The Heisman Trophy is college football’s most coveted individual award. Each week, Garnet Report’s Avery Wilks gives you the inside scoop on this year’s likely Heisman candidates.
Author’s Note: Starting this week, the Watch will be in descending order. Though the race is still wide-open, I’ve decreased the number of players from 12 to 10 in the interest of providing more in-depth analysis of each player. Feel free to comment and share your input.
10. Le’Veon Bell, Michigan State Spartans (2-1)
Week 3 Loss vs Notre Dame
|Rushes||Rush Yds||Yds/Carry||Rush TD||Receptions||Rec Yds||Rec TD|
While beating Notre Dame would have been great for Le’Veon Bell’s Heisman candidacy, a loss to a legitimate opponent this early in the season won’t necessarily eliminate the powerful Michigan State running back. Bell was held to less than 100 total yards for the second time this season, with only his fantastic performance against Boise State keeping him afloat–though narrowly–in these rankings. If Bell can’t rebound and regain some of his early-season momentum, he won’t stick around on this Watch very long.
Next Game: Bell should be able to get back on track when Michigan State hosts 0-3 Eastern Michigan and their 116th ranked defense.
9. Landry Jones, Oklahoma Sooners (2-0)
Week 2 Win vs Florida A&M
In a 69-13 week two win in Norman that never really seemed fair, Jones improved on his shaky UTEP performance. Though the rushing game stole the show for the Sooners against Florida A&M, Jones played his part, almost casually passing for 252 yards. Though these kinds of performances are routine for Oklahoma’s senior quarterback, it will take a little more for a pocket-passer like Jones to seriously contend for the Heisman trophy. Impressive statistics are only half of the battle in winning this award, so Jones will have to do something incredible in the national spotlight to make his way toward the top of the list.
Next Game: Jones will have a great chance to make a splash in the Sooners’ upcoming game against #15 Kansas State this Saturday.
8. Tajh Boyd, Clemson Tigers (3-0)
Week 3 Win vs Furman
Tajh Boyd was bound to end up on this list sooner or later, and the week leading up to Clemson’s showdown with Florida State seems as good a time as any. The First-Team All-ACC quarterback has had an excellent 2012 campaign, passing for 747 yards and 6 touchdowns in three games. Boyd is a great passer with the ability to make things happen when the pocket breaks down, and he’ll be a real contender if Clemson can avoid a late-season collapse this time around. What Boyd needs most now is a marquee win he can hang his hat on. And no, the Auburn game no longer counts, as Gene Chizik’s Tigers have struggled mightily. With weapons all around him, Boyd should enjoy great success this year.
Next Game: Boyd has a chance to make a statement in Tallahassee next Saturday when the nation turns its attention to the Clemson-Florida State game at 8:00 p.m. It’ll be interesting to see who wins the quarterback battle between Boyd and Florida State’s EJ Manual, also a potential Heisman candidate.
7. Braxton Miller, Ohio State (3-0)
Week 3 Win vs. California
|Comp||Att||Yds||Comp %||Pass TD||INT||Rushes||Rush Yds||Rush TD|
Braxton Miller proved to be just too talented for California to keep up, leading to Buckeyes to a 35-28 win in a back-and-forth shootout last Saturday. The Golden Bears fought hard to pull the upset in Columbus, but Miller was too much for the Cal defense, accounting for every Ohio State touchdown, including the game-winning 72-yard touchdown strike to Devin Smith with 3:26 left in the game. This guy is impressive, and I would suggest any college football fan to catch at least one of his games in the upcoming weeks, even if it means you have to watch a full Ohio State game.
Next Game: Miller will lead Ohio State to an easy victory against a pitiful UAB defense this Saturday at 12:00 p.m.
6. Collin Klein, Kansas State (3-0)
Week 3 Win vs. North Texas
|Comp||Att||Yds||Comp %||TD||INT||Rushes||Rush Yds||Rush TD|
In a sloppy performance against North Texas, Kansas State depended heavily on Collin Klein to deliver them to the 35-21 win. Though it wasn’t the senior’s strongest performance statistically, Klein proved to be an effective signal-caller and an efficient passer. His competitive drive and leadership helped K-State to a 10-3 record last year, and Klein hopes to lead the Wildcats to greater things this season. If he can do that, Klein will appear on more Heisman lists and NFL Draft boards toward November’s end.
Next Game: The best measure of a Heisman contender is how he responds to extreme adversity, unfavorable conditions, and pressure that would cause most others to crack. Klein gets the ultimate shot at greatness next Saturday when the Wildcats travel to Norman to take on #6 Oklahoma at 7:50 p.m.
