Players Who May Have Ruined Their Heisman Trophy Chances in Week 1

Brian LeighFeatured ColumnistSeptember 1, 2014

Players Who May Have Ruined Their Heisman Trophy Chances in Week 1

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    USA TODAY Sports

    You can't win the Heisman in the first week of the season, and realistically, you can't lose it either. But you can definitely come closer to the latter than the former.

    A small group of players who were listed on the final preseason Heisman odds board at Bovada (via Odds Shark) sought to prove that this weekend, starting their 2014 seasons with less-than-stellar performances. Some of them turned a small uphill battle into a huge one, and others turned a huge one into Everest.

    There is time for (most of) them to compensate, but after getting off on the wrong foot in Week 1, the following players no longer have the buffer of a margin for error to work with. Heisman Trophy winners do not struggle for consecutive weeks in August and September.

    It's almost time to rip up their tickets.

Hurt, but Definitely Not Ruined

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    QB Brett Hundley, UCLA (10-1)

    Stats: 20-33, 242 yards 0 TD, 0 INT; 15 carries, 39 yards, 1 TD 

    Brett Hundley looked the same as he always has: brilliant when he's given a pocket, timid when he is not. There is still time for him to fix that, and UCLA's offensive line should fare better once center Jake Brendel returns to the lineup. Plus, Virginia's front seven is not to be trifled with. Still, this was not a good way to start.

     

    RB Thomas Tyner, Oregon (66-1)

    Stats: 11 carries, 64 yards, 0 TD; 3 receptions, 8 yards, 0 TD

    Thomas Tyner didn't hit the baseline of a Heisman-winning running back in Week 1 (discussed later in the piece), but Oregon did trot him out with the starters and try to get him involved. Byron Marshall and Royce Freeman aren't going away as backfield competition, but let's watch Tyner play Michigan State before rushing to judgement.

     

    QB Jameis Winston, Florida State (9-2)

    Stats: 25-40, 370 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT; 5 carries, 9 yards, 1 TD

    Jameis Winston put up Heisman-worthy volume numbers against Oklahoma State, and his career-long 28-yard touchdown run was a certifiable Heisman moment. Alas, he won this award last year because of his efficiency, and in a system that is stacked against him thanks to voter fatigue, throwing two interceptions was not good for his Heisman defense. Fair or not, he'll have to be closer to perfect.

QB Jake Coker, Alabama

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    Preseason Odds: 50-1

    Jake Coker didn't do anything wrong in Alabama's season opener, but only because he didn't do anything at all. Presumed to be platooning with redshirt senior Blake Sims, he instead watched the whole game (until mop-up duty at the very end) from the sideline.

    Because he is so talented, because this offense has so many weapons and because Alabama is a College Football Playoff contender, we can't pull the plug on Coker's Heisman chances just yet. If Sims struggles or gets hurt in the early going, it's not inconceivable that Coker gets subbed in, sets the world on fire and wins the award.

    For now, though, things have taken a discernible turn toward "Sims will be the full-time starting quarterback."

    You can't win the Heisman wearing a headset.

    Heisman Chances: On Life Support

RB Mike Davis, South Carolina

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    Rainier Ehrhardt/Associated Press

    Preseason Odds: 33-1

    Before the Texas A&M game, there were rumblings Mike Davis would not play with a rib injury that had hampered him in practice. Upon hearing those reports, Davis started laughing so hard that he cried.

    Knowing what we know now, the joke is sort of on him.

    Davis rushed six times for 15 yards in the Gamecocks' season-opening defeat, spending most of the game in the locker room nursing his ribs. Per Tom Fornelli of CBSSports.com, head coach Steve Spurrier deemed him "sort of doubtful" to play against East Carolina next week.

    Davis has the talent to make up for this slow start, but only if he's healthy. He'd need a huge game against Georgia in Week 3, and he'd need that to spark his team into an SEC Championship run.

    At this point, that doesn't seem likely.

    Heisman Chances: Perilous

RB Leonard Fournette, LSU

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Preseason Odds: 33-1

    A running back doesn't have to shoot out of the gate to win the Heisman. Not necessarily. But he does need to look sort of decent.

