10 College Football Stars Whose Teams Are Keeping Them out of the Heisman Race

Jeff BellCorrespondent ISeptember 25, 2013

10 College Football Stars Whose Teams Are Keeping Them out of the Heisman Race

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    USC WR Marqise Lee
    USC WR Marqise LeeHarry How/Getty Images

    Despite the Heisman Trophy being awarded in December, the race for college football's most prestigious award garners year-round discussion.

    While coming up with preseason favorites might be silly, re-evaluating which players have a legitimate shot at the award after four weeks serves an actual purpose. At this point, it's virtually impossible to come from completely off the radar to win.

    Even last year, when Johnny Manziel became a sensation following the Alabama game, he had still put together a spectacular first month to land him in the dark-horse category.

    But while the various favorites have made themselves known, a number of talented players are already out of the race. It has nothing to do with ability, and their statistics rank among the very best.

    But the unfortunate truth about the Heisman is that it's almost always rewarded to a player on a team in contention for a conference title. In most cases, the winner belongs to a team that has been in the national discussion throughout the year.

    So whether it's the style of play or a poor record, teams can hurt a player's shot at winning the award.

    Here are 10 players whose teams are keeping them out Heisman Trophy contention.

     

    All statistics via ESPN

10) Devin Street, Pittsburgh

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    Pitt celebrates a victory over Duke
    Pitt celebrates a victory over DukeStreeter Lecka/Getty Images

    In an offense that scores 40 points per game, you're going to find a few play-makers.

    One such player is Pittsburgh wide receiver Devin Street, who already has 17 grabs for 387 yards and a pair of scores this season.

    The offense is tailored to utilize the arm of quarterback Tom Savage, and Street has benefited thus far. He already has grabs that went for 67 and 52 yards, and his 6-catch, 166-yard performance on Saturday against Duke was one of the best efforts of the weekend.

    The reason he won't even sniff the Heisman radar is that his team isn't very good. The defense is giving up an excruciating 41 points per game, and it's hard to imagine the Panthers notching wins against Notre Dame, Georgia Tech or Miami.

    Street may continue to put up huge numbers and the NFL is certainly in his future, but the Heisman will stay out of reach for this talented senior.

9) Paul Richardson, Colorado

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    CU WR Paul Richardson
    CU WR Paul RichardsonDoug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Why not some more love for the wide receivers?

    And certainly this next player, Colorado's Paul Richardson, deserves recognition. The junior from Los Angeles already has 21 catches for 417 yards and four touchdowns, in two games!

    The sample size may be small (a postponed game against Fresno was followed by a bye week), but it's clear that the speedy wideout is one of the best in the country at his position.

    Unfortunately, he plays for Colorado, which probably doesn't need an explanation.

    In case you were unaware, the Buffaloes have lived in the Pac-12 cellar the past couple seasons, and though the team is off to a 2-0 start, it isn't going to stay that way with Oregon State and Oregon up next.

    Richardson will continue to put up crazy numbers and there's a chance he could actually sneak into the Top 10. But he's not going to step foot in New York unless his team pulls off the impossible and manages to win eight or nine games.

8) Derek Carr-Fresno State

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    Fresno State QB Derek Carr
    Fresno State QB Derek CarrCary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

    You may know that Derek Carr is the brother of former No. 1 overall pick David Carr, and that he entered the season as one of the nation's top quarterbacks.

    Or, you tuned in last Friday to watch Carr throw for 460 yards and four touchdowns in a win against Boise State.

    Either way, after 1,121 yards and 12 touchdowns through three games, it's clear that Carr has the kind of talent it takes to win a Heisman Trophy.

    But he also plays for Fresno State, which puts him at a disadvantage to begin with. Anytime you're considering players on teams outside of BCS conferences, you have to understand that their statistics won't mean as much to the national media because of the competition they face. Carr won't get to prove his stuff against Stanford or UCLA.

    He'll be putting up huge numbers against UNLV and Nevada instead. And this in no way is meant to demean the Bulldogs, who have a decent chance to become this year's BCS buster. Wins over Boise State and Rutgers prove that they can compete against BCS-level competition (yes, the Broncos are in the MWC, you get the point).

    But unless Carr puts up numbers that people can only dream of, he won't get serious consideration for the Heisman Trophy.

7) Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois

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    NIU QB Jordan Lynch
    NIU QB Jordan LynchMike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Jordan Lynch, were he playing for any team at the BCS level, would be a top-flight Heisman Trophy contender.

    As a quarterback, he can do it all. He's thrown for 662 yards and seven touchdowns in three games. He's also rushed for over 400 yards.

    But like Carr, he plays on a team that doesn't get enough national exposure and doesn't have the talent to compete with elite teams.

    Sure, the Huskies reached a BCS bowl last season, and then opened the 2013 campaign with a win over Iowa. But they also beat Idaho (the Vandals just lost to Washington State 42-0) by just 10 and scraped past Eastern Illinois, an FCS team, 43-39.

    Lynch may get a few looks from the NFL, and why shouldn't he? He's as dynamic as anyone in the game, but for the purposes of the Heisman Trophy discussion, he'll continue to be left out.

6) Jared Goff, Cal

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    Cal QB Jared Goff
    Cal QB Jared GoffThearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Jared Goff has over 1,300 yards passing and seven touchdown in the Bears' first three games.

