The Heisman Trophy race is teetering toward unremarkable. Granted, a space that's dedicated each week toward breaking down the chase for said award may not be where you'd expect to see that admission come to life, but it's the truth.
Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa is so far out in front as we head to the eighth week of the season -- without, as of yet, taking a snap in the fourth quarter -- that he may as well not just book plane tickets to New York, but do so sans the trip insurance.
I know, right?
But the dwindling number of legitimate candidates -- which as of now is limited to Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins and Oklahoma's Kyle Murray -- provides an opportunity for votership to shed an even brighter light on the kind of contender that rarely gets a legitimate chance due to decades-old biases.
UCF's McKenzie Milton, the floor is your's.
We haven't seen a Heisman winner from outside the sport's power structure since Ty Detmer in 1990 and the last to finish runner-up was San Diego State's Marshall Faulk a year later. In the last 25 years, not a single one has been higher than third, the finish that Alcorn State's Steve McNair (1994), Hawaii's Colt Brennan (2007) and Northern Illinois' Jordan Lynch (2013) were resigned to.
As Milton's No. 10 Golden Knights, winners of 19 straight -- with 2-4 East Carolina upcoming this weekend -- keep that streak together, and create a dilemma for the College Football Playoff committee, the quarterback's case becomes an intriguing one.
Granted, the schedule isn's daunting. Per NCAA.org's rankings, UCF's slate is 77th based on future and past opponents' winning percentages (.540), which is better than just six teams from Power 5 conferences. But among them? Haskins' Buckeyes (85th at .515) and Colorado (.464) and Oregon (.457), both of whom have players -- the Buffaloes' Laviska Shenault and Ducks' Justin Herbert -- who have seemingly received more Heisman buzz this season than McKenzie.
Perception -- that of his program and his conference -- is McKenzie's weakness in this race. But should he keep UCF on course for another unbeaten season, can a player who is seventh in FBS in total offense (333.5 yards per game) and sixth in points responsible for (132) be denied, at the minimum, a seat at the table at the ceremony?
No one has a narrower margin of error, and there's no supplanting Tagovailoa, especially for a player from the AAC given the way we voters have historically handled non-Power 5 stars. That being said, as would-be contenders continue to take hits (here's looking at you, Will Grier), McKenzie as the face of the team that just keeps fighting for respect -- and just keeps winning despite who is or is not coaching -- is proving to be tough to ignore.
So as the second tier behind Tagovailoa and Haskins sorts itself out, Milton makes an appearance in the Forecaster's virtual ballot heading into Week 8.
1. Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama QB 2. Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State QB 3. McKenzie Milton, UCF QB
As for who is rising and falling in the race ...
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ON THE RISE: Travis Etienne, Clemson RB
As noted last week, Etienne is one of the more intriguing contenders as we dive further into the season's second half. That push begins on Saturday afternoon with No. 16 NC State and its 13th-ranked rush defense, which is allowing 107.4 yards per game, heading to Death Valley. As impressive as the Wolfpack's defense looks on paper, it comes with some qualifiers. Dave Doeren's crew didn't face AJ Dillon vs. Boston College and still gave up 90 on the ground to wide receiver Ben Glines. As of now, the Wolfpack have faced one Power 5 conference RB who is in the top 50 in rushing yards per game in Virginia's Jordan Ellis (who has yet to go over 86 yards against any major-conference defense). This will be a tough assignment for the NC State defense and a moment where Etienne can start making his case in a spotlight game.
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ON THE RISE: Justin Herbert, Oregon QB
The bottom line with Herbert is the Pac-12's place in the CFP pecking order remains a hurdle. Since the start of the four-team playoff, all but one winner -- Louisville's Lamar Jackson in a 2016 campaign so gaudy statistically-speaking that his claim was undeniable -- has played for a team that was among those vying for a national championship. For now, though, Herbert is putting together a nice resume should the Ducks find their way into the CFP conversation. Eighth in pass efficiency at 171.2, only five Power 5 passers have thrown for more touchdowns than his 17 and after taking down the Huskies' vaunted pass defense last week, he'll get -- what's at least on paper -- another test this Saturday. No. 25 Washington State leads the Pac-12 and is 10th in FBS in allowing a paltry 165.5 ypg, but hasn't faced a single opponent in the top 50 in passing offense.
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ON THE RISE: Ed Oliver, Houston DT
If the current climate helps McKenzie, does it provide a similar boost to Oliver? The attention of being an expected top-five pick in this spring's NFL Draft means more attention from the opposition as Oliver is typically double or triple team. Despite that he's eighth in the nation in tackles for loss with 11 1/2 and has helped keep his Cougars on course for an AAC Championship Game clash with McKenzie and UCF. That game could have the potential to help one of them vie for a spot in the ceremony, because its unlikey both -- especialy with them being in the same conference -- are both making that trip.
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FALL GUYS: Will Grier, West Virginia QB
Just when we thought Grier's campaign hinged on that November slate of No. 7 Texas, TCU, Oklahoma State and No. 9 Oklahoma, he goes out and has his worst game at the helm of the Mountaineers offense. He threw for just 100 yards -- which was 263 yards below his season average -- along with a touchdown and an interception, a downer that was one week after he tossed three picks against Kansas. The sky isn't exactly falling in Morgantown, with West Virginia still controlling their destiny thanks to that November gauntlet, but it's growing difficult to see Grier remaining a legitimate threat in this race.
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FALL GUYS: Jake Fromm, Georgia QB
The rumbles to see more of Justin Fields are going to grow throughout the bye week after Fromm's shaky start in the loss to LSU. He threw two picks, to go along with a TD, in the Bulldogs' 36-16 defeat, posting the worst efficiency rating (96.6) of his 22 games in a Georgia uniform. The season can still be salvaged for the Bulldogs with the SEC East still in sights, but will that mean Kirby Smart opting to take advantage of Fields' athleticism? The plot thickens in Athens.
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FALL GUYS: Laviska Shenault, Colorado WR
Shenault's recipe for emerging as the Pac-12 was going to take a few key ingredients. First, he was going to have to dominate in back-to-back games against USC, and this week vs. No. 15 Washington. He was a factor vs. the Trojans, including nine catches for 72 yards and he rushed for 46 yards and a touchdown. But he was held well under his previous average of 141.6 ypg, and the other factor for him was standing as his conference and the Far West voting region's top choice and that now looks to be Herbert. Add in his uncertainty vs. the Huskies with a toe injury and Shenault's chances don't look good.