The Heisman race is beginning to take shape. While there are still candidates that are on the outside looking in at the moment, with a chance at busting down the Heisman doors, through five weeks we have established a few guys that seem to be locks to make it to New York City for the Heisman Presentation in December.
The front runners this week feature a familiar name atop the list, but also features two guys that made significant jumps as they rode tremendous performances into the top five. One in particular jumped from just off the pace to second in the Heisman Watch after finally getting an opportunity to prove himself on a national stage.
Additionally, we have a defensive player that has jumped into the “darkhorse” category of the Heisman race, along with a couple of guys that potentially saw their Heisman hopes go up in flames either due to mediocre performances, a devastating loss, or both.
The Front Runners
Andrew Luck (QB/Stanford)– Andrew Luck helped himself big time this weekend as Stanford moved to 4-0 with their 45-19 win over Stanford in their second Pac-12 game. Luck completed 23 of his 27 passes (85.2%) for 227 yards and 3 touchdowns without an interception. Stanford has yet to be seriously tested this season in four games against San Jose State, Duke, Arizona, and UCLA, outscoring those opponents by over 31 points per game. For the season, Luck has been his usual efficient self completing 71.4% of his passes for 1013 yards and 11 touchdowns to just 1 interception, with a QB rating of 178. Luck and Stanford welcome Colorado to Palo Alto on Saturday in a game where Luck should pad his stats even more. Last season’s Heisman runner-up is in a great position to win the award this season, but one player is closing on him fast.
Russell Wilson (QB/Wisconsin) — That player would be Russell Wilson. I was hesitant to put Russell Wilson as a front runner through the season’s first four weeks against inferior competition like UNLV, Oregon State, Northern Illinois, and South Dakota. I’m no longer hestiant after Wilson and Wisconsin proved themselves on a national stage in the Big Ten opener against Nebraska on Saturday night. Led by Wilson’s 255 passing yards on 14/20 attempts and 2 touchdown tosses, the Badgers battered the “Black Shirts” of Nebraska 38-17 in Madison. Wilson is the nation’s second most efficient passer thus far with a QB rating of 216.9, which is second to only Baylor’s Robert Griffin. He’s completed 74.8% of his passes for 1391 yards and 13 touchdowns to just 1 interception. The Badgers have the week off this week before hosting Indiana on October 15th for their sixth straight home game. Wisconsin finally leaves Camp Randell on October 22nd for a trip to East Lansing to take on Michigan State.
Trent Richardson (RB/Alabama) — It’s going to be difficult for Trent Richardson to jump Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson if they keep their teams undefeated. But, Richardson’s performance in the Swamp on Saturday night against Florida was Heisman-esque. He carried the Alabama offense on his back with a career-high 181 yards on 29 carries and a pair of rushing touchdowns in the Crimson Tide’s 38-10 win over Florida. The 181 yards marked the fourth straight 100+ yard rushing game for Alabama’s Heisman hopeful. Richardson has 622 rushing yards for the season, a 6.5 yards per carry average, and 10 rushing touchdowns. He also has 148 receiving yards and a touchdown on 11 receptions. After a convincing victory in Gainesville, the Tide heads back to Tuscaloosa for a game against Vanderbilt.
Kellen Moore (QB/Boise State) — We’ve come to expect highly efficient games from Kellen Moore week in and week out, but he actually played on of the worst games of his illustrious career in Boise State’s 30-10 win over Nevada. He completed 19 of his 33 attempts, but for a meager 142 yards with two touchdowns and two very uncharacteristic interceptions. His QB rating at the end of the day was a lowly 101.6. That, combined with big time performances by Wilson and Richardson dropped Moore to 4th this week. Moore is having a strong season, but he hasn’t matched his production from a year ago. His QB rating is 170.8 so far, down from last season’s 182.6. He’s completed 73.9% of his passes for 1137 yards and 14 touchdowns to 4 interceptions. Next up for the Broncos is a road game against Pat Hill’s Fresno State.
