NCF Nation: heisman watch 100212

Big 12 Heisman Watch: Week 6

October, 2, 2012
We've played five weeks of football, and here are the Big 12's best hopes at bringing the Heisman back to the league for a second consecutive season.

1. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia: Smith played one of the best games we've seen in a long time in a 70-63 win over Baylor, and finds himself all alone and way ahead of the pack in the Heisman race. If voting happened today, Smith might collect every No. 1 vote from across the country. Who else is even in the mix at this point? Smith has four more touchdown passes than anybody else and leads the passer rating statistic by more than 20 points. At this point, he's playing even better than RG3 did a year ago. There's a lot of football left to play, and Smith has a lot of tough opponents ahead. This race is far from over, but there's no doubt about the front-runner right now.

2. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State: Klein was off last week, but he's definitely in the mix for this race, too. He won't be able to make any moves this week against Kansas, but his stock probably will parallel Kansas State's record. Klein isn't able to put up the type of numbers Smith can.

3. David Ash, QB, Texas: Ash looks like a new man this year, and debuts on the Big 12 Heisman Watch this week after a 300-yard game with a handful of clutch throws in a 41-36 win over Oklahoma State on the road. So far, Ash is second in the Big 12 in passer rating and second in completion percentage, with the league's second-best touchdown-interception ratio. Ash has 10 scores and threw his first interception on Saturday in Stillwater.

4. Casey Pachall, QB, TCU: Pachall got stuck in a downpour Saturday night, and had his worst game in a long time. The Frogs got the win, but you can't take a lot from Pachall's numbers, which didn't affect his stock all that much. For now, TCU is just hanging around. Pachall's stock will either skyrocket or crash and burn on the final half of TCU's schedule.

5. Tavon Austin, WR/KR, West Virginia: Austin leads the Big 12 with 48 catches and he's third in the league with 560 yards. He has been quiet this year in the return game, but to this point, Stedman Bailey's probably been even better than Austin. Still, without return yardage, Bailey's got no shot to win. Justin Blackmon has taught us this. The Biletnikoff, though? Bailey's in the driver's seat.

Here's how I voted in this week's ESPN Heisman Watch, a weekly poll of 15 ESPN experts and analysts:
  1. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
  2. E.J. Manuel, QB, Florida State
  3. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State
  4. De'Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon
  5. Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia

Big East Heisman Watch: Week 6

October, 2, 2012
Not the prettiest performance Saturday, but the season is still young.

Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville: The sophomore did just enough to eke out a win Saturday at Southern Miss. In what could kindly be described as awful conditions, Bridgewater completed 9 of 13 passes for 88 yards and a touchdown, but he also threw an interception that was returned for a score in the first quarter. That almost ended up being costly, but the Cardinals managed to escape at the end behind the strength of running back Senorise Perry and their defense. Bridgewater has had consecutive so-so performances after completing 81.8 percent of his passes through three games, but his numbers — 72.9 percent completion percentage, 1,134 yards, eight touchdowns, three picks — are still strong, and he'll have chances in conference play to stand out even more.

ACC Heisman Watch: Week 6

October, 2, 2012
Time to take a gander at the top Heisman contenders from the ACC.

1. EJ Manuel, QB, Florida State. Manuel followed up his breakout game against Clemson with a quiet game this past week against USF. Manuel threw for 242 yards and a touchdown and was not much of a factor in the run game as the Seminoles won 30-17. Still, Manuel completed more than 70 percent of his passes and continues to lead the ACC in pass efficiency. He ranks No. 8 in the nation in that category. On the season, Manuel has thrown for 1,147 yards, with nine touchdowns and one interception. He also has 197 yards rushing. As long as he keeps playing consistently and Florida State keeps winning, he should be in the Heisman mix. He remains a distant second this week in the Heisman Watch.

2. Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson. Boyd continued his terrific play in a 45-31 win over Boston College. He completed 28 of 38 passes for 367 yards and three scores and added 42 yards rushing and another score. His 409 yards of total offense gave him the sixth 400-yard total offense game in Clemson history. Boyd also tied Charlie Whitehurst for the school's career touchdown mark with 49. It took Whitehurst 44 career games to do it. Boyd has done it in only 26 games. On the season, Boyd has thrown for 1,356 yards, 12 touchdowns and three interceptions and has added 161 yards rushing and another score. Boyd got a vote this week.

Big Ten Heisman watch: Week 6

October, 2, 2012
Let us now have a small moment of silence for Le'Veon Bell's 2012 Heisman Trophy campaign.

The campaign was born on Aug. 31 (when Bell ran for 210 yards and had 55 receiving yards against Boise State), fell ill on Sept. 15 (just 77 rushing yards in a loss to Notre Dame), was resuscitated on Sept. 22 (253 rushing yards versus Eastern Michigan) and finally expired just five weeks after birth, when Bell was held to 45 yards on 17 carries in a loss to Ohio State. All we are is dust in the wind.

Bell's Heisman run died along the same lines as those of Michigan's Denard Robinson and Wisconsin's Montee Ball. And as we enter Week 6 of the season, there's only one serious candidacy alive in the Big Ten: that of Ohio State's Braxton Miller.

Miller was far from perfect in the 17-16 win over Michigan State. He threw an interception and lost two fumbles. But he also showed a whole lot of toughness in repeatedly bouncing back from big-time hits. And as per usual, he carried the Buckeyes' offense by running for 136 yards and throwing for 179, including the 63-yard touchdown pass to Devin Smith. With Ohio State undefeated, he'll remain in the race, and he gets another spotlight moment this weekend in a night game against Nebraska.

