By the Numbers
Geno Smith is the early frontrunner no matter which way you look at the Heisman race.
With most teams playing a few cupcakes and then staying within their own conferences it's gotten harder and harder to compare stats across conferences. But, alas, stats are the one thing we have to go on that can't be influences by the hype machine. So, here are the early season's top five most impressive stat lines. (Note: I did omit any players on teams with losing records.)
#1 - Stepfon Jefferson - Nevada - 162 att, 877 yards, 11 TDs, 175 yards per game
#2 - Beau Blankenship - Ohio - 156 att, 757 yards, 5 TDs, 151 yards per game
#3 - Jonathan Franklin - UCLA - 93 att, 697 yards, (7.5 yd/att), 139 yards per game
#1 - Terrance Williams - Baylor - 34 receptions, 667 yards, 19.62 yard/rec, 6 TD, 167 yd/gm
#2 - Stedman Bailey - West Virginia - 41 receptions, 635 yards, 15.49 yard/rec, 10 TD, 159 yd/gm
#3 - Tavon Austin - West Virginia - 48 receptions, 560 yards, 11.65 yard/rec, 12 rec/gm, 7 TD, 140 yd/gm
#1 - Geno Smith - West Virginia - Rushing: 20/99, Passing: 169/1,728/83%: 20TD, 0 INT
#2 - Nick Florence - Baylor - Rushing: 28/153, Passing: 157/1,585/64%: 15 TD, 5 INT
#3 - Matt Scott - Arizona - Rushing: 52/228 2TD, Passing: 220/1,608/64%: 10 TD, 6 INT
B(u)y the Hype
David Ash has vastly improved from 2011, but he still has a long way to go to really be in the Heisman mix.
We all know that the Heisman Trophy is more than just a numbers race though. It's as much about your hype off of the field as it is your production on it. So, with that in mind, here are the names of three players who are currently in the Heisman talk, and why they don't really deserve to be.
#3 - David Ash - Texas
This is a mindblowing inclusion by some people in the media. In fact, CBS Chris Huston went far enough to say "If the Longhorns come out on top against the Mountaineers next Saturday and Ash has a big game, he might emerge as Smith's prime challenger." What? Ash currently ranks 34th in the nation in passing. (He's tied for that position with Iowa State's Steele Jantz.) His proponents will point to his passing efficiency, which ranks second nationally, but they won't point out that Ash has that percentage because Texas has a top 20 rushing attack. The truth here is that with Texas splitting carries among several backs, Ash is the biggest name on one of the nation's biggest teams. Now, that's not to say that Ash can't get into the conversation down the road, but he's going to have to do a lot more than light up West Virginia.
#2 - Monti Te'o - Notre Dame
We all love a good story, and the quality play of Te'o this season in the face of extreme adversity is a great one. But these days it would take an almost miraculous season for a defensive player to win the Heisman. If ball hawk Tyrann Mathieu couldn't do it last year and one man wrecking crew Ndamukong Suh couldn't do it a few years ago, a linebacker almost certainly isn't going to do it. Notre Dame would have to go undefeated and he'd need to force about 15,000 fumbles to pull it off.
#1 - Taylor Martinez - Nebraska
First off, "T-Magic" is one of my favorite players in college football, but he just doesn't have the numbers to really be in the conversation. Martinez ranks 40th in the nation in total offense. If he's going to be included on a Heisman watch, then you'd have to also include Louisiana Monroe's Kolton Browning and Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel. Both of which have better numbers than Martinez. Martinez's only chance is for Nebraska to win out and have monumental collapses from a fleet of other quarterbacks.
Best Player on the Best Team
So, let's face it. The Heisman trophy the last few seasons has rarely been the nation's best player. It's basically become the best player on the best team. That's a testament to how amazing Robert Griffin III's season was in 2011. He won it despite Baylor not being a BCS caliber team. (The first since Tim Tebow in 2007 and just the second since Ricky Williams in 1998.)
So, here are five players who probably aren't the best in the nation at their position, but are in the mix because of the "best player on the best team" factor. That's not to say these players aren't talented or deserving if they win, but their Heisman hopes are directly tied in to their team playing at least in the BCS if not for the national title.
#5 - Braxton Miller - QB - Ohio State (Miller is an exception since Ohio State can't play in the postseason)
#4 - EJ Manuel - QB - Florida State
#3 - De'Anthony Thomas - RB - Oregon
#2 - Aaron Murray - QB - Georgia
#1 - Collin Klein - QB - Kansas State
Not Just a Hater
Now that we've gotten some of those things out of the way, let's end on a positive note. Here are three players who aren't being talked about for the Heisman but could be by season's end.
AJ McCarron - Alabama Alabama's pro style offense and their dedication to the run game isn't going to get McCarron much early season hype like some other players, but look for McCarron to put his name into the mix when the Crimson Tide schedule toughens up. He also has the background to win a Heisman. He's a quarterback, he's on the nation's best team, and he has several marquee games late in the season.
Jeff Driskel - Florida Driskel has the chance to be the ultimate "best player on the best team," if Florida can continue their run. He had several huge throws against Texas A&M, and he looked even better against Tennessee. If he can make some big throws and the Gators take down LSU, the Florida quarterback could become a darkhorse name. Like McCarron, he has the magic recipe for a Heisman run of being the quarterback for a marquee team with big late season games.
Todd Gurley - Georgia Quite a few things would have to happen for Gurley to really get into the mix. For one, Georgia would have to be good, but probably not undefeated. If they win the SEC, then Aaron Murray will almost certainly be the face of the Bulldogs. Second, they're going to have to give him the ball in big situations. Nothing gets the Heisman hype train rolling like a highlight play that brands itself on every college football fan in America.