number of ballots

Mariota, Gurley — 9

Cooper, Hill — 4

Abdullah  — 3

All others — 1

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Looking ahead to the 2015 Heisman race

deshaun watson

It’s never to early to look ahead to next year’s Heisman race. We’re already starting to see some really exciting young players emerge who could turn into serious challengers next season.

Here are 15 players to keep an eye out for in 2015 (in no particular order)*:

DeShaun Watson, Clemson — The true freshman mega-talent is already blossoming in Chad Morris’s offense.

Derrick Henry, Alabama — With TJ Yeldon likely going pro, Henry should get the bulk of the carries in Bama’s offense.

Trevor Knight, Oklahoma — Knight will be a high-profile quarterback coming off a good season for a traditional power.

Samaje Perine, Oklahoma — He could end up as the best freshman back at OU since Adrian Peterson.

Jared Goff, California — Don’t look now, but the Cal sophomore is on pace for 4,000 passing yards and 51 touchdowns.

Gunner Kiel, Cincinnati — Don’t look now, but the Cincinnati sophomore is on pace for 4,100 yards and 56 touchdowns.

Dak Prescott, Mississippi State — Prescott could be a Heisman finalist this season, which would make him one of the front runners next year.

Kenny Hill, Texas A&M — He’ll be coming off a majestic sophomore year and the Aggies should be preseason top 3.

Everett Golson, Notre Dame — A Notre Dame quarterback coming off a great season is almost always the leading front runner for the Heisman.

Jacoby Brissett, NC State — The Florida transfer is off to a great start and showed a lot of moxie in nearly knocking off FSU.

James Conner, Pittsburgh — Conner looks like the next great Pitt running back. He’s having a massive sophomore year to set up a serious run next season.

Alex Collins, Arkansas — Collins is no worse than the third-best back in the SEC right now. He could be the best next year.

Taysom Hill, BYU — If Hill returns for another year, he should emerge as the top dual-threat quarterback in the country.

Cyler Miles, Washington — The physically-gifted Miles should make a huge jump for Chris Petersen next season.

Tommy Armstrong, Nebraska —  With Ameer Abdullah gone, Armstrong should become the face of Nebraska football.

* — this list assumes Marcus Mariota, Brett Hundley, Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon and TJ Yeldon will go pro early.

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The HP Heisman Watch, week 5

Big Ten Championship Football

Here is the week 5 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 had the week off, but Mariota’s numbers remain pristine. He leads the nation in passing efficiency (217.9) and completion percentage (74%) and is second in yards per attempt (11.8). He is one of six quarterbacks with over 90 throws not to have an interception. He has the spotlight to himself on Thursday when the Ducks will try to exact revenge for last year’s loss to Arizona, so it’s a good opportunity to bolster his status as the front runner in this race.

Season Stats: 71 of 96, 1,135 yards, 74.0%, 13 TDs, 0 INTs, 217.9 rating, 33 carries, 214 yards, 3 TDs

Season Pace: 3,689 passing yards, 42 TDs, 696 rushing yards, 10 TDs.

2. Todd Gurley, JR, RB, Georgia

Gurley had a career day in Georgia’s thrilling 35-32 win over Tennessee, rushing for 208 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries. He is now sixth nationally in rushing yards per game and is averaging nearly nine yards per carry. More importantly, he is very close to getting on pace for the magical 2,000-yard mark. It may take a Bulldog appearance in the SEC title game for him to get there, which means Gurley has to lead his team to the SEC East title. Otherwise, he may be sitting at home on the last weekend of college football. It will be hard to win the Heisman if that happens, but he appears to be on pace to get to New York as a finalist no matter what.

Season Stats: 69 carries, 610 yards, 8.8 YPC, 6 TDs, 9 receptions, 29 yards, 100 yard kickoff return for a TD.

Season Pace: 1,830 rushing yards, 18 touchdowns.

3. Everett Golson, SO, QB, Notre Dame

Golson had another fine outing this past weekend, this time in a victory over Syracuse. Golson completed 32 of 39 passes for 362 yards and four touchdowns (with two picks). At one point, he completed an FBS-record-tying 25-straight passes. The Irish take a step up on in class this weekend when they take on Stanford, which boasts one of the country’s top defenses. If Golson performs well and leads Notre Dame over the Cardinal, he will establish himself as the leading quarterback rival to Mariota in this race.

Season Stats: 94 of 135, 1,142 yards, 69.6%, 11 TDs, 2 INTs, 164.6 rating, 104 rush yards, 4 TDs.

Season Pace: 3,426 passing yards, 33 TDs, 312 rushing yards, 12 TDs.

