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CFT Previews: Six-pack of Heisman dark horses

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The early frontrunners for the Heisman Trophy in 2019 will be Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. But history suggests the preseason favorite or favorites for the Heisman Trophy have a rough time getting to the end of the season as the frontrunner. Every season sees new Heisman contenders come and go and the favorites going in may run into a rough patch that does significant harm just because they were the favorite at the start of the season.

The preseason oddsmakers have labeled Lawrence and Tagovailoa as clear favorites for the Heisman Trophy this season, which leaves the pool full of possible darkhorse candidates. Here are six players who may already be flying on the radar or have a shot to skyrocket up the charts with some big performances this season.

ADRIAN MARTINEZ, NEBRASKA
Quarterback

Expectations are high for Nebraska this season as Scott Frost begins his second season on the job. One reason for the optimism this season, aside from the schedule and a wide-open division race, is quarterback Adrian Martinez. As a freshman, Martinez passed for 2,617 yards and 17 touchdowns and rushed for 629 yards and eight touchdowns. His dual-threat ability should electrify the Nebraska offense this season and could be why the Huskers potentially play for the Big Ten title at the end of the year. A good spotlight performance against Ohio State in Lincoln would fuel the Heisman buzz if things go well for Martinez.

SAM EHLINGER, TEXAS
Quarterback

A year removed from throwing for 3,296 yards and 25 touchdowns while leading Texas to a regular-season victory over Oklahoma and a Sugar Bowl victory over Georgia, Sam Ehlinger should certainly be on the radar for the Heisman Trophy. Similar production this year with the Longhorns already starting the year in a good spot on the playoff radar should keep Ehlinger in the mix. Improving the touchdown total and leading the Longhorns back to the Big 12 championship game could very well result in a trip to New York at the end of the year for the Texas gunslinger.

SHEA PATTERSON, MICHIGAN
Quarterback

If the Michigan offense truly does improve by opening up the playbook and picking up the pace, as has been the big difference expected this offseason with a new offensive coordinator in charge in Ann Arbor, then Shea Patterson could have a shot. Patterson passed for 2,600 yards and 22 touchdowns with seven interceptions last fall, his first with the Wolverines since transferring from Ole Miss, but those numbers likely won’t cut it. So if the Michigan offense does focus their gameplan more to Patterson’s skill set and comfort level, and if the Wolverines score some big wins along the way to a possible Big Ten title shot (which would include beating Ohio State in conference play and likely a non-conference victory over Notre Dame in October), then Patterson may have some possible marquee moments lined up.

AJ DILLON, BOSTON COLLEGE
Running Back

Quarterbacks may rule the Heisman Trophy conversation these days, but a running back can sneak up every now and then. As a true darkhorse candidate, last year’s leading rusher in yards per game may have the steepest uphill climb. AJ Dillon rushed for 110.8 yards per game last season in 10 games. And his touchdown total of 10 would certainly need to go up this year too. He should get plenty of chances to run the ball at Boston College, so the numbers could pile up.

JUSTIN HERBERT, OREGON
Quarterback

Perhaps the Pac-12’s top Heisman Trophy candidate is one the NFL scouts are already watching closely. Justin Herbert opted to return to Oregon for one more season rather than turn pro, and now he could have a chance to lead the Ducks back to the Pac-12 this fall. If he does, then he will likely remain in the Heisman discussion all season long. Herbert passed for 3,151 yards and 29 touchdowns last season. Improving the pass completion percentage would help, but scoring big wins against Auburn to open the season and later against Washington may be the key to a trip to New York.

JK DOBBINS, OHIO STATE
Running Back

Sure, Ohio State may have one of the more talented transfer quarterbacks looking to keep the offense humming this season (Justin Fields), but the Buckeyes may be wise to rely more on running back JK Dobbins this season. Dobbins saw his rushing total take a dip last season after a brilliant freshman season in 2017 (1,403 rushing yards down to 1,053 yards despite nearly 40 more rushing attempts), but he is still one of the top running backs in the Big Ten and it shows. If Dobbins is used more early on this season as the new quarterback gets situated in the offense, Dobbins should rack up some big numbers to get started. Spotlight games at Nebraska, home against Penn State and at Michigan spread out this season and down the stretch give Dobbins a chance to make some loud noises in the Heisman race.

We might as well talk about Jalen Hurts…

Oklahoma has been the home to the last two quarterbacks, with Baker Mayfield winning the award in 2017 and Kyler Murray taking the trophy back to Norman last season. Head coach Lincoln Riley could not have stepped into a better quarterback situation than he did when he took over for Bob Stoops in 2017. Now, with Murray off to the NFL, the Sooners bring in former Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts. While Hurts may not be exactly the same kind of quarterback Mayfield or Murray were the past two years, the Sooners are gaining an experienced starter who has led his previous team to the national championship game in back-to-back seasons. There is a lot to like about this combination, even if Riley has a few things to work on with Hurts to get the offense where he wants it.

