Very few teams have been more impressive than Nevada in the early season. They are 4-0 and have blown out everyone they have faced, including a very good California team and Brigham Young.
This week, the Wolf Pack cracked the Top 25 for the first time since 1948. But they are still the most under-ranked team in the country.
Their program is affecting more than just their opponents. It was the Nevada offense that UCLA installed that enabled them to score the huge upset over Texas this past week.
The primary reason that Nevada will continue to climb in the polls is senior quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick has been one of the country’s biggest secrets for the last few years.
With the sudden appearance of a Nevada defense, that secret will soon be known by all.
Here are 10 reasons why Kaepernick has a legitimate chance to win the Heisman Trophy.
10. Monster numbers
He puts up the kind of video game numbers that Heisman voters love. They will have a hard time ignoring these numbers by the end of the year. After four games, Kaepernick has notched 15 touchdowns, seven through the air and eight on the ground. In the process, he has thrown for 924 yards and rushed for 451 yards, often looking like a man among boys.
Those numbers will climb faster than our national debt throughout the remainder of the football season. It is almost scary to consider what those numbers may look like by year's end based on his past work and the fact that his passing game has improved.
9. Team success
The Heisman often goes to the best player on the best team. While Nevada is still relatively unknown, they have a real shot at going undefeated. They have a number of tough games on the schedule, but they will be favored in all but one of those games, when they host No. 3 Boise State on November 26.
But lest anybody forget, Nevada has put up plenty of points on Boise over the last three seasons with Kaepernick, including the 4OT 69-67 thriller a few years back. With an improved defense and playing at home, they will give the Broncos all they can handle. An undefeated Nevada will climb into the Top 10 and will probably finish the regular season in the Top Five with the win over Boise State.
Some of the other Heisman candidates will fall victim to team failure, including front runner Denard Robinson. With the Wolverines’ defense struggling, they may start dropping games by the truckload.
8. The underdog factor
Boise State used to be the team of overachieving upstarts that everyone loved to root for as they played the Goliaths. But they are now one of the Goliaths, meaning that they are quickly becoming the team that people love to hate, especially those wedded to the AQ conferences.
Nevada is still largely unknown, and plenty of people will be pulling for them, especially if they knock off Boise State. Kaepernick will be the beneficiary of being the new David on the college football landscape.
7. Lack of a distinguished front-runner
It was comical watching the television talking heads trying to make the argument that the leading Heisman candidates had a great Saturday. Most of them, with the exception of Terrelle Pryor, underperformed.
Ryan Mallett is effectively out of the race barring a miracle. Mark Ingram will have trouble overcoming his early season injury and voters’ general reluctance to give repeat awards. Denard Robinson looked great before his injury against an inferior opponent but has not yet been tested against good competition. Even Pryor’s numbers have not been awe-inspiring and are being overblown.
Kaepernick has been more impressive than all of the front runners. It is as simple as that, even if few people have noticed just yet. Lest anybody bring up the level of competition canard, Nevada's early season schedule compares favorably with the front runners. Of course, he has not had the opportunity to play against national power Massachusetts.
6. A marquee matchup
Heisman voters love to see candidates come up huge in big games. Mallett was well on his way to announcing himself as a real threat by leading Arkansas in potentially upsetting the No. 1 team in the country and then threw two late interceptions that doomed his candidacy in one bad quarter of play.
Kaepernick will get a shot at upsetting the No. 3 team in the country, who may actually be rated even higher by that point if Alabama or Ohio State stumbles.
That will be a showcase game that everyone is watching. Based on his history against Boise State, Kaepernick will put up huge numbers in that game. Of course, Nevada has to pull off the upset to make it count, but they certainly have the team to do it. By doing it, they would also likely damage the candidacy of Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore.
5. Career numbers
Despite his relative obscurity, Kaepernick is not new on the scene. He has been a dominant offensive player for three years. When he finishes his career at Nevada, his numbers will be staggering. He has a real chance to finish with over 10,000 passing yards and 4,000 rushing yards. His touchdown total may approach 150.
Again, in years where the competition is close, the Heisman sometimes goes to the senior with the most distinguished college career. That would be Kaepernick.
Despite his thin appearance and the number of hits he takes running the football, this kid just does not get hurt, which has enabled him to amass the numbers he has put up.
Injuries will play a part in the Heisman race, as they always do. They have already derailed Ingram, and Robinson is also likely to fall victim after going down this past Saturday. Anybody really think that will be an isolated incident? But Kaepernick appears to be made of iron. He will still be standing at the end of the season.
3. Highest value to team
Without Pryor, Ohio State would still be loaded and near the top of the polls. But without Kaepernick, Nevada would not be anywhere close to as lethal.
His impact was immediate from the moment he entered his first game in 2007 when the starting quarterback went down late in the second quarter. He led the Wolf Pack back into the game, throwing for four touchdowns and rushing for 60 yards.
In his second game, he led the 26-point underdogs in what may have been the best football game of all time, the 69-67 loss to Boise State, accounting for five touchdowns. Nobody has a bigger impact on his team with the possible exception of Denard Robinson.
2. Non-AQ factor
If Nevada busts the BCS, the powers that be will not want to believe that they are truly a national power. This will actually benefit Kaepernick. They will need an excuse, and that excuse will be the star quarterback.
The argument will go something like, “Surely Nevada is not that great of a team. It is all about their star quarterback who is carrying them on his shoulders. Let’s see how they do next year.”
While this argument is unfair, it will benefit Kaepernick’s candidacy.
1. Leadership and passion
Kaepernick exudes these qualities that Heisman voters love by the gallon. He is always exhorting his teammates throughout the games, and he does the little things that turn a team into a champion. He also obviously loves the game. After taking a huge hit while fighting for an extra yard, he gets back up, smiles, and goes right back to scorching the defense.
While all of these factors will help his candidacy, the reason he will have earned the Heisman trophy by season's end is quite simple: He is the best player in college football.