This may be the most important week of the season as far as the Heisman Trophy goes, despite one of the front-runners not even playing.
Should Dak Prescott lead No. 1 Mississippi State to a win at No. 5 Alabama on Saturday, it would be his whopping fourth win over a Top-10 opponent, a feat that has only been equaled by one winner: legendary Army running back Doc Blanchard in 1945.
As far as Heisman moments, aligning yourself with one of the most iconic players in the game’s history would certainly suffice, and it may be enough to put Prescott out in front of Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, who gets the weekend off.
But Prescott may not be done.
A fifth Top-10 team awaits with No. 10 Ole Miss on Nov. 29 and there’s potentially a sixth in the SEC Championship Game should current No. 15 Georgia beat No. 9 Auburn and, with an East-leading Missouri loss, reach Atlanta.
Do that and there may not be any question who is hoisting the trophy next month. But first things first for the Bulldogs’ redshirt junior quarterback.
On Nov. 10, 2012, Johnny Manziel had a number of Heisman moments when Texas A&M went into Tuscaloosa and two years and five days later, Prescott could supply one of his own and seize the lead in this race.
Before we look at who is poised to rise and fall, here’s how the voting would likely shake out after 11 weeks.
The Horned Frogs jumping into the top four in the latest College Football Playoff poll doesn’t hurt Boykin’s chances, and neither does his performance in TCU’s last expected test of the season. He torched then-No. 7 Kansas State for 219 yards and a touchdown through the air and added a career-high 123 yards and three scores on the ground. Now, after facing five teams within the top 20 in a six-game span, Boykin gets to pad his stats, beginning with Kansas, whose defense is ranked 95th (435.7 yards per game) is giving up 30 points per (tied for 88th).
The Big Ten schedule got him into the mix — as he torched previously-eight-ranked Michigan State for 300 yards and three TDs passing and 88 yards and two scored rushing — and it also costs him in this conversation with just that one marquee win. The best thing that can happen for Barrett’s campaign is to put the Buckeyes into the Big Ten Championship Game (they can clinch a share of the East and a trip to Indianapolis with a win over No. 25 Minnesota) and outshine the conference’s other top contender. Which brings us to …
He ripped off his third 200-yard game of the season in Week 11, rolling up 205 and a TD on Purdue and also added just his second receiving score of the season. Gordon is a strong bet to become the Big Ten’s first 2,000 yard rusher since Penn State’s Larry Johnson had 2,087 in 2002, as he stands just 499 yards away with up to four games to play should the Badgers reach the conference’s title game. He’ll be in what amounts to a trophy elimination game this week against Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah and it favors Gordon going in considering the Cornhuskers have already allowed 128 yards to Northwestern’s Justin Jackson and 111 by Michigan State’s Jeremy Langford.
Mississippi State’s passing offense is bad, like ranked 120th out of 125 FBS teams bad, giving up 300 yards per game. He may be in for a big day — though don’t expect much in the red zone given the Bulldogs do have the nation’s No. 1 unit in that department — and continue to build on his place in the Crimson Tide record book, but it’s hard to imagine Cooper staying in this race should Prescott steal the show in the weekend’s biggest game.
The Badgers are fifth against the rush, allowing a paltry 94.3 yards per game. Now, just like Nebraska’s own D, Wisconsin has had its issues against better running backs, as Northwestern’s Jackson ran for 162 and LSU’s Kenny Hilliard totaled 110. Both neither of those games was in Camp Randall, and over the past four games Wisconsin has held its opponents’ leading rusher to just 45 yards per game. Chances are the Badgers don’t have that kind of success against Abdullah — even if he’s not full strength with a sore left knee — but it should be enough to make the Big Ten’s top RB contender a clear choice.
His Bears are behind the Horned Frogs in the selection committee’s eyes despite beating them 61-58 on Oct. 11, and the QB is barley hanging on in the Heisman conversation as Boykin rises. Petty’s odds are down to 50/1 according to online sportsbook Bovada, and while he still has a marquee matchup remaining in the regular-season finale against No. 13 Kansas State, it’s tough to see him surpassing Boykin or most of the other top contenders without some serious attrition ahead of him. But, hey, should Baylor and TCU both win out, Petty will have a Big 12 championship, so he’d have that up on Boykin and TCU.