Cavalcade Of Whimsy - Real Heisman Race
West Virginia QB Geno Smith
West Virginia QB Geno Smith
Posted Sep 18, 2012

Sept. 18 Cavalcade of Whimsy - With many of the main stars out, who's now in the Heisman chase?

Cavalcade of Whimsy

Sept. 18, 2012 - 10 Things

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- Week 3, Part 1 - Did Arkansas Quit? 
The C.O.W. airing of the grievances followed by the feats of strength
Remember, Robert Griffin III wasn't really on the Heisman radar last year at this time, even with his fantastic performance against TCU to start the season. Cam Newton wasn't in the Heisman mix until midseason of 2010, and Mark Ingram didn't grab the spotlight until he rumbled for 246 yards in the win over South Carolina on October 17th, 2009. So who's the Heisman front-runner at the moment now that Matt Barkley, Montee Ball, Knile Davis, Tyler Wilson and Marcus Lattimore are all but out and Collin Klein, Aaron Murray and Taylor Martinez not realistic contenders? Wait a few more weeks, and if you're a betting man, take the field over anyone on the sheet. But with that in mind, here are the ten players actually in the 2012 Heisman chase …

10. QB Braxton Miller, Ohio State
Take Miller off of Ohio State and the team is a quivering bowl of mush. The defense took a siesta against Cal, and while beating Miami University and UCF wasn't a problem, Miller was the offense. He leads the team with 377 rushing yards and five scores – only Carlos Hyde with 109 yards has passed the century mark on the season – and his passing has been solid, but not elite, completing 62% of his throws for 611 yards and seven touchdowns with two picks. While his receivers have helped the cause, it has been his legs and his vision that have made him a baller able to carry Urban's attack. But can he hold up? He took a beating against Cal and can't last a whole season if he keeps taking big shots. In the Heisman race have his spotlight chances with games against Michigan State, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Michigan ahead. An argument can and will be made that no player other than Kansas State's Collin Klein is worth more to his team.

9. QB David Ash, Texas
Shhhhh. Very, very quietly, Ash and Texas are starting to hum. The running game is terrific and the defense is as talented as any outside of the SEC, but so far it's been the under-the-radar emergence of Ash that has been the key to the success over the first three games. Remember, it has been a few years since the Longhorn offense started out the season hot, but Ash has been the key ranking fourth in the nation in passing efficiency completing 55-of-72 passes so far for 703 yards and seven touchdowns with no picks, and he has rushed for 58 yards and a score. If he can outduel Landry Jones into a win over Oklahoma, and if he and Texas can get by Geno Smith and West Virginia, the back half of the slate opens up wide for a possible run for the Heisman as the signature player on a strong team.

8. QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
Louisville is going to finish the season unbeaten, or at the very least 11-1 on the way to the Big East title and, most likely, the Orange Bowl. The near-collapse against North Carolina last week was a plus – now the team should have foot-on-the-gas focus the rest of the way knowing it can't let up. Meanwhile, Bridgewater is going to grow more and more into the team's must-see star on a weekly basis after starting the season blazing hot completing 82% of his throws so far for 855 yards and five scores with no picks. There aren't a slew of big games ahead – the Big East just isn't sexy – but as long as Louisville keeps winning, he'll be in the spotlight.

7. Pick Whatever Oregon Star You Want Here
Is it Kenjon Barner? With 324 yards and six scores in three games, including 201 yards and three touchdowns against Fresno State, the senior has stepped up in place of LaMichael James to be the main man for the devastating ground game. Is it sophomore De'Anthony Thomas? He's the nation's most exciting player averaging 17.5 yards per carry with five scores, while catching 11 passes for 154 yards and three touchdowns and averaging 13.2 yards per punt return. Is it freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota? He has stepped into the role left open by the loss of Darron Thomas and has been nearly perfect completing 75% of his passes for 678 yards and eight touchdowns with just one pick, while running for 108 yards. The three stars will likely cancel each other out in the Heisman race, but if one blows up in a win over USC, and if the Ducks then go on to win the Pac-12 title, he'll step to the forefront to at least get to New York.

6. QB Denard Robinson, Michigan
Any and all thoughts that Robinson can get back into the Heisman chase obviously go bye-bye if the Wolverines lose to Notre Dame this weekend, but if he manages to come up with an electric performance in a win, the candidacy will be back on. No one needs him to be an elite passer, but he has thrown for 200 yards or more in each of the first three games with six touchdowns. The 218 rushing yards against Air Force were incredible, and the 351 yards and four touchdowns are a nice start, but again, it all comes down to the game with the Irish. If he comes through, with Michigan State, Nebraska and Ohio State still on the radar, he'll have a shot at winning the Heisman if he can lead the Wolverines to the Big Ten title.