4. Ameer Abdullah, SR, RB, Nebraska

I said last week that voters love 200-yard rushing games and Abdullah came back with yet another, his third of the season and second in as many weeks, as the Cornhuskers ripped Illinois. Abdullah had 208 yards and three touchdowns on just 22 carries. He is now second nationally in rushing yards per game and is on pace to reach the 2,000-yard mark — and that doesn’t even count a potential extra outing in the Big Ten title game. As he continues his march toward the all-time Nebraska rushing record, he’ll start to reap the benefits of being mentioned alongside the school’s all-time greats, which will give him an extra edge over other backs in the race.

Season Stats: 114 carries, 833 yards, 7.31 YPC, 8 TDs, 5 receptions, 108 yards, 2 TD.

Season Pace: 1,999 yards, 19 TDs, 12 catches, 259 yards, 5 TDs.

5. Melvin Gordon, JR, RB, Wisconsin

Gordon is starting to get on a bit of a tear. He rushed for 181 yards and two touchdowns against South Florida and now has 434 yards and seven scores in the last two weeks. No other back on this list can pile up chunks of yardage the way Gordon can. Like Gurley, he’s approaching the 2,000-yard pace and there’s a good chance he’ll get there even if the Badgers don’t make it to the Big Ten title game. The schedule from her on out is certainly favorable, though only a late-season showdown with Nebraska promises to be high-profile enough for voters to want to zero in. Given the schedule and the strength of the field arrayed against him, Gordon’s best chance of winning the Heisman will probably require him to average around 180 yards and 2.5 touchdowns the rest of the way, which would give him roughly 2,200 yards and 31 scores for the season. I think he can do it.

Season Stats: 78 carries, 612 yards, 7.85 YPC, 8 TD, 5 receptions, 27 yards, 1 TD.

Season Pace: 1,836 yards, 24 TDs, 15 catches, 84 yards, 2 TDs.

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

Hill had his most difficult outing of the season in A&M’s overtime win over Arkansas, completing just 51.2 percent of his throws. However, he did toss four touchdowns to bring his season total to 17, which puts him at second nationally. He’s on pace for a stellar season, but three-straight top 12 opponents are coming up, which could make-or-break his Heisman candidacy. If he leads the Aggies through that gauntlet, he’ll probably be on his way to New York.

Season Stats: 118 of 180, 1,745 yards, 65.6%, 17 TDs, 2 INTs, 175.9 rating, 136 rush yards.

Season Pace: 4,188 passing yards, 41 TD passes, 326 rushing yards.

7. Bryce Petty, SR, QB, Baylor

Petty threw for 336 yards and one touchdown and rushed for two more as Baylor crushed Iowa State, 49-28, this past Saturday. The Bears quarterback is starting to put up the yardage needed to challenge for the Heisman, but his touchdown production is lagging behind a bit. Since the Big 12 does not feature a championship game, Petty has just eight more games to make his case. He’ll probably need to average around 375 yards of  total offense and four total touchdowns per game the rest of the way to have a shot against this very strong field — which is totally doable in Baylor’s offense — though voters might not care as much about the details of his production if he leads the Bears to an undefeated season (including an impressive win over Oklahoma).

Season Stats: 66 of 101, 913 yards, 65.3%, 7 TDs, 1 INTs, 162.18 rating, 13 carries, 79 yards, 3 TD.

Season Pace: 3,347 passing yards, 26 TDs, 289 rushing yards, 11 TDs.

8. Dak Prescott, JR, QB, Mississippi State

Prescott and the Bulldogs are coming off a bye after defeating LSU in Baton Rouge. If Prescott leads MSU over the Aggies this Saturday and then past Auburn the following Saturday, he could move into this list’s top four.  Defeating ranked teams on three consecutive weekends might give him enough momentum to survive a loss later in the season and propel him to the Heisman, so long as he keeps up his statistical pace.

Season Stats: 58 of 96, 964 yards, 60.4%, 11 TDs, 2 INT, 178.4 rating, 62 carries, 378 yards, 3 TD.

Season Pace: 2,892 passing yards, 33 TDs, 1,134 rushing yards, 9 TDs.

9. Taysom Hill, JR, QB, BYU

Hill and BYU had off this past weekend and will face Utah State on Friday night. Hill remains on pace for an excellent season and, if BYU finishes 12-0 with no playoff berth available to it, some voters might send him to New York as a nice consolation prize.

Season Stats: 80 of 121, 876 yards, 66.1%, 6 TDs, 3 INT, 138.3 rating, 79 carries, 428 rush yards, 7 TDs.

Season Pace: 2,628 passing yards, 18 TDs, 1,284 rushing yards, 21 TDs.

