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.
No real introduction this week, and why would you need one? We’re down to the final month of the season and the candidates appear locked in, though I’ll submit one other name for consideration at the end.
But after 11 weeks, if I had a Heisman ballot, this would be my Top 5:
QB Dak Prescott, Mississippi State:
He is still my No. 1, but as I wrote last week he’s not ahead of Oregon’s Marcus Mariota by much and continuing to win is paramount to his candidacy. He had a solid game against UT Martin, throwing for 206 yards and two touchdowns. He’s now the only Mississippi State quarterback in the history of the program to throw for at least 200 yards in nine straight games. And, now, he looks healthy. This Saturday brings the witching hour to Mississippi State’s season and Prescott’s candidacy — No. 5 Alabama. If the Bulldogs beat the Tide, they’ll be in the driver’s seat in the SEC West and Prescott will be in the driver’s seat in the Heisman race. It’s that simple from my perspective.
QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon: Oregon’s win over Utah saw Mariota account for four touchdowns — three passing and one rushing. He also rushed for 114 yards, his first 100-yard rushing game of the season. That couldn’t have come at a better time for Mariota, who seems to be the prohibitive No. 2 right now. He needs 230 yards to reach 3,000 yards passing for the season and needs just one touchdown pass to reach 30 touchdown passes for the season. The Ducks have already clinched the Pac-12 North, so Mariota will get what could be an important 13th game in the Pac-12 Championship game. Mariota and the Ducks are off this week, so they’ll be watching that MSU-Alabama game with a great deal of interest. If the Bulldogs lose and/or if Prescott has a bad game against the Tide it could be enough to move Mariota up to No. 1.
RB Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska: The Cornhuskers were off this week and Abdullah is sitting on 1,250 yards and 17 touchdowns. The Cornhuskers face Wisconsin this weekend. This is a chance for Abdullah to make his case against the other top running back in college football. They can’t both have huge days, right?
RB Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin: Gordon cracked 200 yards rushing in a game for the third time this season, as he gained 205 yards and scored once against Purdue. He also caught a touchdown pass. He now has 1,501 yards and 19 touchdowns this season and three games remaining. There’s a chance he could reach 2,000 yards, but he needs a huge game against Nebraska this weekend. This should be an interesting contest as both defenses will be geared to stop the run game.
WR Amari Cooper, Alabama: Eight catches for 83 yards and a score against LSU’s stout defense tells me that no one can stop this guy, as if you needed more evidence. He’s the only pure receiver with a shot to go to New York City, but even if Alabama wins the SEC, I have a hard time seeing him winning the award. But being at the ceremony in New York City? The odds are looking good right now.
Players to track
QB Bryce Petty, Baylor: As I wrote last week, I won’t write Petty off until I see what he does in the season’s final stretch, which includes Oklahoma State this coming weekend. Well, Petty threw for 387 yards and a touchdown in a huge win over Oklahoma. Don’t forget — they’re still in the College Football Playoff conversation with just one loss. He’s still on my outside-looking-in list.
QB Jameis Winston, Florida State: Winston had a solid game against Virginia (261 yards passing, touchdown). The Seminoles won and are still in the College Football Playoff conversation But, geez, now what? There are point-shaving allegations now. A TMZ report linked Winston to “tanking” the first half of the game so that a friend, UAB’s Chris Rabb, could win a $5,000 bet. I thought it was bluster, but now UAB is investigating. I don’t see how any voter in his right mind will vote for Winston at this point, but some will, which is why he remains on the outside looking in.
QB Rakeem Cato, Marshall: Cato had nearly 300 yards total offense and accounted for three scores in a win over Southern Miss. As long as the Herd keeps winning I’ll keep Cato on the list. You never know. He won’t win. I am not delusional. But perhaps he gets to New York City as a finalist if things break right?
QB Trevone Boykin, TCU: Boykin accounted for more than 300 total yards and four scores (three on the ground) as TCU burnished its College Football Playoff credentials by dominating Kansas State. Boykin is now within striking distance of 3,000 yards passing and the Horned Frogs have a manageable schedule remaining (Kansas, Texas, Iowa State). Boykin’s case is building. He and the Horned Frogs just have to keep winning.
And one more …
QB T.J. Barrett, Ohio State: I wonder why we aren’t talking about this guy? I had to double-check to make sure he was a redshirt freshman. He is. Barrett has 2,156 yards passing, 582 yards rushing and 34 total touchdowns. The Buckeyes are in the driver’s seat in the Big Ten East and just exorcised its Michigan State demons on the road. In that game Barrett had 386 total yards and accounted for five touchdowns. That’s domination of one of the best defenses in the country. Keep his name in your hip pocket the next few weeks. If some of the others on this list falter, he might move up.
Off the list
Here are players that are dropping off my list entirely this week:
QB Everett Golson, Notre Dame: Notre Dame needed to keep winning. The Irish fell to Arizona State. Golson threw four interceptions in the process. He’s out.
LB Shaq Thompson, Washington: He had his second 100-yard rushing game in a row against UCLA, but the Huskies lost their four game of the season. Sadly, our favorite two-way player of the moment is coming to the party too late.