QB Dak Prescott, Mississippi State Bulldogs
Last Week: Bye
2014 Season: 96-for-156, 1,478 passing yards, 14 TDs, four INTs; 106 carries, 576 yards, eight TDs; receiving TD
Current Odds: 9/4
Last Week: 24-for-33, 336 passing yards, two TDs; defeated Washington, 45-20
2014 Season: 132-for-188, 1,957 passing yards, 19 TDs; 289 rushing yards, five TDs; receiving TD
Current Odds: 3/2
Being out of sight and out of mind hurt Prescott — his odds remained unchanged, but Mariota was able to pad his stats and actually take the lead in the odds.
I still believe that it will be difficult for Mariota to beat Prescott if the Bulldogs are undefeated after the SEC Championship Game. Two of the three SEC teams this century that played in a national championship game while undefeated had Heisman winners (2009 Alabama, 2010 Auburn), and the third (2012 LSU) minted a friggin' nickel back as a bona fide candidate. There's no question that a blind résumé test involving individual statistics would favor the Ducks' driver, but there's a reason I have Prescott first here.
As for their supporting casts, they're not getting a lot of Heisman hype (sorry, Royce Freeman; sorry, Jameon Lewis), which means Mariota and Prescott are getting all of the credit for their teams' respective offensive successes.
We have our front-runners, in other words, and we know they're going to be front-runners unless they pull up lame.
RB Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin Badgers
Last Week: Bye
2013 Season: 132 carries, 1,046 rushing yards, 13 TDs; one receiving TD
Current Odds: 6/1
Gordon's odds are slightly higher than the 11/2 standing he had last week, but, thanks to the bye, we know that's really not a reflection of his play as much as it is Mariota's. Gordon does now lead the nation in rushing yards per game, though, after a slightly substandard outing from Indiana's Tevin Coleman against Michigan State.
If he keeps up his pace, Gordon should make it to New York. And I think that's very possible. The Badgers don't play Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State (owner of the nation's best rush defense), or Michigan (nation's No. 4 rush defense); they get Nebraska, Maryland, and Minnesota at home, and must only travel to Rutgers, Purdue, and Iowa — three teams yielding over four yards per carry — over their final six games.
Ron Dayne won the Heisman as a Wisconsin running back after breaking records and leading a Rose Bowl team, and Gordon's unlikely to do either of those things. But he could have 2,100 yards and 25 touchdowns after 12 games simply by slightly improving his pace, and Wisconsin still controls its destiny in the Big Ten West. So who knows?
The dark horse
QB Jameis Winston, Florida State Seminoles
Last Week: 23-for-31, 273 passing yards, two TDs, one INT; defeated Notre Dame, 31-27
2014 Season: 149-for-211, 1,878 passing yards, 13 TDs, six INTs; two rushing TDs
Current Odds: 18/1
Jameis Winston was brilliant for Florida State against Notre Dame. Take away one horrific interception in the first half, and Winston was 22 for 30 for 273 yards and two TDs. In the second half, he completed 10 passes of at least 10 yards with just one incompletion.
For that performance, his Heisman odds got incrementally better, moving from 20/1 to 18/1. Bovada thinks Winston has the same chances of winning the Heisman as Everett Golson and Amari Cooper ... neither of whom will win the Heisman.
Fatigue has plenty to do with this inability to gain ground; I'd argue it's just what happens for Heisman winners looking for a repeat as much as any concerns about off-the-field issues. Neither fatigue nor the potentially specious reasoning of moralizing voters are good enough reasons to dismiss Winston's candidacy, as various emissaries of #FSUTwitter will tell you over and over again.
But Winston just played very well in a hotly contested, widely viewed primetime game against a top-five team, and his Heisman odds barely moved. He's not getting another stage like that this year, either, not with Florida floundering again and the ACC Championship Game looking very much like a heavyweight-flyweight bout to be.
As always seems to be the case with Jameis Winston, arguing about what should be and pointing out what is are very different things.
Winston's going to be in this column from here on in, I suspect, and he'll almost certainly go to New York. But this much is clear: Without a ton of help from players who lead him in the chase right now, he is not winning the 2014 Heisman Trophy.
