Oregon’s CJ Verdell ran his way into Heisman contention, while Iowa State’s Breece Hall and Bryce Purdy are slipping. Running down the risers and sliders after Week 2.
The Pac-12 hasn’t won a Heisman Trophy since 2014 and last made the College Football Playoff five years ago.
Consider is squarely in the conversation for both.
Oregon running back CJ Verdell had 195 total yards and three touchdowns — including 161 yards and two scores on 20 carries — in knocking off Ohio State. That stunner in Columbus vaulted the Ducks to No. 4 in The Associated Press Top 25 poll, and puts a Heisman spotlight on a conference that — since another Duck, Marcus Mariota, won seven years ago — has had just two players finish higher than fifth in the voting.
Verdell, a fifth-year senior who already had two 1,000-yard seasons under his belt, is in position to keep rolling. Oregon hosts FCS opponent Stony Brook this Saturday in Eugene, then gets three shaky Pac-12 rush defenses in Arizona — which is 112th in FBS in allowing 207.5 yards per game — Cal — ranked 89th at 162.5 ypg — and Stanford — which gave up 124 yards to Kansas State’s Deuce Vaughn in the opener and 185 in total against USC — ahead of a suddenly massive trip to No. 13 UCLA on Oct. 23.
Heisman stock watch: Which candidates are heating up, which are falling off?
Buy: Bryce Young, Alabama
Poise. Explosiveness. Bryce Young has played beyond his experience to this point, following up his four-touchdown performance against Miami with three more scoring strikes and 227 yards vs. Mercer. Those seven touchdown passes are the most of any Alabama passer through their first two starts and he’s also yet to throw an interception on 65 attempts. Young’s first real test figures to come this weekend when the Crimson Tide travel to No. 11 Florida. The Swamp will be a hostile environment for sure, but the Gators haven’t been exactly stout against the pass. A year after they ranked 100th in that department — and were burned for 418 yards and five scores by Mac Jones in the SEC Championship Game — the Gators are 91st in FBS in passing yards per game (244.5) with two new starters at safety. It’s a step up in competition, but it may be tailor-made for Young to excel once again.
Sell: C.J. Stroud, Ohio State
Like in the opener against Minnesota, the final stat line looks strong for CJ Stroud. No Power 5 quarterback is averaging more yards per game (389) thrown for more yards in total (778) or touchdowns (seven). His 484 yards against Oregon are the second-most passing yards in a game in school history, trailing only Dwayne Haskins’ 499 in the 2018 Big Ten Championship Game. But those stats don’t tell the full story, as Stroud has struggled in two first halves (128.1 rating and one touchdown and one interception) in which the Buckeyes have trailed against Minnesota and Oregon. Stroud managed to get himself out of trouble vs. the Golden Gophers, but he threw an interception with 2:50 left against the Ducks that spoiled the comeback bid. Ohio State remains a threat to return to the playoff if it can win out, but with six weeks before the Buckeyes take on No. 10 Penn State on Oct. 30, it’s time to hit snooze on Stroud’s Heisman buzz.
Buy: Matt Corral, Ole Miss
Can it already be Oct. 2? Matt Corral has been fantastic at this point, throwing five touchdown passes this past weekend against Austin Peay — in just under three quarters of work — and has six on the season to go with 662 yards and no interceptions. There’s arguably no player on this list with more to gain in the coming weeks than when Corral gets a date with Young and Alabama in Tuscaloosa to kick off October. Win that duel and the hype figures to reach a fever pitch … but there’s a tune-up game first against a pesky opponent. Tulane gave Oklahoma’s Spencer Rattler trouble in Week 1, picking him off twice, but beyond the mistake-free play, Corral has been racking up yards in bunches. His 13 passes of 20 or more yards are second among Power FIve passers and he figures to pile up more this weekend. The Green Wave has already allowed seven such plays, 87th in FBS.
Sell: JT Daniels, Georgia
He wasn’t spectacular in the opening weekend win over Clemson, then JT Daniels sat out Saturday against UAB with an oblique injury and watched Stetson Bennett go off for five touchdown passes and 288 yards. He may well put up strong numbers by season’s end, but it’s going to be hard to keep Daniels in this race, barring the truly spectacular. As previously noted, missed time all but ends any Heisman campaign with just three previous winners missing one game (Charles White, Vinny Testaverde, Charlie Ward) and another (Angelo Bertelli after he was called into active duty during World War II) missing multiple games. But among all those players, none of them sat out in the season’s first month.
Buy: Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma
After some concerns in facing an overmatched opponent in the opener, Rattler belayed some of them against an overmatched opponent in the Sooners’ second game, picking apart Western Carolina to the tune of five touchdowns on 20-of-26 passing for 243 yards — and 272 yards in total — all in the first half. But this is what you want out of one of the Heisman frontrunners: an efficient, effective and short day vs. an FCS foe. The Sooners finally get a name opponent this weekend, taking on Nebraska in Norman. That figures to be one of the month’s better quarterback showdowns as Rattler faces off against the Cornhuskers’ Adrian Martinez, who is averaging more yards of offense (328 per game to Rattler’s 291.5) and has the second-most rushing yards (256) of any FBS passer.
Sell: Breece Hall and Brock Purdy, Iowa State
Iowa State had two Heisman contenders to hype this summer and two weeks into the season, it feels like they don’t have any. Hall, the nation’s leading rusher last season, had 69 yards in each of the Cyclones’ first two games. While he’s reached the end zone twice, the explosiveness he showed in 2020 with four rushes of 50-plus yards and 14 of 20 or more just hasn’t been there, with a season-long run of 16 yards and is averaging just 3.6 yards per carry. Purdy’s play has been equally lackluster to this point, with the senior quarterback having yet to throw a touchdown pass and he was picked off three times against Iowa before being benched. Being humbled in a top-10 matchup vs. the Hawkeyes delivered a major blow to this duo of Heisman contenders and it’s hard seeing Hall and Purdy regaining traction any time soon.
Sell: D.J. Uiagalelei, Clemson
After struggling in his debut as the full-time starter, D.J. Uiagalelei put up some pedestrian numbers as Clemson overwhelmed South Carolina State, throwing for 171 yards two touchdowns and running for another. The accuracy issues continued, with a 58.3 percent (14 of 24) completion rate for Uiagalelei after he hit at a 51.4 rate vs. Georgia. This week’s opponent, Georgia Tech, hasn’t exactly been tested by the pass so far in facing two run-heavy teams in Northern Illinois and Kennesaw State, but the Yellow Jackets struggled in pass defense last year (111th in FBS at 270.1 ypg), creating the chance for Uiagalelei to break out. But so far, we’ve yet to see it.
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