It is Wednesday again college football fans. That means it’s time to take a look at my week 5 Heisman hopeful watch list. So here we go with my top-five favorites to strike the Heisman pose on December 12th.
Russell Wilson: Quarterback, Wisconsin
Saturday night, the Badgers played their first marquee game of the season when they hosted Big Ten newcomer Nebraska at Camp Randall Stadium. In that game, Wilson didn’t disappoint, leading the Badgers to a 48-17 dismantling of the Cornhuskers. The senior from Richmond, VA was superb, completing 14 of his 20 passing attempts (70%) for 255 yards and two touchdowns. Wilson continued to protect the ball with zero interceptions in the game, keeping his total to one for the season. This year, Wilson has completed 75% of his passes for 1,391 yards with 13 touchdowns to just the one interception. Wilson has also averaged 6.4 yards per rush with two touchdowns on the ground. Wilson will have to compete with his schedule in order to wrap up the Heisman, as the only currently ranked team left on the schedule is #19 Illinois. With other hopefuls with much tougher matchups to go, Wilson will have to perform at an elite level every single game in order to bring home the award.
Baylor Griffin III: Quarterback, Baylor
Last week, I said the Bears superstar just might be the favorite to win the Heisman. While he still has, by far, the best numbers in the nation, he also cost his team a game on Saturday. Let’s start with the good first, Griffin continued his absurd accuracy, completing 23 -31 passes (74%). The most unbelievable thing about that completion percentage, is that the 74% day actually dropped his season average by three percent. Griffin also found the endzone plenty Saturday, tossing five touchdowns, three to senior receiver Kendall Wright. He also racked up plenty of yards, with 346 in the contest against Kansas State. Now the bad, late in the fourth quarter, Griffin connected with Arthur Brown. The problem, Arthur Brown plays line backer for Kansas State. Browns interception was Griffin’s first of the season and unfortunately for the Bears it led to a Kansas State game winning field goal with 3:10 remaining in the game. Brown provided insult to injury when he sacked Griffin on the Bears final drive. Still, there’s no denying Griffins absurd numbers. Griffin has completed 82% of his passes for just over 1,300 yards. He also leads the nation in touchdowns with 18 (one more than Washington’s Keith Price). While Griffin might not be the favorite anymore, he has plenty of big matchups left on the schedule to reassert himself.
Trent Richardson: Running Back, Alabama
Griffin’s loss was certainly Richardson’s gain. Richardson was electric Saturday night in a marquee matchup against the Florida Gators. All week, people (myself included), questioned the Gators defensive rankings, asking if their run defense was really that good. In Gainsville Saturday, Richardson answered those questions with an emphatic NO, they really aren’t that good. Richardson, the Pensacola native, carried the ball 29 times and sliced through the Gator defense, racking up 181 and two touchdowns. More impressive than the sheer numbers perhaps, was Richardson’s ability to power through defenders and break countless tackles. For the season, Richardson is fourth in the nation with 10 rushing touchdowns and 622 yards. Richardson also has the best yard per carry average of running backs with 80 or more rushing attempts at 6.5 ypc. He’s the number one option on what might be the best team in the nation, right now, he’s also my Heisman favorite.
LaMichael James: Running Back, Oregon
It doesn’t matter that James and the Ducks had the week off. His video games numbers are more than enough to support the junior from Texarkana, TX. James is averaging a ridiculous 9.4 yards per carry with 613 yards on just 65 carries this season. While James hasn’t found the endzone as much as he, or the Ducks would like, with just seven touchdowns, James has been the biggest playmaker on the most exciting offense in the nation. James has added 159 yards and one touchdown in receptions, and has been a threat in the return game as well with a 23 yard punt return average and another touchdown. With plenty of big games left on the schedule James has more than enough opportunities to distance himself from the pack. James will look to do just that tomorrow night, as the Ducks will host the California Golden Bears at Autzen Stadium.
Marcus Lattimore: Running Back, South Carolina
Last week I said that Lattimore would need a big game against Auburn to stay on the list. He certainly didn’t have that, with just 66 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. So why is he still on my list? Frankly, I’m giving him a pass in the loss against Auburn thanks to “The Old Ball Coach”. Through the first four games, the Gamecocks superstar had averaged 27 carries a game. While I’m critical of putting that much work on one player, you can’t all of a sudden go to the other extreme, and that’s exactly what Steve Spurrier did on Saturday against the Tigers. Watching the game, I was shocked at how little Lattimore was used, especially with how inaccurate quarterback Stephen Garcia was. Despite Garcia completing just 39% of his passes Spurrier kept calling his number. The entire game I sat baffled as I watched Lattimore take play action fakes, followed by Garcia sailing a pass over a receiver or throwing the ball in traffic. Thankfully for Lattimore’s Heisman chances, help is on the way. Monday, Spurrier announced that sophomore quarterback Connor Shaw would start the next game. Shaw starting should mean more carries for Lattimore, who leads the South Eastern Conference in rushing attempts at 124 (third in all of FBS) and rushing yards with 677 (second in all of FBS). Lattimore and the Gamecocks find themselves facing Kentucky in their next game (Oct. 8), which is also good news for Lattimore. The Wildcats find themselves ranked 100th in the nation in rushing defense, giving up 199 yards per game and almost five yards per carry. With an extra week to rest up and prepare for the game, Lattimore could have a monster stat line by the end of the contest. If he does, he could find himself right back in the thick of things in the Heisman race.
Andrew Luck: Quarterback, Stanford
Last week, Luck was on the stock falling list because of a mediocre performance against Arizona during week three and a bye week during week four. Last weekend’s performance against the Bruins, Luck did enough to move him into the rising category. Luck completed 85% of his passes for 227 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions against the UCLA defense. The Stanford star also had a ridiculous one-handed sideline reception on a trick play to add to his Heisman reel. With the 64th best pass defense in Colorado coming to town, Luck could certainly be in the top five by this time next week.
Landry Jones: Quarterback, Oklahoma
Jones was regarded as one of the favorites for the 76-year-old award at the beginning of the season, and despite leading his team to an undefeated record thus far, he hasn’t lived up to the preseason Heisman hype. That is, until this weekend. Jones was sensational, completing 70% of his passes for 425 yards. He also had five touchdowns to just one interception. With the Red River Rivalry against Texas on Saturday, Jones definitely has the stage set to find himself in the top five next week.
Kellen Moore: Quarterback, Boise State
Moore has been one of the most reliable and consistent quarterbacks in the nation for several years now. He’s also been one of the most explosive. Saturday night, Moore was neither reliable nor explosive. Moore completed just 58% of his passes and threw just two touchdowns Saturday, he also had two picks. Even more unbelievable is Moore throwing for just 142 yards, well shy of his 331 yard average heading into the game. With an un-Moore like performance against Nevada, the senior will need to put up ridiculous numbers the next few weeks to get back in my list.
Sammy Watkins: Wide Receiver, Clemson
Last Wednesday, I struggled with putting Watkins on my list given my stance on true freshman. For one week at least, Watkins saved me from having to alter my beliefs on young playmakers. The Clemson air attack struggled to get anything going, falling well short of their gaudy numbers through the first four games. Quarterback Tajh Boyd struggled, completing just 41% of his passes for 204 yards. As a result, Watkins numbers suffered. Watkins totaled just three catches for 38 yards and was unable to reach the endzone. For a receiver who hauled in 17 receptions for 296 yards and four touchdowns the previous two games, these certainly aren’t the numbers the freshman would have hoped for.
Check back next Wednesday for my week 6 Heisman watch list!