5. QB E.J. Manuel, Florida State or QB Tajh Boyd, Clemson
Call this weekend's showdown a Heisman elimination game. Manuel hasn't been pressed in any way over the first three games, and the stats aren't there only needing to throw for 525 yards and six touchdowns and a pick in the layups, but he has the size, the arm and the talent around him to rise up as a top pro prospect and the main man for a national title contender. However, if Clemson wins in Tallahassee, Boyd will get plenty of respect for pulling off the victory on the road against a phenomenal defense. Now that he has Sammy Watkins back to throw to, along with DeAndre Hopkins, the passing numbers should go through the roof after starting out the year completing 73% of his passes so far for 747 yards and six touchdowns with a pick.

4. QB Landry Jones, Oklahoma
It's going to be an uphill battle working behind a line that allowed six sacks in the first two games against two bad defenses – UTEP and Florida A&M – and eventually Blake Bell is going to be a bulldozer for short-range touchdowns to take the stats away, but he's still a talented passer with a whale of a receiving corps to throw to. With Kansas State, Texas, Notre Dame, West Virginia, Oklahoma State and TCU still to play, Jones will be under the microscope every week. He'll have every chance to take the Heisman by the horns.

3. QB Geno Smith, West Virginia
He's the one guy out there left that people can name off the preseason lists. The right guy at the right time in the right offense, Smith has started out the season with an explosion ranking second in the nation in total offense and efficiency completing 88% of his passes for 734 yards and nine touchdowns with no picks, and he ran for a score against Marshall. Going back to last season, he has thrown 31 touchdown passes and four picks with no interceptions in ten of his last 12 games. Over his last three games – the two from this year and the Orange Bowl – he has completed 83% of his throws for 1,141 yards and 15 touchdowns with no interceptions. However, there's going to be a clunker in a key moment when he and the offense doesn't work, and that will end up killing the run. Texas, Kansas State, TCU, Oklahoma and even Iowa State have the defense that could be the end.

2. RB Jonathan Franklin, UCLA
Is a UCLA back really the nation's leading rusher? The emergence of Bruin quarterback Brett Hundley might be one of the biggest keys to the hot start, but Franklin has been the rock with 541 yards and eight touchdowns averaging 8.4 yards per carry after running for just 976 yards and five touchdowns all of last season. There isn't another running back on the Heisman radar at the moment, and with the Los Angeles media and a not-that-bad schedule up until mid-November's date with USC, Franklin's candidacy could build bigger and bigger over the coming weeks.

1. QB AJ McCarron, Alabama
The world is going to want one Alabama player to glom on to. Since defensive tackle Jesse Williams isn't Heisman-worthy – he'll have to settle for being a top draft pick – McCarron could start to become the guy who fits the role of the top player on the top team. Third in the country in passing efficiency, everything is clicking throwing for 607 yards and seven touchdowns with no picks averaging a whopping 10.84 yards per attempt. More than the stats, he'll be seen as the leader and the glue for the great team with a phenomenal defense.

Random Acts of Nutty … Provocative musings and tidbits to make every woman want you and every man want to be you (or vice versa) a.k.a. things I didn't feel like writing bigger blurbs for.

- Tone deaf promotion of the week. Moments after Wisconsin survived an awful performance against Utah State on a missed kick, something called Bucky's Locker Room sent out an e-mail blast saying Wisconsin Wins At Home! in an attempt to get fans to buy t-shirts and other paraphernalia.

- All of a sudden, the Florida at Florida State game on November 24th is looking more and more interesting. That has the potential to be epic if the Noles get by Clemson this weekend.

- Considering his success and considering what he meant for so long, how amazing is it that Jim Tressel has completely fallen off the grid? It's not like he was totally disgraced in anything truly sordid.

C.O.W. shameless gimmick item … The weekly five Overrated/Underrated aspects of the world
1) Overrated: The Big East beating the ACC … Underrated: Georgia Tech
2) Overrated: Boston College's passing offense … Underrated: Nick Clancy's 24 tackles against Northwestern
3) Overrated: Ohio as a BCS buster ... Underrated: Louisiana Tech
4) Overrated: ULM beating Arkansas to overtime ... Underrated: ULM pushing Auburn to overtime
5) Overrated: Sammy Watkins ... Underrated: DeAndre Hopkins

"Oh, see, I made Louis a bet here. See, Louis bet me that we couldn't both get rich and put y'all in the poor house at the same time. He didn't think we could do it. I won." … ATS: 4-4

- Virginia Tech -19 over Bowling Green
- Fresno State +6.5 over Tulsa
- Florida -24 over Kentucky
- Arizona State -7 over Utah

Sorry this column sucked, it wasn't my fault … I wanted to get out earlier, but I don't have a big TV contract coming up and I couldn't afford the $50 million exit fee.

- Week 3, Part 1 - Did Arkansas Quit?