5. Johnathan Franklin, UCLA Bruins (3-0)
Week 3 Win vs. Houston
|Rushes||Rush Yds||Yds/Carry||Rush TD||Receptions||Rec Yds||Rec TD|
Truthfully, the only thing that has kept Franklin off this list thus far has been the fact that he plays for UCLA. With impact performances in wins over Nebraska and Houston, the nation’s leading rusher has finally earned a spot on this list. With 662 total yards on the year, Franklin burst onto the scene in surprising fashion, catalyzing the Bruins’ 3-0 start. UCLA could be the real deal this year, so keep your eyes out for Franklin. If the Bruins pull an upset or two (I hear Southern Cal isn’t invincible nowadays), Franklin could very well end up as a finalist in New York come December.
Next Game: Franklin and the Bruins host Oregon State next Saturday at 3:30 p.m. Coming off a bye, Oregon State has only played one game this season, beating Wisconsin 10-7 and shutting down Montee Ball. This could be a real challenge for Franklin and UCLA’s rushing game.
4. Denard Robinson, Michigan Wolverines (2-1)
#16 QB, Sr., 6’0”, 197 lbs.
Week 3 Win vs. Massachusetts
|Comp||Att||Yds||Pass TD||INT||Rushes||Rush Yds||Rush TD|
Anytime a single player puts up nearly 400 yards of total offense, he’s having a good day at the office. That’s what Robinson did Saturday, zig-zagging his way down the field through and around a pitiful UMass defense. Though Robinson looked terrible in week one, he’s been back to his old tricks of late, though against much softer competition. What keeps Robinson in this race is that he has several more chances to prove himself, especially late in the year.
Next Game: Robinson and the Wolverines look forward to facing #11 Notre Dame next Saturday at 7:30 p.m., hoping to find some of the same magic that propelled Michigan over the Irish in 2011.
3. Matt Barkley, Southern Cal Trojans (2-1)
Week 3 Loss at Stanford
Appalled that Matt Barkley is no longer the Heisman front-runner? The chances of someone else taking home this year’s award could be much better than you think. Last year every sports analyst in the country wanted to hand Andrew Luck the trophy even before the season began, but another electrifying quarterback ended up winning the Heisman Trophy. Geno Smith could be this year’s Robert Griffin III, especially considering Barkley’s poor performance in his first real test of the season, then #21 Stanford. To sum up Saturday’s game for Barkley, everything seemed out of rhythm. He was chased out of the pocket on most plays, and the Trojans couldn’t get anything going on offense. With the 21-14 loss to Stanford, USC dropped out of the top 10, Barkley proved that he was human, and the Heisman race for this year became as open as ever.
Next Game: Next Saturday, Barkley and Southern Cal face a California team that almost knocked off Ohio State. Expect Barkley and his receivers to get back on the same page, as Cal’s defense has given up 32.3 points per game thus far in the season.
2. De’Anthony Thomas, Oregon Ducks (3-0)
Week 3 Win vs. Tennessee Tech
|Rushes||Rush Yds||Yds/Carry||Rush TD||Receptions||Rec Yards||Rec TD|
Another incredible performance for Thomas leads to another surge in his Heisman rank. This week, Thomas took 6 touches for 135 yards and two touchdowns in a 63-14 romp of Tennessee Tech. In my opinion, Oregon’s speedster is the most physically talented player in the nation. With Thomas’s blistering speed, he has a great chance to win the Heisman if Chip Kelly ever gives him a decent amount of touches every game.
Next Game: Thomas and Oregon face their first ranked opponent when they take on #22 Arizona next Saturday at 10:30 p.m. Expect Thomas to play a bigger role in the Ducks’ offense, though this one will likely be another blowout.
1. Geno Smith, West Virginia Mountaineers (2-0)
#12 QB, Sr., 6’3”, 214 lbs.
Week 3 Win vs. James Madison
|Comp||Att||Pass Yds||Comp %||TD||INT||Rushes||Rush Yds||Rush TD|
How much more can I say for a guy who’s gone 66 for 75 with 734 passing yards and 9 touchdowns through the air in two games this season? That’s right, Smith has as many passing touchdowns as he has incompletions. This guy is having an RG3 kind of year, except that Smith’s team is much more talented. The Mountaineers also have a better chance of making a national splash now that they are in the Big 12, hoping to take home the title in their inaugural season. All in all, Smith’s play thus far has been unreal, as evidenced in West Virginia’s 42-12 crushing of James Madison. He’s my early-season favorite to take home the Heisman trophy.
Next Game: West Virginia takes on Maryland next Saturday at home at 12:00 p.m. Maryland is one of those ACC teams who just doesn’t have it together yet (they only beat William and Mary 7-6 in week one), so Geno Smith should continue to dominate.