Last year, Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk not only penciled himself in as a Heisman candidate for the 2013 season, he projected that he would hoist up the hardware.
"I'm going to win the Heisman. I'm going to win it in 2013," Seastrunk said in a December article from the Sporting News. "If I don't, I'm going to get very close."
Seastrunk's Heisman hopes got off to a good start when he averaged 11 yards per carry in the first month of the season, but they all but officially diminished Thursday night in a 41-12 win over Oklahoma when a groin injury left him hampered. He would finish the night with six carries for 19 yards while third-string running back Shock Linwood racked up 182 yards.
But where Seastrunk's Heisman chances may have officially ended, Bears quarterback Bryce Petty's have taken off.
The junior had an average night from a completion-percentage standpoint, hitting exactly 50 percent of his 26 pass attempts for a modest (by Baylor's standards) 204 yards. Petty also had trouble hitting the deep throws, ones that he normally has no issue making. It was part accuracy, part coverage.
Oklahoma left plenty to be desired on the field Thursday night, but its secondary went toe-to-toe with Baylor's wide receivers.
Still, Petty accounted for all five of Baylor's touchdowns—three passing and two rushing. Like his passing numbers, Petty's rushing attempts weren't box score friendly. He was sacked three times and totaled less than three yards per carry. But he also created big plays with his feet when Baylor, who was without its two best running backs because of injury, needed them.
Petty now has 29 total touchdowns (21 passing and eight rushing) through eight games and just one interception. He's also the primary reason Baylor leads the country in passing efficiency. Those numbers are good on their own, but they're even better considering Petty has rarely played a full game this year.
That should change now that Baylor is entering the meat of the Big 12 schedule. And if Petty can continue to put up touchdowns, he could be in New York for the Heisman ceremony at season's end.
Chris Huston, better known as the Heisman Pundit, agrees:
Petty started out slow but came back to account for five touchdowns as the Sooners were routed, 41-12. I saw some people on Twitter obsess over the fact that Petty completed just 13 of his 26 passes for 204 yards and they used that as evidence of him not playing well. But such minutiae will be forgotten at season’s end when his resume is viewed from a broader angle.
The other thing that helps Petty was Oregon's 26-20 loss to Stanford. Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota, considered to be one of the Heisman favorites heading into Week 11, statistically ended up with a good game (250 yards passing and two touchdowns). However, Oregon was shut out for three quarters before mounting a quick, late-game rally that fell short. Heisman voters also won't forget that in the broad scope of things.
And if there's a more subtle consequence of Mariota's game, it's that Texas A&M quarterback and reigning Heisman winner Johnny Manziel could re-emerge in the Heisman race. Manziel is having another banner year, but a pair of losses and the emergence of Mariota and Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston has put the redshirt sophomore on the back burner.
Via Sportsbook, Petty went from a 25/1 favorite to win the Heisman to an 8/1 favorite. Winston leads the group with 1/5 odds (Hat tip: B/R's Adam Kramer).
Not unlike Baylor itself in the national title picture, Petty needs to keep playing well and hope others slip up along the way with a bad game here or there. That's the cost of going mostly ignored through September and October.
Even then, a Heisman may be too much of a stretch. But a trip to New York? It's absolutely in play now.
Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. You can follow him on Twitter @BenKercheval.
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