Heisman Trophy 2014: How Mike Davis Can Start Campaign in Capital One Bowl

Charles Bennett@Charlie Bennett @Charlie73743721Contributor IDecember 13, 2013

South Carolina tailback Mike Davis (No. 28) could be a Heisman contender next season.
South Carolina tailback Mike Davis (No. 28) could be a Heisman contender next season.Peter Aiken/Getty Images

No player has ever won the Heisman Trophy based on his performance in a bowl game the year before, but he can certainly put his name in the early conversation.

South Carolina tailback Mike Davis has rather quietly rushed for 1,134 yards and 11 touchdowns as a sophomore for the 10-2 Gamecocks, and he could stamp himself as one of the early Heisman frontrunners for next season if he comes up big in the Capital One Bowl against Wisconsin.

The question is whether that's a good thing or a bad thing.

South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney assumed the mantle of Heisman frontrunner after his performance against Michigan in last year's Outback Bowl but didn't back up oversized expectations. He was probably already out of the Heisman conversation three games into the season.

Heisman voters are a demanding and fickle lot and very much prone to a "what have you done for me lately" mindset.

If Davis gets things started in the bowl game, he'll have all offseason to enjoy hearing himself in the Heisman talk, but he'll have all of next year to walk the walk.

However, it's much easier at a statistics-driven position like running back, and there are elements in place that bode well for a big year for Davis.

South Carolina returns all but one starter on the offensive line and all of its backups on the two-deep.

Barring any draft-eligible juniors who may jump ship, the only other starter the Gamecocks stand to lose on offense will be quarterback Connor Shaw.

While that is a huge loss, South Carolina will be handing the offense over to Dylan Thompson, a battle-tested fifth-year senior who has performed well in relief of Shaw the last two years.

Thompson is more of a drop-back passer and not nearly as big of a threat to run as Shaw, which may translate to more carries for Davis.

Davis also gets the ball in his hands in the passing game. He has 30 receptions this season for 342 yards.

South Carolina tailback Mike Davis has shown breakaway speed.
South Carolina tailback Mike Davis has shown breakaway speed.Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

In addition, Davis has backup help. Brandon Wilds and Shon Carson have proven big-game capable and should be able to spell Davis enough to keep him rested and healthy over the long haul of the season.

Staying healthy will be critical, because in the Heisman race in particular, it's not how you start, it's how you finish.

Davis led the SEC in rushing most of the season, but tailed off, partially because of nagging injuries that limited his effectiveness. He rushed for 76 yards on 25 carries while playing in two of the Gamecocks' last three games.

Meanwhile, Auburn tailback Tre Mason finished with 1,6721 yards and 22 touchdowns and exploded for 304 yards and four touchdowns in the Tigers' SEC Championship game victory over Missouri.

That earned Mason a trip to New York as one of the six Heisman finalists, as well as guaranteed status as one of the frontrunners for next year's award, provided he doesn't leave early for the NFL.

Davis can join the early Heisman talk with a big game against Wisconsin.

From there, it will be up to him to keep it there.