Heisman Watch 2013: Previewing the Top Contenders Matchups for Week 4

Sean Frye@Sean_E_FryeFeatured ColumnistSeptember 19, 2013

Heisman Watch 2013: Previewing the Top Contenders Matchups for Week 4

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    With Week 4 of the college football season is upon us, the top candidates for the Heisman Trophy are gearing up for another test. 

    The week starts off Thursday night with No. 3 Clemson and North Carolina State, as quarterback Tajh Boyd takes the field for the Tigers. 

    On Saturday, Braxton Miller is hoping to return to action to build his Heisman resume in Ohio State's game against Florida A&M. 

    Check out Boyd, Miller and the rest of the Heisman candidates matchups for Week 4. 

Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson

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    Clemson vs. NC State: Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET

    After a stellar first two weeks for Tajh Boyd, which saw him not only beat Georgia in Week 1, but also rack up a total of 439 yards passing with three touchdowns, Boyd takes on rival North Carolina State on Thursday night. 

    NC State hasn't shown a great ability to stop the pass this year, ranking just 76th in pass defense with an average of 239 yards allowed through the air. 

    Last year against the Wolfpack, Boyd lit up NC State to the tune of 426 yards passing, 103 yards rushing and a whopping eight total touchdowns. 

    Yes, eight total touchdowns. Considering that NC State hasn't improved much defensively this year, Boyd is sure to have another big game in Week 4. 

Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

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    Texas A&M vs. SMU: Saturday, 7 p.m. ET

    Despite losing to No. 1 Alabama, Texas A&M  and Johnny Manziel put on a show against the Crimson Tide last week. His 464 yards passing, 98 yards rushing and five touchdowns were what kept the Aggies in the game. 

    It was also the second straight game that Manziel threw for over 400 yards. 

    The defending Heisman Trophy winner now faces SMU in Week 4. Last year, Manziel amassed six touchdowns and 418 total yards in a 48-3 drubbing of the Mustangs. 

    Johnny Football is sure to go to town again on the Mustangs this week, as SMU ranks 117th out of 123 FBS teams in pass defense, allowing 315.5 yards per game. 

    While Manziel may struggle to get going on the ground, SMU is awful against the pass. The Mustangs rank 19th in the country in rush defense. 

    Texas A&M is clearly the better team and Manziel should be able to pick apart the Mustangs. Expect him to get the Aggies back on track this week. 

Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia

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    Georgia vs. North Texas: Saturday, 12:21 p.m. 

    Probably the player who has gained the most ground in the Heisman Trophy race since Week 1 is Georgia Bulldogs running back Todd Gurley. 

    In two games, Gurley has racked up a whopping 286 yards and three touchdowns while averaging 6.8 yards per carry. 

    His coming out party came in Week 1 against Clemson. Although the Bulldogs lost, Gurley averaged 12.8 yards per carry to finish with 154 yards rushing. 

    The North Texas Mean Green aren't particularly adept at stopping the run this season either. They rank just 74th in the country in rush defense and are giving up nearly 170 yards per game. 

    That opens the door for Gurley to have a huge, stat-padding game against an opponent that Georgia should easily beat.

Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville

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    Louisville vs. Florida International: Saturday, noon

    Through the Louisville Cardinals' first three games, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has put up gaudy numbers. He has already thrown for 1,002 yards and 10 touchdowns while tossing just one interception. 

    However, Saturday's game against the FIU Golden Panthers could prove tougher than anticipated for Bridgewater. Florida International ranks 41st in the country in pass defense, giving up an average of just 196 yards through the air. 

    That ranking is somewhat misleading though, as the Golden Panthers are 0-3 this season, having lost by a combined score of 115-23. 

    With all three games being blowouts, teams haven't had to pass against FIU. 

    That should end up being the case again this week. Louisville is, far and away, the best team that the Golden Panthers have faced. If Louisville builds up a big lead early, don't expect Bridgewater to pass that much or even stay in the game past the first half. 

AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama

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    Alabama vs. Colorado State: Saturday, 7 p.m. 

    Fresh off a huge win over Texas A&M in which he threw for 334 yards and three touchdowns, A.J. McCarron's Heisman stock couldn't be higher. 

    Alabama and McCarron travel this week to face Colorado State, a squad that ranks just 93rd in the country in total defense. 

    Colorado State is particularly bad at defending the pass, ranking 88th in the FBS at 258.7 yards allowed per game.

    McCarron had a rough outing in Week 1 against Virginia Tech, but more than made up for it against the Aggies. Now, he has a chance to set the tone for the season with a dominating performance on Saturday night. 

Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State

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    Ohio State vs. Florida A&M: Saturday, noon

    If Braxton Miller is able to play for the Buckeyes against Florida A&M on Saturday, it may be his last chance to get back into the Heisman Trophy race. 

    Miller struggled in Week 1 against the Buffalo Bulls, a game that Ohio State won, 40-20. Miller threw for just 178 yards and two touchdowns with a pick. 

    After missing Week 3, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said he expects Miller to see the field on Saturday, per NBC Sports

    Given Miller's struggles in Week 1, it will be imperative for him to get back on track against the Rattlers on Saturday to put his name back in Heisman Trophy contention. 

Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State

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    Florida State vs. Bethune-Cookman State: Saturday, 6 p.m. 

    It was Jameis Winston's 356-yard, four-touchdown performance in Week 1 at Pittsburgh that put him squarely in the Heisman Trophy hunt. 

    His 214 yards and two touchdown passes in a 62-7 blowout of Nevada last weekend only solidified his status as one of the elite quarterbacks in college football. 

    Winston has another chance to pad his stats against Bethune-Cookman State, a 3-0 FCS team. 

    Winston's toughest test won't come until Oct. 19, when he faces off against Tajh Boyd and the Clemson Tigers. Whoever wins that game will likely be in the driver's seat for the nation's highest honor. 

Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA

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    UCLA vs. New Mexico State: Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET

    In UCLA's comeback victory over the Nebraska Cornhuskers last weekend, the Bruins scored 38 unanswered points after trailing, 21-3, That come-from-behind stunner not only gave UCLA a huge emotional lift, but also put quarterback Brett Hundley in the Heisman Trophy mix. 

    Hundley tossed for 294 yards and two scores while adding 61 yards on the ground in the gritty win. 

    The Bruins return home in Week 4 to face New Mexico State, an 0-3 squad that ranks 81st in the nation in pass defense. 

    That's a particularly bad mark considering all three games were blowout losses for the Aggies and opponents stopped throwing the ball for most of the second half. 

    Oct. 19 will be when Hundley faces his next big test, when the Bruins travel to Stanford. The battle between Hundley and Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan will be sure to blow up the headlines that week.