Heisman Hopefuls Watch: Week 1

September 6, 2009

Of course it is very premature to start ranking Heisman Trophy contenders at this point in the season. Nonetheless, it is enlightening when you start to watch a "Heisman candidate" on a weekly basis. Any eventual winner shouldn't have too many "off" weeks.

Some factors to consider in judging the performance of a Heisman hopeful are the following:

1. The quality of opposition. Put simply, it means more to play well against top competition.

2. Average productivity while playing. Total statistics alone can be deceiving. It is unfair to penalize the better players who often sit out a quarter or an entire half because their team has already blown out the opposition by halftime. However, it is fair to give extra points to players who perform particularly well at the end of a close game.

3. The quality of the team performance that game and overall. Let's face it, if you aren't on a very good team, unless you are close to setting an NCAA record of some sort, you have no shot at winning the Heisman. Considering the tremendous diversity in scheduling among teams, this is a pretty fair consideration.

BIGGEST DROP: Sam Bradford, Jr. (QB), Oklahoma

Of course the biggest news on the Heisman front this week is the injury to last year's winner, Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford. He is expected to miss at least 2-4 weeks. While Bradford is not automatically dismissed as a candidate, it is very unlikely that he can miss even two more games and have any chance. Furthermore, the fact that the Sooners lost to BYU doesn't help him either.

BIGGEST BOOST: (Tie) Joe McKnight, Jr. (RB), USC; Jimmy Clausen, Jr. (QB), Notre Dame

Neither of these two really deserved to be a top contender based upon their college performances to this point. However, both were highly touted recruits and play for big schools who receive enormous media coverage. Thus, all they really needed was a strong start to the season before their respective PR machines take over and put them in the hunt. Both accomplished that on Saturday.


1. Tim Tebow, Sr. (QB), Florida - 10-15, 188 yards, 1 TD; 1 rushing TD.

The favorite did his thing while the score was close as the top ranked Gators rolled 62-3 over Charleston Southern. Florida's nonconference schedule is so embarrassingly weak this year that we really won't be able to seriously judge Tebow's season until he plays some SEC opponents. Nonetheless, the Gator QB essentially inherits the top stop until he stumbles or someone can really take it from him.

2. Jahvid Best, Jr. (RB), California - 137 yards rushing on 10 carries, 2 TDs; 2 receptions for 23 yards; 1 KR for 18 yards.

Best did his damage in limited action as the 12th ranked Bears avenged last season's loss to Maryland with a surprisingly easy 52-13 victory. A 73-yard touchdown run can now be added to his voluminous highlight reel package. Although hardly a good team, the Terps are a mid-level ACC team and thus Best's casual dominance is somewhat more significant than some other candidates performances during blowouts.

3. Colt McCoy, Sr. (QB), Texas - 21-29, 317 yards, 2 TDs, 1 Int. 

McCoy was accurate and efficient in the 2nd ranked Longhorn's 59-20 blowout of Louisiana Monroe. The quality of competition was very low and you could take points off for the interception, but overall a solid performance.

4. Dez Bryant, Jr. (WR), Oklahoma State - 3 receptions, 77 yards, 2 TDs; 2 punt returns for 29 yards.

Although Bryant's total receptions and yardage numbers are not spectacular, his two touchdowns against Georgia propelled the 9th ranked Cowboys to a 24-10 victory over the 13th ranked Bulldogs. He deserves extra credit because his performance was against good competition.

5. CJ Spiller, Sr. (RB), Clemson - 96 yard Kickoff return for TD, 2 punt returns for 63 yards, 4 carries for 12 yards.

Spiller was injured in Clemson's 37-14 victory over Middle Tennessee State and didn't play in the second half. However, initial reports indicate the injury is not serious. Spiller is a wildcard in the Heisman hunt because of his tremendous abilities on special teams. Week 1 certainly helped him show off those skills.

6. Terrelle Pryor, So. (QB), Ohio State - Terrelle Pryor (QB) (So.) - 14-21 174 yards, 1 TD, 1 Int; 30 yards rushing on 6 carries, 1 TD. Ohio State defeated Navy 31-27.

Pryor played well only in spurts against Navy and any "Heisman" talk appeared very premature after the Buckeyes nearly let this home game get away. Nonetheless, the USC game provides a true opportunity and will be a "make or break" in many ways for the team and the player.

7. Jonathan Dwyer, Jr. (RB), Georgia Tech - 95 yards on 7 carries, 2 TDs. Highlight - 74 yd touchdown run.

Dwyer led 15th ranked Georgia Tech to a comfortable win over Jacksonville, 37-17. Dwyer's candidacy will be boosted significantly if his team can dominate the ACC and get people believing they are a national contender.

8. Jimmy Clausen, Jr. (QB), Notre Dame - 15-18, 315 yards, 4 TDs; Highlight - 88 yard touchdown pass to Michael Floyd.

The 23rd ranked Fighting Irish defeated Nevada 35-0 and Clausen was extremely accurate. Let's see how he plays against tougher competition...which based upon Notre Dame's weak schedule will be a rarity this season.

9. Joe McKnight, Jr. (RB), USC - 145 yards on 14 carries, 2 TDs; 1 punt return for 18 yards; 1 reception for 21 yards. Highlight - 54 yard touchdown run.

The 4th ranked Trojans defeated San Jose State 56-3 and let everyone know that this was not going to be a rebuilding year. McKnight's performance next week against Ohio State will be an indication if he will be able to seriously contend, or is just one of several good USC running backs.

10. (tie) Darryl Clark, Sr. (QB), Penn State - 29-40 353 yards passing, 3 TD, 1 Int. Evan Royster, Jr. (RB), Penn State - 14 carries, 61 yards, 1 TD.

Clark was the star of 9th ranked Penn State's blowout of Akron 31-7 with his career high 353 yards. However, Royster is quite capable of carrying the load and should the Nittany Lions make a real BCS Title run, he may be the one to emerge.

Honorable Mentions:

Kendall Hunter, Jr. (RB), Oklahoma State - 75 yards rushing on 23 carries.

Zac Robinson, Sr. (QB), Oklahoma State - 11-22 135 yards, 2 TDs; 9 rushes, 39 yards, 1 TD.

Noel Devine, Jr. (RB), West Virginia - 17 carries for 112 yards, 1 TD; 3 receptions for 9 yards. Highlight - 24 yard touchdown run. West Virginia defeated Liberty 33-20.

Jacquizz Rodgers So. (RB), Oregon State - 16 carries for 103 yards, 3 TDs; 4 receptions for 32 yards; Highlight - 43 yard touchdown run. Oregon State defeated Portland State 34-7.

Sam Bradford, Jr. (QB), Oklahoma - 10-14, 96 yards, 1 touchdown. Injured. Oklahoma lost 14-13 to BYU.

Manish Pandya
Staff Editor for TheDailySportsHerald.com

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