By: Al Burke
Last week saw way too many preseason contenders struck off the list, including Denard Robinson, Matt Barkley and Montee Ball. I also added a few “new” faces who really should have appeared earlier. Soon I’ll start to organize the list into a rough top 10, but this week I’ll acknowledge a couple of other guys who are starting to make a name for themself.
The Top 10
Geno Smith, West Virginia
I like a bit of offensive football now and again, but that WVU-Baylor game was just ridiculous. Still, it cemented Smith’s place at the head of the Heisman pantheon. He completed 45 of 51 passes for 656 yards and 8 scores, and still has to throw an interception this season. The rest of the team is suspect, and a rash of losses could cost him his spot. Texas this week will be a good acid test.
Next Week: @ Texas
Stats to Date: Passing 169-141-1728-20-0, Rushing 20-99-1.
Jonathan Franklin, UCLA
Franklin has really cooled after his hot start, as QB Brett Hundley has come to the fore, but he played well last week despite having limited touches. He gained 111 yards on 15 carries and caught 3 passes for 48 yards. Franklin needs to pick up the pace again over the course of the season or risk slipping back among the also-rans.
Next Week: @ California
Stats to Date: Rushing 93-697-3, Receiving 12-180-1.
Aaron Murray, Georgia
The Bulldog running game has been great this season, but Murray is still the brains behind the offense and continues to excel. He threw for 278 yards and 2 scores against Tennessee, but has to prove he can do it against any opponent, no easy task with a trip to Columbia next week.
Next Week: @ South Carolina
Stats to Date: Passing 130-89-1378-12-2, Rushing 21-(-8)-3.
Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina
With Kentucky bringing it to the Gamecocks on the way to a 17-7 half-time lead, Steve Spurrier remembered what side his bread is buttered on and leaned on Lattimore in the second half to great effect. The tough running back battered the gutsy Wildcats into submission, finishing with 120 yards and 2 scores on 23 carries, while pitching in with 3 receptions for 16 yards.
Next Week: Georgia
Stats to Date: Rushing 92-440-8, Receiving 16-109-0.
De’Anthony Thomas, Oregon
Thomas just hasn’t been as explosive as he was last season, whether teams are keying on him or some other reason, but he’s surviving on name alone right now. He did score a TD, but managed just 126 total yards on 18 touches. He needs to rip off some big gains to restore faith or he’ll be out of the running in a hurry.
Next Week: Washington
Stats to Date: Rushing 31-302-5, Receiving 19-193-3, Punt Returns 10-150-0, Kick Returns 4-53-0, Total Yards 64-698-8.
Kenjon Barner, Oregon
With Washington State giving the Ducks all they could handle in the first half, Oregon rested their hopes on Barner in the second and he came through in a big way. He racked up 195 yards and 3 scores, while catching 3 passes for 37 yards and another TD. The highlight of the night was a scorching 80-yard run in the fourth quarter that effectively sealed the win for the Ducks.
Next Week: @ Washington State
Stats to Date: Rushing 96-605-9, Receiving 11-111-1.
Braxton Miller, Ohio State
I said last week that Miller had to show up against Michigan State to cement his status here, and boy did he. Despite getting sent to the sidelines a couple of times by the Spartans’ nasty defense, Miller kept coming back and did just enough to eke out the 17-16 victory. He threw for 179 yards and a score (1 Int) and ran for 136 yards, giving him 315 of the team’s 383 yards. Expect another tough challenge this week.
Next Week: Nebraska
Stats to Date: Passing 121-76-933-8-3, Rushing 90-577-7.
Collin Klein, Kansas State
The Wildcats probably needed the week’s rest after that mammoth performance against Oklahoma, but they can’t let up against a Kansas team that have a ways to go before they’re consistently competitive, but have enough to upset a team or two.
Next Week: Kansas
Stats to Date: Passing 80-56-758-5-2, Rushing 63-289-5.
AJ McCarron, Alabama
In a sloppy performance by the Tide, McCarron was left to keep the team afloat as the running game struggled. He threw for 180 yards and 2 scores – not great numbers – but enough to ensure the win will keep him in the conversation for the time being.
Next Week: Bye
Stats to Date: Passing 111-73-999-12-0, Rushing 19-(-41)-0.
