Heisman Watch 2013: Previewing the Top Contenders' Matchups for Week 8

Sebastian LenaAnalyst IOctober 18, 2013

Heisman Watch 2013: Previewing the Top Contenders' Matchups for Week 8

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    Can Manziel keep up his high level of play?
    Can Manziel keep up his high level of play?Michael Chang/Getty Images

    With all five of the top Heisman Trophy contenders in action, Week 8 will help us separate the pack.

    Some await a comfortable matchup at home against a beatable team. For others, a more difficult test against a ranked opponent lies ahead. For two, a head-to-head dual against another contender could either make or break their campaigns.

    Regardless, almost all five of these players will be tested to some degree this weekend.

    Let’s take a look at how each should fare in their respective matchups.

     

    Author’s Note: The five players chosen are in accordance to ESPN’s Heisman Watch. The numbers listed under the Expert Poll each player's listed “Poll Points”. The amount of first-place votes is listed in parenthesis.

5. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville

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    Bridgewater (left) will fail to make the most of another golden opportunity.
    Bridgewater (left) will fail to make the most of another golden opportunity.Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

    Poll Points: 13

    Season Stats: 71.0 CMP%, 1,872 YDs, 18 TDs, 2 INTs, 191.8 QBR

    Week 8 Matchup: vs. UCF (4-1), Oct. 18, 8 p.m. ET on ESPN

     

    The Lowdown

    Last weekend, the Cardinals had the opportunity to prove that they deserved more national attention, and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater disappointed.

    Sure, Louisville won 24-10. However, it was the result of a top-notch effort from the defense, cooling down the Rutgers squad, which came in averaging over 40 points per game.

    Fans expected better from Bridgewater—310 YDs, 2 TDs, 1 INT, 1 FUMB—against a Scarlet Knights secondary that ranks No. 118 against the pass.

    Now, the junior faces a stiffer test against a Knights team whose only loss is by three points to No. 11 South Carolina.

    The UCF defense ranks No. 10 in scoring (16.6 PPGA), No. 32 in total defense (353.0 YPGA), No. 39 against the rush (140.2 YPGA) and No. 42 against the pass (212.8 YPGA). Furthermore, the unit has conceded just two passing touchdowns all season.

    Not only is this the toughest defensive test Bridgewater and the Cardinals have faced all year, it’s the toughest test. Period.

    It will be interesting to see how he handles a second opportunity in the national spotlight.

     

    Prediction

    Bridgewater will play decent but not spectacular.

    Expect Louisville to be carried by the defense once again. Bridgewater should still get his yards and find the end zone once or twice, but that’s about it.

    It will likely be the end of the “Teddy for Heisman” campaign.

     

    Stock: Drop

4. Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State

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    Winston should be pushed to his limits on Saturday.
    Winston should be pushed to his limits on Saturday.Jeff Gammons/Getty Images

    Poll Points: 26

    Season Stats: 73.2 CMP%, 1,441 YDs, 17 TDs, 2 INTs, 36 CAR, 135 YDs, 2 TDs

    Week 8 Matchup: at No. 3 Clemson (6-0), Oct. 19, 8 p.m. ET on ABC

     

    The Lowdown

    Jameis Winston and the Seminoles had last weekend off.

    Fortunately, the redshirt freshman made his last performance a memorable one.

    Against then-No. 25 Maryland, Winston picked apart a very solid defense. He threw for 393 yards and five touchdowns on 23-of-32 passing to lead Florida State to a 63-0 victory.

    With his sensational start to the season, Winston joins Boise State’s Kellen Moore as one of the only quarterbacks to record a Total QBR of 75 or higher in his first five career games.

    That streak will be difficult to continue against a tough Tigers defense.

    Through six games, the unit ranks No. 10 in scoring defense (16.2 PPGA), No. 20 in total defense (344.8 YPGA), No. 18 against the pass (186.5 YPGA) and No. 2 in sacks (24). This is the same defense that held Georgia’s heralded quarterback Aaron Murray without a passing touchdown during the team’s Week 1 matchup.

    This is easily the toughest test Winston has faced in his collegiate career. 

     

    Prediction

    Winston will struggle to find his rhythm.

    One of college football’s most accurate passers will have difficulty getting passes off with Clemson’s pass rush. Expect Vic Beasley and the defense to make life hard for the young signal caller.

    Did we mention, this game will be played in Death Valley in front of a raucous crowd?

    Yikes.

