Week nine of college football, unlike the week before it, came and went without much change in the Heisman race. The players on the rise continued to ascend, leaving those with disappointing losses the week before with a bigger fence to climb. Week 10 probably won’t be a huge moving week either with most of the top contenders having a bye week.
1.Jameis Winston (QB, Florida State) — In close to one half of a football game, the Seminoles’ 49-17 rout of North Carolina State, Winston threw for 292 yards and three touchdowns, completing 16-of-26 pass attempts. It was just the latest dazzling performance from the freshman who has the No. 3 Seminoles looking at an undefeated season and possibly a BCS National Championship bid. The list of threats to Winston’s Heisman run, and his team’s undefeated record, is getting shorter. And the teams who do appear as possible threats will need an off game from the Seminoles to pull an upset. Winston will get his first real taste of the in-state rivalry with No. 7 Miami at home this weekend. The Hurricanes, despite also being undefeated, have struggled lately. North Carolina and Wake Forest, a combined 6-9 record, both stayed within a touchdown of the Hurricanes in close losses. I expect Stephen Morris, the Hurricanes senior quarterback, to struggle and turn the ball over against the Seminoles stout secondary, allowing Winston plenty of chances to challenge the untested Hurricane defense.
2.Marcus Mariota (QB, Oregon) — Just when it looked like a team would challenge the Ducks at home — they were tied with UCLA at 14 at halftime — Mariota and the Ducks did what they normally do: blow teams out. The Ducks scored 28 unanswered points in the second half. The sophomore quarterback completed 21-of-28 pass attempts for 230 yards and one touchdown to ease by the No. 12 Bruins. Now the Ducks get a week off to prepare for a Thursday night, revenge-driven game against No. 5 Stanford. The Cardinals spoiled the Ducks’ undefeated record a season ago, holding the Mariota-led squad to just 14 points, by far the fewest points the Ducks scored all season. In that game, the Ducks had the ball for only 22 minutes and were 4-of-19 on third and fourth down. Unfortunately for the Ducks, the Cardinals — coming off a 20-12 win against Oregon State — also get a bye week to prepare for the high-powered offense they tripped up a season ago. Not to mention the game is in Stanford, Calif., making the stage that much bigger and more difficult for Mariota.
3.Bryce Petty (QB, Baylor) — Petty proved the Bears’ prolific offense could perform outside the confines of Waco, Texas, albeit against a faltering KU team in Lawrence. The junior completed 20 of his 32 pass attempts for 430 yards and three touchdowns en route to a 59-14 win against the Jayhawks. Pure statistics are on Petty’s side of the Heisman debate. He is No. 4 in the NCAA in passing yards per game (350.4), No. 1 in pass yards per completion (20.11, 3 yards better than Jameis Winston), No. 1 in passing efficiency (219) and No. 5 in total offense (360.9). The Bears also have a bye week this Saturday, which they will use to prepare for No. 10 Oklahoma, their first in a string of tough opponents — No. 15 Texas Tech and No. 18 Oklahoma State follow the Bears’ game with the Sooners.
4.A.J. McCarron (QB, Alabama) – McCarron continued to be efficient in a 45-10 win against Tennessee. The senior went 19-for-27 for 275 yards and two touchdowns against the Volunteers, and the Tide continues to cruise through the SEC. Also on a bye week Saturday, the top-ranked Tide will prepare for the first of their two true remaining tests against No. 13 LSU Nov. 9 and a regular season finale against the rising No. 11 Auburn Tigers on the road.
5.Johnny Manziel (QB, Texas A&M;) – Even with a banged-up shoulder, Manziel cooled off a Vanderbilt team fresh off upsetting Georgia. The sophomore aired it out for 305 yards, completing 25-of-35 pass attempts including four touchdowns. With two buffer games against UTEP and Mississippi State the next two weeks, the sophomore’s final opportunities to impress Heisman voters will come in road games against No. 13 LSU and No. 9 Missouri.