Here is my latest list of the players with the best chance of actually winning the Heisman:
1. Colt McCoy, Texas–McCoy got off to a good start, throwing for 317 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception while completing 21 of 29 against Louisiana-Monroe. He held serve on opening day and saw his candidacy strengthen thanks to the injury to Sam Bradford. The Texas schedule in the coming weeks holds no major challenges, so he will likely retain this spot, barring injury or upset, for the first half of the season. The three-game stretch in mid-to-late October that includes Oklahoma, Missouri and Oklahoma State will probably determine his Heisman fate.
2. Tim Tebow, Florida–Tebow went 10 of 15 for 188 yards against Charleston Southern, with a touchdown passing and a touchdown running. There is little need to pay close attention to his candidacy until SEC play begins, when he can truly get back to impressing voters in high profile games. For now, he’s chasing history but remains a clear No. 2 behind McCoy.
3. Jahvid Best, Cal–Best wasted little time showing off his speed, ripping a 73-yard touchdown run early in a Cal win over Maryland. Best ended up with 137 yards and 2 touchdowns on just 10 carries and added 2 catches for 23 yards, plus an 18-yard kickoff return. He’ll probably put up equally gaudy numbers against Eastern Washington next week. He remains the running back with the best chance of shaking up the race.
4. Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame–The junior Irish quarterback has picked up where he left off last season. He went 15 of 18 for 318 yards and 4 touchdowns (no picks) in a win over Nevada. It’s still really early, but he looks like he could be on his way to a special season. The Notre Dame quarterback position is a storied one in Heisman lore, so don’t count out the possibility of a serious run at the trophy here.
5. Daryll Clark, Penn State–If Saturday is any indication, Clark looks to be even better than he was last season. He was 29 of 40 for 353 yards with 3 touchdowns and 1 interception against Akron. If he keeps up this kind of pace, he’ll go down as one of the great quarterbacks in Penn State history.
6. Max Hall, BYU–We wrote a while back that Hall had a great opportunity to make a splash with Heisman voters thanks to early season games against Oklahoma and Florida State. Well, the Cougars beat the Sooners, 14-13, and Hall threw the game-winning touchdown pass with just three minutes left. While he wasn’t overly brilliant, he was gritty in going 26 of 38 for 329 yards with 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. I think this game helps Hall’s Heisman chances, though not as much as it would’ve if BYU had beaten an Oklahoma team playing the whole game with a healthy Bradford.
7. Terrelle Pryor, Ohio State–The sophomore phenom looks much improved over last season, but his team’s struggle against Navy could be a harbinger of things to come. Pryor played well, going 14 of 21 for 174 yards and ran for 30 yards, with a touchdown passing and a touchdown running (including an interception). But the lack of difference makers on offense for the Buckeyes could put a lot of the onus on Pryor and that is a tough situation for any young quarterback to be in. If Ohio State can rebound and beat USC, then Pryor moves back up this list.
8. Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State–I picked Bryant to be the most likely Cowboy to mount a Heisman run and, after Saturday, I think that was justified. Bryant was dazzling in a solid win over No. 13 Georgia, snaring 3 passes for 77 yards and 2 touchdowns, one of them a diving, highlight reel catch in the endzone for OSU’s first points. He also added 29 yards on two punt returns.
9. Joe McKnight, USC–McKnight was a highly-touted recruit who has been outstanding at times, but he has never put together a consistently dominant season. Part of the reason for that is the USC tailback-by-committee approach which has served to evenly distribute the carries amongst a bevy of talented backs. However, it looks like McKnight has a chance to emerge as the prime option in 2009. He opened with 145 yards and 2 touchdowns on 14 carries against San Jose State. He also caught a pass for 21 yards and returned a punt 18 yards. The Trojans next play Ohio State, against whom McKnight ran for over 100 yards last season. If McKnight has another big game against the Buckeyes, he’ll start to get some Heisman buzz.
10. Jevan Snead, Ole Miss–Snead wasn’t particularly impressive in the Rebels’ win over Memphis, going 12 of 22 for 175 yards, with 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. He’ll need to pick up the pace a bit to stay in this race.