I gave the college football players 5 weeks to make their impressions on me, and make their case for winning the Heisman Trophy. Five weeks may have been too long, sure, but now I’m ready to launch my weekly installment, the “Heisman Heat Index.” This feature will gauge the “hotness” or “coldness,” of a player on my radar, in order from first to last.
I will be judging each player, and ranking them accordingly, based on the things that really should, or do, matter when choosing a Heisman Trophy winner. These include, but are not limited to: winning, highlight reel plays, statistics, opponent prestige, drama, prime time performances.
If you see an ice cube on a picture, that means the player’s “Heat Index” in his race for Heisman is cooling off. If the player has a chili pepper on his picture, that means he’s heating up. There’s no in between — no “steady,” as ESPN does.
Tajh Boyd, Clemson
Tajh Boyd is the quarterback of the hottest team in America, and when you’re the focal point of a team like that there is no arguing against your Heisman potential.
The media and Clemson are the main characters of a love story right now. Nobody saw this young Clemson team coming and nobody saw Boyd being as good as he has been. In the biggest games, Boyd has been a vital part of the team’s win. Against Auburn, Boyd has four touchdowns. Against Florida State, he had about 350 yards and 3 more touchdowns.
It also helps that he is a running and throwing quarterback. Not Michael Vick, but similar to another Virginia Tech quarterback — Tyrod Taylor. While he may not be the most important player on the team, certainly arguable, he benefits from having a team of highlight reel players, like Sammy Watkins, Andre Ellington, and Mike Bellamy.
Russell Wilson, Wisconsin
Why isn’t Wilson getting any of the attention that Andrew Luck, Landry Jones, or Kellen Moore is? Wilson is having a better season than all of them, his team in undefeated, and he is a major part of that.
This week, he definitely needs that attention. He and the Badgers dismantled the Nebraska Cornhuskers, in the Huskers first Big Ten game in program history. “Welcome to the Big Ten… it’s not as easy as you thought it would be.” Wilson tore down Nebraska with two passing touchdowns, and a rushing touchdown. He also averaged a ridiculous 12.8 yards per pass.
He is also a major reason why the Badgers average 48.4 points per game. That’s not only the 3rd best in the nation, it’s 17 points more than they averaged per game last season (without Wilson) and it’s the 3rd best, only to offenses well-known for being fast-paced, high-scoring teams — Oregon and Georgia Tech. Usually, Wisconsin is never near what those two teams score per game.
Robert Griffin, Baylor
He would have been rightfully on top of this list if I’d done it last week, but now all hell is breaking loose for RG3 and the Baylor Bears. They lost and Griffin has thrown his first interception of the season. He’s human.
Now that Baylor has lost (wow, to KANSAS STATE! Are you kidding?) the flaws of RG3′s stats are starting to show. Yes, he lit up TCU for like a billion yards and a billion touchdowns. But TCU isn’t what they were last year. RG3 also raked in big stats against two cupcakes, and actually lost to Kansas State — a bottom of the barrel team.
Worse off, Griffin had a chance to win the game in the fourth quarter, but didn’t make the big play that Heisman winners usually make. You can have the greatest stats in the world, but if you’re not making game-winning plays when your team needs it, then forget it.
Trent Richardson, Alabama
Richardson is The Man on one of the best teams in the nation, and when considering who should win the Heisman Trophy it’s always important to consider who The Man is.
Alabama is a team without a great quarterback this year (as it seems they have been every season for a while now). AJ McCarron is the starting quarterback, and sure he hasn’t made any big mistakes yet, but he is not The Man. That’s reserved for Richardson.
At a fancy restaurant in New York City, Richardson can walk in and get a table before all of the people with reservations. After all, he showed up to play against Florida Saturday, running for 181 yards and two touchdowns, in what was hyped as one of Alabama’s biggest games so far this season. In the biggest games, against ranked opponents, Richardson has stepped up. Against Penn State: 111 yards. Against Arkansas: 126 yards.
Denard Robinson, Michigan
As much as I hate Robinson, I can’t throw him off of this list just for my personal biases. He’s a playmaker, and he’s one of the best playmakers in the nation. Unfortunately for him this year, he has a successful foe to go up against in the Heisman race — Robert Griffin III.
