This is the second edition of the Heisman Watch, a weekly feature tracking the candidates for college football’s most prestigious award. To read last week’s inaugural piece, click here.
1. Marcus Mariota, Oregon QB (Last Week: 1)
Mariota’s stats are ridiculous. Despite a banged-up offensive line that has allowed 10 sacks and is missing two starters, Mariota has thrived as the leader of the Ducks’ offense.
The redshirt junior has thrown for 1,135 yards, 13 touchdowns and zero interceptions while completing 74 percent of his passes. He leads the nation in efficiency rating and is second in yards per attempt behind only Baylor’s backup. So essentially he’s first in that category as well.
Oregon squeaked by Washington State last weekend, but Mariota threw for five touchdowns and posted a stellar 84 percent completion rate. The close call certainly wasn’t his fault.
2. Kenny Hill, Texas A&M QB (LW: 3)
Hill finally threw an interception last weekend, his first in four games as a collegiate starter. Still, he threw for 265 yards and completed 72 percent of his throws in a blowout win against Southern Methodist.
However, Hill and the Aggies are about to hit the gauntlet of their schedule. A&M plays three ranked opponents in its next four games, and two of those are on the road. Hill passed his first test by destroying South Carolina in Week 1, but he’s going to face plenty more challenges soon.
3. Todd Gurley, Georgia RB (LW: 2)
The best running back in the country slips one spot in the rankings thanks to the coaching staff only giving him six carries last Saturday. It makes sense though—when you have a backfield as loaded as Georgia’s, why risk injury to your star player when you’re playing Troy?
The Bulldogs have seven SEC games remaining, but only one of those teams is currently ranked. Most of those teams feature weak rush defenses too, so Gurley should pile on the stats as the season wears on, if only the coaches give him the ball.
4. Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska RB (LW: Not Ranked)
You’re probably thinking, ‘Why the heck would you not have Abdullah ranked last week? Do you even have any credibility?’
The second question is for you to answer, but to be fair, Abdullah’s stats through three weeks weren’t yet on a Heisman level. He had averaged 132 yards per game and scored just four total touchdowns (though one of those was a doozy). Very good numbers but not amazing. Still, I should’ve had him ranked based solely on his talent.
Last week against Miami, Abdullah ended my statistical doubts by ripping off 229 yards and two touchdowns. He is one of two running backs to record two 200-yard games, along with Minnesota’s David Cobb (Big Ten represent!). He’s also an easy person to root for, as detailed in this magnificent ESPN feature.
5. Tevin Coleman, Indiana RB (LW: 7)
Coleman’s worst game of the season came last Saturday and he moves up two spots in the rankings. Why? Because, one, it was still a very good game, and two, it came in Indiana’s nationally televised road win over Missouri.
Now that Coleman got some exposure, expect more people to take note. He’s an elite running back who leads the nation in rushing yards per game with 189.
6. Bo Wallace, Mississippi QB (LW: 5)
7. Everett Golson, Notre Dame QB (LW: 6)
Wallace and Golson didn’t play last week. Wallace leads the nation with a 75 percent completion rate, is fourth in yards per attempt and is fifth in efficiency rating. His campaign so far is a little stifled by his mediocre four interceptions. Wallace and the Rebels face Memphis at home this week.
Golson still hasn’t thrown an interception, and that is going to be a crucial factor for him going forward. And as I said last week, the fact he plays for media darling Notre Dame will aid him as well.
8. Dak Prescott, Mississippi State QB (LW: NR)
What’s most impressive about Prescott so far is that he’s had three 100-yard rushing games, the only quarterback to accomplish that so far. Prescott’s passing isn’t prolific, but he is still 11th in the country in efficiency rating and has thrown 11 touchdowns and just two interceptions.
It will be key for the No. 14 Bulldogs to remain a contender in the powerful SEC West. They’re on a bye this week, but then play Texas A&M and Auburn in their next two games.
9. Bryce Petty, Baylor QB (LW: 9)
Baylor was on a bye last week, but Petty simply cannot fall out of these rankings unless he has a bad game. He missed the Bears’ matchup with Northwestern State due to a back injury, but then returned two weeks ago to obliterate Buffalo to the tune of 416 yards and four touchdowns.
Petty faces an underrated Iowa State secondary this week, so big numbers against the Cyclones will boost his ranking.
10. Amari Cooper, Alabama WR (LW: NR)
Cooper leads the country in receptions with 43, receiving yards with 655 and is tied for third in touchdowns with five. He’s been a focal point of Alabama’s untraditional high-flying offense.
However, only three wide receivers have ever won the Heisman—Nebraska’s Johnny Rodgers in 1972, Notre Dame’s Tim Brown in 1987 and Michigan’s Desmond Howard in 1991. Not to mention, Rodgers was a part-time running back. No matter how good of numbers he puts up, Cooper will struggle to overcome the positional bias.