The Latest Heisman Buzz – A Shift In Poll Position

ESPN Reaches New Multi-Year Agreement with The Heisman Trust – The 86th Annual Heisman Trophy Ceremony to Air January 5

If the Heisman race were on a car track, it would likely be more Formula 1 than Nascar. Both are full of crowded fields, high speed collisions, surprise passes and a few pit stops along the way. But the former is full of hairpin turns and unexpected angles, the latter, a series of non-stop lefts.

And so it is, after Week 7 of the 2023 College Football Season, we see our first major moves in the Heisman Race as USC was humbled at Notre Dame while Washington persevered in a top 10 battle with rival Oregon.

Translation? Trojan 2022 Heisman winner Caleb Williams took a step back in the college football prognostication business while Husky quarterback Michael Penix Jr. made a pass into first (do we call it “poll position”?). And Oregon signal-caller Bo Nix? Despite losing in Seattle, he is still getting plenty of praise among the gridiron media landscape.

Meanwhile, unbeaten Oklahoma, Florida State, Michigan and North Carolina boast QBs rising in Heisman polls. LSU’s QB has two losses but some spectacular showings and Ohio State has a WR arguably the best in the land gaining attention.

Penix Jr. and Nix both turned in huge efforts in an epic Pacific Northwest rivalry game as the Huskies edged the Ducks, 36-33. Penix Jr., who leads the country in passing yards per game and is third in QB rating, completed 22-of-37 passes for 302 yards and four touchdowns, including this game-winner with 1:38 left.

As for Nix, the senior who leads all of college football in completion percentage, did all he could for the Ducks, throwing for 337 yards and two scores on 33-of-44 passing. He rallied Oregon from 11 points down midway through the third quarter to take the lead in the fourth before Penix Jr.’s heroics.

The latest 34-person straw poll by The Athletic showered Penix Jr. with love as the Washington QB earned all 34 first-place votes for a commanding lead. Nix, meanwhile, moved into third from fifth last week.

Yahoo Sports’ Ross Dellenger profiled Penix Jr.’s huge game here, including this: “Look at the late-game fight, the fourth-quarter heroics. Look at the way he battled severe cramps over the final few drives, how in just two plays he can change a game — win a game, for that matter. Look at the way he forces an opposing coach into mystifying decisions (we’ll get to that later). Look at it all.”

As for Nix, he is still very much in the mix, as this story notes, quoting ESPN’s Paul Finebaum on his chances. Finebaum is not as bullish on Williams, who is now fifth in The Athletic poll.

In second was Oklahoma quarterback Dillon Gabriel, whose unbeaten Sooners were off last week.

In fourth is LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels, who turned in another monster game to lead the Tigers to a 48-18 walloping of Auburn. Daniels passed for 325 yards and three scores — surpassing the 5,000-yard career mark in Baton Rouge in the process. He also ran for 93 yards. Daniels leads the nation in yards per pass attempt (11.0).

This piece discusses Daniels chances and how he compares to other favorites like Penix Jr. and Nix. Spoiler alert, quite well.

Daniels became the SEC’s top candidate this week with the unfortunate news that Georgia tight end Brock Bowers, who was climbing up the Heisman ladder, has been sidelined for 4-to-6 weeks by an ankle injury suffered Saturday.

CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd listed his “Halfway Heisman Hype” top 10 here, headed by Penix Jr.

North Carolina QB Drake Maye is second on Dodd’s list (he is fifth in The Athletic). Maye kept the Tar Heels unbeaten thanks to a season-high four TD passes in a 41-31 win over Miami.  

Maye is among the New York Post’s current top 5, as is Florida State quarterback Jordan Travis, who is fourth on Dodd’s list but with only one third-place vote in The Athletic poll.

Travis accounted for three touchdowns in a 41-3 win over Syracuse to keep No. 4 Florida State unbeaten. He ran for a season-high two touchdowns and threw his 13th scoring pass of the season.

Unbeaten Michigan features a pair of Heisman hopefuls — depending on where you read — in running back Blake Corum and QB J.J. McCarthy. McCarthy is seventh in The Athletic poll, and not in Dodd’s top 10, while Corum is. 

Fox Sports analyst RJ Young gave McCarthy some Heisman love here for this pristine TD pass, among other moments. This Michigan Live piece features McCarthy’s bonafides, including a quote from teammate Corum pumping his QB for Heisman consideration. Corum, by the way, leads the country in rushing touchdowns with 12.

Four wideouts dotted the bottom of The Athletic’s poll, including Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr., who had six receptions for 105 yards and a score in the Buckeyes’ win Saturday over Purdue. Washington’s Rome Odunze, LSU’s Malik Nabers and FSU’s Keon Coleman were all also on the list and all also caught at least one scoring pass Saturday.