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.

BYU wearing special patch in honor of LaVell Edwards

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BYU got the summer media day fun started on Friday with their football media day. BYU tends to pull out all the stops on its media day with coach and player interviews, alumni returning, and a handful of announcements about the future of the program. In addition to news about their relationship with ESPN, BYU also announced the football team will be sporting a patch this season in honor of the late LaVell Edwards.

In addition to players wearing the patch on their jerseys, BYU coaches will also wear the patch on their sleeves.

Edwards passed away in December at the age of 86. The BYU coaching legend spent 29 seasons on the sidelines in Provo and accumulated 257 wins along the way. Among those was a national championship season in 1984, which remains the most recent national championship to be claimed by a program not currently in a power conference. Edwards took 22 BYU teams to a bowl game.

Now if we can just keep getting BYU to stick to that lighter shade of blue as their main home uniform, we’ll be in great shape.

Former Vanderbilt football player Brandon Banks found guilty of rape

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Former Vanderbilt football player Brandon Banks was convicted by a jury on Friday for rape of a female Vanderbilt student. Following 15 hours of jury deliberations, the verdict of guilty on one count of aggravated rape and one count of aggravated sexual battery was in.

”He’s shocked but understands that this is only the first part of this process, there’s a lot more to do from here on,” Banks’ lawyer, Mark Scruggs, said after the verdict. ”We have some really good issues to raise.”

Part of Banks’ defense was built on succumbing to peer pressure, suggesting he feared he may be beaten up by teammates if he did not participate in the scandalous activity. The jury, having reviewed videos and photos from the incident, some of which were shot by Banks, determined that was not a viable defense.

”Making fun of another person is not right, but we know it happens,” Assistant District Attorney Roger Moore said in closing arguments, according to the Associated Press. ”But it doesn’t give you a legal defense to commit a crime, particularly not an aggravated rape, an aggravated sexual battery. I mean if that’s the case, then we’d have the ‘football team defense.”’

Banks will serve a minimum of 15 years in prison. One count of aggravated rape has a minimum sentence of 15 years.

Other former Vanderbilt players had previously been convicted for their roles in the 2013 rape. Cory Batey was found guilty of aggravated rape and sentenced to 15-25 years in prison in April 2016. Brandon Vandenbeurg was found guilty and sentenced to 17 years in prison.

California’s state-funded travel ban to discriminating states raises mild football scheduling concerns

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The state of California is banning state-funded travel to the states of Texas, Alabama, Kentucky, and South Dakota. Those states are added to the previous state-funded travel bans that included Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Tennessee due to what California lawmakers say are laws that allow for discrimination against gay and transgender people.

So what does this have to do with college football? My colleague, Bryan, notes this latest decision from the state means scheduling any potential road games for a handful of schools just got a tad trickier.

This development poses a couple of issues for some California schools to address moving forward.

San Jose State is the school affected by this latest news right off the bat. San Jose State has a road game scheduled at Texas on September 9 this season. San Jose State may have to rely on some of that guaranteed money from Texas to cover the expenses, which would put a dent in the total takeaway from playing the game in the first place.

Cal is also scheduled to play at North Carolina on September 2. Cal also plays at TCU in 2021 and at Auburn in 2024. If the ban is still in operation at those times, then Cal will have to budget ahead of time to tackle the expenses. UCLA will play at Memphis on September 19.

The state-funded travel ban to these states may not be an issue for the postseason, as bowl game expenses tend to be carried by the conference and their revenue shares.

Fresno State has a road game at Texas A&M scheduled in 2020. San Diego State has no future scheduling hassles to worry about for the time being.

When ‘physically, mentally ready,’ door wide open for Keyshawn Johnson Jr.’s return to Nebraska

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Keyshawn Johnson Jr. has yet to play a down for Nebraska, but, if it’s up to Mike Riley, he will at some point down the road.

Earlier this month, the son of former USC great Keyshawn Johnson was cited for marijuana possession and possession of drug paraphernalia.  This past week, the younger Johnson decided to take a leave of absence, with his father stating that his son needed some time to “mature” and will not play for the Cornhuskers in 2017.

Left open at the time was the question of whether Johnson Jr. would ever play for the ‘Huskers, period.  Friday, Riley left the door wide open for a return.

“We’re disappointed that he’s not here with us right now today,” the head coach said according to the Lincoln Journal-Star. “I think there’s kind of a wellness factor for Keyshawn going home. We talked to him about the possibility of maybe enrolling part time and taking care of his progress toward his degree, and also getting in great shape.

“And we opened the door for return, which is just kind of left open that we’ll deal with at the time that he is physically and mentally ready to do that.”

A three-star 2017 signee who was an early enrollee and participated in spring practice, the younger Johnson had been expected to be an immediate contributor for the Cornhuskers this season.