Robert Griffin III (QB/Baylor) — It took five games, but Robert Griffin finally has more incompletions (20) than touchdown passes (18). That’s not the reason he dropped from second to fifth in just one week though, but Baylor’s road loss in their Big XII opener to Kansas State is. Griffin still played great, with 346 yards on 23/31 passes and 5 touchdowns, but he threw his first interception of the season in the fourth quarter on Saturday. He had a chance to lead Baylor on a game winning drive, but couldn’t as the Bears dropped to 3-1 with their 36-35 loss to the Wildcats. Griffin is still the nation’s most efficient passer with a QB Rating of 230.3, and has completed 82.3% of his passes with 18 touchdowns to 1 interception. It was going to take at least 9 wins for Griffin to have a real shot at winning the Heisman, and while that’s still possible, those chances took a dive with their loss last weekend. Baylor will try to get back on track on Saturday against Iowa State.
Just off the Pace
Landry Jones (QB/Oklahoma) — Landry Jones played his best game of the season on Saturday against Ball State, but he still drops back out of the front runners after big performances by a couple of other candidates. In the Sooners’ 62-6 win over Ball State, Jones connected on 23 of his 33 pass attempts for 425 yards and 5 touchdowns to 1 interception. He’s thrown for 1447 yards with a 71.6 completion percentage and 10 touchdowns to 5 interceptions. Oklahoma is still undefeated at 4-0, but Jones hasn’t been near as good as most expected him to be. Jones has a great opportunity on a big state this weekend against Texas in the Red River Rivalry game. He needs a big game to jump back amongst the front runners.
Marcus Lattimore (RB/South Carolina) — Lattimore’s chances took a dive last weekend with South Carolina’s 16-13 home loss to Auburn. Lattimore was kept bottled up against the Tigers, who seem to have his number. He carried the ball 17 times, which is a significant drop off from his average of nearly 27 carries a game this season, for only 66 yards and a touchdown. The game marked the second straight that Lattimore was held under 100 yards rushing after only 77 yards against Vanderbilt. Still, Lattimore’s Heisman hopes aren’t dead in the water at this point with 677 yards (2nd in the nation) on 124 attempts for an average 5.5 yards per attempt. He’s also punched in nine rushing touchdowns this season. Lattimore and South Carolina attempt to rebound this weekend in Columbia against Kentucky.
Denard Robinson (QB/Michigan) — I’m still hesitant to put Denard Robinson much higher on this list due to his mediocre passing numbers, but he took a step forward in that department last weekend in Michigan’s dominating 58-0 win over Minnesota. He was 15/19 for 169 yards and a pair of touchdown passes and no interceptions. He only had to carry the six times for 51 yards and a touchdown in the game. Even after Robinson’s strong performance against the Golden Gophers, he’s still completing just 54.9% of his passes, with a QB rating of 144.0. Another game or two like that and Robinson will see his chances in the Heisman race rising. Michigan heads to Evanston this weekend to take on Northwestern.
LaMichael James (RB/Oregon) — Oregon took the weekend off to prepare for California’s trip to Eugene on Saturday. Even after a week off, James is still 5th in the nation in rushing with 613 rushing yards and an outstanding 9.4 yards per carry. He’s put together back-to-back 200+ yard performances against Missouri State and Arizona. He has seven rushing touchdowns and one receiving to go along with 159 receiving yards. James has ran his way back into the Heisman conversation after Oregon’s season opening loss to LSU, and a couple more big games should put him right in the thick of the race.
Brandon Weeden (QB/Oklahoma State) — Oklahoma State also took the week off following their big 30-29 win in College Station against Texas A&M. After a record-setting performance against the Aggies, Weeden should have little trouble throwing all over Kansas in Stillwater on Saturday. He’s thrown for 1592 yards so far this season with a 61.5 completion percentage, 155.4 QB rating, and 10 touchdown passes to 6 interceptions. If Oklahoma State can continue their undefeated run, then we will see the Heisman buzz around Weeden continue to grow. The Cowboys are likely to be favored in every game until the season finale against Oklahoma that could be a de facto Big XII Championship game, and possibly a play-in game for the BCS Title.