Speaking of those Cornhuskers, quarterback Taylor Martinez remains on the Heisman radar, if on the periphery. He led a comeback from a 27-10 deficit against Wisconsin in the second half last week, running for 107 yards and a score and throwing for 181 and two touchdowns. A big performance and a win at Ohio State could get Martinez squarely in the mix next week.

Looking for a long, long shot in the Heisman race? How about Northwestern's Kain Colter? He doesn't have the season numbers just yet, but he is pulling rare triple duty as a quarterback, runner and receiver for the still-undefeated Wildcats. If he has some more games like he did against Indiana (161 rushing yards, four touchdowns, nine catches for 131 yards) and Northwestern keeps winning, maybe he can open some eyes. Like we said, it's a long, long shot. But at least his candidacy has yet to expire.

My Heisman Watch ballot for this week:

1. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
2. Miller
3. Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
4. Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame
5. EJ Manuel, QB, Florida State

SEC Heisman watch: Week 6

October, 2, 2012
Another week passes and our leader remains the same. I remember people clowning on me when I said that Aaron Murray was really good. He's playing his best ball since he's been at Georgia:

1. Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia: The Bulldogs' freshman duo at running back stole the offensive headlines in Georgia's shootout victory against Tennessee, but Murray had another pretty good game. Yes, he turned the ball over twice, but he connected on 20 of 26 passes for 286 yards and two touchdowns. He's starting to get some real national attention. He's second in the SEC with 1,370 passing yards and 12 touchdowns with three interceptions. He's third in quarterback rating (183.5) nationally.

2. AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama: No, McCarron didn't put up "great" numbers against Ole Miss, but he didn't really need to. He was efficient and he won the game. He passed for 182 yards and two touchdowns against the Rebels. He's still one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the country and has yet to throw an interception, compared to his 12 touchdowns. Winning will help propel any sort of Heisman run McCarron goes on.

3. Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia: Gurley didn't even put up the best stats at running back in Georgia's win over Tennessee, but he was still extremely impressive. Gurley carried the ball 24 times for 130 yards and three touchdowns. He either ran over or pushed over a few Tennessee defenders on some runs. For the season, Gurley leads the SEC with 536 rushing yards and nine touchdowns. He's averaging 7.9 yards per carry.

4. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M: Another freshman? Yep. Another freshman. It looks like Manziel will challenge Gurley for the league's best frosh this season, and he's proved to be one of the most exciting players to watch in the SEC. People were high on Manziel heading into the weekend, and after he broke Archie Manning's SEC record for total offense with his 557 yards (453 passing, 104 rushing), others are really starting to take notice of A&M's gunslinger. He's fourth in the SEC with 1,094 passing yards and 10 touchdowns with no interceptions. He has also carried the ball 52 times for 366 yards and six touchdowns.

5. Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina: You can tell that Lattimore is getting stronger and stronger. After rushing for just 12 yards at the half against Kentucky over the weekend, Lattimore carved up the Wildcats' defense for 108 yards and two touchdowns in the second half. Lattimore isn't 100 percent yet, but he still possesses the talent to generate a big game on the ground. He's third in the SEC with 440 rushing yards and is second with eight touchdowns.

Pac-12 Heisman tracker

October, 2, 2012
Another slow week for the Pac-12 when we take a look at the Heisman tracker. Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas is the only Pac-12 player still in the top five in the poll, coming in tied for third with Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller. Three others are receiving votes. Here's the breakdown:

De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon, WR/RB
  • Week 5 numbers: 6 carries for 26 yards and a touchdown. 6 catches for 28 yards and no touchdowns.
  • Season numbers: 31 carries for 302 yards (9.7 yards per carry) with five touchdowns. 19 catches for 193 yards and three touchdowns.
  • What went well: For one, he got in the end zone after taking a touchdown hiatus in the 49-0 win over Arizona. Again, he didn't get many touches, but he did what he could with the little work he got.
  • Any questions? Kenjon Barner is playing really, really good football right now. And he's getting significantly more touches. Thomas' yards per carry have dropped the last couple of weeks, and so have his highlights.
Others receiving votes

Matt Barkley, USC, QB
  • Week 5 numbers: Bye
  • Season numbers: Has completed 88 of 143 passes (61.5 percent) for 1,005 yards with 12 touchdowns and five interceptions.
  • Thoughts: It's not too late for Barkley to turn this thing around and go on a serious run. It starts Thursday night in front of a nationally televised audience. A good showing on the road against Utah could be just the thing to kick-start his campaign ... or completely knock him out of the running.
Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
  • Week 5 numbers: 20 carries for 195 yards (9.8 per carry) and three touchdowns. 3 catches for 37 yards and a score.
  • Season numbers: 96 carries, 605 yards (6.3 yards per carry) with nine touchdowns. Also has 11 catches for 111 yards and a score.
  • Thoughts: Barner was on my ballot this week. Not sure if he's on anyone else's yet. But he has three multi-touchdown games and is playing the position as well and consistently as any back in the country right now.
Johnathan Franklin, UCLA, RB
  • Week 5 numbers: 15 carries for 111 yards (7.4 yards per carry) with no touchdowns. He also caught 3 balls for 48 yards with no touchdowns.
  • Season numbers: Has 93 carries for 697 yards with three touchdowns. He's caught 12 balls for 180 yards and a score.
  • Thoughts: Franklin slipped off a lot of ballots after the loss to Oregon State, but he responded with his fourth 100-plus-yard game of the season. However, he hasn't had a rushing touchdown since Aug. 30. That's something that doesn't go unnoticed.