Out of the running
QB Everett Golson, Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Last Week: 31-for-52, 313 passing yards, three TDs, two INTs; 11 carries, 33 rushing yards; lost to Florida State, 31-27
2014 Season: 166-for-268, 1,996 passing yards, 19 TDs, six INTs; 239 rushing yards, four TDs
Current Odds: 18/1
QB Bryce Petty, Baylor Bears
Last Week: 16-for-36, 223 yards, two TDs; lost to West Virginia, 41-27
2014 Season: 117-for-214, 1,757 passing yards, 17 TDs, three INTs; three rushing TDs
Current Odds: 18/1
Winston beating Notre Dame did very little for his candidacy, but, weirdly, Golson not beating Florida State didn't do that much to hurt his own. They now share the same 18/1 odds, and Golson has a better chance of impressing down the stretch, with games at Arizona State and USC to come. I think his Irish might stumble in at least one of those games, but he has stepping stones that Winston doesn't.
Petty, on the other hand, is now in dire straits. His odds plummeted after Clint Trickett badly outplayed him last weekend. And while four games at home over Baylor's final five contests should be a panacea of sorts, the Bears suddenly look like just another really good team in the Big 12, rather than a College Football Playoff contender.
RB Tevin Coleman, Indiana Hoosiers
Last Week: 15 carries, 132 rushing yards; lost to Michigan State, 56-17
2014 Season: 135 carries, 1,192 rushing yards, 11 TDs
Current Odds: Off the board
Remember when Ameer Abdullah ran for like five yards against Michigan State? Coleman ran for many, many more against the Spartans, despite getting just five carries in the second half. And though he's definitely not "in" this race at this point, Coleman deserves a little praise for doing what he's done.
Also: Last week, I wondered when the last time a player whose team lost to Iowa won the Heisman. Now, when discussing Coleman's "candidacy," we'd have to add in "on a four-loss team" and "with a 39-point loss on the season" as qualifiers.
The long, long, long shot
WR Kevin White, West Virginia Mountaineers
Last Week: Eight catches, 132 yards, two TDs; defeated Baylor, 41-27
2014 Season: 69 catches, 1,020 receiving yards, seven TDs
Current Odds: Off the board
Hot damn, this kid.
White has six catches and at least 101 yards in every game, and that 101-yard game came against Towson, so he's actually been better against ranked teams than cupcakes. He's averaging more yards per catch, catches per game, and yards per game than Amari Cooper, and hasn't had a quiet game like the two-catch, 22-yard performance Cooper had against Arkansas. Extrapolate his averages, and White will finish the regular season with 118 catches for 1,749 yards and 12 touchdowns.
And, being real, it's still not going to happen for him.
But hot damn, this kid.
The FBS Steed of the Week
QB Drew Hare, Northern Illinois
The Line: 12-for-16, 185 passing yards, one TD; 16 carries, 180 rushing yards, two TDs
Hare was the best of three NIU passers who put up QBRs of better than 94.0 against Miami (Ohio), per ESPN, so it's not like he was the only thing going for the Huskies.
But putting up more than 10 yards per pass attempt and per carry is really rare: Johnny Manziel had one game like that in his college career, but it came in 2012 against a brutally bad Auburn team, and Manziel didn't even have 100 rushing yards; Cam Newton's only such game in 2010 came against Arkansas State.
The FCS Steed(s) of the Week
RB Tyler Varga, Yale
The Line: 25 carries, 184 rushing yards, four TDs; one catch, eight yards, TD
Varga now has two games of five touchdowns this season. (Also, I've written this column four times this season, and a Yale player has shown up in it three times?)
QB Jalen Whitlow, Eastern Illinois
The Line: 17-for-30, 213 passing yards, two TDs; 15 carries, 75 rushing yards, three TDs
You may remember Jalen Whitlow from being the QB at Kentucky who couldn't even get cast in such movies as They Supposed to Be SEC, but at Eastern Illinois, even without Art Briles protege Dino Babers, Whitlow is flourishing as a dual-threat QB. (And EIU is 2-5, but that's not the point.)
QB Johnathan Williams, Grambling
The Line: 19-for-27, 377 passing yards, three TDs; 10 carries, 52 yards, two TDs
No, Johnathan Williams isn't the son of Doug Williams currently attending Grambling and playing QB.
He's the guy who beat that guy out, and has led the Tigers to the last four of their five straight wins.