Heisman Hopefuls In The News Heading Into Week 8

A month into autumn and the air is crisp and the colors are turning.

So too is the twisting and turning Heisman race, at least according to college football’s pundit class as college football passes the season’s halfway point.

Jumping right into it, a check of The Athletics latest straw poll shows a new No. 1 among its writers. Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker, fresh of leading the Volunteers to a 52-49 shootout upset win over Alabama.

The 37-vote poll saw Hooker garner 33 first-place votes following his 385-yard, five-TD performance, out-pacing the reigning Heisman winner Bryce Young, who finished with 455 yards on 35-of-52 passing and two TDs.

While they dueled, Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud was on a bye week, providing Hooker with a lion’s share of the spotlight. Young is third in the poll with Michigan RB Blake Corum in fourth and TCU QB Max Duggan fifth.

Fox’s Joel Klatt still has Stroud as his top pick, with Hooker and Michigan RB Blake Corum right behind him. He also has UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson (“He’s playing the best in the Pac-12”), Young and USC’s Caleb Williams in the 4-5-6 spots. 

“I thought before last week it was clearly C.J. Stroud in the lead,” Klatt said, “and now it’s a nice little two-horse race, maybe three.” See him break down the field here.

Fansided Heisman columnist Cory McCartney also has Stroud and Hooker 1-2 with USC’s Williams’ third. See his analysis here. Also on his radar is Duggan, Clemson QB D.J. Uiagalelei and Young. 

Duggan has the Horned Frogs off to a 6-0 start with wins over three straight ranked opponents — including last week in a fourth-quarter come-from-two-TDs-behind OT win over Oklahoma State — while Uiagalelei has led Clemson to a 7-0 start, most recently throwing three TDs in a win at Florida State and rushing for another.

For his part, Hooker (check out one if his five TD passes here) told ESPN’s Keyshawn Johnson that Heisman talk “is a blessing and something that I have been working for my whole football career, but the accolades and individual awards come second to my team.” See his interview here.

Deadspin released its latest top 5 and it also features Stroud-Hooker atop the list with Young third, Corum fourth and Williams fifth. Corum’s Wolverines are 7-0, and the junior has 901 rushing yards and 13 TDs (including this 61-yarder last week) on 146 carries. 

Stroud’s stat line, despite the bye, includes 1,737 yards on 113-of-116 passing (70.6) with a TD-INT ratio of 24-3. Young, by the way, has passed for 1,657 yards in five-plus games with 16 TDs.

Heisman winner/ESPN announcer Robert Griffin III released his top 6, which sees Hooker-Stroud at the top along with a couple of surprises.

ESPN’s latest update, featuring its own de facto straw poll, shows Hooker (“Hooker has been the breakout star of the college football season so far”) atop its Heisman list with Stroud third, Young third, Thompson-Robinson fourth and Williams fifth.

This week’s schedule offers Heisman hopefuls some marquee chances to impress voters, including Uiagalelei leading Clemson against fellow unbeaten Syracuse, Thompson-Robinson taking No. 9 UCLA into Eugene to face No. 10 Oregon, Young’s Tide against Top 25 Mississippi State and Duggan’s TCU against No. 17 Kansas State. Stroud is also back in action.