It’s only been one week, but college football is off and rolling, which means it’s not too early to start the Heisman chase.
Winners need four things: 1. A top level team…you can’t win if your team goes 3-8. 2. A signature game or games (see Johnny Football against Bama in 2012). 3. Highlight worthy plays (see Reggie Bush circa 2005). 4. Borderline ridiculous stats…think NCAA Football on XBOX or PlayStation.
Roll all four of those components together and you have a guy, in a nice suit, holding up a heavy trophy in New York. So after one week (mind you, this list will get shortened as the season goes along and players will jump wildly week to week based on performance), here are my top contenders for the Heisman.
Tahj Boyd– Clemson (270 yards passing, 3 TDs, 2 rushing TDs against Georgia) In probably the biggest matchup of opening weekend, Boyd shined, having a hand in all five touchdowns the Tigers had in their win over no. 5 Georgia. Boyd has a chance to put up spectacular numbers under Dabo Sweeney and should be in the running all year…next up South Carolina State
Teddy Bridgewater– Louisville (355 yards passing, 5 TDs against Ohio) Bridgewater could be the first named called in next year’s NFL draft if the team with the first pick needs a quarterback (looking at your Raiders). Bridgewater looked like a surgeon against cupcake Ohio in the Cardinals season opener. Teddy will put up maybe the best numbers in the country this year, but his weak schedule and lack of headline matchups will hurt him…. Next up E. Kentucky
Jameis Winston– Florida State (356 yards passing, 4 TDs, 25 or 27 passing, rushing TD against Pitt) Maybe the story of the weekend (other than Johnny), Winston burst on to the scene Monday night against Pitt with the entire country watching. Only two “Famous Jameis” passes were incomplete and he accounted for five touchdowns as Florida State ruined Pitt’s inaugural ACC matchup. America got a glimpse of what recruiters and hardcore Seminole fans have been clamoring about for the past year. The freshman will naturally get comparisons to Manziel because of his age and dual threat ability, but Winston has already tried to separate himself by saying… “If I get Manziel disease, I want every one of you all to get your mikes and start tapping me on the head.” It’s only one game, but Jameis is already a household name…next up Nevada in week 3
Johnny Manziel– Texas A&M (6-8, 96 yards, 3 TDs against Rice) After the most talked about off season for a college football player…EVER…Manziel used his 30 minutes of playing time to throw touchdowns on half of his six completions in a beat down of over-matched Rice. Unfortunately, Johnny Football got more headlines for his antics between and after plays and got benched by Kevin Sumlin. Manziel will have an entire game against Sam Houston to build his Heisman stats…he’ll also have another chance to anger the masses. His real chance to cement his place at the top again will be against Alabama next Saturday….next up Sam Houston State
Marcus Mariota– Oregon (234 yards passing, 124 yards rushing, 3 total TD’s against Nicholls state) Mariota now firmly has his hands on the most explosive offense in the country and will put up the video game like numbers he will need to get to NYC. Mariota will share some of the spotlight with teammate De’Anthony Thomas, but will get a good portion of the headlines for the Ducks success. Matchups against Stanford and USC will be huge for Mariota to cement his spot in the rankings…next up Virginia.
Braxton Miller– Ohio State (178 yards, 2 TDs, 77 yards rushing against Buffalo) The Buckeyes will be near the top of the polls all season so Miller will have a chance to ride their season success to be in contention for the Heisman. Miller dominated a weaker opponent in week one and should do that multiple times this year in a middle- heavy Big 10. Miller will stay near the top of the rankings because of his stats both passing and rushing…next up Ohio State
Jadaveon Clowney– South Carolina – The most talked about defensive player in the country, Clowney had an inauspicious start against North Carolina, looking gassed in the 2nd half of the Gamecocks season opener. Clowney could be the no. 1 overall pick next April and is without question one of the biggest freak athletes in the country, but it’s always hard for a defensive player to contend and he’s already off to the slow start. However, Clowney will surely have his share of highlight sacks and forced turnovers and will be visible all year in big time SEC matchups…next up no. 11 Georgia
AJ McCarron– Alabama (110 yards TD, went 10-23 and had INT against Virginia tech) McCarron didn’t get a lot of chances to get rolling against the Hokies in the opening weekend, but he will be poster boy for Alabama’s run for a 3rd straight title. The downfall for AJ will be his hype will get washed away because of Bama’s viewed “team success” and in balance offense he won’t be able to put up gaudy numbers…next up no. 7 Texas A&M in week 3.
Lache Seastrunk– Baylor (111 yards rushing, 2 TDs on just 11 carries against Wofford) The self-proclaimed Heisman flag bearer from the big 12, Seastrunk took advantage of Wofford by running for more than 10 yards per carry and a couple of scores in limited work. Seastrunk and Quarterback Bryce Petty have the keys to Art Briles offense and the Bears should expect big number all season. In a down year, talent wise, for the big 12, Lache has a chance to showcase himself against quality ranked opponents all year…next up Buffalo
Todd Gurley– Georgia (154 yards rushing, over 12 yards per carry, 2 TDs against Clemson) Huge game against Clemson, but he’ll be fighting with Murray for the headlines…next up no. 6 South Carolina.
Also worth noting:
Derek Carr– Fresno State (456 yards passing, 5 TDs against Rutgers) The brother of former no. 1 overall pick David Carr might be the best QB in Southern California.
Taylor Martinez– Nebraska (155 yards passing, 3 TD’s, 80 more rushing yards against Wyoming 37-34) Martinez is basically Braxton Miller light…he will be in consideration for all the same reasons, except for Nebraska’s rankings in the country.
Aaron Murray– Georgia (323 yards, 1 INT against Clemson) Not the numbers the 1st team SEC QB was looking for, but Murray will have plenty of chances to make his case.
Christian Jones– Alabama (74 yard punt return, 99 yard kickoff return, 39 yard td reception against Virginia tech) Jones was the reason McCarron and the Tide offense didn’t see the field very much on Saturday night, but I’ll venture a guess they’ll forgive him.
Sammy Watkins– Clemson (127 yards receiving, TD against Georgia)Paired with Boyd, Watkins has the potential to put up huge numbers this season and will have a few chances in their ACC schedule to show out on the national stage again.
Also don’t sleep on:
*Eric Ward- Texas Tech
*Casey Pachall- TCU
*TJ Yeldon- Alabama
*De’Anthony Thomas- Oregon
*Duke Johnson- Miami
*Marquise Lee- USC
I probably skipped over the best player from your favorite school, so if I did, let me know @itsnatewood on twitter…I’ll try and get him on here next week. Happy College Football-ing everybody.
Catch the Nate and MRod show Saturday afternoons on 105.3 FAN.
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