The season is nearing the midway point and our College Football America Heisman Watch is reaching the point where serious front-runners can be identified. As I wrote two weeks ago, LSU’s Leonard Fournette and TCU’s Trevone Boykin were starting to convince me they were the guys. They’ve done nothing in the past two weeks to change my mind. More to the point, no one else in the country has either.
So as we close in on Week 7 I can make a bit of an adjustment. I am breaking Fournette and Boykin out from the rest of the pack and calling them the frontrunners. Because, at this point, that’s what they are. The play for Top 10 teams. Their play moves the needle. And they are — for the moment — undefeated.
So let’s take a look at those two and more in our latest College Football America Heisman Watch.
QB Trevone Boykin, TCU (moves to frontrunner status): His numbers are a bit dizzying. He threw four or more touchdown passes in four straight games before the Kansas State Wildcats “held” Boykin to a pair of touchdowns. Of course, in that game, he rushed for two scores, including a 69-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter that helped set up the Horned Frogs’ comeback. The clincher was his long touchdown pass to Josh Doctson. So not only are his numbers sick, he’s coming up clutch. Heisman voters love that.
His totals through six games? 2,103 yards passing, 21 touchdowns and five interceptions; 417 rushing yards and three touchdowns. If that doesn’t impress you, consider this from our friends at Heisman Watch (site is actually called HeismanWatch.com and is not to be confused with CFA’s Heisman Watch):
Trevone Boykin is on pace to finish the season with 4,206 passing yards, & 50 total TDs. Those are higher stats than Mariota-14 & Winston-13
— Heisman Watch (@Heismanology1) October 12, 2015
TCU faces Iowa State this Saturday, which affords Boykin another chance for dizzying numbers before TCU’s bye week. Then it’s 10 days to prepare for West Virginia on a Thursday night showcase.
RB Leonard Fournette, LSU (moves to frontrunner status): Fournette has rushed for 1,022 yards and 12 touchdowns in five games. Let’s frame that for a second. Remember — LSU’s season opener with McNeese State was a washout. So he’ll be behind just about every back in the nation the rest of the season in terms of games played. Despite that, Fournette leads the nation in total rushing yards and in rushing touchdowns. In fact, the nation’s second-leading rusher, San Jose State’s Tyler Ervin, has 874 yards and 11 scores in six games. So it’s not that Fournette simply leads the nation. It’s that he leads the nation by about 150 yards. That’s overwhelming. He had a “pedestrian game” against South Carolina, rushing for 158 yards and a score. If that’s what qualifies as pedestrian, then I don’t know what to tell you except this guy is super-human. By the way, He only needs nine yards in his next game to better his entire rushing total for last year. Las Vegas bookmakers are taking bets for the first time and Fournette is the favorite.
This week the Tigers host Florida in what should be a nice test for Fournette, who has to this point torched SEC defenses. Then the Tigers host Western Kentucky. November will be key for the sophomore, though, as the Tigers have to run a gauntlet to end SEC play — at Alabama, Arkansas, at Ole Miss and Texas A&M.
The First Tier
This next group of guys has the talent to win a Heisman. But to get to front-runner status they need to keep playing great and hope that either Boykin or Fournette falters. Because, right now, there is a clear canyon between those two and the rest of the field.
QB Seth Russell, Baylor (remains Top 10): This guy is sneaky good. With 1,527 yards passing, 22 touchdowns and five interceptions, along with four rushing touchdowns, he doesn’t have the sheer numbers. But the starter for the No. 2 team in the nation — and FBS’s No. 1 offense — has showcases to come in November. I’ll get the chance to see for myself this weekend in Waco when the Bears host West Virginia.
QB Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech (Moves back into Top 10): Consider Mahomes the heir to Boykin’s throne in the Big 12 once the Horned Frog graduates. Right now it doesn’t matter what team the Red Raiders play — Mahomes is a lock for 350 yards passing and at least two scores. He actually has more passing yards (2,264) than Boykin. The only thing holding Mahomes back is a two-loss Red Raiders team and a lack of national attention. Had Tech upset either TCU or Baylor that would have put Mahomes on many radars.
RB Dalvin Cook, Florida State (remains Top 10): I was concerned about the injury. But his 269 yards and three touchdowns against Miami (FL) last weekend erased all of those concerns. Cook remains among the Top 10 in rushing and plays for an undefeated Seminoles team that has some marquee games ahead of them (see Clemson).
RB Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State (was dark horse in Week 4): With about 40 more rushing yards than Cook, Elliott moves back into the Top 10. But after Fournette, you’ll notice the RB candidates don’t tend to excite. There is a general lack of excitement around OSU right now, despite Elliott’s production.
WR Corey Coleman, Baylor (remains in Top 10): Thirteen receiving touchdowns in five games. That’s on 31 receptions. No one can slow him down.
WR Josh Doctson, TCU (remains in Top 10): No. 2 in nation in receiving yards with 10 scores. He and Coleman are the only receivers in FBS with double-digit scores.
The Dark Horses
QB Cody Kessler, USC (moves from Top 10): Dropping Kessler isn’t about Steve Sarkisian’s firing. But one has to acknowledge the upheaval and it’s potential impact. Kessler’s numbers have taken a dip. Plus, the schedule the next three weeks is brutal — at Notre Dame, Utah and at California. If the Trojans manage to go 3-0, Kessler will be the reason and he’ll move back into the first tier.
QB Jared Goff, California (stays at dark horse status): I was set to move him up until his five interceptions against Utah. He’ll have to do a lot to erase that from everyone’s memory.
RB Derrick Henry, Alabama (remains in Top 10): Henry set an Alabama record with a touchdown in 11 straight games. His rushing numbers are well behind the pack (665 yards), though. He may not be on this list much longer.
RB Royce Freeman, Oregon (was dark horse in Week 4): Among the most productive backs in FBS this year. But the Ducks are down and Freeman isn’t getting much attention.
RB Paul Perkins, UCLA (moves into dark horse): He has a little more than Fournette’s rushing yards (577 yards) in the same amount of games. We’ll keep him on the dark horse list one more cycle because the Bruins have chances to really showcase him the next few weeks.
RB C.J. Prosise, Notre Dame (was in Top 10 in Week 4): The Clemson numbers (50 yards rushing, no scores) are troubling from a Heisman standpoint. But he sticks here one more cycle because of his three touchdowns against Navy and he’s the Irish’s best weapon. I think this weekend’s game with USC will tell us a lot.
QB Matt Johnson, Bowling Green and QB Brandon Doughty, Western Kentucky (new to list): After six weeks Johnson or Doughty appear to be the Group of 5 players that could be this year’s Jordan Lynch. Both have thrown for more than 2,300 yards in six games. Johnson leads FBS in passing yards (2,534) and only Boykin (21) has more touchdown passes than Doughty (20).
Players that fall off our list
QB Connor Cook, Michigan State (was dark horse in Week 4): Cook has emerged as simply a good quarterback, nothing more. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
QB Dak Prescott, Mississippi State (was dark horse in Week 4): This holdover from 2014 is no longer a viable candidate.
RB Nick Chubb, Georgia (was in Top 10): Before his injury he was in our Top 10. Now he’s a great candidate for 2016. Terrible break for a great player.
RB Samaje Perine, Oklahoma (drops from dark horse): Perine will have great difficulty approaching last year’s totals.
H-back Braxton Miller, Ohio State (was dark horse in Week 4): I wanted to give him a little time to settle into his new role. But he’s not getting enough chances to produce, with just 38 touches on offense so far.