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Who'll join this list of September Heisman Trophy legends next?

Let's remember those players who jumped out to resounding early Heisman Trophy leads, whether they won it or not. Fun while it lasted!

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The Heisman remains one of the most prestigious awards in sports, but it's also prone to the whims of a season that is played out over three months. The preseason favorite can become the also-ran, and the player who gallops to an early lead can be caught by a stalking horse.

We saw the latter happen last year, as LSU wrecking ball Leonard Fournette put together one of the great Septembers ever, only to fade as Alabama's Derrick Henry and Stanford's Christian McCaffrey made the Heisman race a two-man affair by the ceremony. Henry didn't even have a great September; he was 30th in rushing yards per game by the end of the month.

Early leads are fun, though. Because most candidates play in September against overmatched mid-majors, the stats can get absurd quickly.

The last eight September Heisman winners were mostly comets that burned out before Halloween. Mostly. The first guy wasn't!

2008: Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma

"September" stats: 83-for-115, 1,293 yards, 16 TDs, 2 INTs, 209.04 passer rating
Best game: 411 yards and four scores against No. 7 TCU in a 35-10 win
Final Heisman fate: Bradford spoiled Tim Tebow's repeat bid, though Tebow got revenge in the 2008 BCS Championship.

Bradford was brilliant in his first action as a starter with a full offseason to prepare. He threw for 300 yards, four touchdowns and massive passer ratings of better than 196 in three of his four games. His 183 yards and two touchdowns in an August snoozer against Chattanooga actually skewed his averages downward.

Honorable mention goes to Case Keenum, who entered October as the only passer over 2,000 yards by the 10th month in years, though an extra game back on Aug. 30 helped his cause.

2009: C.J. Spiller, RB, Clemson

September stats: 288 rushing yards, 150 receiving yards, 182 punt return yards, 250 kick return yards, 4 TDs
Best game: 225 all-purpose yards on 22 touches in a 25-7 rout of Boston College
Final Heisman fate: Sixth, behind Tebow and ahead of Kellen Moore.

With Tebow and Bradford and Colt McCoy around, only a transcendent start could put a fourth player in the Heisman mix. Spiller made a charge. He had at least 171 all-purpose yards in all four games, and 225 or more in three of the four games, despite two coming against top-15 teams. (Another top-10 TCU team got roasted: Spiller had 191 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown against the Horned Frogs.)

Torrey Smith gave it his all, with an incredible 21.3 yards per play on 46 touches (including returns). He never had more than 14 touches in any September game, but never finished with fewer than 229 all-purpose yards on those Saturdays.

2010: Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan

September stats: 731 passing yards, 4 TDs; 688 rushing yards, 6 TDs
Best game: In a 28-24 thriller against Notre Dame, Robinson accounted for 502 yards of total offense.
Final Heisman fate: Sixth, behind Justin Blackmon and ahead of Ryan Mallett.

Man, Denard was the shit in September 2010. He had the nickname ("Shoelace"), the game(s) and the fame, thanks mostly to that unforgettable duel with Notre Dame.

If September had begun two days later, Robinson's fifth game, a destruction of Indiana on Oct. 2, would have added another 494 yards. He couldn't keep it up, but Robinson was a man on fire.

2011: Case Keenum, QB, Houston

September stats: 2,005 passing yards, 14 TDs, 2 INTs
Best game: In a 48-23 trouncing of North Texas, Keenum threw for 458 yards and five TDs.
Final Heisman fate: Seventh, behind Matt Barkley and ahead of Kellen Moore.

In the last eight years, only three seasons saw a player post more than 2,000 yards of total offense before October. Twice, that player was Keenum, who did it on both sides of a torn ACL in 2008 and 2011.

Keenum threw for most of that yardage, and over five games. But there was no comparable Bradford figure, with 2010 Heisman winner Cam Newton off to the NFL and 2011's eventual top two, Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck, still under 1,000 passing yards. (Luck was the obvious front-runner, but his stats underwhelmed early on.)

West Virginia minted two candidates for the September Heisman, Geno Smith and Tavon Austin, but neither had his best month. One could make the argument that Keenum -- who played in 19 distinct months in college -- had his best month this September.

Then he threw for 1,214 yards, 18 touchdowns and one pick in just three games in October. So.

2012: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia

September stats: 141-for-169, 1.728 passing yards, 20 TDs, 208.37 passer rating
Best game: 656 yards and eight scores against Baylor. Only had 31 rushing yards, though!
Final Heisman fate: Outside the top 10, behind teammate Austin (eighth).

