Georgia Football: Statistical Blueprint for Todd Gurley to Win the Heisman

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Georgia Football: Statistical Blueprint for Todd Gurley to Win the Heisman
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Todd Gurley has been the lone constant in the Georgia offense through the first two weeks of the 2013 season.

The offensive line and quarterback Aaron Murray struggled for much of the season opener against Clemson, while even typically reliable receivers dropped balls in Week 2 against South Carolina. Gurley, for his part, could not be stopped by either of Georgia’s early-season foes from the Palmetto State.

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He opened the season with a 75-yard sprint past the Clemson defense on his very first carry.  For the most part, he has not looked back.

Just two games into the season, he has already accounted for 288 rushing yards and four touchdowns. The sophomore running back has not merely produced, he’s produced against two elite teams.

In light of that, Heisman talk is heating up. Are such considerations merited or are the projections premature?

History suggests that Gurley’s current rate of production is very much in line with that of a Heisman Trophy winner. With Georgia favored to win the SEC East and compete in the SEC Championship Game, Gurley will likely play in 11 more games before Heisman voting closes.

If his current rate of performance holds, Gurley’s season rushing stat line would translate to 273 carries for 1,872 yards (6.86 yards per carry) and 20 touchdowns.

Over the past 20 years, five running backs have won college football’s most coveted award (six if you include Reggie Bush). Here’s how those five running backs performed during their Heisman seasons:

Last Five Running Back Heisman Winners
Year Player Carries Yards Touchdowns
1994 Rashaan Salaam 271 1968 21
1995 Eddie George 303 1820 23
1998 Ricky Williams 331 1921 25
1999 Ron Dayne 303 1834 19
2009 Mark Ingram 249 1542 15

From a statistical standpoint, Gurley would certainly be in a favorable position relative to these historical precedents.

But what about that “Heisman moment” that everyone loves to talk about?

We all remember Johnny Manziel bobbling the ball before regaining his composure and throwing a touchdown strike en route to defeating Alabama last season. Doug Flutie’s 1984 Hail Mary pass probably seems like it happened last week to dedicated college football fans.

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Can Gurley produce a Heisman moment? He might have already done so.

If Gurley is a leader in Heisman voting, it will be due in no small part to the success of this Georgia Bulldogs team. If Georgia is in national championship contention, it will be a byproduct of navigating a difficult early-season stretch.

In that regard, Gurley’s Heisman moment might have come last weekend against South Carolina.

The 41-30 win wasn’t his flashiest game (30 carries for 134 yards and a touchdown, plus one touchdown through the air), but Gurley bruised, battered and gritted his way to yards, which allowed Georgia to milk time off the clock.

And he did all of that against one of the most feared defensive lines in the country.

Georgia still has a lot more to accomplish this year, and so does Gurley, but the future appears bright for both parties.

Georgia has two remaining games against Top 25 teams (LSU and Florida), but the Bulldogs also have a few notably easier matchups against the likes of North Texas, Appalachian State and Kentucky.

While LSU and Florida may limit Gurley's production, it wouldn't be surprising to see him crack the 200-yard mark in a game or two against weaker defenses.

Consequently, barring injury, it's likely he will maintain his current pace of production.

If that occurs, he will most certainly be in New York City for the Heisman ceremony.

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