Who is on the Heisman fringe?

Javier Morales

October 16, 2013 at 3:59 pm.


Lache Seastrunk has put up big numbers in the high-scoring Baylor offense. (Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)

The Heisman race is wide open without a clear favorite although Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is most worthy, as long as the Ducks keep winning and maintain their plus-50 points per game average.

The season is less than two months old and the BCS standings have not been released. So much football is to be played and new Heisman hopefuls can emerge while those in the running can stumble and fall.

Six games into last season, Johnny Manziel, a redshirt freshman at the time, was not listed among the top Heisman candidates. That did not happen until he engineered an upset victory at Alabama in the 10th week of the season.

With that in mind, here’s a list of the top 5 players who can emerge a month from now and belong in the same sentence as Mariota, Manziel, Clemson’s Tajh Boyd, Florida State’s Jameis Winston and others …

1. Lache Seastrunk, junior running back, Baylor

Seastrunk averages an incredible 9.9 yards per carry (643 yards on only 65 carries) with no signs of him slowing down. After winning at Kansas State last Saturday, undefeated Baylor (5-0) does not have a difficult game until Oklahoma travels to Waco on Nov. 7. If the Bears remain unbeaten after that game and Seastrunk has another game with at least 150 yards rushing, his name will be right up there with the top three Heisman favorites. If he wins the Heisman, who would have ever thought that two Baylor players (Robert Griffin III the other) would win the prestigious award?

2. Sean Mannion, junior quarterback, Oregon State

If the season ended today, Mannion could already earn All-American status leading the nation with 2,511 passing yards and 25 touchdowns (gaudy numbers in seasons 10 to 20 years ago). He has only three interceptions while completing 194 of his 289 passing attempts. Since losing to Eastern Washington in the season-opener, Oregon State has won four straight, including Pac-12 road games against Utah and Washington State in which the Beavers have scored 51 and 52 points, respectively. After the Beavers play at Cal on Saturday, they play five difficult games against Stanford, USC and Washington at home, and against ASU and Oregon on the road. If they win at least three of those games, Mannion’s name should be near the top of the Heisman list.

3. AJ McCarron, senior quarterback, Alabama

He might not post prolific numbers – ranking 42nd nationally with 234.5 passing yards per game – but McCarron puts the Crimson Tide in position to win every time. He completes 68.9 percent of his passes (111 of 161 attempts) with only three interceptions and 11 touchdowns. He faces an uphill battle because his stats are not as remarkable as others, but as long as Alabama keeps winning, McCarron’s name will always be there as a possibility. One breakout game in which he passes for 400 or more yards with multiple touchdown passes against quality competition could enhance his chance, but will that happen?

4. Brett Hundley, sophomore quarterback, UCLA

The next two weeks will make or break Hundley’s opportunity. The Bruins must travel to Stanford and Oregon in the next two weeks. If UCLA does not at least split, Hundley can wave good bye to any Heisman talk. His erratic play last lately with missed opportunities in the red zone, especially against a suspect Cal defense last Saturday, does not leave him much room for error. If he continues to post favorable numbers (68.1 completion percentage) and 260 yards rushing and the Bruins upset the Cardinal or Ducks, he will be in discussion with a manageable schedule down the stretch.

5. Teddy Bridgewater, junior quarterback, Louisville

The only reason why Bridgewater is not among the top five candidates currently is because of the Cardinals’ easy schedule. His ability to lead Louisville to a 6-0 record, and his 18 touchdowns with only two interceptions keep him in the discussion. The Cardinals’ schedule does not get any more difficult in the meager American Athletic Conference. His only chance is if others falter and their teams lose a game or two while Louisville keeps winning.

Others to consider: Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr, Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty and Washington running back Bishop Sankey.

Not in their favor: Carr does not play in a power conference (Mountain West), Petty is worthy but the Bears have not faced credible competition against the pass to date, and Sankey’s Huskies lost convincingly at home to Oregon. Sankey enters the discussion again if Washington builds another winning streak, starting Saturday at ASU.