     

    Stock: Drop

3. Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson

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    Can Boyd make it two victories over Top Five opponents this season?
    Can Boyd make it two victories over Top Five opponents this season?Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

    Poll Points: 46

    Season Stats: 66.5 CMP%, 1,783 YDs, 15 TDs, 2 INTs, 172.0 QBR, 66 CAR, 187 YDs, 5 TDs

    Week 8 Matchup: vs. No. 5 Florida State (5-0), Oct. 19, 8 p.m. ET on ABC

     

    The Lowdown

    Tajh Boyd certainly had an outing to forget against Boston College last weekend.

    The senior struggled to dominate, throwing for 334 yards and just one touchdown while rushing for 33 more yards and another score. It was a game that the Tigers trailed at halftime, and they needed a late defensive touchdown to secure a 24-14 victory.

    For their sake, let’s hope Boyd and Clemson were simply looking forward to this Saturday’s pivotal ACC showdown.

    Against the Seminoles’ defense, they could use all the preparation they can afford. The unit ranks No. 3 in scoring defense (12.0 PPGA), No. 7 in total defense (276.8 YPGA), No. 27 against the rush (127.8 YPGA) and No. 2 against the pass (149.0 YPGA).

    Granted, the Tigers will present the toughest offense Florida State will face, but this is a defense full of athletes across the board.

     

    Prediction

    Boyd will play well but not great.

    This should be a lower-scoring contest than most people think. Both sides bring tough defenses, which will slow the game down.

    Two touchdowns through the air and another on the ground is a realistic expectation for Boyd.

     

    Stock: Stays the same

2. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

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    There's not a more dynamic player in college football right now.
    There's not a more dynamic player in college football right now.Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    Poll Points: 56 (3)

    Season Stats: 73.2 CMP%, 1,835 YDs, 14 TDs, 5 INTs, 179.5 QBR, 67 CAR, 438 YDs, 5 TDs

    Week 8 Matchup: vs. Auburn (5-1), Oct. 19, 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS

     

    The Lowdown

    Johnny Manziel is fresh off a valiant effort against Ole Miss on the road last weekend.

    The sophomore overcame a knee injury early on to throw for 346 yards on 31-of-35 passing. Although he didn’t find the end zone through the air, Manziel found it twice on the ground, racking up 124 yards on 19 carries.

    His performance and late-game heroics were critical in leading the Aggies to a 41-38 victory.

    This weekend, Manziel should be ready for another back-and-forth contest. Don’t expect him to find yards hard to come by against a weak Tigers defense.

    Although the unit ranks No. 21 in scoring defense (18.8 PPGA), that’s about as good as it gets. Auburn ranks No. 67 in total defense (399.2 YPGA), No. 51 against the run (148.3 YPGA) and No. 87 against the pass (250.8).

    Against a defense that allowed Rebels quarterback Bo Wallace to throw for over 330 yards and two scores, Manziel shouldn’t have too much difficulty doing the same.

     

    Prediction

    Manziel puts in the best all-together performance of the year.

    With the Tigers' potent rushing attack, Texas A&M’s shaky defense will have its hands full. Once again, it will be up to Manziel to put up more points than his defense can possibly concede.

    Expect last year’s Heisman Trophy winner to be more than up for the task.

     

    Stock: Rise

1. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

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    Thus far, Mariota has been running away with this award.
    Thus far, Mariota has been running away with this award.Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Poll Points: 77 (13)

    Season Stats: 60.6 CMP%, 1,724 YDs, 17 TDs, 0 INTs, 182.4 QBR, 41 CAR, 426 YDs, 8 TDs

    Week 8 Matchup: vs. Washington State (4-3), Oct. 19, 10 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1

     

    The Lowdown

    Last weekend, Marcus Mariota faced the toughest defense he’s seen all year in Washington.

    He still passed with flying colors, throwing for 366 yards and three touchdowns (0 INT) on 77.4 percent passing. Mariota also added 88 yards and another score on the ground while leading the Ducks to a 45-24 win.

    Next up, a questionable Cougars defense.

    After seven games, the unit ranks No. 55 in scoring (25.3 PPGA), No. 69 in total defense (400.3 YPGA), No. 45 against the rush (143.6 YPGA) and No. 95 against the pass (256.7 YPGA).

    Washington State has conceded over 50 points in two of its last three contests.

    The only way the Cougars stop Mariota is if the sophomore doesn’t suit up.

     

    Prediction

    Mariota dominates.

    With back-to-back matchups with No. 9 UCLA and No. 13 Stanford on the horizon, expect Oregon to go in on a high note. Mariota should have no problem accounting for at least five touchdowns on the day.

     

    Stock: Rise

     

    All stats and rankings used in this article are courtesy of NCAA.com.

    For complete coverage and everything college football, you can reach Sebastian on Facebook, on Twitter and via e-mail at Sebastian.LenaBR@gmail.com