    Here's a look at the last five Heisman-winning RBs in Week 1:

     OpponentRush YDSRec YDSTotal TD
    Mark Ingram (ALA)Virginia Tech150352
    Reggie Bush (USC)*Hawaii86582
    Ron Dayne (WIS)Murray State13503
    Ricky Williams (TEX)New Mexico State21506
    Eddie George (OSU)Boston College99442

    There's a baseline of sorts established there, a requisite 130 total yards and two touchdowns that herald a Heisman run. 

    Fournette, in his eagerly anticipated debut, rushed eight times for 18 yards and didn't catch a pass. He didn't find the end zone, and his longest offensive play went for five yards.

    What's more, Kenny Hilliard did not look like he was ready to cede his share of the touches, rushing for 110 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries to help LSU come back and beat Wisconsin, 28-24.

    In short, Fournette's Heisman hype-train took a detour.

    Heisman Chances: Perilous

     

    *Would later be vacated by NCAA

QB Matt Johnson, Bowling Green

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Preseason Odds: 100-1

    Matt Johnson was a pleasant surprise last season, especially toward the end, when he threw for 393 yards and five touchdowns in a win over undefeated Northern Illinois in the MAC Championship Game.

    This year, he traded a good offensive head coach in Dave Clawson for a great offensive coach in Dino Babers, the latter of whom is an Art Briles disciple and the man who turned Jimmy Garoppolo into a 5,000-yard passer at Eastern Illinois last season.

    The marriage of Johnson and Babers was supposed to produce a sleeper Heisman candidate, a talented young player on a prohibitive conference favorite in a system that Babers assured Martin Rickman of SI.com "will play fast."

    One week and a humbling loss to Western Kentucky later, it's fair to say that wasn't the case. Johnson looked decent with 314 passing yards and a touchdown, but Bowling Green's defense, which allowed 702 yards and 59 points, is not ready to support a Heisman candidate

    Heisman Chances: Dead in the Water

QB Chuckie Keeton, Utah State

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Preseason Odds: Not Listed*

    Oh, Chuckie Football. That was really tough to watch.

    Seeing Chuckie Keeton slip and err and struggle at Tennessee was like watching an old dog on a bad leg try to run. You can see how much he wanted it, how hard he was trying, but he's not the same as he was in a previous life. There's a chance he might never be again.

    Keeton finished the ugly, 38-7 loss with 144 passing yards on 35 attempts, one touchdown and a couple of ill-advised interceptions. He rushed only eight times for 12 yards.

    In order to contend for this award, Keeton was going to need an undefeated regular season (a la Jordan Lynch at Northern Illinois) and ridiculous numbers (a la…well, Lynch again).

    Instead, he has the opposite of both.

    Heisman Chances: Dead in the Water

     

    *Note: Keeton wasn't listed on the final odds like the other players on this list, but after having his face and the phrase "Chuckie4Heisman" grace the cover of the notebooks at the Mountain West Conference's media days, per Lya Wodraska of the Salt Lake Tribunewe deemed him enough of a preseason Heisman candidate for inclusion.

RB Karlos Williams, Florida State

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    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    Preseason Odds: 33-1

    Reprinted from the Fournette slide, here is a look at how the last five Heisman-winning running backs fared in Week 1:

     OpponentRush YDSRec YDSTotal TD
    Mark Ingram (ALA)Virginia Tech150352
    Reggie Bush (USC)Hawaii86582
    Ron Dayne (WIS)Murray State13503
    Ricky Williams (TEX)New Mexico State21506
    Eddie George (OSU)Boston College99442

    Karlos Williams rushed 23 times for 66 yards.

    That is 2.87 yards per carry.

    The good news for Williams is that he looked good in the passing game, catching five passes for 36 yards. It also helps that he was leaned on like a true lead back, which deviates from the traditional Jimbo Fisher offense, per David Hale of ESPN.com. His Heisman chances are less ruined than the other six players on this list.

    Still, Williams began the year with an uphill battle thanks to the other Heisman favorite/returning winner in his backfield. Even before the Oklahoma State game, he had a pretty small margin for error.

    Now, that margin for error is paper-thin.

    Heisman Chances: Wait-and-See

     

    Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT