Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg/ Photo credit Mitchell Wilston, Onward State
After only one week of football, some Heisman candidates have started to make big moves. They have come out of the gates firing on all cylinders but will they have enough stamina to last three months? Probably not. The deeper we get into conference play, the more attrition takes its toll.
Most of my Heisman watch listers are still in contention. Surprisingly, the biggest movers this week came from my Heisman underdog watch list.
The biggest movers:
Todd Gurley was one of my top 10 preseason Heisman candidates and he lived up to the expectations. The Georgia running back racked up a ridiculous 293 multi-purpose yards. He came in like a wrecking ball… poor Clemson.
Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah made a big move up as well. The senior running back rushed for 232 yards and one touchdown against Florida Atlantic. Nebraska will not be seriously tested until October 4 when the Cornhuskers travel to East Lansing and play Michigan State.
Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon had a great day against LSU. He had 16 carries for 140 yards and one touchdown. Not a lot of people are talking about Gordon but any time a back rushes for that many yards against an SEC power run defense, the voters should pay attention.
Michigan State quarterback—yes, a quarterback from Michigan State—Connor Cook picked up where he left off last season. Cook went 12-of-13 for 352 yards and 3 touchdowns. His pass rating is 352. Life is good right now but Sparty visits Oregon on Saturday.
Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg is my biggest mover. The sophomore went 32-of-47 for 454 yards and one touchdown. He was intercepted twice by Central Florida but that does not affect his stock. This game was played in Dublin, Ireland and the Nittany Lions faced one of the better defenses in the Group of 5.
Players who did not move up or down:
Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota had a good day going 14-of-20 for 267 yards and three touchdowns. The Ducks host Michigan State this Saturday and face one of the best defenses in the country. Mariota remains a favorite.
Javorius "Buck" Allen looked strong against Fresno State. Allen rushed for 133 yards and one touchdown. His productivity this Saturday against Stanford will be an interesting comparison.
UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley went 20-of-33 for 242 yards and rushed for 39 yards and one touchdown. He was also sacked four times. If the retooled offensive line doesn't get more push on rushing plays and protect better on passing plays, Hundley won't make it through the season uninjured.
Heisman winner Jameis Winston went 25-of-40 for 370 yards and one touchdown. Winston looked heavily to his leading receiver from last year, Rashad Greene (11 receptions for 203 yards), which led to two of his telegraphed passes being intercepted.
Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall received a marijuana citation over the summer. As part of his punishment, he did not start against Arkansas. The Heisman Trust asks its voters to consider character as part of their selection criteria. Whether Marshall remains a candidate for voters is presumably dependant on his citation's outcome.
South Carolina running back Mike Davis only rushed for 15 yards last week due to bruised ribs. CBSSports reported that he "reaggravated" the ribs and will be "sort of doubtful" for the East Carolina game on Saturday. Davis is a terrific back but he cannot afford to miss another game if he wants to stay in the race.
Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters had a good day going 19-of-28 for 238 yards and two touchdowns. Getting picked by Stephen H. Austin (the school, not a player) doesn't help him move up.
Miami's Duke Johnson rushed for 90 yards on 20 carries, the longest being 24 yards. Johnson looked strong but the Hurricanes as a whole did not. and that doesn't help his campaign. Johnson needs some big numbers to move up.
Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon rushed for 126 yards and two touchdowns against West Virginia. His teammate—and one of my underdogs—Derrick Henry rushed for 113 yards and one touchdown. This dynamic duo could cancel each other out in the Heisman race.
Players added to watch list:
Kenny Hill has made a fantastic debut. The Texas A&M quarterback destroyed South Carolina going 44-of-60 for 511 yards and three touchdowns. SEC fans are still in shock but if the Gamecocks continue to deploy this matador defense, then Hill's numbers, while impressive, won’t be as shocking.
Cody Kessler also had a nice start. The Trojan quarterback went 25-of-37 for 394 yards and four touchdowns. He will face stiffer competition from Stanford this Saturday. Kessler shined with a great receiver corps and the new uptempo offense installed by head coach Steve Sarkisian.
UCLA linebacker Myles Jack is the only defensive player on my list. The true sophomore had 13 tackles and broke up two passes at Virginia last week. If head coach Jim Mora starts using him in the backfield, Jack could shoot up the list very quickly.
The players who took a dive or fell out of the race:
Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton made his return after rehabbing a serious knee injury but he is out of Heisman contention. The Aggies were crushed 38-7 by Tennessee. Keeton went 18-of-35 for 144 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. That is impossible to overlook, even this early in the season, for a candidate playing in a non-Power 5 conference.
Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller reinjured his shoulder and will be out for the year. Obviously, Miller is out of the Heisman race as well. We wish him the best in his recovery.