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Monday, December 11, 2023

Heisman Watch: Week 4

We’re now three full weeks into the 2014 college football season. That has given us enough time to peruse box scores, watch plenty of highlights and formulate some legitimate Heisman Trophy watch lists rather than preseason predictions that often turn out to be wildly incorrect. Check back in the following weeks for updated rankings.

1. Marcus Mariota, Oregon QB

Excluding Reggie Bush’s vacated 2005 Heisman, quarterbacks have won 12 of the past 13 Heisman trophies. College football is dominated by spread offenses run by dual-threat quarterbacks, and Mariota is this season’s poster child for the 21st century passer.

Mariota is putting up impressive numbers across the board. He has completed over 70 percent of his passes, thrown eight touchdowns and zero interceptions and recorded 11.4 yards per pass attempt, the third-highest figure in the nation.

On the ground, Mariota might not be the most prolific running quarterback this season, but he has still averaged nearly eight yards per carry and scored three touchdowns.

2. Todd Gurley, Georgia RB

Georgia has faced two ranked opponents thus far, and Gurley has dominated both of them. He carved up Clemson in the season opener for four touchdowns, coming on runs of 18, 23 and 51 yards as well as a 100-yard kick return.

Even in a loss to South Carolina last week, Gurley racked up 131 rushing yards and a touchdown, and also had a 54-yard touchdown run nullified by holding. He is clearly the nation’s best running back.

3. Kenny Hill, Texas A&M QB

What a remarkable starting debut it was for Hill, when the sophomore decimated South Carolina on the road in the season opener for a school-record 511 yards and three touchdowns.

On the season, Hill has yet to throw an interception while amassing 11 touchdowns. His 1,094 passing yards rank fifth in the country.

4. Jameis Winston, Florida State QB

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Here’s the problem with Winston. He could replicate his Heisman-winning stat line from last season and still not retain his title. Since the Heisman was created in 1935, there has been only one repeat winner: Ohio State’s Archie Griffin in 1974-’75.

Winston’s 3:2 touchdown-to-interception ratio is unimpressive, but he remains high on this list because of his incredible talent and the fact he could lead reigning champ Florida State to another undefeated regular season (the Heisman is awarded before the postseason begins).

5. Bo Wallace, Mississippi QB

Wallace is perhaps the nation’s best combination of explosiveness and accuracy from under center. His 75 percent completion rate leads the nation, and his 10.9 yards per pass attempt rank fifth. However, his four interceptions are rather high.

Wallace’s candidacy is probably dependent on how well his team does. Even though Ole Miss is No. 10 in the nation, the Rebels are stuck in the SEC West, a division that currently features four other teams ranked in the Top 10.

6. Everett Golson, Notre Dame QB

First let’s acknowledge that the media absolutely loves Notre Dame, that Golson’s prodigal son narrative is a great storyline and that his Heisman candidacy will be aided by both of these facts.

With that out of the way, Golson is still a good quarterback and deserves the hype. He has yet to throw an interception while tossing eight touchdowns.

Even though his total passing yards and completion percentage are second-tier, voters will see that low interception total and fall for Golson, the leader of a resurgent Notre Dame team.

7. Tevin Coleman, Indiana RB

Despite playing for the chronically depressing Hoosiers, Coleman is one of the nation’s top runners. He is averaging 218 rushing yards through two games, a full 32 yards better than second place.

Coleman has averaged over nine yards per carry and already racked up five touchdowns. It’s hard to argue with those numbers, but playing for a mediocre team will likely hurt him down the road.

8. James Conner, Pittsburgh RB

It’s impossible to leave Conner off a Week 4 Heisman watch list after what he’s done through the first three games. His eight rushing touchdowns lead the country and his 543 yards rank second, a mere three yards behind first place.

However, it’s going to be tough to keep this pace going, especially the touchdown frequency. Two of Pitt’s games have been against Delaware and Florida International. Even though the ACC Coastal isn’t exactly the toughest division in college football, the competition level will increase as the season continues.

9. Bryce Petty, Baylor QB

Petty missed an entire game because of a sore back, then returned in Week 3 and ripped Buffalo for 416 yards and four touchdowns.

Missing that game against FCS opponent Northwestern State will hurt Petty’s overall numbers, but in preseason he was already considered one of the nation’s best quarterbacks and a Heisman candidate. Playing for the country’s most prolific offense will only help Petty and his candidacy will continue to rise from here.

10. Taysom Hill, BYU QB

Consider this the Jordan Lynch spot. Last year, Lynch, a dual-threat, mid-major quarterback, racked up amazing numbers and finished third in the Heisman race.

While Hill’s stats are not on the same level as Lynch, his demolition of Texas in Week 2 made him an Internet sensation. He’s more a runner than a passer, accounting for six touchdowns on the ground and just four through the air.

Hill has always struggled against better defenses (Wisconsin shut him down last year), but BYU is 3-0 and plays a relatively easy schedule the rest of the way. If the Cougars reach 10 wins before the bowl game, Hill has an outside chance at the Heisman.

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