Now for my list of the players who currently stand the best chance of actually winning the Heisman. This is not a predicted order of the final vote, nor the order of how the vote would go if held today. Some players not on this list are likely to receive support, but not enough to win.
So, here is the HP Heisman Watch after eight weeks of football. We are down to three players. Barring injury, all three of them will make it to New York, but just one will win the 2010 Heisman:
1. Cameron Newton, QB, Auburn–It’s been quite a journey for Newton. The last player to come straight from junior college and make such a splash in the Heisman race was O.J. Simpson, who finished a close second to Gary Beban in 1967. Well, Newton’s 49-yard run against LSU was certainly Simpson-esque the way he weaved through the Tiger defense. That run and the 217 rushing yards he put up on LSU has pushed him into the front of this watch list. The Heisman is his to lose and, looking at Auburn’s remaining schedule, it looks like he’ll be in good shape in this race right up until the last game against Alabama. I believe he can clinch the trophy by playing well against the Tide, win or lose. If he leads the Tigers to a win there, followed by an SEC title game victory, he’ll capture the Heisman in a runaway. If he plays well but Auburn loses to Alabama, he’ll still be the favorite heading into the ceremony, though the vote will be much closer. If he plays poorly in the runup to that game, or the Tide defense shuts him down, that will open the door for other candidates to snatch the Heisman away from him.
Current Stats: 90/138 (65.2%), 1,364 yds, 13 TDs, 5 INTs, 172.1 rtg; 157 att, 1,077 rush yds (6.9 ypc), 14 TDs
Projected Season Stats*: 2,046 passing yds, 20 TDs, 8 INTs; 1,615 rush yds, 21 TDs
2. LaMichael James, RB, Oregon–James helped his cause by having a nice game in a romp over UCLA last Thursday (123 yards, 2 touchdowns), but whatever ground he gained in the race was given back after Newton’s performance against LSU. James has a chance to get some of that momentum back this Saturday when the Ducks take on USC. If he has a monster game against the Trojans and the Ducks roll, he’ll be in good shape. However, the buzz around James pales in comparison to all the talk of Newton at the moment. A modern day quarterback who can run and pass–and one who is a physical specimen at that–seems especially hard for voters to ignore. James will have to be extra special from here on out if he wants to catch Newton.
Current Stats: 134 att, 971 yards, 11 TDs, 7.2 ypc; 4 catches, 121 yards, 1 TD
Projected Season Stats*: 1,780 yards, 20 TDs; 7 catches, 207 yards, 2 TDs
3. Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State–Moore and his team were idle last week, but the Broncos have a Tuesday night matchup against Louisiana Tech. Moore remains the candidate of last resort in that voters find him to be a perfectly acceptable choice but are not exactly rushing to proclaim him to be the most outstanding player just yet. His campaign for the Heisman mirror his team’s quest for the BCS title. It will require the more exciting players ahead of him to falter a bit for him to have a shot. At the same time, he’s probably already assured himself of no worse than a third-place finish in the race. He will appear on almost every ballot, so he’s within striking distance. It helps that his numbers are quickly becoming ridiculous. He leads the nation in passing efficiency with a mark of 190.36, which as it stands is an NCAA record. Furthermore, he now has 55 touchdowns and just four interceptions in his last 20 games. His record as a starter is 32-1 and BSU has now won 20-straight under his leadership. It could well be that his numbers alone end up making his case–not to mention his status as the quarterback for an undefeated team–but it would really help him if the players ahead of him–especially Newton–screw up. Also, I think Boise State’s sports information people need to start making the case for Moore, or all his impressive stats will get lost in the hubbub over Newton’s spectacular play.
Current Stats: 105/151 (69.5%), 1,567 yds, 16 TDs, 1 INTs, 190.36 rtg
Projected Season Stats*: 3,132 passing yards, 32 TDs, 2 INTs
*–Denotes projected stats at time of the Heisman vote
If the vote were held today
1. Cameron Newton
2. LaMichael James
3. Kellen Moore
4. Denard Robinson
5. Terrelle Pryor
6. Andrew Luck
7. Taylor Martinez
8. Justin Blackmon
9. Blaine Gabbert
10. Matt Barkley