The first weekend of college football was a showcase for several preseason Heisman Trophy favorites. While some preseason picks struggled and made a trip to New York less likely, others seized the opportunity to throw their names in the race.
Each week, we’ll update the list with new stats and information as some players make their way into the Heisman conversation and others drop out. Here’s the watchlist heading into week two:
2012 Heisman Trophy Watch Week Two
Matt Barkley – QB, USC
Barkley was the Vegas favorite heading into the season, and he didn’t disappoint in the Trojans’ opener against Hawaii. The senior quarterback threw for a 75-yard touchdown on his first pass of the season, finishing with 372 yards and four touchdowns. He had 220 yards in the first half, and the number could’ve been significantly higher had his receivers held on to a few more balls.
Geno Smith – QB, WVU
The last time America saw Smith on the field, he and the Mountaineers were obliterating Clemson, 70-33, in a game where Smith threw for 401 yards and six touchdowns. He seems to have picked up right where he left off after the bowl game. Against Marshall last weekend, he completed almost 90% of his passes, 323 yards and four touchdowns.
De’Anthony Thomas – RB/WR, Oregon
Thomas doesn’t get a ton of touches, but he doesn’t need to. Against Arkansas State in the season opener, Thomas played less than one quarter and scored three touchdowns. He averaged 21.3 yards per carry and 13.8 yards per catch. Sure, the Red Wolves just aren’t the same class as the Ducks, but don’t forget, in last year’s Rose Bowl against Wisconsin, he had just two carries: for 91 and 64 yards.
Le’Veon Bell – RB, Michigan State
The Spartans’ junior running back stole the show in the season opener and helped Michigan State get the win over the Boise State Broncos. He ran for 210 yards and two touchdowns, but he also had a whopping 50 touches (44 carries, 6 catches). He averaged 4.8 yards per carry but the Heisman race is a marathon, not a sprint; it’ll be difficult to sustain that pace until December.
Marcus Lattimore – RB, South Carolina
Everyone wondered how he’d come back from last year’s season-ending ACL injury. After losing a fumble on his first carry, he showed why he was in the Heisman conversation last season before being injured. Lattimore had 23 carries for 110 yards and 2 touchdowns and was the SEC Offensive Player of the Week. Not a bad way to start a Heisman campaign.
Tyler Wilson – QB, Arkansas
Wilson had a great game in the Razorbacks’ opener, with 367 yards and 3 touchdowns in the warm-up win over Jacksonville State. If he can continue that pace – completing 70% of his passes – throughout the SEC schedule, he’ll make a strong case for the trophy.
Marqise Lee – WR, USC
After one game, USC fans speculated that Matt Barkley’s biggest competition for the Heisman might be his own teammate. Lee, the sophomore who Trojans coach Lane Kiffin says might end up being “the best ever” to play at USC, is the one who turned Barkley’s first pass of the year into a 75-yard touchdown. He also had a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the second half and after the first week, he leads the nation in all-purpose yardage (282). The scary thing about his performance against Hawaii? As good as he was, anyone watching knew he could be better: Lee had a couple dropped passes that would’ve gone for big yards, if not scores.
Montee Ball – RB, Wisconsin
Ball didn’t have an impressive week in the opener, averaging just 3.8 yards per carry. The Badgers relied on him heavily: he had 32 carries and three receptions for 151 total yards and a touchdown. Ball’s still very much in the race, but if he continues to have such a daunting workload, it’ll be harder to stay fresh and post the numbers he’ll need to win the Heisman.
Denard Robinson – QB, Michigan
Robinson earned himself the “Overrated” label when Alabama rolled over the Wolverines in prime time during the biggest game of Opening Weekend. He threw for exactly 200 yards and one touchdown, but he completed just 42.3% of his passes and threw two interceptions. Robinson can still have a stellar year, but as the adage goes, “A first impression is a lasting impression.” It’ll be tough for him to come back to the win the trophy after last week.