Two years ago, Montee Ball ran for nearly 2,000 yards on 6.3 yards per carry and 33 touchdowns. He was invited to the Heisman ceremony, where he finished fourth. However, life was made easier for Ball by the presence of transfer quarterback Russell Wilson.
The next year, Ball scored 22 more rushing touchdowns and ran for over 1,800 yards, but his yards per carry dipped to below 5.3 yards per carry. A 6-1, 207 pound sophomore averaged 10 yards per carry behind James White and Ball.
In 2013, Gordon and White committed an assault on the NCAA record book. The trail of flames left in their wake equaled 3,053 yards, which was propped up as an NCAA record for rushing yards by teammates. However, White’s eligibility expired leaving Gordon as the feature back carrying most of the workload..
While Todd Gurley’s snake-like escapability has been celebrated and immortalized, Gordon’s splendid running for Wisconsin has been dismissed as just another product of the Wisconsin assembly line.
His quarterback Tanner McEvoy needs Google Earth to find an open receiver and defenses will stack the box, but Gordon still managed 140 yards on 16 carries.
After the first carry of Gordon’s second half, the Badger running back received only two more touches before getting abducted by UFOs. Gordon’s disappearance was as perplexing as a first encounter, especially after the Badgers relinquished a lead without their tank leading the battalion.
Gurley tops the Heisman list for most sane college football sages, but Gordon also belongs in the mix. Call it the Law of Replacements. Once Gurley took a breather, true freshman Nick Chubbs steamrolled all would be tacklers.
With Gordon banged up, Wisconsin’s 24-7 lead evaporated as they never scored again while LSU posted 21 unanswered points. McEvoy threw two interceptions, only completed 8-of-24 passes for 50 yards and all but affirmed how important Gordon is to the Badgers offense. His backup Corey Clements couldn’t provide the same production, rushing for 45 yards on 15 carries as the Wisconsin offense withered.
Some will argue that Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah is the conference’s best running back, but his 7.8 yards per rush trailed Gordon’s by nearly two yards in 2013.
Abdullah racked up a few miles on his odometer against Florida International, but Gordon’s first half work against LSU was noteworthy. The only reason we’re not talking about Gordon is because he only received three carries after a 63-yard jaunt on his first touch of the second half.
Assuming he heals from a hip flexor strain there’s at least one underappreciated tailback in the nation that can give Gurley a run for his money—and the Heisman.
LIES, DAMN LIES AND STATISTICS
Todd Gurley - The UGA running back broke off a slew of big runs against Clemson and went the length of the field en route to a 100 yard kickoff return, but the guy who’s No. 2 on our list will likely end up with gaudier numbers.
Kenny Hill - Kenny Trill, as he would like to be known wasn’t just chucking balls all over the field, he was deadly accurate. His status will be tested, but for now we’ll let him sit on the list.
Jameis Winston - Are his two interceptions against Oklahoma State proof that Winston’s been figured out? No matter, he’ll just dart around and over everyone like it’s an American Ninja set
Melvin Gordon - The drop-off in Wisconsin’s rushing attack after he was injured, aligns with my confirmation bias that Gordon is an elite runner.
Eric Kendricks - I’d like to make it mandatory that our weekly Heisman Watch includes at least one offensive disruptor. Defensive players are ostracized in Heisman voting, but I’m of the opinion that at least one Heisman finalist should be a defender every season. Week 1’s defensive representative is the leader of UCLA’s kleptomaniac defense.
While Brett Hundley’s Heisman hopes took a nap as UCLA nearly lost before noon on the West Coast. Fortunately, UCLA’s defense outscored the offense three to one. The quarterback of that unit is Kendricks, who was responsible for two touchdowns—a forced fumble that Randall Goforth carried 75 yards and also registered an interception he returned to its rightful place in the end zone like any good Samaritan.
Myles Jack’s offensive exploits received much of the preseason hype, but it was Kendricks that was the Bruins best offensive and defensive producer. For the cherry on top, Kendrick also chipped in 16 tackles.
Arizona at University of Texas at San Antonio, Thursday night on Fox Sports 1 @8pm ET
In 2010, I transferred from a powerhouse SEC program at UGA to a burgeoning FCS team that shared its crib with the Atlanta Falcons.
Georgia State' fifth football season opener in school history opened up the college football season with a win over Abilene Christian on Wednesday night. It was a start on the right foot, but after going winless in 2013, the Panthers have a long way to go in their transition to FBS. The University of Texas at San Antonio kicked off for the first time one year after Georgia State. Sharing an arena with an NBA team, Georgia State thought they were college football’s first Arena Football League pipeline school. They are anything, but that. Three years in a row, UTSA promptly shoved foot up Georgia State's behind. They've since moved on to bigger and better foe.
Coached by former national championship winning Miami Hurricane coach Larry Coker, they are a downright physical team.
Holding Houston to seven points was an eye-opener, but getting a hold of Arizona would be some serious Folgers in America’s cup.
Anu Solomon’s threw double rainbow passes all over the field against UNLV, but it should be duly noted that the Runnin’ Rebels were the nation’s 94th ranked defense last season.
With BJ Denker in the saddle last September, the Wildcats rolled the Roadrunners 38-13. At the same time, Houston had also hung 59 on UTSA before their defense coalesced into a unit that allowed just 45 points over their final four game stretch.
If last week is any indication, Zona will be facing a much improved team. They returned 10 of their 11 starters on defense and it showed against Houston. The Roadrunners pass defense wasn’t very adept at ball hawking. However, the four interceptions created against Houston was half of the eight picked off passes they forced all of last season.
Pitting a freshman against a defense that forced six turnovers against John O’Korn is always a riskey proposition. More importantly, the Roadrunners will be at home.
The defense will be integral to mitigating the chasm between five-star 2013 recruit Solomon and UTSA’s senior JUCO transfer Tucker Carter. The difference is massive, but the score will be close.
Arizona squeaks by.
FACT OR FLUKE?
Blue chip freshman running backs have been a disappointment this season. Joe Mixon, considered the No. 2 running back in the Class of 2014 by some recruiting services has been suspended for the season after retaliating against a woman who slapped him last month.
Leonard Fournette’s eight carry, 18 yard outing was a sobering debut for a player that was supposed to challenge Gurley as the best running back in the SEC by season’s end. It paled in comparison to the eight carry, 100 yard, two touchdown debut Gurley had in 2012 against Buffalo.
UGA’s Nick Chubb took an early lead in the race to become the SEC’s best freshman tailback but outside the Power 5 conferences, however, there was another true freshman that shot out of a cannon and like Forest Gump, he just kept runnin’.
UCF freshman Marlon Mack isn’t just prince of the freshmen, he’s the nation’s top runner after streaking through and past the Western Carolina defense 24 times for a grand total of 274 yards and four touchdowns. It's a shocking change for USF, which was the nation's third-worst rushing offense in 2013.
He’s not slow, or is he lightning-quick, but Mack’s cutback ability and lateral agility leaves defenders more frustrated than Tiger Woods has been with monogamy.
Once Mack sees daylight, he’s firing through the gap and riding off into the sunset. He's got an issue with ball security, losing one fumble and having another popped out of bounds, but he's still in the nascent stages of his development.
As the competition ramps up this weekend against Maryland, encroaching on his career-high is not likely. However, the way that Mack follows up his debut will give us an idea as to whether this is a fluke or a flash of greatness.