With the first College Football Playoff rankings in place, we have our point from which everything in the sport revolves around, including the Heisman Trophy race.
Yet while that Top 25 has done a strong job of foreshadowing the actual playoff field -- the Selection Committee is batting .500 (8 for 16) since 2014 in terms of the amount of teams making the field that were in its initial four -- it hasn't been a precursor to awarding Heisman.
The CFP's short history doesn't bode well for Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa, as no player on a team that was ranked No. 1 in the first Top 25 went on to win the trophy. In fact, only one has even reached New York as a finalist in Clemson's Deshaun Watson in 2015, and only four of the 14 players to be invited to the ceremony the past four seasons were on teams in playoff position in the committee's opening rankings.
The average opening ranking for an eventual winner has been fifth, while the finalists -- a fluid number based on the natural breaking in voting points totals -- has been around seventh.
Based on those averages through this obvious small sample size of four years of the CFP era, that Michigan has the best bet of producing a Heisman winner, with Oklahoma and Washington State on track to put a player in the finalist field.
The current state of this race, where Tagovailoa has a massive lead, would seem to buck the trend for winners, but the Sooners (Kyler Murray) and Cougars (Gardner Minshew) do have viable threats in conferences where they're the biggest CFP threat.
It's a bit of recent history to keep stored away as we dive into a crucial weekend in the chases for the playoffs and the Heisman. But before we look at the players whose candidacies will rise and fall as a result of those games, here's where things stand in the Forecaster's eyes.
1. Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama QB 2. Kyler Murray, Oklahoma QB 3. Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State QB
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ON THE RISE: Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama QB
Just call it a hunch, but here's thinking that we see Tagovailoa play into the fourth quarter for the first time this season. As discussed last week, no eventual Heisman winner has ever gone this long into a year without registering a single snap in the final 15, and LSU will be the first legitimate test for a Crimson Tide offense that hasn't faced a defense yet that's ranked higher than 90th in yards per play allowed. Tagavailoa has built himself a massive lead, but he needs to own games like this one in Baton Rouge to leave voters no doubt he's trophy-worthy.
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ON THE RISE: Kyler Murray, Oklahoma QB
Now, should Tagovailoa suffer any kind of a setback, Murray will be in a prime position to take advantage. The Texas loss wasn't on him, as he still accounted for five TDs, and he's thrown just one interception in 124 attempts in Big 12 play. Murray figures to tee off on Texas Tech, which is 117th in passing yards allowed (283.4 ypg), which is the worst in the conference, and only seven Power 5 teams have allowed more touchdowns through the air than the 17 the Red Raiders have yielded. With Oklahoma State (98th vs. the pass) and Kansas (106th), the stage is set for Murray to pad his stats ahead of a regular-season clash with Will Grier and West Virginia.
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ON THE RISE: Will Grier, West Virginia QB
Speaking of Grier, the November slate was expected to make or break everything in terms of his Heisman candidacy and the Mountaineers' viability as playoff contenders. Despite the loss at the hands of Iowa State, that still holds as Dana Holgorsen's crew opens up the month with No. 17 Texas before facing TCU, Oklahoma State and the Sooners. The Longhorns remain challenged in limiting passing yards (90th), but no Big 12 team has been better in locking things down inside the red zone, allowing a 71.9 percent conversion rate that's ninth in FBS. That may not matter much, though, in trying to slow down Grier, who is third in the nation in yards per attempt (10.4).
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FALL GUYS: Travis Etienne, Clemson RB
Granted, the Tigers had a bye week in the month of October, but we've still not seen Etienne hit 100 yards since he had 167 vs. Wake Forest back in Week 6 and in the rout of Florida State he didn't reach the end zone on a day when, frankly, Dabo Swinney didn't need his top backfield option. The pressure is on, though, if Etienne is going to challenge for the Tigers' best finish for a running back since C.J. Spiller was sixth in 2009. Oregon State is the only Power 5 with a worse rush defense than Louisville's, which is allowing 250.6 per game. That would seem like a prime chance for Etienne to break out and reignite his candidacy, but with Clemson a 37-point favorite, how much time will he really see in another likely blowout win for the Tigers?
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FALL GUYS: Trace McSorley, Penn State QB
The last time McSorley played against Michigan, he led Penn State to 506 yards and 42 points, but he has a tall task on his hands against a Wolverines defense that is No. 1 in total defense, first against the pass and ninth vs. the rush. That rush defense may be the biggest factor as McSorley has been leaning on his legs to extend drives, with 697 sack-adjusted rushing yards (a total that in all would give McSorley the fourth-highest yardage of any FBS quarterback), including 175 vs. Ohio State on Sept. 29. But he's dealing with a leg injury suffered against Iowa, and the Wolverines have been dominant against passers who can run this season, holding Notre Dame's Brandon Wimbush, Nebraska's Adrian Martinez and Michigan State's Brian Lewerke in check. Here's expecting that to continue Saturday.
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FALL GUYS: McKenzie Milton, UCF QB
Everything about Milton's resume tells us he's a threat. The numbers, as he ranks eighth in total offense per game (333.5), is 11th in passing yards (299.5) and fifth in points responsible for per game (22.0), and he and UCF are one of only four undefeated teams left in the country. But the Selection Committee's take on his Knights tell the expected story of a player fighting the stigma of playing outside the Power 5 conferences. Milton remains a threat to earn a spot at the table in New York should he orchestrate another undefeated season, but it's hard to argue that the reputations of player and program didn't take a hit with the release of the first rankings.