The Heisman of the Week is a totally serious column in which we dissect the performances of literally thousands of college football players to tell you which ones deserve the Heisman Trophy mostly based on just this last week of competition ... and which players are actually setting themselves up for contention for the thing (they're not always the same).
Heisman of the Week: Christian McCaffrey, Stanford
Yet another brain-melting Saturday in college football has come and gone, and the players at the top tier of Heisman contention -- LSU's Leonard Fournette, Florida State's Dalvin Cook -- remained there with scintillating performances. But the new true dark horse is a player who began his season with just 89 yards of total offense in a loss -- that's how good Stanford's Christian McCaffrey was against UCLA on Thursday.
McCaffrey racked up a school-record 243 rushing yards and four touchdowns against the Bruins, and added 122 yards on just two kick returns, including a 96-yarder that set up the Cardinal for one of three Kevin Hogan touchdown passes. And McCaffrey didn't even play in the fourth quarter!
The running back has improved his numbers significantly since that dismal day against Northwestern, and his double duty as runner and returner has him on pace to break one of the greater college football records in the books.
Assuming McCaffrey's night is done: At his current pace (253 yds/game) McCaffrey will break Barry Sanders' FBS record for all-purpose yards.— Matt Hinton (@MattRHinton) October 16, 2015
So, yeah, he's not bad. And Stanford arguably has an easier backstretch than the six-game slate it's already played to come. Cal and Notre Dame are the only ranked teams left, and both have to visit The Farm late in the year. Just one of the Cardinal's final six regular season foes is in the top 50 in total defense at the moment -- and that's Washington, which just got run over by Royce Freeman and an undersized Oregon offensive line.
McCaffrey should do more damage running behind Stanford's maulers against the Huskies, and if he can click off more 200-yard games as Stanford piles up wins, he'll be in the mix with Fournette and Cook come December.
Heisman Hopefuls of the Week: Trevone Boykin, TCU; Seth Russell, Baylor
A friend asked me Saturday, "Who is the No. 1 quarterback in the Heisman race?" I had to think about it for a minute, which is odd. There's almost always a quarterback who has emerged by this point in the season. But the answer is simple: whichever of the Big 12's two best passers you prefer.
Boykin is probably slightly more impressive on his own, and on video. He's also throwing for nearly 50 more yards per game than Russell, and has 102 more yards on the ground.
But Russell has thrown for 27 touchdowns through six games, and it's possible that only the Big 12 not having a championship game is going prevent him from breaking the FBS record for TD passes in a year (58, held by Colt Brennan). Russell would be on pace for 63 scoring throws over 14 games, but Baylor would need to play for the national title to get there, and he's "only" on pace for 58.5 over 13 games.
Oh, and Russell just ran for 160 yards against West Virginia. Combined with his 380 passing yards, that gave him ... just 30 more yards of total offense than Boykin had against Kansas State. You see why differentiating these two is hard? I personally lean toward Russell because of his unbelievable efficiency (he has a 209.99 passer rating right now; the FBS record for a season is 191.78), but that's partly explained by Baylor's offense.
Regardless, there's no good reason to think that Baylor-TCU, which takes place in prime time on Black Friday, won't feature these two passers in a de facto Heisman elimination game.
Ha-Hasman of the Week: Akrum Wadley, Iowa
Last week, I wrote this:
I would have bet anything that I was not going to write about an Iowa player in this space this year.
That was my preface for writing about Jordan Canzeri's 256 yards. This week, after a Canzeri injury, Wadley stepped up and ran for 204 yards and four touchdowns, behind a patchwork line and against Northwestern, which supposedly had one of the nation's best defense.
Either the powers of Angry Iowa Running Back-Hating God are on the wane, or it's just waiting to see if Kirk Ferentz can get to 10-0 while using a defensive tackle at running back.
They Can't Win The Heismen of the Week: Corey Coleman, Baylor; Josh Doctson, TCU
You know how the top Heisman-contending QB is either Boykin or Russell? The top wide receiver is either Boykin's favorite target, or Russell's.
Coleman, like Russell, is the one on a record pace: He's caught 16 TD passes in six games, which matches Amari Cooper's total for 2014, and his projected 34 TDs on the year in a 13-game season would obliterate the FBS record of 27 that has been held by Troy Edwards since 1998. He's yet to have a game with fewer than five catches or 100 receiving yards, and his one TD against SMU in Baylor's season opener was his lone single-score performance on the season.
But Doctson's not that far behind Coleman's TD pace, with 12 in seven games, and he's averaging 9.6 catches, 182.4 yards and 2.2 touchdowns per game over his last five outings.
The nation's two best receivers are in this category, and not the Heisman Hopeful one, because of a sad, true fact. If you're a wide receiver, you're just not going to win the Heisman without being incredible as a returner, as well. Tim Brown, cited as the only "true" wide receiver to win in the modern era, returned as many punts as he had catches in 1987.
Oh, and virtually every stat both Coleman and Doctson will record also feeds their QBs, so their awesomeness actually works against them, too. We can root for and appreciate both players, but we're lying to ourselves if we think they're likely Heisman winners.