The calendar just turned October and of course it’s never too early to take a look at how the Heisman race could shape up come mid-December. Unlike last year, this year’s Heisman field is stacked with worthy contenders thus far and there’s a good chance that there will be five finalists in New York waiting to hear their name called to be inducted into the greatest group of college football players. For this list I had to narrow it down to my top five, but it most likely will change week to week. So who’s starting off in my top five (listed in no particular order).
Marcus Mariota (Oregon) – While head coach Chip Kelly might have flown eastward to the Philadelphia Eagles, Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota has kept the high-flying, fast-paced Oregon offense right on track and scoring a ton of points. Against Colorado this past Saturday, Mariota threw for 355 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions while running for 43 yards and two more touchdowns. This season, he’s thrown for 1,358 yards and 14 touchdowns and added seven scores on the ground. While the ESPN Heisman Watch has him as the favorite right now, I don’t know if he’s at that position. He’s really, really good and will probably get the Ducks to the national title game, but the Heisman might be a stretch for him.
Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville) – Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater started the season on the top of the Heisman Watch list and he hasn’t really done much to disappoint thus far. This past weekend, Bridgewater threw for 348 yards but only had two touchdown passes in a blowout win over Temple. For the season, Bridgewater has thrown for over 1,500 yards and 16 touchdowns and has one interception. He also has a 71.7 completion percentage, which separates him from everyone else on the list. Bridgewater’s weakness, and Louisville’s for that matter, is their incredibly weak schedule. They play in the diluted American Athletic Conference and don’t really play anyone strong outside of the conference. But if Bridgewater keeps padding the stats, expect him to be in New York in December.
Jameis Winston (Florida State) – Quarterback Jameis Winston is reminding a lot of people of Johnny Manziel. He replaced E.J. Manuel, a top ten pick in the NFL draft, just like Manziel had to do last season. And the guy is pretty electric. A week ago, Winston threw a line drive Hail Mary right before the half against Boston College that sparked the Seminoles offense in the second half. This past weekend against a deceptively tough Maryland team, he threw for 393 yards, five touchdowns and completed 71.9 percent of his passes. For the season, Winston has completed 73.2 percent of his passes, the best of those on this list, and has thrown for 1,441 yards, 17 touchdowns and two interceptions. As Florida State’s undefeated bid goes deeper into the season, expect Winston to become a familiar name in the Heisman talk.
Lache Seastrunk (Baylor) – At the end of last season, Lache Seastrunk said he was going to win the Heisman this year. And on any other year, he might have been correct. Through four games this season, Seastrunk has rushed for 589 yards and eight touchdowns. Against West Virginia on Saturday, he rushed for 172 yards and two touchdowns in a Bears offense that is rivaling and maybe surpassing the Oregon offense. It’s also important to note that he really hasn’t played in much of the second half in a lot of games due to the blowouts they’ve had. But Seastrunk may have picked the wrong year to be really, really good. With so many other players being so good thus far this season, it may be really hard for him to set himself apart from everyone else. But if he puts up these types of performances against Oklahoma, TCU and Oklahoma State, Seastrunk may get himself a ticket to New York.
Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M) – Of course I have to have the defending Heisman winner on the first list of the season. But the 2013 season is nothing like the special 2012 season. The Aggies had a bye week this week, but two weeks ago at Arkansas, Manziel had 261 passing yards and two touchdowns. For the season, he’s thrown for 1,489 yards, 14 touchdowns and four interceptions and rushed for 314 yards and three touchdowns. But Manziel’s weaknesses are a little bit more apparent in terms of the Heisman race. First, he does have a crucial loss against Alabama this year and while he was great in the game, having a loss or two does hurt Heisman chances. Second, Manziel may not have a signature game late in the season to boost his chances. Last year, the win at Alabama came in November close to voting time for the Heisman. I don’t know if he’s going to get that shot this year. And because of the crowded field, you have to wonder if he and one or two other people are neck-and-neck at the finish if voters will take into account his offseason antics. Ideally, this award should be for just onfield stuff, but the voters are human and that may sneak into how they vote.
Stacking the Field
1. Jameis Winston
2. Teddy Bridgewater
3. Marcus Mariota
4. Johnny Manziel
5. Lache Seastrunk