NCF Nation: Heisman watch 091812

Big East Heisman Watch: Week 4

September, 18, 2012
9/18/12
10:30
AM ET
We're about one-fourth through the season, and the Big East boasts a player who has performed right up there with the nation's best through three weeks.

Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville: The sophomore turned in another brilliant effort in a win Saturday over North Carolina, completing 23 of 28 passes for 279 yards and three touchdowns, going his third straight game without throwing an interception. Bridgewater is completing 81.8 percent of his throws this season, third-best among FBS quarterbacks. The only two ahead of him, WVU's Geno Smith (88 percent) and TCU's Casey Pachall (84.6), have played in two games each. Bridgewater is third overall on my Heisman Watch, and it will be interesting to see whether he can extend this great start when the Cardinals finally play away from home this coming weekend, as they visit an FIU squad that beat them last year. (Bridgewater played just one series in that contest.)

SEC Heisman watch: Week 4

September, 18, 2012
9/18/12
10:30
AM ET
The SEC's Heisman hopeful list has taken different forms each week this season.

Let the transformation begin yet again.

We say goodbye to Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson, who is battling a head injury, and running back Knile Davis, who is averaging just 63.7 rushing yards a game for the Razorbacks and has scored just twice this season.

Tyler Bray's second-half performance against Florida knocks him off our list as well.

Here are our four candidates:

1. Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia: Murray is probably the top real Heisman candidate in the SEC and just keeps putting up stout numbers every time he goes out onto the field. Against Florida Atlantic, Murray passed for 342 yards with two touchdowns to one interception. He's currently third in the SEC with 842 yards and is tied for first with eight touchdowns. He's also second in the league with an efficiency rating of 180.16.

2. Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia: So, he wasn't on the list last week and didn't play Saturday. And? He should have made the list last week, but didn't and now he is. There's no question that Jones is the best player in the SEC. He was a total force in the Missouri game. He posted nine tackles, two sacks, five quarterback hurries, grabbed an interception and forced a fumble. His interception and forced fumble set up touchdowns for the Bulldogs in their 41-20 win. Jones completely changed that game in Georgia's favor. On the season, Jones has 17 tackles, 4.5 for loss and 3.5 sacks, an interception, two pass breakups, 11 quarterback hurries and three forced fumbles.

3. Mike Gillislee, RB, Florida: Out of nowhere, Gillislee is the SEC’s top rusher. He’s become the Gators' No. 1 offensive weapon and was instrumental in Florida’s come-from-behind win at Tennessee over the weekend, as he rushed for 115 yards, averaging 6.4 yards per carry. He certainly has to do more to get national recognition, but he currently has 346 rushing yards and four touchdowns on the season.

4. Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina: While he hasn’t looked like the Lattimore of old, he’s still getting the job done for the Gamecocks and still hasn’t had to carry much of the load for his team yet. That’s probably a good thing with conference play coming up, as he could go off at any moment with the skill he has. On the season, Lattimore has rushed for 235 yards and four touchdowns.

Big 12 Heisman Watch: Week 4

September, 18, 2012
9/18/12
10:30
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Here's who I've got as the Big 12's best Heisman hopes through three weeks of games.

1. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia: Smith should take over the spot as the front-runner for the award after a crazy-good two games and a USC loss in which Matt Barkley played awful. Smith has accounted for 10 touchdowns (nine passing, one rushing) and thrown just nine incompletions. West Virginia's two wins have been no-doubters fueled by the offense, and Smith is second nationally in passer rating and fourth in touchdowns.

2. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State: Klein's Cats have had a pair of slow starts, but he made a big impression in K-State's win over Miami. He had a pretty good outing against North Texas, completing 15 of 20 passes for 230 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He also added 85 yards rushing and a touchdown on 11 carries. Good enough. Klein is still a dark horse, but if he goes into Norman and wins? Look out.

3. Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma: Jones is on this list in name only so far this season. He has been underwhelming through two games, but the Sooners are still in the top 10 and Jones has big name recognition. If he has a big game in the Sooners' first real test -- Kansas State -- he'll get back in the mix. Through two games, though, Jones is completing just 62.5 percent of his passes (40-of-64) for 474 yards, four touchdowns and an interception.

