The Latest Heisman Buzz As We Move Into Pumpkin Season

Behind the scenes at the 2020 Virtual Heisman Trophy Ceremony © Kelly Backus / ESPN Images

It’s Oct. 3, we are a full two weeks into Fall and rakes are flying off the shelves at the hardware stores. Have you had your first pumpkin spiced latte yet?

We sipped our first of the season recently as we enjoyed the final Saturday in September, hunkered down for a full slate of college football watching.

Heisman-worthy performances were about as plentiful as coffee shops serving fall flavors, so let’s dig into what went down and where the Trophy talk is taking us.

We’re going to start this week with our reigning Heisman winner Caleb Williams, who is making eye-popping performances seem routine. Williams threw for 403 yards and a career-high-tying six touchdown passes to lead USC to a 48-41 win at Colorado. He now has a national-best 21 touchdown passes (plus three rushing scores) and also leads the country in yards per attempt and in quarterback rating. To say he’s playing at a high level in his bid to win a second trophy is an understatement.

So far, the college football media world is following along closely.

The Athletic, in its latest Heisman Trophy Straw Poll, saw Williams take over first place in its 34-person vote with 20 first-place ballots. He switched places with Washington QB Michael Penix Jr., who is now second (and with 13 first-place votes).

It remained a Pac-12 top-heavy poll with Oregon QB Bo Nix third and Washington State quarterback Cam Ward fifth. Breaking the Pac-12 monopoly on top was Georgia tight end Brock Bowers in fourth. 

In Pro Football Network’s latest Heisman hopeful round-up, they were quite impressed with Williams’ performance at Colorado:

“To be clear, the Colorado defense hasn’t been adept at stopping many QBs this year. But Williams did what he was supposed to do against that kind of competition. He dominated — both in-structure and out-of-structure. His hyper-elite creation capacity has yielded high-volume production each week, but in Week 5, he was just as lethal carving up the Buffaloes from the pocket.”

Penix Jr.’s Washington squad, like Williams’ USC, squeaked out a seven-point win over Arizona when a double-digit triumph was expected. But the ‘W’ is the most important stat and the Huskies and Trojans are both now 5-0. Penix Jr. completed 30-of-40 passes for 363 yards without a scoring pass, but still led UW to its 12th straight win. He leads the country in passing yards per game (399.8) and is one yard shy of 2,000 through five contests.

It’s enough for the San Jose Mercury News’ Jon Wilner to list him atop his list of Pac-12 Heisman hopefuls one spot ahead of Williams.

As for Nix, he led Oregon to its second straight 42-6 victory, this time over Stanford. He threw for 290 yards and four scores, misfiring on just five of 32 pass attempts. He leads the country in completion percentage (80.4) and is tied for fourth nationally with 15 touchdowns – more than halfway to his career-best total for TD passes in a season (29).

Nix and Penix Jr. will square off on Oct. 14 at Husky Stadium. Both QBs will also face Williams at USC later in the Fall.

Now, speaking of seven-point wins by top 10 teams, No. 1 Georgia needed a late touchdown to beat Auburn, 27-20, and that came thanks to Bulldog tight end Bowers. The junior caught a short pass over the middle and turned it into a game-winning 40-yard touchdown reception for his second straight 100-yard game. Bowers now has 30 receptions for 413 yards and three scores.

Bleacher Report’s Adam Kramer makes the case to start looking hard at Bowers’ Heisman resume.

Said Kramer: “With less than three minutes remaining, Bowers hauled in a 40-yard touchdown that showcased his full range of talents. He showcased the kind of speed normally not reserved for 240-pound humans, all while casually brushing aside hopeful tacklers. 

“The fact that a tight end even is even hovering around consideration speaks to Bowers’ magnificence. This is not a conversation we’ve had regularly, and it likely won’t be had for some time. But it needs to be had right now. Although the Heisman isn’t won in September, the conversation surrounding Bowers should be sincere.”

Pivoting back to QBs, Texas signal caller Quinn Ewers has led the Longhorns to a 5-0 start, its best since 2009. In Saturday’s 40-14 win over previously unbeaten Kansas, Ewers passed for 325 yards and a score and also found the end zone twice on the ground.

This latest Fox Sports Heisman update has Ewers third overall behind Penix Jr. and Williams. It notes how versatile Ewers been: 

“Ewers has been able to get it done this season with both his arm and legs, totaling 1,358 yards and 10 touchdowns through the air, and another five touchdowns on the ground.”

Both Ward’s Washington State squad and QB Jordan Travis’ Florida State team had the week off last week, but both remain high on Heisman charts. Ward will get a chance to shine again at UCLA this week, while the Seminoles host Virginia Tech. Another QB in the Heisman hunt who was also off Saturday was Miami’s Tyler Van Dyke. He returns to action this weekend against Georgia Tech.

Notre Dame quarterback Sam Hartman helped the Irish bounce back from their last-second loss to Ohio State with a road win over upstart Duke, 21-14. He threw for 222 yards and led Notre Dame to a touchdown drive in the game’s final minutes.

Looking at some Heisman dark horse candidates, how about Kentucky running back Ray Davis. The Wildcats improved to 5-0 last week with a 33-14 win over Florida and Davis played a major part, rushing for a career-high 280 yards and four scores while also catching a nine-yard TD pass. It was enough to earn him Doak Walker National Running Back of the Week honors.

Saturday Day South asked the question, Ray Davis for Heisman?

Normally you wouldn’t consider a QB from LSU a dark horse, but Tiger QB Jayden Daniels might be one. He turned in a huge performance in a losing effort last week, LSU falling 55-49 at Ole Miss. The senior threw for 414 yards on 27-of-36 passing and ran for another 99 yards and one more score.