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Season still too early to declare Heisman front-runner

September 18, 2012

Everyone’s favorite Heisman front-runner, Matt Barkley, had his first scoreless game this past weekend since November 2010. The 22-year-old, due in some part to a leaky offensive line, was sacked four times and threw two interceptions against a rugged Stanford defense that held Barkley and USC’s potent running game well in check.

Now, Barkley isn’t out of the Heisman race yet. No legitimate contender should be. Barkley’s got many things in his favor – two great receivers in Marqise Lee and Robert Woods and plenty of showcase games to come, including a probable appearance in the Pac 12 championship game. But while Barkley faltered early on, several players haven’t missed a step in their first two or three games. But due mainly to a lack of games, as well as most of those games being played against powder-puffs, it’s still way too early to declare anyone a Heisman front-runner or anyone out of contention.

Just like Robert Griffin III last year, Geno Smith has started out his senior year with more touchdowns (nine passing, one rushing) than incompletions (nine). Griffin had 14 total touchdowns against only 12 incompletions in his first three games last year, and had 19 total touchdowns to only 20 incompletions through his first four games. Griffin obviously went on to win the Heisman even though Baylor had three losses and didn’t play in a BCS bowl game, and Smith could do the same – but he’s got a better chance of winning more games and playing in a BCS bowl game than Griffin did. Smith has two of the best wide receivers in the country in Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin, guys similar to Griffin’s top weapons at Baylor last year, Kendall Wright and Terrance Williams. Whie Smith doesn’t have the wheels Griffin does, Smith’s ran for 83 yards on only 10 carries this year, numbers that’ll surely help his Heisman case. Upcoming games against Texas, TCU and Oklahoma will make or break Smith’s Heisman case. But he should put up stellar numbers against those good defenses, win or lose. And Griffin proved last year that big numbers can overcome several losses.

Despite only having 13 carries and 11 receptions, Oregon’s De’Anthony Thomas came in second this week to Smith in ESPN’s Heisman Watch. Twenty-nine percent of the time Thomas touches the ball he scores; he has four rushing TDs and three receiving. His seven scores are tied for the most in the country, even though the guy he’s tied with, Fresno’s Robbie Rouse, has 46 more touches than Thomas does. Oh yeah, Thomas is averaging 17.5 yards per carry. Yes, he hasn’t played anybody better than the South 7 conference has to offer, but we all saw what he did over his first season last year so the hype is warranted. On his first three carries of the year Thomas rushed for 16, 15 and 33 yards, respectively. From there he has carries of 51 and 59 yards, as well as a 49-yard catch. There’s no reason to expect Thomas’ numbers to come down. Even if his efficiency falls, his workload should pick up in more competitive games; he’s only carried the ball three times in two of the Ducks’ three games. He’s on pace for 1,782 yards from scrimmage after a 1,200-yard freshman year. There’s no way he’s not in New York in early December.

Another Pac-12 running back who’s making waves with big plays, albeit a bit less under the radar, is UCLA senior Johnathan Franklin. Franklin had 2,669 career rushing yards coming into the season, and so far he’s added 541 more in three games. His best game came against what should be a tough Nebraska defense, as he ran for 217 yards on 26 carries and adding 59 yards and a touchdown on three catches. In his other two games he’s ran for 214 and 110 yards, respectively, and he also added 58 receiving yards last week against Houston. Franklin’s train is gaining steam, and he should continue to pick up the pace as he faces off against several weak defenses over the next few weeks. His last two games – against Stanford and USC – will be two of the steepest tests he’ll face all year, and with good performances against those two less than a month before the Heisman ceremony Franklin could easily find a plane ticket to New York.

Braxton Miller has just been a man on a mission this year. The sophomore has at least three touchdowns (12 total) in every game, and after back-to-back games that saw him combine for 322 rushing yards he only rushed for 75 last week. Miller added to his highlight film with a 55-yard touchdown run where he got a couple good blocks from his offensive line, juked a Cal defender out of his shoes at the line of scrimmage and then outran several defenders to the end zone. Being a dual-threat quarterback from a name college definitely won’t hurt Miller’s Heisman chances, and neither will a schedule that only has one, maybe two, intimidating defenses on it.

The last guy we’ll check out this week is another dual-threat quarterback from the Midwest – Denard Robinson. Shoelace put the opening week nightmare against Alabama behind him as he’s now rushed for 324 yards and three touchdowns in his last two games. He’s also thrown for five touchdowns. We all know Denard has his faults, and he fell short in what will probably be the biggest game he’ll play in this year. But the guy’s so lovable, and provides so many highlights the hype machine will probably prevail, which I have no problem with. He’s given us so many fun games the past four years he deserves a trip to New York.

*Probably about the first week of October I’ll actually start ranking the Heisman candidates as I see fit. It’s just too early to rank guys as I touched on in the intro.

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From → College Football

One Comment
  1. Sean Breslin permalink

    Barkley has been good enough to stay in the conversation, but man, Geno Smith has been really great so far.

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