4. Tavon Austin, WR/KR/PR, West Virginia: Austin has been overshadowed a bit by his more traditional teammate, Stedman Bailey, but has put up some good numbers through two games, too. He's caught 21 passes for 166 yards and two touchdowns, but was quiet in the return game on Saturday, not returning a punt and taking his only kick return just 8 yards. Bailey has put up bigger numbers in the receiving game, but traditional receivers have zero chance to win the Heisman. If Austin makes noise in the return game, he could get in the mix.

Here's how I voted in this week's ESPN Heisman Watch:
  1. Geno Smith, QB, WVU
  2. De'Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon
  3. Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA
  4. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State
  5. Matt Barkley, QB, USC -- Completely silly to think Barkley is out of this race with one bad game and one loss. Take a look at what happened to RG3 last season.

Notre Dame Heisman Watch: Week 4

September, 18, 2012
9/18/12
10:30
AM ET
Notre Dame has two of the best defensive players in the country. If more Heisman voters acknowledged that side of the ball, the Irish might have a chance at sending someone to New York. In any event, here's a look at their strong performances through three weeks:

Manti Te'o, LB: The senior captain has improved his tackle total each game — from eight to 10 to 12 this past Saturday, when he helped bottle up Le'Veon Bell. Te'o is arguably among the nation's best linebackers and a future pro. His 30 tackles are far and away the most on the team, and he has added two fumble recoveries, a hurry, an interception and a tackle for loss as well.

Stephon Tuitt, DE: A sack on MSU's final drive gave the sophomore five through three games, tied for the second-most nationally. He has added three hurries, forced a fumble and, of course, returned another fumble 77 yards for a touchdown, in the opener against Navy. Both Tuitt and Te'o have been instrumental on a defense that has allowed just 10 points per game through three weeks.

Big Ten Heisman watch: Week 4

September, 18, 2012
9/18/12
10:30
AM ET
Could we already be down to just one serious Heisman Trophy contender in the Big Ten after only three weeks?

It looks that way, though things can change quickly (just ask Matt Barkley). And surprisingly, the league's top Heisman hopeful at this very early date is Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller.

We're not surprised that Miller is playing so well, especially in Urban Meyer's system. We're just surprised that he's doing so much as a true sophomore.

But Miller ranks 10th in the FBS in rushing yards and 12th in total offense, and he's had his share of Heisman moments already. The latest came Saturday against Cal, when he pulled off a 55-yard touchdown run after a sick juke move and later threw for the game-winner on a 72-yard pass off a scramble.

Miller has definitely put himself in the Heisman conversation, especially with Ohio State at 3-0 right now. But like the Buckeyes, he'll still have to prove it against better teams.

After Miller, things get a bit dicey. I had Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell near the top of my Heisman watch ballot the first two weeks, but Notre Dame shut him down Saturday. Bell had only 77 rushing yards on 19 carries and never sniffed the end zone. That performance, coming in prime time in a national showcase game, will be hard to overcome unless Bell goes nuts in the near future.

Wisconsin's Montee Ball had 139 rushing yards and a score against Utah State but needed 37 carries to do so. After three games, last year's Heisman finalist has 320 rushing yards and two scores. He had only 272 rushing yards at the same point last season, so it's possible that he could turn it on again. But he also had eight touchdowns after three games in 2011, and Wisconsin's offense has been miserable.

Michigan's Denard Robinson remains just off the radar because of his opening week performance against Alabama. But Robinson gets to play Notre Dame this week, and that could mean great things. He's had two monster games against the Irish the past two years, and another one under the lights in South Bend could put him back in the hunt in a hurry.

We can't discount Nebraska's Taylor Martinez yet, either. While the UCLA game hurt him, Martinez currently ranks 13th nationally in pass efficiency. He's completing 70.9 percent of his passes and has a 7-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio, stats that would have been hard to fathom before this year. Upcoming big games against Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan will give Martinez a boost if he keeps playing like that.

