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.
After nine weeks the Heisman Trophy has settled into a “Core Four” of contenders, in my opinion. There are others that could slide into the conversation in the next few weeks. But when you consider everything, these four guys — Dak Prescott, Marcus Mariota, Ameer Abdullah and Melvin Gordon — are the front-runners.
After nine weeks, if I had a Heisman ballot, this would be my Top 5 (in no particular order):
QB Dak Prescott, Mississippi State: The Bulldogs keep winning and Prescott keeps stirring the drink. He threw for 216 yards and a touchdown, and rushed for 88 yards and two touchdowns, in a 45-31 win over Kentucky. But he emerged from the locker room after the game with his right foot in a walking boot. He called it a “precaution.” Precaution? What does that mean? Who knows and Prescott didn’t give up any more information than that. The Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, Miss.) reported that two MSU players, Kaleb Eulls and P.J. Jones, wore walking boots all of last season and missed a combined two games. So this may be nothing. But “Boot Watch” will be the thing in Starkville this week. As long as he’s healthy and MSU keeps winning, Prescott appears to be in the lead.
QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon: Mariota threw an interception — THE HORROR! Yep, Mariota was finally picked off in the Ducks’ 59-41 win over California. Here’s some perspective. Mariota’s last interception came against Oregon State last season, a span of 253 passes. Insane. Statistically he’s a beast — 2,283 yards passing, 24 touchdowns and the aforementioned interception. Throw in 325 yards rushing and five touchdowns and he’s pushing Prescott all the way to New York — as long as the Ducks keep winning. The next two games are crucial to both Mariota’s chances and Oregon’s Pac 12 hopes as they host Stanford and travel to Utah.
RB Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska: Speaking of beasts, Abdullah recorded his fourth 200-yard rushing outing in a 42-24 win over Rutgers. He gained 225 yards and scored three touchdowns, pushing his season totals to 1,249 yards and 17 touchdowns. He now leads the nation in total rushing yards and the Cornhuskers are 7-1 and in contention to win the Big Ten West Division. Another huge outing should be in the offing next weekend against Purdue before the Huskers take a week off to prepare for Wisconsin, a game that, theoretically, could decide the West title.
RB Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin: Compared to Abdullah, Gordon’s 122 yards and three touchdowns against Maryland was a little pedestrian. But Gordon, as we pointed out last week, has been less boom-and-bust this season than Abdullah. Gordon now has at least 100 yards rushing in six of seven games this season. The Badgers are still in Big Ten contention, though that loss to Northwestern really smarts right now. Plus, Gordon and the Badgers have five games remaining and Abdullah and the Huskers only have four.
Players to track
QB Everett Golson, Notre Dame: He was off this week, but his numbers match up nicely with other quarterbacks on this list (1,996 yards passing, 19 touchdowns, six interceptions; 242 yards rushing, 4 touchdowns). The tough remaining schedule should help, too (Arizona State, Louisville, USC). Or it could hurt.
RB Tevin Coleman, Indiana: Coleman was also off in Week 9. He’s the only back on this list with at least 100 yards in every game. He’s just behind Abdullah in total rushing yards nationally. The only reason you’re not paying attention is because he plays for Indiana. The schedule is rough in November — Michigan, Penn State and Ohio State. Excel in those games and voters will take notice.
WR Amari Cooper, Alabama: Another huge game for Cooper — nine catches, a career-high 224 yards and two touchdowns. And he’s still on the outside looking in. That’s why it’s so tough to win this award when you’re a pure receiver.
QB Kenny Hill, Texas A&M: Hill has really faded from view after that poor performance against Alabama. Will a huge game against UL-Monroe help? We’ll see.
QB Bryce Petty, Baylor: Another player who was off this past weekend. He’s on the fringe now. He needs big games against Kansas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, plus Baylor wins, to get back in this race.
QB Jameis Winston, Florida State: Winston being on the outside looking in has nothing to do with statistics, as I pointed out last week. It’s all about perception. Nothing about this season has been perfect for Winston, except FSU’s record.
QBs Shane Carden, East Carolina, and Rakeem Cato, Marshall: Carden threw for 445 yards and two touchdowns in a win over UConn. Cato threw for just 218 yards and a touchdown, but kept Marshall’s perfect season alive in a win over Florida Atlantic. Carden’s numbers are great, but I think it would take a miracle at this point for either of these guys to get to New York.
LB Shaq Thompson, Washington: Remember I wrote a short piece on this guy last week? Well, against Arizona State — a game the Huskies lost — he played running back most of the night due to injuries. Thompson rushed for 98 yards on 21 carries, but played only a few snaps on defense. I love that the Huskies are moving the guy around. But for him to win this award he needs play on both sides of the ball and that play needs to be dynamic. He was just another running back Saturday night. That doesn’t bode well.
And one more…
QB Trevone Boykin, TCU: Head coach Gary Patterson doesn’t want to talk about it. Neither does Boykin. But I was there in person when Boykin destroyed Texas Tech for 433 passing yards and a TCU record-breaking seven touchdown passes in an eye-popping 82-27 win. Get this — TCU’s basketball team managed to score at least 82 points just one time last season. The win is getting plenty of play nationally and Boykin’s overall numbers match up well with both Prescott and Mariota. But the Horned Frogs aren’t under the radar anymore and the next two games — at West Virginia and at home against Kansas State — are tough. We’ll see quickly if a Boykin candidacy has legs.