The HP Heisman Watch: Week One

It’s time for the HP Heisman Watch.  This is my ranking of the players who have the best chance at actually winning the Heisman.  It is not a predicted order of the voting, so some players who are not on this list will still get Heisman votes in the end.

1.  Chris Wells, Ohio State–Wells holds on to the top spot this week, as we’re taking his word that his foot is going to be okay.  He most likely will miss the Ohio game this weekend, but that shouldn’t affect his Heisman chances too much, as there is a precedent for Heisman winners missing early-season games (namely Charles White and Bo Jackson).  It will, however, increase the stakes for the huge matchup the following Saturday at No. 1 USC.  He must do well (100+ yards) in a Buckeye win, or go crazy (180+ yards) in a close Buckeye loss, to solidify his status as the Heisman frontrunner.

Last week:    13 carries, 111 yards, 8.5 ypc, 1 TD against Youngstown State

2. Chase Daniel, Missouri–Daniel got off to a great start to his season with a nice performance in an exciting win over a ranked Illinois squad.   It’s pretty clear that Daniel is going to have the numbers needed to win the Heisman, barring injury.  If he can lead his team to the Big 12 title, then he should finish no worse than second and could even win the trophy.  The next three weeks Mizzou plays three cupcakes, so Daniel can pad his stats before a potentially high-profile game against Nebraska on Oct 4.

Last week:  26 of 45 for 323 yards, 3 TDs, 1 int against No. 20 Illinois

3. Pat White, West Virginia–I wrote in my Heisman Preview that White would need to step it up in the passing game to make a serious Heisman run and he did just that in week one.  By season’s end, no one will remember that his 5 TD passes came against lowly Villanova–they will just be part of his statistical total.   He is already 1/4 of the way to having 20 TD passes on the season, which should impress voters who think he is just a glorified running back.  White got a bit of a gift this weekend when WVU’s next opponent, East Carolina, beat Virginia Tech.  He can now showcase his abilities in a game that some people might actually care about, before getting a chance to hog the spotlight on Sept. 18 (Thursday night) at Colorado.

Last week: 25 of 33 for 208 yards, 5 TDs, 0 ints against Villanova

4.  Mark Sanchez, USC–It seems exruciatingly early to already be touting a USC quarterback for the Heisman, but there it is.  Sanchez benefitted, believe it or not, from the attention created by his dislocated knee cap in the weeks prior to USC’s game against Virginia.  Suddenly, he became the subject of increased speculation, which made him more of a known quantity.  He was able to reward that speculation and attention with an outstanding game against the Cavaliers.  He is a potential boom-bust candidate.  As long as USC is doing well and he is doing well, he’s going to hover near the top of this list.  But, should his team falter, he will bear the brunt of the blame.  The Ohio State game will determine his Heisman future.  Should he do well in a USC win, then he will zoom into the top two or three and become one of the main contenders.  If the Trojans lose, then he can start working on his resume for a run at the Heisman in 2009.

Last week: 26 of 35, 338 yards, 3 TDs, 1 int against Virginia

5. Colt McCoy, Texas–Don’t look now, but McCoy looks to be back and better than ever.  What has largely gone unnoticed over the past year is how effective a runner the Texas QB has become.  For now, he will be helped by the fact that Texas is below the radar, as he can perform without too much pressure until the matchup with Oklahoma on Oct. 11.  By then, McCoy could be on his way to a remarkable season and people will just be starting to realize it.  If McCoy can help slay OU and Mizzou in back-to-back weeks, he’ll have as good a case for the Heisman as anyone in this race.

Last week:  24 of 29, 222 yards, 3 TDs, 0 Ints, 12 carries, 103 yards, 1 TD against FAU.

6. Matt Stafford, Georgia–Is Stafford finally ready to break out as a passer?  Will Mark Richt let him put up the numbers he needs to compete for the Heisman?  Looks like it so far.  But Stafford won’t have a chance to break into the top five of this list until he survives the gauntlet of South Carolina, Arizona State and Alabama that begins in a couple weeks.

Last week: 13 of 21, 275 yards, 2 TDs, 0 Ints against Georgia Southern.

7.  Percy Harvin, Florida–Harvin is hanging on a bit in this race.  He missed the Gators’ first game against Hawaii and is slated to play against Miami this Saturday.  But how healthy is he, really?  We won’t know until we see him play.  One thing is for sure:  He probably needs to explode against Miami to get back in the thick of the Heisman hunt.  A lackluster game, or another DNP could mean his chances for the Heisman have gone bye bye.

Last Week:  DNP

8. Stafon Johnson, USC–Johnson is the most likely USC back to gain the yards needed to challenge for the Heisman.  However, it seems apparent that USC is sticking with its tailback by committee approach.  Unless Johnson can get untracked in a big way against Ohio State, he’ll drop from this list.

Last week:  9 carries, 28 yards, 1 TD against Virginia

9. Graham Harrell, Texas Tech–Harrell had his typical day against Eastern Washington.  But until people stop yawning at his 500-yard passing games, he’s just a fringe candidate waiting for an opportunity.

Last week:  43 of 58, 536 yards, 2 TDs, 1 int

* * *

If the vote were held today

1. Tim Tebow

2. Chase Daniel

3. Pat White

4. Chris Wells

5. Mark Sanchez

6. Knowshon Moreno

7. Graham Harrell

8. James Laurinaitis

9. Colt McCoy

10. Sam Bradford

Kyle Bunch

Partnerships for R/GA Ventures. Raised in California, adopted by Texas. Opinions expressed here are mine and they are fantastic.

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