College Football America Heisman Watch: Week 4

Baylor coach Art Briles (right) talks with quarterback Seth Russell during a break in the action against SMU on Sept. 4, 2015, in University Park, Texas. (RoadTripSports photo by Chuck Cox)

Baylor coach Art Briles (right) talks with quarterback Seth Russell during a break in the action against SMU on Sept. 4, 2015, in University Park, Texas. (RoadTripSports photo by Chuck Cox)

It feels like there’s a race developing between a young running back and a veteran quarterback when it comes to our Heisman Watch for Week 4.

LSU running back Leonard Fournette and TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin have put on a show the past few weeks, and with both of their teams undefeated they take center stage as the season hits the one-month mark.

Fournette has been running over people for the Tigers and has three straight 200-yard rushing games. Not 100-yard rushing games — 200-yard rushing games. Yes, even with spotting the field one game, thanks to the cancellation of the McNeese State game, Fournette is third in rushing yardage with 631 yards and has eight touchdowns. If he keeps running over people, that means the Tigers will keep winning and he’ll remain a key part of the discussion.

Boykin, meanwhile, is putting up silly numbers for the Horned Frogs, who are 4-0. Boykin is third in FBS with 1,470 passing yards and has 14 touchdown passes. He threw for more than 500 yards against Texas Tech last weekend. He’s also a threat to run the ball and has a handful of rushing scores. As long as he keeps putting up huge numbers, the Horned Frogs will likely keep winning.

So these two, to me, are the front-runners. But they’re by no means the only players in the race. In this edition of Heisman Watch, we’ll start by checking in with our Top 10, followed by the legitimate dark horses and the players that have fallen out of our list. At this point we’re starting to eliminate a few players.

The Top 10

QB Trevone Boykin, TCU (remains in Top 10): As mentioned above. As he goes so go the Horned Frogs.

QB Cody Kessler, USC (remains in Top 10): Fifteen touchdowns to one interception in four games. Yes, the Stanford loss hurts. But the Trojans are by no means out of either the Pac-12 race or the College Football Playoff race. So Kessler is not out of this race.

QB Seth Russell, Baylor (new to Top 10): He has to slide into the conversation now. He’s thrown 15 touchdown passes in three games. Only Cody Kessler has that many and Kessler has played four games. The Big 12 awaits Russell and the Bears this week, starting with Texas Tech.

RB Leonard Fournette, LSU (new to the Top 10: Had only played one game when we published our Week 2 edition. See above.

RB Nick Chubb, Georgia (remains in Top 10): Fifth in FBS in rushing with 599 yards and six touchdowns. Georgia is going to be tough to beat if he’s healthy.

RB Dalvin Cook, Florida State (moves into Top 10): In three games he has 476 yards and five touchdowns. Stays in the Top 10 for now but he’ll need production in his next two games to keep pace.

RB Derrick Henry, Alabama (moves into Top 10): The bloom is starting to fall off the rose a bit. Two things keep him in the race. First, he plays at Alabama so he’ll get chances. Second, he’s among the nation’s leaders in rushing touchdowns. But the ground is getting shakier.

RB C.J. Prosise, Notre Dame (new to Top 10): Get to know this kid because he’s one of the players keeping the Irish moving. He’s fourth in the nation in rushing with 600 yards and six touchdowns. The Clemson game is a huge chance for him to grab everyone’s attention.

WR Corey Coleman, Baylor (stays in Top 10): Coleman is a touchdown machine (eight in three games). That keeps him on the list. You could argue that he’s making Seth Russell look better than Russell might look otherwise.

WR Josh Doctson, TCU (new to Top 10): Had 21 catches against Texas Tech. Sure, Boykin siphons off his votes. But, at least for this reading, Doctson has to be in the Top 10 as one of the nation’s Top 3 receivers.

The Dark Horses

QB Dak Prescott, Mississippi State (was Top 10 in Week 2): Not nearly as prolific as compared to last year. He moves to dark horse status for now.

QB Connor Cook, Michigan State (was dark horse in Week 2): The Spartans are undefeated and he’s the quarterback. Let’s see how he produces in the Big Ten before we remove him completely.

QB Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech (was Top 10 in Week 2): No. 4 in passing yards. If he and the Red Raiders had upset TCU last weekend he’d probably remain in the Top 10. But he’s suffering from a dearth of national publicity. I’m not sure anyone outside of Texas knows how talented this guy really is. It hurts that the Red Raiders aren’t ranked. It all amounts to dark horse status.

QB Jared Goff, California (was a keep your eye on in Week 2): It feels like he’s setting up a 2016 campaign (should he stay in school), but the numbers are there and the Golden Bears are good enough to make it worth tracking him for two more weeks.

H-back Braxton Miller, Ohio State (was dark horse in Week 2): I’ll keep him in here for a couple of more weeks because if the Buckeyes ever figure out their offensive issues he’ll be the position player to benefit the most. But he’s languishing, along with their other weapons.

RB Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State (was Top 10 in Week 2): Suffering, like the rest of the Buckeyes, from their problems on offense.

RB Royce Freeman, Oregon (was Top 10 in Week 2): He’s producing but the Ducks’ horrible loss to Utah is going to cause many voters to forget about him.

RB Samaje Perine, Oklahoma (drops from Top 10): OU was off for a week during our last cycle. We’ll keep Perine in dark horse status for one more go-round.

RB Paul Perkins, UCLA (moves into dark horse): Watched him against Arizona and was incredibly impressed. He keeps defenses from teeing off on freshman quarterback Josh Rosen and he’s Top 10 in rushing. Definitely worth tracking.

Keep an eye on: QB Paxton Lynch, Memphis: If there is a Group of 5 player that might get some love here it’s Lynch, who is piloting the undefeated Tigers and putting up huge numbers in the process. He’s one of a handful of quarterbacks in FBS without an interception.

Players that fall off our list

Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State (drops from Top 10): I was willing to cut them a bit of slack after two weeks. But neither of these guys is taking control of the Ohio State offense as I had thought they might. At this point I don’t see them as legitimate or dark horse candidates.

QB Jacoby Brissett, NC State (dark horse in Week 2): It was nice while it lasted. The Wolfpack is winning but he’s not productive enough from a national perspective.

Why not ….

Anyone from Ole Miss? Yes, the Rebels are rolling and undefeated. But the numbers for players like quarterback Chad Kelly and wide receiver Laquon Treadwell aren’t quite Heisman-worthy … yet. All of the QB’s we’ve listed have better overall numbers than Kelly. I’m tracking him for our Week 6 edition and we’ll see where he stands.

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