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The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

The 2010 Heisman

P.S.R. 2010 Heisman Watch: Week 8

There’s been some movement on the list, as you’d expect when several top-ranked teams drop disappointing Saturday results. That makes for an interesting list heading into the eighth week of the season, even if the same name remains in the lead spot: Boise State’s Kellen Moore. The junior quarterback has been a fixture in this role, minus a one-week absence when Michigan’s Denard Robinson topped the list. What about Robinson — is he still a contender despite Michigan’s back-to-back losses? What about Ohio State’s Terrelle Pryor? Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez? Let’s take a look.

1. QB Kellen Moore, Boise State (Last week: No. 1)

Week 7 W 48-0 at San Jose State (14 of 16 for 231 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT)
Year to date 105 of 151 for 1567 yards, 16 TD, 1 INT

At another school, you might be able to double Moore’s numbers — if not double, at least increase by a significant percentage. However, Boise State declines to run up the score against less-talented, weaker teams, instead opting to rest the vast majority of its starting lineup in the second half of one-sided affairs. What that means, in my mind: Moore’s numbers, already terrific, could be even better. If Boise State was led by, say, the 2008 Oklahoma coaching staff, Moore’s numbers would be off the charts.

Week 8 bye

2. QB Cam Newton, Auburn (Last week: No. 4)

Week 7 W 65-43 vs. Arkansas (10 of 14 for 140 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT; 25 carries for 188 yards, 3 TD)
Year to date 80 of 122 for 1278 yards, 13 TD, 5 INT; 129 carries for 860 yards, 12 TD

He’s a sight to behold in the open field — unless you’re an opposing defensive back. One Arkansas defender found this out the hard way on Saturday, opting to tackle Newton up high, not by the ankles. The price this defender paid: a touchdown, for starters, but also a very, very damaged sense of dignity. In his last two SEC games, Newton has rushed for more than 350 yards with 7 touchdowns, breaking ankles and hearts in both Kentucky and Fayetteville. And make no mistake: as the SEC’s lone challenger, the hype machine will be out in full force for Auburn’s quarterback.

Week 8 vs. L.S.U., Saturday

3. RB LaMichael James, Oregon (Last week: No. 3)

Week 7 bye
Year to date 114 carries for 848 yards, 9 TD; 3 receptions for 96 yards, 1 TD

Oregon returns to play on Thursday, hosting a U.C.L.A. team likely lacking the offensive punch to last with the Ducks. With his team-mandated suspension on the opening weekend and last week’s bye, James should be extremely well-rested for the remainder of conference play. Which is not great news for the rest of the Pac-10. U.C.L.A.’s lone hope at an upset is a defensive struggle; James will ensure that the Oregon offense suffers no letdown.

Week 8 vs. U.C.L.A., Thursday

4. QB Terrelle Pryor, Ohio State (Last week: No. 2)

Week 7 L 31-18 at Wisconsin (14 of 28 for 156 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT; 18 carries for 56 yards)
Year to date 118 of 181 for 1505 yards, 15 TD, 4 INT; 75 carries for 410 yards, 3 TD

This is probably too high for Pryor. If nothing else, his placement at No. 4 indicates the gap between the top three and the rest of the field. By no stretch is Pryor out of the running; he’s suffered a setback, but the Buckeyes still have a handful of meaningful games remaining in Big Ten play. Nevertheless, there’s no escaping just how poorly Pryor played in a loss to Wisconsin: he was woefully inaccurate, showed little arm strength of pocket presence, and was held largely in check as a runner by the Wisconsin defense. Altogether, a horrid evening for Pryor — and his team.

Week 7 vs. Purdue, Saturday

5. RB John Clay, Wisconsin (Last week: No. 10)

Week 7 W 31-18 vs. Ohio State (21 carries for 104 yards, 2 TD)
Year to date 136 carries for 796 yards, 11 TD

Clay needed a big showing on Saturday; he got it. it was perhaps his finest performance of the year, and when taken in conjunction with the big stage was surely one of the biggest games of his three-year career. What does that mean? That Clay is back in the Heisman mix, should he continue to loom large in Wisconsin’s key games — say, this Saturday’s trip to Iowa. Now, should Clay again rush for 100 yards and a pair of touchdowns against the nation’s best run defense, he’ll begin to gain even more recognition.

Week 8 at Iowa, Saturday

6. RB DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma (Last week: No. 6)

Week 7 W 52-0 vs. Iowa State (20 carries for 112 yards, 2 TD; 2 catches for 28 yards, 1 TD)
Year to date 150 carries for 663 yards, 11 TD; 21 catches for 170 yards, 2 TD

There’s really never a reason to watch Oklahoma play Iowa State: it’s always one-sided, always ugly, never meaningful. Players like Murray — and Jason White, Adrian Peterson, Sam Bradford — typically view a date with the Cyclones as an opportunity to put some impressive numbers; for Murray, mission accomplished. Oklahoma’s dual-threat running back cracked the 100-yard mark for the fourth time this season, made at least two receptions for the fifth consecutive game and scored at least two touchdowns on the ground for the fifth time in six games.

Week 8 at Missouri, Saturday

7. QB Andrew Luck, Stanford  (Last week: No. 9)

Week 7 bye
Year to date 93 of 148 for 1258 yards, 13 TD, 4 INT; 25 carries for 202 yards, 2 TD

Stanford, coming off a bye, will get another break on Saturday thanks to a visit from Washington State. It should be a fun afternoon for Luck and the Cardinal offense, which has been excellent for much of the season — minus the second half against Oregon. Washington State, sadly, doesn’t have much of a chance. Look for Luck to get his work done early before taking the rest of the afternoon off beginning sometime in the third quarter.

