Showing up in a highlight package is usually a good thing for Heisman contenders. Not necessarily when that contender is out of pads on the sideline for poor decision-making.
That’s where Jameis Winston found himself as backup Sean Maguire led Florida State to a come-from-behind 23-17 win in overtime over Clemson. Winston found his way to the highlight package as an onlooker, reinforcing his difficulty in becoming the second two-time Heisman winner.
Other contenders found ways to fill the void as we take a weekly look at who is moving up and down in the Heisman race.
Mariota wins the winning-under-duress award this week. With an offensive line beset by injuries, Mariota completed 21-of-25 passes for 329 yards with five touchdowns in a 38-31 win at Washington State. Mariota managed to finish with 58 rushing yards on 13 carries despite seven sacks.
Even for a receiver who hadn’t caught fewer than eight passes in a game this season, Cooper put on a show against Florida. Cooper caught 10 passes for a career-high 201 yards with three touchdowns against the Gators. If a receiver is going to make a bid for the Heisman, Cooper may be it. He’s on pace for 2,620 yards during the regular season.
A big-time quarterback at Mississippi State? Believe it. Prescott led the best offense against a Les Miles-coached LSU team with 570 yards. Prescott himself finished with 268 passing yards and 105 rushing with three total touchdowns.
Miami’s defense tried to rattle Nebraska with physical play — some of it drawing personal foul flags — but Abdullah kept his composure. The senior rushed for 229 yards with three total touchdowns agains the Hurricanes, giving him seven TDs in two games.
Winston already had history against him as only one Heisman winner has returned to win the award again. As his suspension doubled from a half to a full game in perhaps the most important division game of the season, Winston probably won’t be a viable candidate no matter what happens the rest of the way.
Pittsburgh lost 24-20 to Iowa, but Conner was the story early with 100 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries in the first half. With 544 yards in four games, Conner is on pace to eclipse Heisman winner Tony Dorsett’s school record (2,150 in 1976) in 12 games.
Mauk didn’t have an awful game with 28-of-47 passing for 326 yards and two touchdowns, but home losses to Indiana don’t yield many Heisman candidacies. Mauk has four total interceptions against Toledo, UCF and Indiana.
Gordon’s hip is doing just fine, thank you. Gordon rushed for 253 yards and five touchdowns on 13 carries in a 68-17 rout of Bowling Green. Keep in mind, all of his yardage and TD came after he fumbled on his first carry, the only time he’s coughed up the ball in 334 career attempts.
Can an East Carolina player win the Heisman, probably not? And even a QB as good as UCF’s Blake Bortles wasn’t a Heisman finalist. Still, Carden is a mighty fine ACC quarterback without playing in the ACC. After a 70-point effort against North Carolina, Carden is 53-of-85 for 856 yards with seven touchdowns and an interception in wins over UNC and Virginia Tech.