Smith's September 2012 is one of the greatest months in college football history. He completed at least 87 percent of his passes in three games. Hawai'i's Colt Brennan, the most accurate passer in FBS history, never completed 87 percent of his passes in any game. Through four weeks, Smith's only remote competition in one Heisman scoring system was teammate Stedman Bailey.

It didn't last. It was so friggin' awesome when it happened.

2013: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

"September" stats: 1,489 passing yards, 14 TDs, 4 INTs; 314 rushing yards, 3 TDs
Best game: Threw for 464 yards and ran for 98 more against Alabama.
Final Heisman fate: Fifth, behind Andre Williams and ahead of Tre Mason.

You remember Jameis Winston's great games at Pittsburgh and Boston College, and they were great, but he sandwiched them around two games in which he hardly had to do anything, as his loaded Seminoles beat Nevada and Bethune-Cookman.

Manziel picked up where he left off his 2012 Heisman campaign, after he was suspended the first half of the Aggies' opener against Rice. He threw for almost 1,500 yards and averaged at least 8 yards of offense per play in his five games before October, including a legendary afternoon in a losing effort against Alabama.

Also, Baylor had three players average more than 10 yards of total offense per play (Bryce Petty, Seth Russell and Lache Seastrunk) in September. They ranked Nos. 1-3 nationally in the category at month's end.

2014: Kenny Hill, QB, Texas A&M

"September" stats: 1,745 passing yards, 17 TDs, 2 INTs; 136 rushing yards
Best game: 322 yards of total offense on 24 plays against SMU
Final Heisman fate: Outside the top 10.

The 2014 race was odd: Marcus Mariota became the favorite about as soon as Winston won the 2013 award. It seemed equally impossible that Winston could match his redshirt freshman season on the field or keep himself from the wrong kind of headlines off the field, and Mariota was clearly college football's co-headliner.

Just after September, he remained a heavy favorite after basically having the same month that Colorado's Sefo Liufau did. Mariota would win in lopsided fashion.

But if any player's performance epitomizes the September Heisman, it's Hill's. He accounted for 516 yards of total offense in a showy thumping of South Carolina in the August opener, then was more efficient on a per-play basis in his next four games. He had legendary rappers weighing in on his nickname.

By November? Hill was benched. He'd later transfer to TCU.

Congrats on the back-to-back September Heisman wins, Aggies!

2015: Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU

September stats: 631 rushing yards, 8 TDs in three games
Best game: Trampled Auburn for 228 yards without playing a full second half.
Final Heisman fate: Sixth, behind Keenan Reynolds and ahead of Dalvin Cook.

From 2008 to 2014, no player put up more than 200 yards from scrimmage per game in September. In September 2015, Fournette averaged more than 215 yards from scrimmage per game.

Had LSU's opener against McNeese State not been canceled by a downpour, Fournette would almost certainly have run for 200 yards three times in September, with a fourth on Oct. 3. He'd have cracked 1,000 rushing yards a week earlier than he did, albeit still in his record-tying fifth game of the season.

His bid collapsed after a duel with Henry in November, when the Bama back had 210 yards rushing to Fournette's 31.

Fournette actually averaged fewer all-purpose yards in September than McCaffrey, who increased his pace as the season wore on, thanks to Stanford making sure its golden boy got a Heisman campaign featuring its best offensive option.


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We don't know who will be 2016's version, whether it means a quick fade or a lasting lead.

But we do have a loaded field. Several candidates jump out, in addition to the reigning September Heisman, Fournette.

Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State

Cook was unsung in 2015, with few outside the Seminoles fanbase touting him on par with the SEC's top two backs. But he was as explosive as any back in the country, and should have a better passing game to make him yet more efficient.

FSU opens in a sole primetime spot against Ole Miss, which gave up just nine rushing touchdowns in 2015 but has scads of talent to replace, and then sees Charleston Southern, a potentially ranked Louisville, and USF before September. Cook rang up 266 yards on the Bulls, 163 on the Cardinals and an average of better than 7 yards per carry on two FCS foes in 2015, so the numbers should be there.

Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

Were it not for an untimely injury against TCU, Mayfield might have gone to the ceremony in 2015.

In 2016, his Sooners play just three September games, but an opener against Houston should be a shootout, a game against a ULM outfit that allowed 29 passing TDs last year promises a stat bonanza, and a home showdown with Ohio State could allow Mayfield to make an early statement.

Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford

Stanford's first four games: Kansas State, USC, at UCLA, at Washington. McCaffrey lit up everybody in 2015, so there's no need for him to worry about padding stats (other than his offense rebuilding at quarterback and the line), but that is an early gauntlet. He could score a lot of Heisman points by, uh, scoring actual points.