NU's Persa challenging Heisman contenders

Will Northwestern junior quarterback Dan Persa win the Heisman Trophy? Odds are against him.

But if you’re discussing Heisman candidates based on statistics after three weeks, should Persa be included? Definitely.

While the quarterback quintet of Michigan’s Denard Robinson, Boise State’s Kellen Moore, Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett, Ohio State’s Terrelle Pryor and Stanford’s Andrew Luck are the Heisman Trophy front-runners according to ESPN’s football experts, Persa’s numbers are comparable and in some areas better than all five.

Here’s the case for Persa:

  • He’s third in the country with a 192.63 pass efficiency rating. Only Utah’s Terrance Cain and Alabama’s Greg McElroy rank ahead of him.

  • He’s thrown six touchdowns and zero interceptions. His six touchdowns may not be as impressive as Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden’s nation-leading 11, but Persa is one of only four quarterbacks in the country to throw at least six touchdowns without an interception.

  • He’s thrown for 769 yards. He’s a few hundred yards shy of Mallett’s nation-leading 1,081 yards, but a lot of that comes down to the number of passes thrown. Persa ranks 21st in yards, but all of the quarterbacks ahead of him have attempted 92 or more passes. Persa has attempted 76.

  • He’s averaged 10.1 yards-per-pass-attempt, which ranks fifth in the nation.

  • He’s rushed for 129 yards and two touchdowns. His numbers aren’t with the likes of Robinson’s nation-leading 559 yards, but they’re respectable. Persa can run it when needed.

    One of obstacles Persa has faced in becoming a Heisman candidate is Northwestern’s competition to date. Vanderbilt and Rice are a combined 2-4, and Illinois State, which is 2-1, is a FCS program. Playing in high-profile games has helped all five Heisman front-runners this season.

    Northwestern’s upcoming schedule doesn’t get much more demanding, but that could help Persa in the long run. If Persa can put up similar numbers and the Wildcats can defeat Central Michigan, Minnesota and Purdue -- all winnable games -- there could be some real discussion around Persa if he’s leading an undefeated Northwestern against a ranked Michigan State team when they meet on Oct. 23.