Heisman Watch 2013: Previewing the Top Contenders Matchups for Week 7
With several of the Heisman Trophy contenders in action, Week 7 presents us with a good opportunity to see who’s for real or not.
Some contenders will assert themselves as a real threat in the race. On the other hand, some will succumb to the pressure, causing their stock to take a hit.
Either way, with nine of the top 10 players listed in ESPN’s Heisman Watch export poll in action this weekend, we should get a good glimpse of how this race will shake out by the end of the weekend.
Thus far, Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has already played. And according to B/R’s Randy Chambers, his stock took a bit of a dip.
Who will fare the same fate? Who will leap past Bridgewater and make their claim for the award?
For these answers and more, let’s take a look at each of the top contender’s matchups this weekend.
Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor
Season Stats: 53 CAR, 589 YDs, 8 TDs
Week 7 Matchup: at Kansas State (2-3), Oct. 12, 3:30 p.m. ET
If anyone can break up this quarterback logjam at the top of these polls, its running back Lache Seastrunk.
The junior is the driving force behind Baylor’s No. 2-ranked rushing attack. Not to mention, he’s played a large role in an offense that is averaging a stupid 70.5 points per game through four games.
This would be a good time to mention that the Wildcats allow over 165 rushing yards per game. That includes conceding 215 rushing yards in a shocking 24-21 loss to FCS-foe North Dakota State in Week 1.
Now, they’re expected to stop one of the nation’s most lethal ground games?
I almost feel like shoving bamboo splints under my fingernails for even suggesting such a thing.
Expect the Bears to get the running game going and early. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Seastrunk rack up two or three touchdowns by halftime.
The Baylor offense will eventually slow down. This just isn’t the game it will happen.
Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
Season Stats: 64.9 CMP%, 1,534 YDs, 14 TDs, 3 INTs, 24 CAR, 73 YDs, 3 TDs
Week 7 Matchup: vs. Missouri (5-0), Oct. 12, 12 p.m. ET
A Georgia offense that began the year as a loaded attack is now losing another guy to injury every week. Running back Keith Marshall and receivers Michael Bennett and Justin Scott-Wesley were the latest victims, via ESPN’s David Ching.
That just puts even more pressure on quarterback Aaron Murray to succeed.
Although the Tigers are undefeated, the team’s defense hasn’t been a strong suit. The unit gives up 22.4 points per game while ranking No. 76 in total defense and No. 113 against the pass.
However, Missouri’s secondary does have the second-most interceptions in the nation (11).
Now, without even more offensive options, can Murray continue defying the odd?
The senior does enough to win.
He shouldn’t be expected to light up the scoreboard, but he won’t cost the Bulldogs the game either. Murray has gained a reputation for remaining cool under pressure.
However, at some point, the depleting number of offensive assets will take its toll.
Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Season Stats: 71.4 CMP%, 1,489 YDs, 14 TDs, 4 INTs, 48 CAR, 314 YDs, 3 TDs
Week 7 Matchup: at Ole Miss (3-2), Oct. 12, 8:30 p.m. ET
The only reason Johnny Manziel dropped in the polls was due to both Tajh Boyd’s big week and the bye week. Otherwise, the sophomore is continuing the strong play that won him this award last season.
Against the struggling Rebels, look for Manziel to reassert himself as a top Heisman contender.
Sure, the Ole Miss defense ranks No. 18 against the pass (185.6). However, the team’s deficiencies in stopping the run—175.8 yards per game and nine touchdowns allowed—will ultimately be the Rebels downfall.
I mean, in consecutive weeks, both Alabama and Auburn destroyed Ole Miss on the ground. In fact, Tigers quarterback Nick Marshall rushed for 140 yards and two touchdowns on two carries.
Now, the Rebels defense is to be expected to contain Manziel, who rushed for over 1,400 yards and 21 touchdowns just a year ago?
Manziel has a field day.
After being conservative with his legs thus far, look for Manziel to really push the ball on the ground and crack 15 carries for the first time this season. My guess is about 15-20 carries for over 100 yards.
That will keep Ole Miss on its heels and eventually open up the passing game.
Stock: Big Rise
Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson
Season Stats: 66.0 CMP%, 1,449 YDs, 14 TDs, 2 INTs, 57 CAR, 154 YDs, 4 TDs
Week 7 Matchup: vs. Boston College (3-2), Oct. 12, 3:30 p.m. ET
Tajh Boyd has been on a tear this season.
Aside from Clemson’s matchup with FCS-foe South Carolina State, the senior has accounted for at least three touchdowns in all four games. That includes a mammoth of a performance during the Tigers 49-14 win at Syracuse last weekend—20-of-27, 455 YDs, 5 TDs.
Boston College shouldn’t threaten to slow Boyd down.
The Eagles currently rank No. 78 in total defense (415.4 YPGA). Furthermore, the team has conceded over 26 points per game while allowing opposing quarterbacks a QBR of 160.7.
Most recently, Florida State’s Jameis Winston picked apart Boston College’s secondary, going 17-of-27 for 330 yards and four touchdowns (1 INT).
He’s only seemed to get better with each passing game. Boyd’s QBR has improved from 147.0 to 220.9 to 261.9 over the last three weeks.
With a showdown with the Seminoles set for Oct. 19, expect Boyd to put in a statement-making performance.
It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him take over the No. 1 spot in the Heisman polls after this one.
Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
Season Stats: 56.7 CMP%, 1,358 YDs, 14 TDs, 0 INT, 28 CAR, 338 YDs, 7 TDs
Week 7 Matchup: at No. 16 Washington (4-1), Oct. 12, 4 p.m. ET
This weekend is easily the toughest test Marcus Mariota has faced this season.
Not only will he be going up against a hungry Huskies squad on the road, but ESPN’s College GameDay will also be in attendance. Furthermore, star running back De’Anthony Thomas is still questionable to return, via ESPN.
Did we mention that Washington has one heck of a defense?
Through five games, the unit ranks No. 11 in scoring (14.8 PPGA), No. 10 in total defense (287.8 YPGA), No. 3 against the pass (146.4 YPGA) and No. 3 in pass efficiency defense (81.7 QBR). The Huskies also rank No. 15 in sacks (15) and have seven interceptions on the year.
This is the same defense that held No. 5 Stanford to just 279 total yards and 4-of-14 on third downs.
While there’s no doubt Mariota is a better quarterback than the Cardinal’s Kevin Hogan, the sophomore has struggled with his accuracy.
If Washington manages to get a strong pass rush going, that could mean problems for Mariota.
Mariota struggles through the air, throwing his first pick of the season.
He should still be able to find success on the ground against a Huskies run defense that allows 141.4 rushing yards per game. However, expect the pass rush and coverage by Washington to force Mariota into some bad throws that will eventually cause the Ducks the game.
All stats and rankings used in this article are courtesy of NCAA.com.