Heisman Top 5 through Week 6: Dak Prescott on the Rise

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The following rankings are not projections, but rather an informal glance into my own Heisman Trophy Top 5 if voting was conducted today.

1. Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State

Dak Prescott was stellar in back-to-back wins over Top 10-ranked SEC West opponents, leading the Bulldogs to their first wins over such teams in the Dan Mullen era.

Prescott is a dual-threat dynamo, combining a perfectly adequate game manager’s style in the passing attack with a punishing ball-carrying ability. The result is 1,223 yards passing with 13 touchdowns and just two picks, and another 455 yards rushing with six scores.

Prescott’s Heisman stock to this point gets a boost from the prominent stages on which Mississippi State has played. The spotlight grows brighter this week with both Auburn and College Gameday visiting Starkville.

2. Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia

The nickname “Human Highlight Reel” is a retread, but Dominique Wilkins has been retired from basketball for years now. Plus, Wilkins is a Georgia product, so it only makes sense that if the moniker’s to come out of retirement, it go to fellow Bulldog Todd Gurley.

Think of it like Ric Flair carrying on the “Nature Boy” title after Buddy Rogers.

natureboy

Indeed, Gurley’s stat sheet is stuff this season not through volume of plays–sharing carries in a loaded backfield has Gurley actually taking on less of a workload than some other standout running backs around college football. But when Gurley does get touches, he makes the most of them.

His ratio of highlight-reel moments to touches would lead the nation, if such a statistic existed. Gurley’s averaging 8.2 yards per carry with eight rushing touchdowns and has another kickoff returned for a score.

3. Everett Golson, QB, Notre Dame

Everett Golson didn’t exactly have the most impressive statistics in the Fighting Irish’s win over Stanford, yet that game boosted his Heisman profile considerably.

Golson connected with Ben Koyack for a 23-yard touchdown pass in the final minute, giving Notre Dame the win and extending the Irish’s perfect start. In the process, Golson scored an all-important Heisman moment.

Golson’s two touchdown passes against the Cardinal give him 13 for the season. Add another four touchdowns, and his stat sheet is quite impressive.

4. Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama

Despite Alabama’s Week 6 loss at Ole Miss, Amari Cooper again bolstered his Heisman portfolio with a standout showing. He caught nine passes for 91 yards and was the bedrock for an Alabama offense otherwise lacking consistency.

Cooper has five touchdowns on the year and a whopping 746 yards receiving–all while playing with a quarterback, Blake Sims, that detractors repeated criticize as being unable to guide the Crimson Tide. Interesting how that works.

5t. Anu Solomon, QB, Arizona; Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

Arizona’s Anu Solomon told Marcus Mariota after the Wildcats’ 31-24 upset of the Ducks in Autzen Stadium that the Oregon quarterback would have Solomon’s hypothetical Heisman vote.

Though Mariota’s numbers were unspectacular in Oregon’s loss, it was hardly the former Heisman Top 5 leader’s fault. The Ducks’ offensive line is a mess at the moment, which opposing defenses have exploited with consistent pressure on Mariota.

Despite this, he still has yet to throw an interception. His fumble on Oregon’s last possession was costly, and surely a rallying point for the national pundits who seem hellbent on keeping this guy out of New York–seriously, how was Mariota not one of the 50 or so finalists that were sent to the Downtown Athletic Club a year ago?

Nevertheless, Mariota’s stock is falling, while counterpart Solomon’s is rising.

The last two Heisman winners were redshirt freshman quarterbacks like Solomon, both of whom led their teams to unexpected heights. Well, certainly no expected Arizona to be undefeated and ranked in the Top 10 at this juncture. And Solomon has been an invaluable catalyst to the Wildcats’ success.

Solomon is the nation’s seventh-most prolific passer with 1,741 yards–imagine that statistic from one of Rich Rodriguez’s quarterbacks at West Virginia or Michigan–and he has a healthy 167 yards rushing. With a multifaceted backfield alongside him via Nick Wilson and Terris Jones-Grigsby, and one of the nation’s premier wide receiving corps, Solomon does not have too heavy a burden to carry–at least, not unless he’s heaving game-winning Hail Mary passes.

That should allow him to continue playing without pressure and racking up impressive numbers.

ON THE RADAR

• Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall‘s four-touchdown night against LSU probably would have garnered more Heisman favor had Prescott not bombarded the Bayou Bengals the week prior. Still, Marshall is quietly having a great season: eight touchdown passes with just one interception, 755 yards through the air, 392 rushing yards and four scores on the ground.

Marshall has a prime opportunity to jump into the Top 5 with the Tigers’ trip to Mississippi State this upcoming week.

• Cal has already quadrupled its win total from a season ago and improved to 2-1 in Pac-12 play with its win at Washington State Saturday. Quarterback Jared Goff was again outstanding, throwing five touchdown passes without an interception in the 60-59 Golden Bears victory.

For the season, Goff has 22 touchdowns with just three picks and 1,866 yards. If Cal continues to surprise, Goff deserves some national buzz.

Of course, the sensational Golden Bear sophomore was not the only quarterback slinging it in Saturday’s grassketball contest: Washington State’s Connor Halliday struck for six scores without a turnover. He now has 26 touchdowns on the season and a remarkable 3,052 yards.

The Cougars have issues, including special teams–coordinator Eric Russell was dismissed on Monday after a short field goal attempt that would have beaten Cal went awry–so Halliday is unlikely to get any real Heisman buzz. But in terms of individual performance, the Washington State quarterback was warranted it thus far.

• Wisconsin is fading fast–the Badgers lost their second game of the season, this time coughing up an inexplicable 20-14 decision at Northwestern–but Melvin Gordon remains electric. He broke the personal-best mark of 253 rushing yards he set just two weeks prior by going for 259 yards last Saturday.

Gordon is now the nation’s leading rusher with 871 yards, which puts him just about on pace for the legendary 2,000-yard mark. Should the Badgers suffer anymore such confounding losses, Gordon’s Heisman chances will suffer, and Wisconsin offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig will have to hang an “I.O.U: One Heisman Trophy” in the running back’s locker.