Players Poised to Make a Late Heisman Run

Alex SimsCorrespondent IIIOctober 24, 2013

Players Poised to Make a Late Heisman Run

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    There is no question as to who the Heisman Trophy favorites are at this point in the season, as Oregon's Marcus Mariota and Florida State's Jameis Winston have seemingly taken control of the race.

    However, with the season just past its halfway point, there is still plenty of time for other contenders to make late runs at college football's biggest individual honor.

    The last two Heisman winners, Johnny Manziel and Robert Griffin III, both notched their "Heisman moments" late in the season, giving hope for numerous other candidates to do the same this year.

    While some voters may be leaning one way right now, these seven players could change the complexion of the race over the final weeks of the season.

    Note: All rankings based on the Week 9 BCS standings.

Sean Mannion: QB, Oregon State

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    Although he has averaged nearly 50 more yards per game than every other quarterback in college football, Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion is hardly mentioned in the Heisman race.

    The junior is just a shade under 3,000 passing yards already through seven games, which many quarterbacks would be happy with in an entire season. He also has 29 passing touchdowns and just three interceptions. He has five games over 400 yards and has eclipsed 350 yards in every game this season. 

    The only thing Mannion's resume lacks is quality competition. He'll have that coming shortly, as the Beavers will take on Stanford this week, plus Arizona State, Washington and Oregon before the end of the season.

    If he continues to amass ridiculous yardage while also picking up wins over the remainder of the year, he'll be right in the thick of the Heisman race at season's end.

Bryce Petty: QB, Baylor

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    Bryce Petty is in a situation similar to that of Sean Mannion. The junior has been posting incredible statistics while Baylor has rolled through weak competition.

    The Bears are the best offensive team in the nation, averaging 64.7 points and 713 yards per game. Petty is No. 5 in the nation in passing, averaging 337.2 yards per game. His touchdown-interception ratio is 15-to-1.

    Early in the year, BU's biggest Heisman candidate was running back Lache Seastrunk. However, Petty's strong play has him as the team's top option now.

    Additionally, the Bears are No. 8 in the BCS and are the Big 12 Conference title favorites at 6-0. As they look to continue their undefeated run, Petty will be in the spotlight.

    BU has only taken on the weaker teams in the Big 12 so far but has Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Texas all still on the schedule. This will actually help Petty's Heisman campaign, as he'll be firmly in the mind of voters if he can continue to post big performances in the coming weeks.

Ka'Deem Carey: RB, Arizona

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    Arizona running back Ka'Deem Carey has only played in five games this year, but he already has more than 800 rushing yards and six touchdowns.

    He is fresh off an incredible performance against Utah, in which he amassed 236 yards on the ground on 40 carries. As the feature back in Arizona's rush-heavy attack, he'll have plenty more opportunities to replicate that kind of output.

    The only negative for Carey is that his team won't be in the national spotlight. At 4-2, the Wildcats aren't in the BCS conversation whatsoever and don't even have a great shot at the Pac-12 title. 

    However, they do still have some marquee games coming up against UCLA, Oregon and Arizona State. Carey looks destined to lead the nation in rushing, and if he does well in key situations at the end of the year, he could at least earn an invite to New York.

Jordan Lynch: QB, Northern Illinois

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    Northern Illinois has its sights set on its second BCS berth in as many years, and that is thanks to quarterback Jordan Lynch.

    Lynch is No. 7 in the nation in rushing average. At 133.1 yards per game, he is averaging more yards per game than numerous top-flight running backs, including Bishop Sankey, Lache Seastrunk and Jeremy Hill.

    Last week, the senior broke the NCAA record for rushing yards in a game by a quarterback when he tallied 316 yards on the ground and three touchdowns in a 38-17 win over Central Michigan.

    A few negatives could play against Lynch, including his relatively pedestrian passing statistics. He also won't be playing any highly-ranked opponents, so NIU will need to win decisively behind big games from Lynch to really catapult him into the Heisman conversation.

    However, if he continues to run wild on opposing defenses, voters will take notice.

Derek Carr: QB, Fresno State

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    Like Northern Illinois, Fresno State has its eyes on a BCS at-large berth thanks to strong quarterback play.

    Derek Carr has led the Bulldogs to a No. 17 ranking in the BCS and a 6-0 record while tallying nearly 380 passing yards per game, good for No. 2 in the nation.

    He has thrown 23 touchdowns and just four picks and is one of nine FBS quarterbacks with a completion rate above 70 percent.

    Fresno, currently one spot higher than NIU in the BCS, has a better shot at earning the BCS at-large bid and will face a slightly tougher schedule.

    The Dogs could be on a collision course with Boise State in the Mountain West championship game. If Carr shines on that stage to earn a BCS berth for his team, it will be one of the biggest Heisman moments of the year.

AJ McCarron: QB, Alabama

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    One thing AJ McCarron doesn't have to worry about is his team being the spotlight. At No. 1, Alabama seems destined to at least have a shot at defending its title atop college football.

    McCarron had a rough start to the season but has caught fire lately, just in time to make a late run at the Heisman. Going forward, he'll have opportunities to stamp his name on the mind of voters in key games against No. 13 LSU and No. 11 Auburn in the final month of the season, in addition to the SEC title game.

    If the senior quarterback of the national title favorite has strong statistics at the end of the year, it is inevitable that he'll at least be considered for the Heisman.

    The biggest hindrance for McCarron will be Alabama's running game. While McCarron has heated up recently, so too have his top two running backs, T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake. The Crimson Tide have also seen increased production from freshman running back Derrick Henry, giving them another reason to keep the ball on the ground.

    However, if McCarron can muster some magic like he did to lead 'Bama from behind against LSU last year, that might be enough to propel his Heisman run.

Melvin Gordon: RB, Wisconsin

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    Whenever Melvin Gordon touches the ball, the chain gang can go ahead and start marching. The sophomore has averaged nearly a first down (9.5 yards) per carry and is No. 2 in the nation in rushing with 1,012 yards.

    If it wasn't for an appalling bad break at the end of a 32-30 loss to Arizona State, Wisconsin would be 6-1 and ranked in the BCS. However, the Badgers will still have plenty of time to climb the rankings over the remainder of the season and could still be in the running for a BCS at-large bid at season's end.

    In reality, Gordon should be higher on Heisman lists, but losses to Ohio State and ASU could prove to hurt his chances.

    Much of UW's success comes thanks to Gordon and the running game. In addition to his 1,000 yards, he has reached the end zone 11 times, good for a tie for third nationally.

    If he can keep up his ridiculous rushing average, he'll be a Doak Walker Award favorite and will earn at least a few Heisman nods when all is said and done.