Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan
The Wolverines didn't have a particularly enjoyable Saturday, but Robinson wasn't the guy who allowed the I-AA Massachusetts Minutemen to mount a 20-point fourth-quarter comeback. He was reduced to a "mere" 345 yards of offense and three touchdowns, but as the most visibly competent player at Michigan, he can continue to build cachet with Heisman voters by turning in stellar performances, even on a less-than-lustrous team. And interestingly, while he's known for his swiftness of foot and currently leads Division I-A in rushing yards, if his first three outings are any indication, Robinson will pass for over 2500 yards in 2010. (A sidebar discussion: If the Wolverines have a successful, major-bowl season, and do it thanks entirely to Robinson, what does that do to Rich Rodriguez's job prospects?)
Terrelle Pryor, QB, Ohio State
Pryor's completion percentage ticked up markedly in Week 3, as he landed 22 of 27 passes against the Ohio Bobcats. His two interceptions were his first of the season. The knock against him, when compared to Robinson, is that he won't see the field as much, surrounded as he is by a defense that can actually make plays and spell him once in a while. In his favor is the high likelihood of the Buckeyes being positioned to compete for a national title at season's end, while Robinson and the Wolverines toil away at the Little Caesars Bowl.
Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas
Mallett had a banner Saturday against Georgia, throwing for 380 yards and three touchdowns against an SEC defense. Those numbers will completely snow anyone who didn't actually watch the game and therefore doesn't realize that Georgia's defenders still haven't shaken off their pesky 2009 habit of trying to rush the passer and tackle using only their shoulder blades, but it's an SEC road win, and the Razorbacks' second conference game -- this Saturday, playing host to the No. 1 Crimson Tide -- will cement or obliterate Mallett's position in the Heisman race for the remainder of the season.
He's back, did you hear? The Tide's No. 1 couldn't have picked a more favorable setting for reasserting his case for a repeat award. Against a vastly overmatched Duke team in a weekend of largely lackluster fare on display elsewhere in the SEC, the defending Heisman Trophy winner amassed 151 yards on just nine carries, two of them touchdown efforts. In a crowded field of candidates (and in a crowded Alabama backfield), its unlikelier than usual he'll be able to repeat last year's heroics, but an invite to New York is all but assured if he can stay healthy.
Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
Half of America was likely asleep Saturday night when Luck torched visiting Wake Forest for 207 yards and four touchdowns. He can move when he needs to, as well: Luck's feet added an additional 69 rushing yards and a touchdown to his numbers. A wider swath of the national audience is just the thing Luck's candidacy needs, and he'll get it in Week 4 when the Cardinal travel to Notre Dame.
Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State
Valid Heisman trophy candidates from mid-major programs need to have unassailable stats to have any hope of a shot at the hardware, and bless Kellen Moore's heart, he's making his stat lines sparkle. Hell, he's thrown for 585 yards in just two games, and that puts him a little below his 2009 pace. And Week 4 is gut-check time: The Broncos host their only remaining ranked opponent, No. 24 Oregon State, in a nationally-televised primetime tilt. We're not even out of September yet, but this will be an absolute make-or-break night for both Moore's Heisman hopes and the Broncos' chances for remaining in the national title conversation.
Andy Dalton, QB, TCU
TCU may very well be better than Boise State, but barring another BCS mismatch, we won't get to find out. The Horned Frogs haven't enjoyed the same notoriety as the Broncos the past few seasons, despite their current residence in the national top five, and Dalton's latest performance, a 21/23, 267-yard outing against Baylor, went largely and shamefully unnoticed. He'll have the Friday night stage all to himself this week, however, when TCU travels to SMU.
Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska
Time to start talking about Taylor Martinez, right now, as we can't remember a time in Bo Pelini's short tenure when an offensive Husker had a chance to outshine the Blackshirt D. Seven completed passes for 150 yards, 19 carries for 137 more yards on the ground, and all against Big Six competition (Washington, but still) in a legendarily loud stadium on the road? Welcome to the discussion, kid (did we mention he's a freshman?). Eric Crouch was kind of a bitch, so do what you can to unseat that legacy, would you?
LaMichael James, RB, Oregon
Only a sophomore, and served a disciplinary suspension for the season opener, plays on a monstrously loaded offense, and yet LaMichael James is still in the conversation. 227 yards on 14 carries will do that.
Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
Back to being relegated behind Ingram, Richardson carried only six times, but did score twice, once on a 45-yard run, once on a 91-yard kickoff return.
Jacory Harris, QB, Miami
The 'Canes Week-3 bye may be a blessing in disguise, allowing Harris to work through in practice (and Heisman voters to forget) all the things that went wrong in Columbus. His next target is a high-profile one that would be an ideal launching pad for a second wind: a Thursday-night road date with Pitt.
Colin Kaepernick, QB, Nevada.
While we're taking fliers on unlikely Heisman candidates, why not the Angry Ostrich? The senior star of the desert completed 10-of-15 for 181 yards, rushed for 148 more, and accounted for five touchdowns in Nevada's Friday-night 52-31 shellacking of Cal.
Case Keenum, QB, Houston
Is making his final appearance on this year's list. On pace for another 5,000-yard season, Keenum tore his ACL in the Cougars' bewildering loss to UCLA (a night that also saw his backup, Cotton Turner, leave with a season-ending injury).
Daniel Thomas, RB, Kansas State
Pro: Has racked up over 550 ground yards in just three games. Con: Still plays for Kansas State. Pro: Kansas State is 3-0. We'll see.
Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
This is the most entertaining stat line we've seen all year: Newton completed only 7 of his 14 passes against Clemson ... for 203 yards and two touchdowns.