Yesterday I gave you my top five Heisman contenders.
Now let’s take a look at some other players across the college football landscape that could have a chance to bring home the award (in no particular order).
Teddy Bridgewater QB Louisville (Jr. 6-3/196)
The Miami native threw his hat into the ring on January 2 in the Sugar Bowl against Florida. Bridgewater threw for 263 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in the 33-23 victory.
On the year Bridgewater threw for 3,718 yards, 27 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. Six times last season he completed at least 70 percent of his pass attempts.
Since his performance in New Orleans Bridgewater’s draft stock has sky-rocketed. He’s currently No. 2 on ESPN/Scouts Inc.’s Top 32 for 2014, and is the highest rated quarterback.
Here’s a good stat on Bridgewater from Rob Nelson on ESPN.com, when he threw the ball on third down it resulted in a first-down 50.9 percent of the time. Only Johnny Manziel’s 51.9 percent was higher. He also completed 27 passes for 15 yards or more on third down.
The problem with Bridgewater’s campaign is that Louisville doesn’t join the ACC until 2014. This year the Cardinals will play in AAC (the artist formerly known as the Big East), which means Bridgewater needs an unblemished record to make it to New York. Louisville went 11-2 last year and he didn’t even get consideration for the award. This year’s schedule doesn’t do him any favors. The non-conference slate features Kentucky, E Kentucky, Ohio and Florida International. The conference schedule doesn’t move the needle either.
Its schedule is so bad, Louisville could actually run the table and be shut out of the final BCS Title game. So unless the Cardinals run the table, and they have to do it in spectacular fashion, it could be an uphill battle for Bridgewater.
Brett Hundley QB UCLA (RS So. 6-3/222)
No east-coast bias here. Hundley had the best season you didn’t pay attention to last year because he did it at UCLA and not USC.
Hundley completed 66.6 percent of his passes last year, for 3,745 yards, 29 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He also ran for nine touchdowns. ESPN/Scouts Inc. currently rank him the No. 7 overall player in 2014 draft, and the second-best signal caller behind Bridgewater.
He finished the season throwing for 329 yards and three touchdowns in a 49-36 loss to Baylor in the Holiday Bowl. His best performance of the year came against Nebraska, as he completed 21 of 33 pass attempts for 305 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. He also had 53 yards rushing in the 36-30 victory.
If Hundley is going to make a run at the bronze statue (a Bruin hasn’t won the award since Gary Beban in 1967) he’ll have to perform better in big games. While he can’t be blamed for the bowl loss and he tore up Nebraska, he threw four picks in a loss to California and was just 20 of 38 in the first of two straight losses to Standford.
As I’ve reiterated throughout this Heisman talk, Hundley will need team success to get the award, and UCLA has a schedule that won’t make that easy. In week two he’ll have to get his campaign going in a non-conference road trip to Nebraska, then UCLA also goes on the road to take on No. 4 Stanford and No. 3 Oregon in back-to-back weekends at the end of October and then the regular season finishes at No. 24 Southern Cal.
Marqise Lee WR Southern Cal (6-0/195)
Let’s stay in Hollywood for our next contender, Southern Cal wide receiver Marqise Lee. It’s tough for a wideout to win the award, just Desmond Howard and Tim Brown have pulled it off, but Lee’s got the best chance of any wideout in the county.
Last year Lee hauled in 118 passes for 1,721 yards and 14 touchdowns. He also averaged 8.15 yards per carry and 28.53 yards per kickoff return. The 118 grabs led the country and his average of 132.38 yards receiving per game was second best.
Lee averaged 14.6 yards per reception a season ago. Seven times he eclipsed the double-digit reception mark in a game. He put up video game numbers in a loss to Arizona, with 16 catches for 345 yards and two touchdowns.
The problem with Lee’s chances for a Heisman will be USC likely isn’t going to win a strong Pac-12. The Trojans have a tough schedule that includes trips to Notre Dame and Oregon State, and home match-ups with Standford and UCLA.
There’s also the small problem of who will be throwing the ball to Lee. USC doesn’t have starter to replace Matt Barkley and Lane Kiffin plans to play both Max Wittek and Cody Kessler Thursday against Hawaii. Unless the two-QB system just fails completely then Lee will win a second straight Biletnikoff Award, but a Heisman may be just out of reach.