The reason Robinson is this high on the list is because he’s a great runner. Nobody, so far, can stop anything he does on the ground. He has his way with defenders because he’s so shifty. He has totaled 603 rushing yards this season, and is one of the best running backs in the nation in the category. Uniquely, he’s not a running back at all.
The reason Robinson isn’t any higher on this list, is because he’s a terrible passer. He makes poor “life” decisions (passing ones), and those are going to catch up to him just like they did last season. Nevertheless, he’s hot right now because the Wolverines are 5-0, and he’s a big part of it.
Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina
Lattimore is a great running back, uniquely one-of-a-kind in his breed of running backs; however, when South Carolina lost this weekend to Auburn, Lattimore looked really bad. He only carried for 66 yards and one touchdown Saturday.
He couldn’t buy yards against Auburn’s stout defense. His biggest highlight was a 15-yard touchdown run, his only of the day, which put South Carolina ahead in the game and looking like they were about to roll over the Tigers in the second half. That didn’t happen.
In order to be a Heisman-winning running back, like Reggie Bush or Mark Ingram, you have to be able to force your way into good field position. The Gamecocks played with poor field position the whole game, and especially when they were backed up to their endzone, Lattimore wasn’t good enough to get them out of it.
Kellen Moore, Boise State
Moore is having a good season, especially completing 73 percent of his passes and actually finding receivers to pass the ball to after losing so many great receivers last season. But I will always be convinced that a player like him, against the team’s he is playing, will never win a Heisman Trophy.
Moore needed to have a monster of a game against Georgia to open the season, but he didn’t. Three touchdowns and one interception is only average, it’s not Heisman worthy. Last season when Moore played Virginia Tech, he had some big-time highlights. He lacked those against Georgia this season.
However, for as long as Boise State is undefeated and potentially headed to a big game, if not the biggest game of all, his stock will rise.
Tyrann Mathieu, LSU
It only makes sense to include the Ed Reed of college football. Mathieu is one of two defensive players getting a lot of hype as Heisman contenders this season. And his name is definitely one worth mentioning.
He’s done everything that Reed ever did at Miami. He’s the most outstanding player on the great LSU defense so far, with team-highs in tackles (35), forced fumbles (4), fumbles recovered (3), and defensive touchdowns (2).
Mathieu is also the anchor of a great LSU defense, which is par for the course. LSU is giving up on average about one of the fewest total passing yard numbers in the nation — 201 yards per game. They’ve also only surrendered 4 passing touchdowns all season.
Andrew Luck, Stanford
I don’t care if you’re the most guaranteed draft pick since John Elway. As we’ve seen tons and tons of times, greatness in the NFL is not always because you’re a Heisman winner. It actually works even worse the other way. If you’re a Heisman winner, you’re not guaranteed to be great at the next level.
Nevertheless, Luck is having a good season with the undefeated Cardinal team, so he belongs somewhere on this list. But not that high. He’s having a good season, but it’s not unlike any season that any other quarterback on the list is having.
Actually, Luck could have been lower on this list if not for that amazing catch he made this weekend against UCLA. It reminded me a lot of the play Heisman winner Eric Crouch made for Nebraska years ago, except it wasn’t a touchdown, or important.
LaMichael James, Oregon
He is a highlight reel filled with long, shifty runs, but when he struggled against LSU the first game of the season, his Heisman stock fell by a lot.
Still, he has gained over 600 yards this season and 7 touchdowns. James benefits from being on the highest-scoring team in the nation and being a major part of that offense. James is the guy that defenses worry about when they’re about to play him. James is a focal point of the opposing team’s practices, and while that’s a great thing to have on a team, it doesn’t turn out stats to win a Heisman Trophy.
And when you only gain 54 yards against LSU and 67 against Nevada, you really are going to struggle to make a strong case for yourself to win the Heisman. Granted, he’s exploded these last two games, but those teams were bottom-feeders. Arizona is a conference opponent, and to gain 288 yards on the ground against them puts him in a little better standing than he would be otherwise without that performance.