If the vote was held today

1. Marcus Mariota*

2. Todd Gurley*

3. Ameer Abdullah*

4. Amari Cooper*

5. Dak Prescott*

6. Kenny Hill

7. Everett Golson

8. Melvin Gordon

9. Bryce Petty

10. Brett Hundley

* — finalist

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This week in Heisman history: Vinny Testaverde shines against Oklahoma


Miami dominated college football in the 1980s and early 1990s, winning four national titles between 1983 and 1992, while finishing second or third four other times.

The Hurricanes succeeded with ultra-fast, hard-hitting defenses and wide-open, single-back offenses run by cerebral and efficient pro-style quarterbacks.

Jim Kelly was the first of the great Miami quarterbacks, and he helped set the table for the amazing run that was to come. Bernie Kosar came next and put the program in the spotlight when he led the ‘Canes to the national title as a redshirt freshman in 1983.

Kosar left early for the NFL, but his replacement was arguably the best Miami quarterback of all time: Vinny Testaverde.

As a first-year starter in 1985, Testaverde threw for 3,238 yards and 21 touchdowns and nearly led Miami to another championship. A Sugar Bowl loss to Tennessee left the Hurricanes with a 10-2 record. But Miami entered 1986 as one of the favorites for the national title with Testaverde as the overwhelming front runner for the Heisman Trophy.

At the time, it appeared only one team stood in the way of both goals: Oklahoma.

The Sooners were the AP preseason No. 1 team, while Miami was tabbed at third withMichigan in between. But the Wolverines struggled in their opening 24-23 win over an unranked Notre Dame team (the Irish would become the first team ever to enter the rankings despite losing). Miami took over the No. 2 spot, setting up a home showdown with No. 1 Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl on Sept. 27, 1986.

The hype and storylines surrounding the matchup were intense. The two teams epitomized the changing structure of college football in the 1980s, with Miami cast as the “new money” insurgent program and Oklahoma as the fading but still venerable “old money” traditional power. The Hurricanes’ outlaw reputation was countered by the arrogance of the Sooners and their outspoken linebacker, Brian Bosworth.

In other words, this game was a media dream.

It soon turned into an Oklahoma nightmare.

Oklahoma and Bosworth (who finished with 14 tackles) played inspired on defense from the start, and Miami led just 7-3 at the break. But the second half was a different story as Testaverde turned in a virtuoso performance. He went 9-for-9 in the third quarter and threw three touchdowns to break the game open. He ended up 21-of-28 for 261 yards and four touchdowns on the day. He also tortured the Sooner defense with several Tarkentonesque scrambles, showing tremendous nimbleness and athleticism for a 6-foot-5, 230-pound quarterback.

The final result: No. 2 Miami completely outclassed No. 1 Oklahoma, 28-16.

“In 21 years, I have never seen a better quarterback,” OU coach Barry Switzer said afterward (while also adding that he didn’t want to play Miami again).

Here’s a clip from the third quarter of the game:

The Hurricanes came out of the win No. 1 and in the driver’s seat for the national title, while Testaverde all but locked up the Heisman with his performance.

An undefeated regular season followed in due course for Miami. Testaverde threw for 2,557 yards and 26 touchdowns with a record 165 pass efficiency rating, which was more than enough to claim Miami’s first Heisman.

It wasn’t a particularly strong Heisman field that year. Temple running back Paul Palmer ran for 1,866 yards for a 6-5 team, while Jim Harbaugh was the star quarterback for a top-10 Michigan squad. Neither had the resume that Testaverde offered to Heisman voters, and his performance against Oklahoma stuck in their minds all season.

Testaverde won the Heisman going away, sweeping the regions while totaling 2,213 points to Palmer’s 672 and Harbaugh’s 458.

While he couldn’t lead his team over Penn State in the 1987 Fiesta Bowl, he was drafted first overall that year by Tampa Bay and went on to a 21-year NFL career.

Testaverde’s greatness at Miami helped establish that program as a Heisman power. And it all began with that win over Oklahoma, 28 years ago this week.

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Picking this week’s games

I finally got on track this season by going 7-3 in my picks last week. On the year, I’m now 17-13 overall (.566), so hopefully I can keep my momentum going. Here are my 10 picks against the spread for this week, with my choices in bold. Lines courtesy of Docsports.

Baylor -23 at Iowa State

Colorado at California OVER 66 total.

Texas A&M -10 vs. Arkansas

Nebraska -21.5 vs. Illinois

WSU +13.5 at Utah

Oregon State +9 at USC

Notre Dame -10 at Syracuse

Louisiana Tech at Auburn OVER 61 total

Maryland +4 at Indiana

Michigan State -28.5 vs. Wyoming

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The CFB Experience Podcast, Week 5

Kent Brown and HeismanPundit Jr discuss all of the top matchups for week five, including Thursday’s big Pac-12 South tilt. Will there be a major upset this week? Plus, David & Kent strongly disagree on the Texas A&M-Arkansas game.

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