Week eight of college football finally provided some serious movement and separation in the Heisman watch. Three players’ Heisman campaigns were hurt or plain ruined with losses at home — looking at you Teddy Bridgewater and Tajh Boyd — and one player may have given himself an early edge heading into the tail end of the season.
1. Jameis Winston (QB, Florida State) – Winston surpassed any serious expectations for a redshirt freshman going into Death Valley for a highly anticipated Heisman dual with Clemson’s Boyd. Winston threw for 444 yards, completing 22-of-34 passes for three touchdowns in the Seminoles’ 51-14 dismantling of the Tigers. Winston proved he could win on the biggest stage against a top Heisman contender, and lucky for him the Seminoles’ remaining schedule lacks many serious threats to their undefeated record and No. 2 BCS ranking. A matchup with No. 7 Miami on Nov. 2 and a regular season finale on the road against Florida are the only legitimate threats, but if Winston and the Seminoles continue to play at a level that they did against Clemson, an undefeated season shouldn’t be too hard to obtain. Oh, and Winston could make it back-to-back years for a freshman to win a Heisman as well.
2. Marcus Mariota (QB, Oregon) – Mariota and the Ducks broke the 60-point barrier last week against Washington State – a 62-38 win – for the first time since their opening game against Nicholls State. Granted, they scored 55 or more in four of the five games between those two games, to put them at No. 2 in the NCAA in scoring at 57.6 per game. The Ducks and Mariota have been here before, on the verge of making serious cases for national championship and Heisman considerations, but have historically tripped up on the way into a consolation BCS bowl. Last year, Stanford ruined the Ducks’ undefeated season. The Cardinals will have a chance to repeat the role as a spoiler at home on a Thursday, Nov. 7 game on ESPN. The Ducks can’t afford to look ahead, however, with No. 12 UCLA coming to Eugene, Ore. Saturday.
3. Bryce Petty (QB, Baylor) – K-State found a way to slow down Baylor in Manhattan, for the most part, but Petty and the Bears bounced back to a normal offensive output last week. Normal for Baylor, that is, as the Bears overwhelmed Iowa State 71-7. Petty still leads the NCAA’s top ranked offense in terms of points per game (64.7) and the No. 3 offense in terms of passing yards per game (414). Petty gets a chance to show he can perform at a high level on the road Saturday against Kansas, followed up with back-to-back home games against No. 15 Oklahoma and No. 10 Texas Tech. Every game Baylor continues at this pace is another step for Petty towards a Heisman invitation.
4. AJ McCarron (QB, Alabama) – McCarron might not lead the NCAA in any statistical category, and Alabama might not run the most exciting offense in the country, but the senior quarterback just keeps performing at a highly-efficient level. He completed 15-of-21 pass attempts for 180 yards and three touchdowns in the Tide’s 52-0 win against Arkansas. On the season, McCarron has completed 69 percent of his passes, accumulated a QB rating of 164.6 and has a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 4.66-to-1. McCarron may need a few players in front of him to lose to have a legitimate shot at winning the Heisman, but so long as the Tide remain undefeated, he’ll remain in the discussion.
5. Johnny Manziel (QB, Texas A&M;) – I haven’t given up on “Johnny Football” quite yet even after the Aggies’ 45-41 home loss to Auburn. Manziel fought through a shoulder injury on his throwing arm late in the game against the Tigers, giving the Aggies a 41-38 lead on a 1-yard run with five minutes left in the game. In the end, Manziel suffered from a struggling Aggies’ defense that gave up more than 615 yards of total offense – 379 of the yards coming from the rushing attack. Manziel survived two losses last year to win a Heisman, and he still has road games against No. 13 LSU and No. 5 Missouri to make a statement to voters for a chance at a second Heisman trophy.