The odds a school claims three straight Heisman Trophy winners are likely against Oklahoma this season. No school has ever had three straight Heisman Trophy winners (Yale and Army have each had back-to-back Heisman Trophy winners; USC had back-to-back winners but one (Reggie Bush) has since been officially vacated; Ohio State has back-to-back Heisman Trophy winners courtesy of the only two-time Heisman Trophy winner, Archie Griffin). Could history be made? Sure. Why not? But the streak probably comes to an end in Norman this year, even if the season goes well for Hurts and the Sooners.

Indiana QB Michael Penix could be a game-time decision again this week

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A week after being a game-time decision against Ohio State, Indiana quarterback Michael Penix appears to be heading to a similar fate this week. Only this time, the Hoosiers are hoping to get their starting quarterback on the field this week.

Indiana head coach Tom Allen the likely plan this week will be to leave a decision on whether or not to play Penix as a game-time decision, similar to last week. Just before the Hoosiers kicked off at home against the buckeyes, Penix was ruled out for the game. Peyton Ramsey took over the offense for the game. Ramsey would likely get the starting nod if Penix is ruled out for this weekend’s game against UConn. Jack Tuttle also played for Indiana against Ohio State and could be used as well.

“I don’t foresee it, hopefully, not being a day-to-day thing the rest of the season, but at the same time, for this Saturday’s game, we definitely aren’t going to know for several more days,” Allen said to reporters on Monday. “He probably will eventually be a game-time decision with him, but I don’t expect that to keep being the case every single week.”

The nature of the injury that has sidelined Penix has not been confirmed by Allen. Penix started the first two games of the season.

Texas Tech announces QB Alan Bowman to miss “several weeks” due to shoulder injury

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As reports were swirling around about a possible injury to their starting quarterback, Texas Tech has announced Alan Bowan will be out for “several weeks” as a result of a shoulder injury. The injury occurred during Texas Tech’s road game at Arizona this past weekend.

Bowman was examined briefly on the Texas Tech sideline during a road trip to Arizona last weekend (which resulted in a loss to the Arizona Wildcats). Bowman did not miss any playing time, so news of a potentially lengthy injury comes as a bit of a surprise. Bowman was taken to the ground by a defender. No penalty was called on the play.

The Red Raiders will now likely go with Jett Duffey to lead the offense at the position. Texas Tech is off this week. While Texas Tech has not shared an expected timeline for Bowman’s return, prior rumors surrounding the injury were suggesting it could be anywhere from six to eight weeks before Bowman returns to the field.

If Bowman is out for six weeks, he would potentially miss games against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Iowa State, and Kansas. If absent for eight weeks, tack on a game at West Virginia to the mix (Texas Tech has another bye week between road games at Kansas and West Virginia. That would be quite a tough stretch for Texas Tech to be without its starting quarterback, whether for six or eight weeks.

Bowman has thrown for 1,020 yards with six touchdowns and three interceptions in three games this season.

FSU loses linebacker Kaindoh to season-ending ankle injury

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As if losing a game to Virginia was not bad enough for the Florida State Seminoles, head coach Willie Taggart announce don Monday linebacker Joshua Kaindoh will miss the remainder of the season. Kaindoh, a former five-star recruit and a starter for the Seminole defense, is out for the year due to a lower-body ankle injury, according to Taggart.

Kaindoh suffered the injury in the second quarter of Saturday’s loss at Virginia. He was carted off the field. Kaindoh has appeared in every game since his arrival at Florida State in 2017. Because he has only appeared in three games this season, he is eligible to use a redshirt season this year to preserve two more years of eligibility beginning in 2020. The NCAA modified the redshirt rule last season to allow players to save a redshirt season as long as they appear in four games or fewer during the season.

With Kaindoh out of action, that will likely lead to Florida State using Janarius Robinson on more plays, as the two had been splitting playing time this season. But depth on the defensive line has become a growing concern for Florida State, who has been dealing with all sorts of issues on defense to start the season.

Kaindoh’s season comes to an abrupt end with nine tackles and a sack.

Taggart also made note that left tackle Jauan Williams is now “week-to-week” while he bounces back from an ankle injury form Week 2, the severity of which is far less troublesome than the injury to Kaindoh.

LSU safety Todd Harris to miss rest of season with injury

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LSU safety Todd Harris will miss the rest of the 2019 season, head coach Ed Orgeron announced on Monday. Orgeron did not go into specifics regarding the injury to his junior safety. Harris was injured in the first half of Saturday night’s home win against Northwestern State, and he later returned to the field on crutches.

Orgeron only confirmed the injury was a season-ending injury, but he also explained Harris will be able to preserve a year of eligibility.

“We will use this year as a redshirt,” Orgeron said, according to The Advocate.

Because Harris did not appear in more than four games this season, he is allowed by the NCAA to use the 2019 season as a redshirt season, thus giving him two remaining years of eligibility beginning in 2020. The NCAA changed the redshirt rule last year to allow players to appear in up to four games without burning a year of their eligibility just for merely stepping foot on the field.

“It’s unfortunate. It was an unfortunate accident,” Orgeron said. “He just landed on the ground wrong.”

As for who replaces Harris on the depth chart, that job appears to be heading to junior safety JaCoby Stevens, who Orgeron noted was going to be used to fill the void.