While the college football world gushes over the accolades of Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, the remarkable poise of Florida State redshirt freshman Jameis Winston and the video-game statistics of Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk, a running back in the SEC is flying under the Heisman radar.
That should change.
South Carolina running back Mike Davis leads the SEC in rushing with 122.8 yards per game, has rushed for 614 yards on the season and is second in the conference with eight rushing touchdowns. The 5'9", 215-pound sophomore has stepped out of Marcus Lattimore's rather large shadow to help minimize the impact of Lattimore's departure and emerge as one of the top every-down backs in the country.
He's averaging 18.4 carries per game in an offense that also features running quarterback Connor Shaw, who's gobbling up 12 carries per game. This week, he was one of 12 players added to the Maxwell Award watch list, which is an award given annually to the most outstanding collegiate football player.
That's not good enough, though. It's time to start talking about Mike Davis as a dark-horse Heisman contender.
In a year in which South Carolina's secondary has faltered, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney has not lived up to the hype, and quarterback Connor Shaw has missed some time with a shoulder injury, Davis has been a stabilizing force for head coach Steve Spurrier.
When his team was stuck in neutral and down 10 to UCF in the third quarter, Davis put his team on his back and rushed 21 times for 152 yards and three touchdowns in one half to bring the Gamecocks back and get them the win.
"He is a good back," head coach Steve Spurrier said during last week's SEC coaches teleconference. "We got to keep giving it to him. Those long runs are a huge bonus for us, to be able to run off tackle and all of a sudden the guy goes 75 yards for a touchdown like Mike did against North Carolina."
But Davis hasn't just earned attention from his own head coach.
Florida's Will Muschamp recruited Davis out of Stephenson High School in Lithonia, Ga., where Davis was a 4-star back in the class of 2012, according to 247Sports.com. He was originally committed to the Gators before signing with the Gamecocks on Feb. 1, 2012. His work this year has impressed the third-year Gators head coach.
"We thought Mike was a really good player [coming out of high school]," Muschamp said last week. "He's done an outstanding job for South Carolina and really changed the game versus Central Florida."
Long shot for the Heisman? Sure.
He's not even listed on Bovada's 18-player Heisman odds board.
So how will Davis get in the thick of the Heisman race?
He doesn't have the benefit of the Johnny Manziel hype machine, an undefeated record to keep his team at the top of the national discussion or an offense that puts up video-game numbers like Baylor's.
Continuing to rush for 122 yards per game would certainly help, but Davis needs a little luck in the form of a Georgia loss.
One Bulldog loss gets the Gamecocks level with them in the East standings down a tiebreaker, which makes a trip to Atlanta—either via a three-team division tie or as straight up champs if the Bulldogs falter elsewhere—more likely.
But that's all hypothetical though.
If Davis continues to do what he's been doing all year, South Carolina is going to be competitive and keep itself in the spotlight one way or another.
It's going to be hard to ignore Davis much longer.
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand from the Oct. 2 SEC coaches teleconference.
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