Aaron Murray QB Georgia (Sr. 6-1/208)
The preseason All-SEC quarterback looks to be a firm Heisman contender during his senior campaign.
Last year Murray led the SEC with 3,893 yards passing (his third straight season with over 3,000 yards passing). He threw for 36 touchdowns, to just 10 interceptions, and completed 64.5 percent of his passes.
The Bulldogs schedule sets up nicely for a potential title run, and thus a Heisman run for Murray. If UGA can escape the first month of the season then the ‘Dawgs could cruise until the World’s Largest Cocktail Party.
UGA opens the season at Clemson on Saturday, then they host South Carolina in week two. After a chance to lick to their wounds against North Texas, UGA welcomes LSU to Athens on September 28.
Making it through that is no easy task, but if Murray and UGA can do it then he’ll be in the driver’s seat for the Heisman. Then all he’s got to do is beat Florida (I mean he did last year despite throwing three picks) and then the SEC West winner, likely Alabama, in the SEC title game. Easy as cake right?
Lache Seastrunk RB Baylor (RS Jr. 5-10/210)
Remember that whole Willy Lyles-Orgeon scandal? Sure you do. Well Lache Seastrunk is the player that Lyles is accused of being paid to deliver to the Ducks.
Well three years after he was Rivals’ No. 2 prospect in the state of Texas, Seastrunk finally made his collegiate debut last season (He redshirted at Oregon and then had to sit out last year after transferring to Baylor). He didn’t disappoint. Seastrunk ran for 1,012 yards and seven touchdowns on just 131 carries. That’s an average of 7.7 yards per carry.
He also averaged 11.9 yards per reception on nine catches. As the season went on the tailback, who grew up 30 minutes outside of Baylor, saw an increase in his role in the Bears’ offense. He had 91 yards and found paydirt three times against Oklahoma, put 185 yards on Kansas State, 178 on Oklahoma State, and finished the year with 138 yards on 16 carries against UCLA in the Holiday Bowl.
Playing the Big 12, where teams are allergic to tackling apparently, will only help Seasturnk put up monster numbers. Baylor’s schedule is a bit of a cake walk until November, when Seastrunk and Baylor will need to finish strong to stay in the race. The party gets started on November 7 (a Thursday night) against Oklahoma, then continues two weeks later with a trip to Oklahoma State, followed by a trip to TCU the following week and December 7 finale at home against Texas.
Seastrunk is by far the biggest long shot on my list this far, but hey it wouldn’t be the first time a long shot from Baylor brought home the hardware.
A few more for the road
Marcus Mariota QB Oregon (RS So. 6-4/211): Chip Kelly may be gone, but the Ducks will still have 9,000 uniform combinations and put up even more points. Last year Mariota threw for 2,677 yards, 32 touchdowns and just six interceptions. He also ran for 752 yards, five touchdowns and even caught a touchdown pass. Oregon will have to get past Stanford on the road November 7 (Still a Thursday night) to not just win its division in the Pac-12, but also for Mariota to be in the Heisman race.
Jameis Winston QB Florida State (RS Fr. 6-4/227): Yes I’m going there. Sure Winston hasn’t played a down of Division I football, but he’s got the tools to be special. The former five-star was officially named the Seminoles’ starter last week and he’s got a great supporting cast. FSU returns 80 combined starts along the offensive line and junior running backs Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr. will be his best friend. If Winston and FSU can avoid the regularly scheduled Jimbo Fisher ACC slip-up, and find a way to win at Clemson on October 19 and at Florida to close out the regular season, then the two-sport star could have a chance to join Johnny Football in uncharted waters.
T.J. Yeldon RB Alabama (So. 6-2/218): Last season Yeldon rumbled for 1,108 yards and 12 touchdowns during the Crimson Tide’s second straight national title run. Yeldon finished the year with a pair of monster games, rushing for 153 yards against Georgia in the SEC title game and 108 yards against Notre Dame in the BCS Title game. I think Yeldon will have a big year, but I expect that teammate A.J. McCarron will garner most of the Crimson Tide’s votes (think of it as a lifetime achievement award).
Well thanks for reading, I’ll drop some weekend picks later in the day, because there are ACTUAL GAMES ON TOMORROW!
Also I hope you all know that none of these guys will win the award and it will be someone we didn’t think would be in the race (see Johnny Manziel, RG III and Cam Newton).