This column was originally posted in The Inkwell and on its website.
The most accurate prediction I will make in this column is that I will most likely be wrong by the end of the year. However, the Heisman has had its fair share of front-winners take home the heralded trophy, and often times a big surprise candidate breaks through and wins the award.
After the first week of college football, some favorites proved to be worth the hype, while others didn’t. A.J. McCarron was not impressive, Jadeveon Clowney’s “stomach virus” slowed him down or maybe he spent too much time watching the countless highlight videos of himself on ESPN instead of conditioning. Aaron Murray proved that he’s the second-coming of Tony Romo.
So, with preseason hype and a week of results, here are the power rankings for players primed to make the trip to New York and hope to be the next player to hold the bronze stiff arm.
Johnny Manziel: The odds are against Johnny Football to become the second back-to-back Heisman winner since Ohio State’s Archie Griffin did it in 1974-75, but odds don’t seem to stop Manziel. He was was the first freshmen ever to win the award last season and he is playing with a vengeance this season. Everybody seems to count out the Aggie this season after his theatrical off season. When it’s time to play, Johnny shows up, no matter how sore his hand is from signing autographs. After being suspended for the first half of Texas A&M’s opener versus Rice, Manziel went 6-for-8 for 98 yards and three touchdowns in just one half.
Braxton Miller: With a weak schedule and his skill-set in Urban Meyer’s spread offense, Miller could produce some ridiculous numbers this season. Last season, he finished fifth in the Heisman voting after racking up over 3,100 total yards and led Ohio State to a perfect 12-0 record. In the season opener, Ohio State trumped Buffalo 40-20 and Miller had a solid overall performance. Through the air, Miller went 15-for-22 for 178 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He also added 108 yards on 17 carries.
Marcus Mariota: If it wasn’t for Manziel, Mariota would have been the one getting the hype as a freshmen quarterback last season. As a freshmen, Mariota totaled over 3,400 yards and 37 touchdowns. For those of you worried that Oregon’s offense will be slowed down with Chip Kelly leaving, don’t be. The Ducks played a joke of a team in Nicholls State, and routed them 66-3 in their first game, thanks to a big day from Mariota. Efficient in the air and on the ground, Mariota threw one touchdown and ran two, totaling 347 total yards.
De’Anthony Thomas: The original Black Mamba, Thomas is the most explosive player in college football and joins his teammate Mariota as a Heisman candidate. There is no real position for his as he plays running back, wide receiver, kick returner and punt returner. Let’s just call him a weapon. If the first game is any indicator, Thomas will get more carries as a running back this season. He had a career-high 18 carries for 128 yards and two touchdowns. The only thing stopping Thomas is touches with all the Ducks weapons.
Teddy Bridgewater: He might be the best quarterback in the country and probably deserves to be put higher on this list. The problem is Louisville’s abysmal schedule. They don’t play one preseason ranked team the whole year, but that’s not Bridgewater’s fault. He will put up incredible numbers, but we won’t see how good both Bridgewater and Louisville are until the bowl season. Bridgewater went 23-for-28 for 355 yards, five touchdowns and one interception in Louisville’s 49-7 win versus Ohio.
Just like recent winners, Manziel and Cam Newton, there will be surprise players this season and this top five is likely to be changed by the end of the season.
Clemson’s quarterback Tajh Boyd could very well win the Heisman. Boyd and the Clemson Tigers beat No. 5 Georgia in a game living up to its hype, 38-35. In the game, Boyd went 18-for-30 for 270 yards and three touchdowns against zero interceptions. He also ran two touchdowns in. With Sammy Watkins back, Boyd could have a huge season.
One surprise quarterback to keep an eye on is UCLA sophomore, Brett Hundley. As a tremendous athlete, Hundley and UCLA are trying to crack the BCS party and resurrect Bruin football. The Bruins romped Nevada 50-28 in the season opener, and Hundley went 22-for-33 for 274 and two touchdowns, with no interceptions. Hundley also dashed for two touchdowns.
Two running backs to look for are Georgia’s Todd Gurley and Miami’s Duke Johnson. Gurley carried the Georgia offense against Clemson, rushing for 154 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries. He does share carries with Keith Marshall though, and Georgia has one of the hardest schedules in the country. Johnson carried Miami to a 34-6 win over Florida Atlantic, with 186 yards and one touchdown on 19 carries.
All these players could take home the Heisman trophy, but there could easily be someone emerge at the end of the year. If you’re a betting man, take the field when picking the Heisman winner.