We are exactly one month out — A MONTH! — from the 2023 Heisman Trophy ceremony and it will be here before you know it.
Let’s start this week’s look at the Heisman race with a peak at a couple of dark horse candidates, led by Oklahoma State running back Ollie Gordon II. Frankly, his play lately has seemingly vaulted him into legit candidate territory.
Gordon maintained his Heisman momentum with 137 rushing yards Saturday to go with a pair of scores on the ground while lifting the No. 22 Cowboys to a 27-24 win over No. 9 Oklahoma.
In the final scheduled Bedlam game before OU moves to the SEC, OSU was able to close out the rivalry with a win thanks in large part to Gordon, who torpedoed in from one yard out late in the fourth to put the Cowboys up for good.
He leads the nation with 1,225 rushing yards, averaging 7.0 yards per attempt, and has 12 rushing scores. He has hit triple digits in rushing yards six games in a row.
If we really want to talk long shots — but guys worthy of recognition — how about Iowa DB and return specialist (and maybe burgeoning offensive threat) Cooper DeJean, the junior all-everything at Iowa
This story in The Athletic made a favorable comparison to 1939 Iowa Heisman winner Nile Kinnick, who won the trophy thanks to his all-around skills in passing, punting, running and playing defensive back — not unlike DeJean’s skill set.
DeJean returned three interceptions for scores as a sophomore, and has two interceptions this year to go with 41 tackles. He has returned one punt for a score this season and his return average of 11.9 leads the nation for returners with 16 or more returns (he has 20). Last week, he made his season debut on offense with two snaps — including one eight-yard run — and more could be coming from the offense-hungry Hawkeyes.
In this weeks The Athletic Heisman Straw Poll, Gordon rose into a tie for fourth, albeit without any first-place votes. DeJean got a lone third-place vote, but it’s a start!
Washington QB Michael Penix Jr. leads the poll again and has 17 first-place votes while Ohio State WR Marvin Harrison Jr. dropped one spot to second (with 9 first place votes) and Oregon QB Bo Nix is third (with four first-place votes). Gordon is tied with LSU QB Jayden Daniels, who had three first-place votes among six people who put him on a ballot in the 34-person strong poll.
Michigan QB J.J., McCarthy and Florida State QB Joran Travis, who lead a couple of unbeaten programs, are sixth and tied for seventh, respectively. Missouri receiver Luther Burden, USC QB and 2022 winner Caleb Williams and DeJean are tied with Travis.
The USC-Washington game last week was a battle between the reigning Heisman winner and one of the front runners in Penix Jr. The match-up did not disappoint as the two QBs accounted for seven combined touchdowns in the Huskies’ 52-42 win.
Williams completed 27-of-35 passes for 312 yards and three TDs and also ran in his 10th score of the year.
Penix Jr., however, was on his game and had a counter for every USC move. On a night when UW’s running game dominated the Trojans, Penix Jr. still threw for 256 yards and two scores while also running one in.
This Yahoo! Sports story gives a close look at Penix’s chances as well as McCarthy’s. Both are going to finish the season in some high profile match-ups that will continue to give them the chance to impress voters.
Penix Jr. finishes with ranked match-ups with Utah and Oregon State before its rivalry game against Washington State. McCarthy and the Wolverines face No. 10 Penn State, Maryland and No. 1 Ohio State. Potential conference title games loom as well.
McCarthy is second nationally in passer rating and third in completion percentage. Penix Jr., meanwhile, still leads the country in passing yards per game by over 30 yards.
Stat-wise, Williams is among the leaders nationally in touchdown passes (first), combined passing and rushing touchdowns (first), rushing TDs by a quarterback (tied for first), passing yards (second) and passer rating (sixth).
LSU QB Daniels put on an impressive display of versatility despite the Tigers’ 42-28 loss at Alabama. The senior passed for 219 yards with two touchdowns and rushed for 163 yards and another score. He left the game early in the fourth quarter after a hit to the head, but not before a slew of highlight plays.
Like Williams, Daniels is among the nation’s stat leaders, but three losses are weighing him down. Daniels’ availability heading into this week is uncertain as he is in concussion protocols.
Nix and the one-loss Ducks walloped Cal, 63-19, last week as Nix accounted for six touchdowns. He logged a pair of 1-yard TD runs — his fourth and fifth of the year — to give Oregon an early 21-13 lead. But Nix, who leads the country in completion percentage, did his most damage through the air, finishing with 386 yards passing and four scores before getting pulled late.
Nix will also have a chance to shine, first against USC this week followed by a trip to ASU before hosting the highly ranked Beavers to close out the year.
Speaking of big opportunities, the Seminoles host in-state rival Miami this weekend and Florida two weeks after. That will give Travis his own platform to try to move up in Heisman voters’ minds.