Week 8 vs. Washington State

8. QB Andy Dalton, T.C.U. (Last week: No. –)

Week 7 W 31-3 vs. B.Y.U. (24 of 36 for 273 yards, 4 TD, 0 INT; 7 carries for 16 yards)
Year to date 92 of 138 for 1117 yards, 9 TD, 4 INT; 45 carries for 265 yards, 3 TD

The T.C.U. gets much of the credit, and deservedly so: the Horned Frogs just saw their two-game shutout streak snapped by B.Y.U., which scored all of three points against one of the nation’s best units. However, it’s time to give Dalton, now a four-year starter, his share of the credit. While facing an uphill battle, Dalton might very well continue to make a name for himself should the Horned Frogs continue to run the table. That makes a late-season game against Utah all the more important. Dalton needs to go undefeated — perhaps even lead T.C.U. to the national title game — to be a viable contender; that’s not all that difficult to imagine, in my mind.

Week 8 vs. Air Force, Saturday

9. QB Denard Robinson, Michigan (Last week: No. 5)

Week 7 L 38-28 vs. Iowa (13 of 19 for 96 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT; 18 carries for 105 yards)
Year to date 97 of 143 for 1319 yards, 9 TD, 5 INT; 137 carries for 1096 yards, 9 TD

It’s getting harder to keep Robinson on this list; after back-to-back losses, all we have to go on are his numbers, impressive as they might be. However, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that his Wolverines have flopped against the two best teams on their schedule after feasting on an easy slate to start the season. For now, Robinson’s success on an individual level is enough to keep him among the Heisman contenders — barely. That will only propel him for so long; he needs to get the Wolverines back in the win column in Big Ten play to remain a candidate.

Week 8 bye

10. QB Ricky Stanzi, Iowa (Last week: No. –)

Week 7 W 38-38 at Michigan (17 of 24 for 248 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT)
Year to date 99 of 145 for 1474 yards, 13 TD, 2 INT

Or Kirk Cousins. Both deserves to be in this spot; I’m giving Stanzi the edge based solely on his statistical performance — he’s been terrific — though Cousins can make his case around Michigan State’s perfect start. You really can’t go wrong with either guy: it might not be pretty with Stanzi, but he gets the job done. Cousins has taken a slight backseat to his team’s powerful running game, which has increased his production while providing more balance to the M.S.U. offense. I could have gone with either one, as noted.

Week 8 vs. Wisconsin, Saturday

Dropped out

QB Taylor Martinez, Nebraska (Last week: No. 7)
QB Ryan Mallett, Arkansas (Last week: No. 8 )

Previous weeks

Week 7 list Kellen Moore, No. 1
Week 6 list Denard Robinson, No. 1
Week 5 list Kellen Moore, No. 1
Week 4 list Kellen Moore, No. 1
Week 3 list Kellen Moore, No. 1
Week 2 list Kellen Moore, No. 1
Preseason list Kellen Moore, No. 1

You can also follow Paul Myerberg and Pre-Snap Read on Twitter.

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  1. schedule nit says:

    But how do you really feel about Oklahoma?

    Pryor has had a huge heisman hype machine behind him since high school. This is evidenced by his remaining on so many heisman lists Cam Newton basically is what Pryor was supposed to be. While Moore was solid if unspectacular against his two actual opponents, Newton has absolutely dominated SEC defenses in close competitive games–and a decent Clemson squad. I see no reasonable way to give Moore the nod over Cam at this point based on their performances. Hype machine upcoming or no.

  2. Zaboo says:

    I can still dream of Nick Foles popping up here eventually… right?

  3. jjtiller says:

    Zaboo, Foles is out for the season…

  4. M Meyer says:

    I can’t tell you how excited I am to see Stanzi make your Heisman watch list. He certainly has his work cut out for him the next two weeks. He’s a good quarterback and has eliminated many of his mistakes from last year, but he’s still staring down receivers (he needs to cut that out!) Win against 2/3 of Wiskey, Sparty, and THE OSU, and he’ll start passing the stat monsters in voters’ minds.

    Paul: The only thing Cousins has over Stanzi at this point is the record, which is very important. But Stanzi looks like a different quarterback. I can’t say how impressed I’ve been. And you’re right, if he beats those teams he’ll begin to get some national love. There’s likely not a better senior quarterback in the country at this point.

  5. Burnt Orange says:

    Kendall Hunter 135 carries, 830 yds, 6.1 yds per carry

    John Clay 136 carries, 796 yds, 5.9 yds per carry

    DeMarco Murray 150 carries, 663 yds, 4.42 yds per carry

  6. 10. QB Ricky Stanzi, Iowa (Last week: No. –)

    Week 7 W 38-38 at Michigan (27 of 38 for 310 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT)
    Year to date 122 of 176 for 1748 yards, 13 TD, 6 INT

    I’m a little confused on these incorrect stats. He didn’t throw an INT against Mich & he only has 2 INT this year?????????????????????????????????????????????

    Paul: Question marks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I hadn’t updated from Ryan Mallett, I believe, the player Stanzi replaced on this list. Thanks for pointing it out.

  7. CBW says:

    “At another school, you might be able to double Moore’s numbers — if not double, at least increase by a significant percentage.” I guess Paul is assuming that this hypothetical other school is also in the WAC — or plays schedule equally as weak as Boise.

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