    If you're okay with math, you've figured out that's well over 400 yards per game. A 485-yard, two-touchdown game highlighted some excellent quarterback play from Week 2.

    But it came in a 37-30 win over Portland State. Cal's other two games? Losses to Northwestern and Ohio State. Neither game was a total blowout, but Sonny Dykes' team didn't ever look like it was going to win either one.

    Next up is a trip to Eugene to face the Oregon Ducks. Goff will probably throw for well over 300 yards, and the Bears will probably lose again.

    While this slide may highlight how Goff won't win the trophy, consider him one of the early watch-list guys for next season.

    But the defense is giving up 42 points per game and thus, Cal is going to have a hard time getting to .500. Even if Goff continues his torrid pace, he's unlikely to capture this award.

5) Chuckie Keeton, Utah State

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    USU QB Chuckie Keeton
    USU QB Chuckie KeetonUSA TODAY Sports

    If you watch Chuckie Keeton at quarterback, you're probably reminded of guys like Colin Kaepernick and Marcus Mariota.

    The 6'2", 200 pound junior has solid arm strength, deadly accuracy and an elusiveness which allows him to make plays with his feet.

    Keeton had completed over 70 percent of his throws in each of the first three games to go along with 12 touchdown passes. Then, the Aggies faced USC.

    Against a dominant Trojans' defense, Keeton completed just 21-of-39 passes for 179 yards and two scores. He was held to negative yardage on the ground.

    What that shows us is that the guys around him weren't able to do their jobs well enough to allow Keeton to make plays.

    On a better team with an improved supporting cast, Keeton might look like Mariota. Even still, he's going to have an excellent season and his team might challenge for a conference title. But ultimately, he won't ever be in Heisman contention.

4) Sean Mannion, Oregon State

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    OSU QB Sean Mannion
    OSU QB Sean MannionChristopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

    This young season has already seen Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion throw for 1,604 yards and 15 touchdowns.

    Those are the kind of numbers that some quarterbacks would be happy to have in a full year. But Mannion also plays on an Oregon State team that could have trouble competing in the Pac-12 North.

    Mike Riley's guys opened the season with a loss to Eastern Washington, an FCS opponent. After a fairly comfortable win over Hawaii, the Beavs scraped by Utah and San Diego State.

    While fans are no doubt thrilled to be 3-1 after the rocky start, the wins appear to be thin band-aids on a wound that could be opened up in the next few weeks. Even if Mannion continues to throw for 400 yards and 3-5 touchdowns each week, he'll need to post victories to stay in the Heisman hunt.

    From what we've seen so far, that's a tall order.

3) Paul James, Rutgers

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    RU RB Paul James
    RU RB Paul JamesJim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

    Paul James is the best running back you've never heard of.

    That's because he plays for Rutgers, and it's also why James is on this list.

    He should be a Heisman contender in the sense that his numbers are off the charts. Through four games, he already has 573 yards rushing and six touchdowns. This includes a pair of 3-touchdown games.

    But Rutgers is holding him back from the Heisman talk. The Scarlet Knights appear to be an average team at best. Last week's comeback win over Arkansas can be countered with the loss at Fresno State to open the season.

    If James were on Alabama, not only would he have better talent around him but he would be on a team in the hunt for a national championship and he would get to prove his stuff against great defenses almost every week.

    The best defense he'll face this season? Probably Louisville's or Central Florida's. Paul James is a terrific back, but being on Rutgers hurts his shot at the Heisman Trophy.

2) Alex Collins, Arkansas

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    Arkansas RB Alex Collins
    Arkansas RB Alex CollinsNelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

    Running back Alex Collins has only played four games at the collegiate level and it's already apparent that he has some big things in his future.

    He runs like a bowling ball, punishing defenders before using his deceptive speed to break into the open. He has 481 yards on the year while splitting carries with backfield-mate Jonathan Williams, and he'll get to show his talents off in the SEC against great defenses.

    But he's not going to enter the Heisman discussion anytime soon for two reasons.

    The first is one that has appeared on nearly every other slide on the list: his team isn't that good. Like it or not, the Heisman Trophy rewards great players on great teams.

    But the second reason is that he splits carries, which means he won't be putting up the mind-boggling numbers of some other players. Ultimately, it's probably a good thing for the young back because it extends his shelf life.

    But unless he can put up historic numbers in the SEC or Arkansas goes on a magical run here in the next 10 weeks, Collins isn't going to enter the Heisman talk.

    However, put him next to Goff on the list of guys to watch out for in the future.

1) Marqise Lee, USC

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    Marsise Lee after the Utah State game
    Marsise Lee after the Utah State gameUSA TODAY Sports

    Marqise Lee may be the most puzzling player in college football.

    The star wideout for the USC Trojans is coming off one of the best seasons in college football history, having caught 118 passes for 1,721 yards and 14 touchdowns. Lee is a play-making machine in every way imaginable.

    But in 2013 he's been held back by a team that isn't great and quarterbacks that can't get him the ball in space. Where Lee made a living catching deep balls from Matt Barkley, he now sees throws sail over his head and out of reach.

    There's no doubt about his ability; he hasn't suddenly become worse. But with all of the chatter surrounding Lane Kiffin's future and the turmoil that has plagued this team, Lee has sunk into the shadows. He should be one of the faces of the sport.

    Unless USC can turn it around and get much better quarterback play from Cody Kessler (or Max Wittek), Lee will continue to remain somewhat anonymous until he heads off to the NFL.