Saturday, January 5, 2013

The 2013 Heisman Race Already Underway

Some say the bowl season is over-saturated, that the non-championship BCS are snoozefests. But I thought the games were compelling every night this week.

The best unintended consequence was that one night after the next we saw next year's Heisman crop, and they all shined in big wins. Here are Backtime's favorites for next year:

1. Johnny Football

What a performance. If anyone thought Johnny Manziel would be off his game, basking in the glory of his well-earned Heisman and the banquet circuit that goes with it, we saw exactly what he brought us all year.

Johnny Football went video game all over Oklahoma for 287 passing and 229 rushing, a total of 4 TD as he led Texas A&M from a 14-13 halftime nail-biter to a 41-13 romp.

In fact, if the NFL video games are branded "Madden," the college ones should be labeled "Johnny Football." And instead of a turbo or beast mode, there should be a "run like hell" mode.

His chances to repeat are obviously excellent, except Texas A&M still plays in the SEC West. That's a recipe for the possibility of multiple losses which would dash his Heisman chances no matter how spectacular the numbers.

2. Teddy Bridgewater

Bridgewater had great moments all year, many of which were chronicled on this site. But his 2013 Heisman moment just happened on January 2nd, 2013, in the Sugar Bowl.

Bridgewater got off the mat (of course he did) and led Louisville to a stunner over #3 Florida. He is the ice to Johnny Manziel's fire, and just 26 days older. He will be back as will most everyone around him, and Louisville is certain to be ranked in the Top 10 preseason, a formula for an outsider's title run.

3. Tajh Boyd

This is the one uncertainty since Clemson's Boyd may declare for the NFL draft. If it was his final season in Orange and White, it was a keeper: 36 TD passes and 10 TD runs. And at a sturdy 225 he's as tough as they come.

In the Chick-fil-A Bowl he absorbed dozens of hits against a monster LSU defense, and made the big pass on 4th and 17 to set up the winning field goal. But he still had enough energy to lift the trophy after a classic finish.

4. Marcus Mariota

Mariota is the sleeper. Oregon QBs get about as much pub as a jockey on a champion racehorse. But it takes much more than skills. Mariota has to grasp the offense and execute it while on a treadmill.

And the freshman was the best quarterback on the field against senior Heisman finalist Collin Klein in the Fiesta Bowl.

If coach Chip Kelly goes to the NFL, as he's expected to, the system remains. Mariota will get a chance to be the posterboy when college football's most dominant offense returns to the field next year. And if his coach is gone, the spotlight on the QB gets bigger.

So, who emerges from Monday night's national championship game? Alabama QB AJ McCarron has a shot, but I expect the 2-headed tailback machine to dominate as they did in the SEC title game against a strong Georgia front seven. Notre Dame deserves to be in the game based on their body of work, but they don't belong on the same field. The Tide will roll.

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