Falling off the Pace
Chris Rainey (RB/Florida) — Chris Rainey made his debut on the Heisman Watch last week after four impressive games. Now, just as quick as he got on it, he’s back off it after being completely shut down by Alabama’s defense as the Gators were beaten and battered 38-10 on their home turf. Rainey had 32 receiving yards on 3 catches, but was held to just 4 rushing yards on 11 attempts! He was coming off of three straight 100 yard performances, but couldn’t even get double digits against the Crimson Tide’s swarming defense. Rainey’s Heisman hopes are all but diminished, and things get no easier on Saturday when Florida travels to Baton Rouge to take on LSU.
David Wilson (RB/Virginia Tech)– Wilson didn’t hurt himself this weekend, rushing for 123 yards on 20 attempts, but Virginia Tech’s 20-point loss to Clemson in their first real test of the season did. Wilson played really well against Clemson’s defense, and if Virginia Tech had beaten the Tigers, then we probably would have seen him vault up the Heisman board. But, to this point, Virginia Tech hasn’t proved anything other than they aren’t on the same level as the ACC favorite. It’s hard to give a team like that a Heisman candidate regardless of how well he’s played. Wilson still has the numbers, and if the Hokies are able to finish the season strong and win the ACC, then you could very well see him on the short list of candidates to be invited to the Downtown Athletic Club.
Tajh Boyd (QB/Clemson) — Boyd had a great opportunity to vault up the Heisman board this weekend, but he failed to do so. While Clemson did win an impressive road game against Virginia Tech, it was the Clemson defense that did the dirty work, holding the Hokies to just three points. Boyd actually struggled to the tune of 13 of 32 passing for 204 yards, while trading a touchdown for an interception. Boyd’s Heisman hopes are still alive though as the Tigers sit at 5-0 with three straight impressive wins over Auburn, Florida State, and Virginia Tech. Boyd has completed 61.3% of his passes for 1459 yards and 14 touchdowns to 2 interceptions. If he had played as well as had up to this point against Virginia Tech, then he would have taken a significant jump up the board.
Seth Doege (QB/Texas Tech) — Doege threw his first interception of the season on Saturday afternoon against Kansas, but he still looked very good in leading the Red Raiders to a 4-0 start with their 45-34 win over Kansas. He connected on 29 of his 46 pass attempts for 366 yards an3 touchdowns to the 1 interception. He’s up to 1315 passing yards for the season while completing 73.3% of his passes with 14 touchdowns. But, Doege and the Red Raiders have yet to face a quality opponent. That will change on Saturday when they welcome rival Texas A&M to Lubbock. Tech has no defense to speak of, so it will be up to Doege and the Red Raider offense to answer the bell if they want any chance at upsetting the Aggies.
Tyrann Mathieu (DB/LSU) — If there’s any defensive player in the country that has a shot at the stiff-arm, it’s LSU’s Tyrann Mathieu. It took Mathieu just 17 collegiate games to break the LSU career record for forced fumbles with eight. He’s already forced three fumbles this season to go along with 36 tackles, and an interception. He’s scored a couple of touchdowns including one last week against Kentucky. It’s going to take many more spectacular performances if Mathieu plans on being invited to the Heisman ceremony, but for now he has been the best player on one of the top teams in the nation.
Ray Graham (RB/Pittsburgh) — With two losses in September, it’s going to take a minor miracle for Pittsburgh’s Ray Graham to get serious consideration for the Heisman Trophy, but his performance on Thursday night against South Florida deserves mention. He carried the ball 26 times for 226 yards and two touchdowns in Pittsburgh’s huge 44-17 Big East win over South Florida. Graham is now the nation’s leading rusher with 734 yards on 126 carries (5.8 YPC) and eight touchdowns. Graham is going to need a huge season and Pittsburgh is likely going to have to win the Big East for him to have a shot at the Heisman.