Heisman Watch: Mariota still in command

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Five weeks into the season, here’s how the race for the 2013 Heisman Trophy stands. These are the players with the best chance to actually win the award:

1. Marcus Mariota, Oregon — A driving rain storm hampered Mariota’s final numbers against Cal, but the Oregon sophomore still projects as the front runner at this time. He’s on pace to have 3,263 passing yards, 962 rushing yards and 46 total touchdowns by the time the Heisman vote is due. How he does in big games against Washington, UCLA and Stanford will ultimately determine his fate.

2. Tajh Boyd, Clemson — The senior quarterback had a huge game against Wake Forest with 311 passing yards, 68 rushing yards and four total scores against Wake Forest. He’s on pace to have 3,250 passing yards, 520 rushing yards and 42 touchdowns by the time the Heisman vote is due. A huge matchup with Florida State looms in mid-October which could make or break his candidacy.

3. Aaron Murray, Georgia — No player helped himself more in the Heisman race this past weekend than Murray, who guided Georgia to a thrilling win over No. 6 LSU. He now has two wins over ranked teams and his only loss is a close one to a top five Clemson squad. He’s on pace for 4,342 passing yards and 46 combined touchdowns and his schedule sets up fairly easy until a potential SEC title game at season’s end.

4. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville — While his schedule is weak, his numbers are sterling. The potential first pick in next year’s draft is on pace for 3,636 passing yards and 42 touchdowns. He’ll have to add to that production in the coming weeks and approach 50 touchdowns if he wants voters to possibly overlook his soft slate of opponents.

5. Bryce Petty, Baylor — The nation’s leader in passing efficiency could have the Bears challenging for a Big 12 title. He’s on pace for 4,008 passing yards and 40 total touchdowns. Big games in wins over Oklahoma and Texas could give him a boost the same way they did Robert Griffin III a couple years ago.

On the cusp: Brett Hundley, UCLA; A.J. McCarrron, Alabama; Kevin Hogan, Stanford.

Where’s Johnny Manziel?

Make no mistake, he’s having a fine season and is on pace have 3,576 passing yards, 756 rushing yards and 41 total touchdowns by the time the Heisman vote is due. But voters are generally reluctant to give out second Heismans — there’s only been one two-time winner, after all. And when you combine his declining numbers (compared to last season, at least) with the general attitude toward his off-season antics, he’s got an uphill climb. He’s likely to get to New York as a finalist; he just won’t win.

Arkansas starting QB Austin Allen could miss another couple weeks

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It appears Arkansas will be without its starting quarterback for a while longer than just one week.

An injury to his right (throwing) shoulder in the Week 6 loss to South Carolina knocked Austin Allen out of the game.  After some initial uncertainty in the week leading up to the Week 7 game against top-ranked Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Allen was indeed ruled out for what turned into a 41-9 loss.

With No. 21 Auburn up next, Bret Bielema all but ruled the senior out of the Week 7 matchup.  Additionally, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has reported that Allen could miss up to three more weeks after being sidelined last weekend.

“If it came to a point later in the week where he could practice Thursday, I think there’s merit to (Allen returning this week),” Bielema said. “Where he’s at right now, I’d say we’re still a couple of weeks away, but Austin is a guy who surprises a lot of people and if he can go and do things, it’s a positive for us.”

Should the three-week timeline come into play, he would miss the AU game as well as contests against Ole Miss and Coastal Carolina before returning for the road trip to LSU Nov. 11.

If Allen is indeed sidelined, Cole Kelley (pictured) would again take his place.  Making his first career start, the redshirt freshman completed 23-of-42 passes for 200 yards, one touchdown and one interception on the road against the vaunted Crimson Tide.

Butch Jones says the most Butch Jones quote of all time

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It’s become a theory among some in the media that Butch Jones is conducting a social experiment or participating some sort of performance art. While that’s the more charitable and fun interpretation, I tend to think the Tennessee head coach is just frighteningly insecure and, thus, fighting for every inch of public approval he can in a likely doomed attempt to keep his job.

That approach has backed him into some verbal corners that, in the long run, make his job more difficult on himself.

I’m talking about the “Champions of Life” quote of last season or, in February, actually stating that he didn’t want 5-star players, he wanted 5-star hearts.

This season has seen Jones go on an odd rant blaming the media for negative recruiting and saying Tennessee had one of the best bye weeks ever last week.

It wasn’t one of the best bye weeks ever, because Tennessee lost at home to South Carolina, 15-9. And you’re not going to believe Jones’s explanation for why Tennessee loss. Scratch that. You will believe his explanation, and that’s the problem here, isn’t it?

Here’s the full quote.

Jones is 33-24 in his four-plus seasons in Knoxville, and 14-21 in the SEC. Those numbers will likely fall to 33-25 and 14-22 after Saturday, when the Vols face No. 1 Alabama. The end is likely near.

And here’s the grand irony of Jones’s everything’s-sunny-here p.r. strategy: his attempt to keep his job by stating blatantly cliche quotes in the state of the obvious will live on much longer than Jones’s actual tenure. Two and three years from now, when Jones is working on someone else’s staff or sitting on his buyout money, the next time an on-the-hot-seat coach says his team won the game everywhere except the scoreboard, we’ll see he Pulled a Butch.

Houston Nutt settles lawsuit with Ole Miss

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Houston Nutt wanted money and an apology from Ole Miss. He’ll have to settle for the second of the two — and a largely different future for the program he used to lead.

It was Nutt’s lawsuit, remember, which exposed the documents that led to a Mississippi State fan finding Hugh Freeze‘s call to a Tampa escort service, which led to Freeze’s resignation, which led to… we have no idea what it will lead to, but, whatever that future is, it will be wildly different than if Freeze was still the Rebels’ coach.

Nutt amended his lawsuit in August to seek simply an apology from Ole Miss, and that apology finally came on Monday.

Each side released their own bitter, short statements.

Nutt will go on, with his apology but without any monetary compensation, while Ole Miss will play out the string of this season, hire a new coach, and move into a future that will be immeasurably different that the one it would have lived had it apologized to Nutt in the first place.

Washington loses LT Adams, CB Miller for the season

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No. 12 Washington’s loss to Arizona State was a disaster on the field — for more reasons than one.

The Huskies not only put their College Football Playoff hopes in danger — they’ll need to sweep their next six games, including a finishing kick that calls for games against No. 22 Stanford, No. 15 Washington State and, presumably, No. 11 USC, two of them away from Seattle. But the road to get there became noticeably more difficult after losing two starters.

Left tackle Trey Adams suffered a torn ACL in his right knee, and cornerback Jordan Miller sustained a broken ankle. Head coach Chris Petersen confirmed Monday that both will be lost for the season. Miller is the third Husky this season to suffer a broken ankle.

The Seattle Times noted that Washington is also without another starting corner in Byron Murphy, who is expected to return later this year from a broken foot. The Huskies are expected to replace Miller with either a pair of true freshmen or a converted running back.

But Adams may be the bigger loss for the Huskies. A junior, Adams was widely expected to be a first round pick in this spring’s NFL Draft. It’s the second straight season Washington has lost a key player in the trenches to a season-ending injury; a year ago, it was linebackers Joe Mathis, who finished one sack away from the team lead despite playing in only seven games, and third-leading tackler Azeem Victor.