EJ Manuel, Florida State
Why the big jump from newcomer to top 10? Well, he’s the unquestioned leader of one of the best teams in the country, and he’s finally playing as he was expected to when he took over from Christian Ponder. He’s a threat through the air and on the ground, and has cut down on his mistakes. Last week, he made enough plays through the air to overcome a tough USF team intent on an upset. Next Week: @ NC State
Stats to Date: Passing 120-88-1147-9-1, Rushing 34-197-1.
Best of the Rest
Tajh Boyd, Clemson – Boyd played okay against FSU but needed to have a big game to keep voters interested. Step forward Boston College. The Eagles were competitive early, but Boyd was on fire, throwing for 367 yards and 3 scores, and adding 42 yards and a TD on the ground. A much better performance by Boyd, and keeps him on the cusp of the top 10. Next Week: Georgia Tech
Stats: Passing 160-111-1356-12-3, Rushing 56-161-1.
Sammy Watkins, Clemson – I said he needed to post a couple of big games to get in the race; instead he missed the game with an abdominal virus. Bad luck, but he’s off the list. Next Week: Georgia Tech
Stats: Receiving 10-76-0, Rushing 6-95-1, Passing 2-1-52-1-0, Kick Returns 4-57-0.
Andre Ellington, Clemson – With BC hanging around, the Tigers needed Ellington at his best to close out the game, and he came through with 132 yards and a score. He should have a field day against the Yellowjackets’ soft run defense on Saturday. Next Week: Georgia Tech
Stats: Rushing 92-515-6, Receiving 5-90-1, Kick Returns 5-129-0.
Rex Burkhead, Nebraska – Rex had a decent game against Wisconsin with 86 yards on 18 carries, but when you’re chasing the pack you have to step it up. With the Buckeyes up next, Burkhead is in danger of getting bumped off the list. Next Week: @ Ohio State
Stats: Rushing 29-274-3, Receiving 3-27-1.
Eddie Lacy, Alabama – It’s not that Lacy has been bad, he just hasn’t excelled the way his predecessors have. It’s been fun. Next Week: Bye
Stats: Rushing 64-314-4, Receiving 4-25-0.
Derek Carr, Fresno State – I said Carr would have to own the Mountain West to be in with a shout, and he certainly got off to a great start with 536 yards and 5 scores against San Diego State. He picked a bad weekend though, as a couple of other contenders actually out-performed him. Still, he’s serving notice. Next Week: @ Colorado State
Stats: Passing 193-134-1599-14-3, Rushing 23-39-0.
Le’Veon Bell, Michigan State – He’s getting zero help from the rest of the offense, but Bell just can’t string together some good games, and purple hearts don’t win Heismans. I’m afraid the Bell has tolled for Le’Veon. Next Week: @ Indiana
Stats: Rushing 134-655-5, Receiving 20-125-0, Punt Returns 3-18-0.
Nick Florence, Baylor – Florence, like Carr, had a big game last week but lost to Geno Smith who out-performed him. He’s still well in the running, but can his team stop anyone? Next Week: Bye
Stats: Passing 157-100-1585-16-5, Rushing 28-153-1.
Manti Te’o, Notre Dame – Haters of potential defenders winning the Heisman take note. Te’o is not just an exceptional player in his own right, but he makes everyone around him better. Next Week: Miami (in Chicago)
Stats: 38 Tackles, 2 for Loss, 3 Interceptions, 2 PBUs, 1 Fumble Recovered, 3 QB Hurries.
Tavon Austin, West Virginia – He’s still being overlooked by voters, but hasn’t caught less than 10 passes this season. He leads the country in receptions and can make plays no matter how he touches the ball. Against Baylor, Austin caught 14 passes for 215 yards and 2 scores, and returned 2 kickoffs for 72 yards. Geno Smith would be a lesser QB without him. Next Week: @ Texas
Stats: Receiving 48-560-7, Rushing 6-84-0, Kick Returns 5-135-0, Punt Returns 7-40-0, Total Yards 49-533-5.
Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville – Bridgewater hasn’t quite got the lofty stats of the other contenders, but he’s been very accurate and the Cardinals just keep winning. If he can light up the Big East, and I mean really light up, he’s in with a shout, especially as most of the others will slip up as the weeks go by. Next Week: Bye
Stats: Passing 137-100-1134-8-3, Rushing 28-68-1.
Others Being Talked About
Stephon Jefferson, Nevada – 877 yards and 11 TDs in 5 games is nothing to be sniffed at.
Mark Weisman, Iowa – the sophomore only took over as starter in week 3, but he already has 515 yards and 7 TDs.