Going into the weekend, Wisconsin's showdown with Nebraska was a pretty big deal for the Heisman Trophy. It was going to be the return of Ameer Abdullah, facing Melvin Gordon in a showdown for the best running back in the Big Ten. It might determine which back gets an invitation to the New York ceremony, it was thought.
Gordon was #3 in our rankings and there were a number of possibilities concerning his performance. Realistically, he might:
- Rush for fewer than 50 yards in a loss to Nebraska; that might drop him out of the top five.
- Rush for fewer than 100 yards; that would hurt him but wouldn't be a knockout blow.
- Rush for over 100 yards; that might hold him at #3
- Rush for over 200 yards. A performance like that could elevate him to #2, depending on what happened with Mississippi State's Dak Prescott
With Oregon's Marcus Mariota a very solid #1 and idle this week, the top spot wasn't in contention under ordinary circumstances. But there were two possibilities we didn't really consider:
- That Gordon might top 300 yards. Something like that? Might put him in a virtual tie with Mariota.
- That Gordon might top 400 yards and break the all-time NCAA Division I-A rushing record with 408 yards.
The last option is, indeed, what happened. And because of it, we have no choice but to make Melvin Gordon our new leader in the Heisman race. Marcus Mariota is a very solid #2, and he'll still have ample opportunity to convince us he should be #1. In fact, Oregon didn't have a loss, maybe he'd still be #1. Previous #2 Dak Prescott, of course, lost to Alabama while throwing three interceptions, and he falls to #5.
Week 12: Melvin Gordon rushes to the front of the list
- [up 2] Melvin Gordon, RB Wisconsin (8-2) beat Nebraska 59-24; 408 yards, new NCAA record
- [dn 1] Marcus Mariota, QB Oregon (9-1) idle
- [up 2] Amari Cooper, WR Alabama (9-1) beat Miss. St 25-20; 88 rec yards
- Jameis Winston, QB FSU (10-0)
- [dn 3] Dak Prescott, QB Miss. State (9-1) LOST to Alabama 25-20; 3 INT
- [up 4] JT Barrett, QB Ohio State (9-1) beat Minnesota 31-24; 3 TDs pass, 189 yds rush
- Trevone Boykin, QB TCU (9-1) beat Kansas 34-30; 1 TD, 1 int
- Bryce Petty, QB Baylor (8-1) idle
- [dn 3] Ameer Abdullah, RB Nebraska (8-2) LOST to Wisconsin 59-24; 69 yards
- [dn 1] Kevin White, WR West Virginia (6-4) idle
- Todd Gurley, RB Georgia (8-2) beat Auburn 34-7; 138 yds (2nd on team)
- Everett Golson, QB Notre Dame (7-3) lost to Northwestern 43-40ot; 4 total TDs
- Kenny Hill, QB Texas A&M (7-4) LOST to Missouri 34-27; did not play
Amari Cooper moves up to #3 for another solid performance against Mississippi State. He had 88 receiving yards, and while he's not regularly going over 100 he's coming close, and making a difference in Alabama's close games. Bama QB Blake Sims is #2 in QBR, and Cooper has been a big cause of Sims' success.
Cooper jumps #4 Jameis Winston, who did his usual "throw picks in the first half, save the game in the 2nd" against Miami. Winston's TD:int ratio is now a lowly 18:12, but his team is still undefeated. 1st-half Winston wouldn't be on this list; 2nd-half Winston might be the leader—if not for his off-field baggage, another reason his upside is limited.
Dak Prescott's TD:int ratio isn't that great anymore after throwing 3 picks vs. Alabama. His Mississippi State team now has one loss, just like the trio of quarterbacks that follow him: JT Barrett of Ohio State, Trevone Boykin of TCU, and Bryce Petty of Baylor.
Barrett is coming on strong late, and his 3 pass TD, 189 yard rushing performance against Minnesota is why he leaps from #10 to #6. Boykin wasn't up to Heisman par against Kansas but he holds at #7; and Petty was idle. Each of the three had a terrible game in their sole loss. How many games their team wins from here on will be a main determinant in which of the five (including Prescott and Winston) gets to New York. Winning is still a possibility for some, but a top-three finish is probably the most realistic goal. Note that TCU and Baylor won't play in a conference championship game, and the Bulldogs probably won't, while the Seminoles and Buckeyes (probably) will. TCU and Baylor both play games on the final week of consideration, however, which helps.
The line of no hope is crossed right here...
Ameer Abdullah had yet another sub-100 yard game, and the comparison between he and Gordon was just too stark. He falls to #9 and looks out of it. Kevin White of West Virginia didn't have a game this weekend, but Amari Cooper has taken over the leading wide receiver slot and that classification doesn't have room for two.
But those two are still better off than Todd Gurley and Everett Golson. Gurley came back and had over 100 yards, but was only the 2nd best back on his team as sub Nick Chubb continued to excel. Golson had a good game against Northwestern but the Irish suffered their 3rd loss, in overtime. Both will be gone next week when major culls start. For now we leave Golson steady at #12 and Gurley, who tore his ACL and won't be back this season, at #11.
This week we only remove one candidate, and it's long overdue: Kenny Hill, who missed two games due to suspension, and didn't play when eligible to return, is the first dismissal.