In College Football America, our preview publication, I wrote about the Heisman frontrunners and sleepers, from my perspective. Seven weeks into the season we start to see who the legitimate candidates are and the ones that are on the outside. I’ll be back in a few weeks with a new update.
Thanks for playing Todd Gurley. You’re very nearly done Jameis Winston.
Gurley, the Georgia back who looked to be to have the best shot of any back in the nation to win the Heisman, probably won’t be back for a while as Georgia sorts through allegations that he signed memorabilia for money. Georgia suspended him indefinitely when the allegations came to light. Gurley is working out this week, but there’s no indication when the suspension will end.
Winston, meanwhile, will face a disciplinary hearing related to the rape charges he dodged last year. Plus, Florida State’s role in the investigation — as in how cooperative the school was and whether they followed procedure — is being called into questions. Winston is still the starting quarterback for the nation’s No. 1 team. But the climate related to violence against women has changed dramatically in a year. Good luck justifying a ballot for Winston unless this gets resolved quickly. Oh, and by the way, Winston is getting sucked into the Gurley memorabilia vortex, too. Winston has some autographs certified by the same authentication company, and that can be a red flag.
After seven weeks, if I had a Heisman ballot, this would be my Top 5 (in no particular order):
QB Dak Prescott, Mississippi State: The Bulldogs are in the nation’s Top 5. They’re undefeated. They vanquished Auburn on Saturday (though Alabama and Ole Miss still loom). He has three 100-yard rushing games this season and has accounted for 23 rushing and passing touchdowns. He’s dynamic, a game-changing player, and he’s in the conversation from here on in.
QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon: The Arizona loss hurt, but he played respectably in that game, throwing for 276 yards and two touchdowns. The Tennessee Titans’ fan base loves him enough to start a “suck for a duck” campaign (as in tank this season to take Mariota in the NFL Draft next season). The win over UCLA is a big calling card for Mariota, but the Ducks have to keep winning.
RB Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska: It’s an awfully close race for the nation’s top rusher. Michigan State may have put a bit of a dent in his candidacy by holding Abdullah to 45 yards, but MSU does that to everyone. His body of work suggests legitimate candidate
QB Kenny Hill, Texas A&M: Entering last weekend he was one of only two quarterbacks in FBS with at least 2,000 yards passing and at least 20 touchdowns. The Aggies don’t have to win every game for Hill to win this award. He just has to keep playing great football but defenses are starting to make him look human. He threw for 401 yards against Ole Miss, but also tossed two picks. He has six interceptions in the last three games. But for now he remains in my Top 5.
RB Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin: Nothing slows this guy down, certainly not Illinois, against which Gordon rushed for 175 yards and scored four times. Gordon has gained at least 175 yards in each of his last four games. He’s rolling and he remains in my Top 5.
A half-dozen to track
Here are six guys worth tracking:
QB Bryce Petty, Baylor: Petty’s unbelievable 510-yard passing performance against TCU vaults him back in the conversation, but consistency is paramount moving forward. In the game before TCU, Texas, Petty threw for just 111 yards.
RB James Conner, Pittsburgh: He’s right there with Abdullah and Gordon in terms of being the top rusher in FBS. He just doesn’t have the national profile. Hs per-game numbers are dipping a bit, but don’t give up just yet.
QB Shane Carden, East Carolina: He notched three straight 400-yard games at one point this season and there doesn’t seem to be a defense that can slow down he or the rest of the ECU offense right now (though South Florida did as good a job as anyone has this season). He’s the top Group of Five contender.
QB Rakeem Cato, Marshall: However, Cato is right behind him and he has the added bonus of playing for an undefeated team. His numbers haven’t been quite as explosive as Carden’s, but as the season continues and the Thundering Herd remain undefeated, perhaps that makes a difference?
WR Amari Cooper, Alabama: The Ole Miss loss was his first game this season without either 100 yards receiving or at least one receiving touchdown. But he still caught nine balls for 91 yards and bounced back nicely against Arkansas. Then he followed that with two receptions against Arkansas. Ouch. Let’s see how he bounces back.
RB Tevin Coleman, Indiana: This guy is quietly building a resume that has to be reviewed. Unlike Abdullah, Gordon and Conner, Coleman has rushed for at least 100 yards in every game so far this season. He also has 11 rushing touchdowns. Now, the schedule has been kind and that is about to end. But he hung 132 yards on Missouri, so he likes the bright lights.
On my last update but gone now:
Gurley: Again, he probably won’t play again this year. If he does return we’ll consider re-adding him.
Winston: His entire collegiate future appears to be in jeopardy. Even still, there’s enough baggage for voters to ignore Winston this year.
QB Christian Hackenberg, Penn State: He failed to throw a touchdown pass in his final three games of September. Yeah, that’s not gonna work.
QB Vernon Adams, Eastern Washington: He was the perfect FCS candidate to earn enough votes to get to New York City until he broke his foot last week. Now he’s hoping to be back in enough time to help the Eagles in their FCS playoff run.