But for now, Miller is the man in the Big Ten as far as Heisman candidates go. My ESPN.com Heisman Watch ballot for Week 4:

1. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
2. De'Anthony Thomas, RB/WR/KR, Oregon
3. Miller
4. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State
5. Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia

Pac-12 Heisman tracker

September, 18, 2012
9/18/12
10:30
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A little bit of movement, as you'd expect, on the Pac-12 Heisman tracker after Week 3. Neither of your Pac-12 bloggers is ready to cast Matt Barkley aside. One bad game -- especially early in the year -- doesn't completely crush a Heisman campaign. Even David Shaw called Barkley the best quarterback in the country. But it certainly didn't help, which is why he drops to third this week.

De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon, WR/RB
  • Week 3 numbers: Rushed three times for 62 yards and a touchdown and caught three balls for 73 yards and a touchdown. He also returned four punts for 87 yards.
  • Season numbers: Thirteen rushes for 228 yards (17.5 yards per run) and four touchdowns. Eleven catches for 154 yards (14 yards per reception) and three touchdowns.
  • What went well: Another blowout win for the Ducks provides us with our usual weekly dose of DAT highlights, including a season-high 59-yard run and a season-high 49-yard reception.
  • Any questions? A couple of fumbles put a bit of a stain on the performance. That 49-yard reception, when he showed off some ridiculous moves, would have been a 50-yard touchdown, but he had the ball knocked out on the goal line. Heady play by Jake Fisher to not give up on the play and to fall on the ball for the score.
Johnathan Franklin, UCLA, RB
  • Week 3 numbers: Rushed for 110 yards on 25 carries with no touchdowns. Caught four balls for 58 yards.
  • Season numbers: Sixty-six rushes for 541 yards (8.2 yards per run) with three touchdowns. Eight receptions for 121 yards (15.1 yards per reception) with a touchdown.
  • What went well: UCLA won against an overmatched Houston team. The Bruins are 3-0 with a chance to make a nice impression when they host Oregon State this weekend. If they keep winning and Franklin keeps putting out the yards, he'll stay in the picture.
  • Any questions? The yards are there, and Franklin still leads the country in rushing with 180.3 yards per game. But the rushing touchdowns are on the lower end when you look at it from a national perspective. Even within the conference, Kenjon Barner has six and Ka'Deem Carey has five.
Matt Barkley, USC, QB
  • Week 3 numbers: Completed just 20 of 41 passes for 254 yards with zero touchdowns and two interceptions.
  • Season numbers: Completed 66 of 109 passes (60.6 percent) with 813 yards and 10 touchdowns and three interceptions.
  • What went well: The hope is that his performance will light a fire under Barkley and the Trojans. If you have to lose, better to do it to a ranked team early in the season. Other than seeing how he handles the loss, which we won't know until he steps on the field against Cal, there isn't much about his performance that was redeeming.
  • Any questions? How much time you got? He failed to throw a touchdown for the first time in 18 games -- and, given the weapons he has at his disposal, that seems almost unheard of. Heisman voters don't take backup centers into consideration. They look at the numbers. And the numbers weren't good.

ACC Heisman watch: Week 4

September, 18, 2012
9/18/12
10:30
AM ET
There’s been a changing of the guard this week, but this will be settled on the field Saturday in Tallahassee. For now, Tajh Boyd has the edge among the ACC’s top three Heisman contenders:

1. Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd: He threw for 310 yards and three touchdowns in the 41-7 win over Furman. Boyd's three touchdown passes gave him 43 for his career, second all time at Clemson and just six behind the record held by Charlie Whitehurst. Florida State’s defense has been stifling, though, so Saturday’s game in Tallahassee could either propel him into the Heisman talk or boot him out of it.

2. Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel: In the 52-0 victory over Wake Forest, he completed 15 of 24 attempts (62.5 percent) for 176 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He also had one rushing touchdown. Manuel now has seven career games in which he has thrown multiple touchdown passes. He has thrown six touchdown passes in the past two games.

3. Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins: He’s ba-ack … and in his 2012 debut on Saturday against Furman, he looked just as good as he did last year. How’s this for a vote of confidence: Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher on Monday said Watkins had the most impact in a freshman season since Herschel Walker. Watkins had a 58-yard touchdown run in the Tigers' win over Furman. Watkins finished with four catches for 52 yards and 119 all-purpose yards. He could definitely play his way up this list. He's played only one half this year.

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