Taking an in-depth look at the Big Ten's Heisman Trophy hopes

Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Taking an in-depth look at the Big Ten's Heisman Trophy hopes

As the season grows deeper, the list of Heisman contenders grows smaller. The question looms: Can a player from the Big Ten win the honor for the first time since Ohio State’s Troy Smith in 2006? It could happen.

Most straw polls show Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, Notre Dame’s Everett Golson, Baylor’s Bryce Petty and Alabama’s Amari Cooper as top contenders. Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon also is in the mix. In fact, the Badger back is No. 3 in the latest poll on HeismanPundit.com, an over-10-year-old site dedicated to analysis of the Heisman Trophy.

“I think Gordon is the most promising candidate of the Big Ten bunch. He’s on pace to easily surpass 2,000 yards and he could go down as the best in a long line of Badger backs,” said Chris Huston, who runs HeismanPundit.com. “If he finishes the season on a tear and Wisconsin wins its division, he could make a late run at the trophy if Mariota and Prescott taper off.”

In addition to Gordon, Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah and Indiana’s Tevin Coleman may have shots to get in the mix.

“Abdullah is also in the mix and currently on pace for over 1,900 yards. I think if he keeps up this production and leads the Huskers to the Big Ten title, he’ll be a lock for New York,” said Huston.

“I think Coleman has a ways to go before he appears on the radar. It certainly helps that he’s also on pace for a huge season. But he’d have to remain ahead of Gordon’s production and maybe lead IU to an upset or two to gain traction with voters.”

But it’s interesting to note that all three of the Big Ten’s top candidates are running backs, which may not bode well, as recent history has seen quarterbacks dominate the award. Since Texas’ Ricky Williams and Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne won the Heisman in 1998 and 1999, respectively, only two other running backs have won the honor: USC’s Reggie Bush in 2005 and Alabama’s Mark Ingram in 2009.

But if you look at the current numbers of the Big Ten’s “Big Three” backs, they compare favorably with the stats of aforementioned Heisman-winning running backs Williams and Dayne.

Could Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett get in the race and maybe win it, making it three redshirt freshmen Heisman winners is a row? His numbers through five games in 2014 are on par with Florida State’s Jameis Winston from his Heisman run last year and from Johnny Manziel’s run in 2012.

It could happen, but Huston thinks Barrett is a long shot.

“While this year’s field seems particularly deep and strong, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility,” he said. “And we’ll know more after game nine when the Buckeyes head to East Lansing to take on Michigan State.

“So I’m fairly certain we won’t have a third-straight redshirt freshman win the Heisman. But if it does happen, it’s definitely going to be J.T. Barrett.”

STACKING UP WITH THE COMPETITION

BTN.com web editor Sean Merriman has compared the stats through six games for 2014 for Melvin Gordon, Tevin Coleman and Ameer Abdullah with the stats through six games for Mark Ingram in 2009 and Reggie Bush in 2005 in their Heisman winning seasons.

Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon: 132 carries, 1,046 rushing yards, 7.9 ypc, 13 TD; 6 catches, 27 yards, 1 TD

Indiana RB Tevin Coleman: 120 carries, 1,060 rushing yards, 8.8 ypc, 11 TD; 15 catches, 134 yards, 0 TD

Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah: 138 carries, 878 rushing yards, 6.4 ypc, 10 TD; 7 catches, 130 yards, 2 TD

vs.

2009: Alabama RB Mark Ingram: 111 carries, 659 yards, 5.9 ypc, 7 TD; 17 catches, 163 yards, 3 TD

2005: USC RB Reggie Bush: 86 carries, 761 yards, 8.8 ypc, 9 TD; 17 catches, 226 yards, 2 TD

***

THE YOUNG AND THE GOOD

BTN.com web editor Sean Merriman has compared the stats for Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett with those of Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel and Florida State’s Jameis Winston during their Heisman runs the last two years.

Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett: 88-133, 1,354 passing yards, 66.2%, 17 TD, 5 INT; 71 carries, 276 rushing yards, 2 TD

vs.

2013: Florida State QB Jameis Winston: 112-157, 1,885 passing yards, 71%, 20 TD, 3 INT; 43 carries, 137 rushing yards, 3 TD

2012: Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel: 128-190, 1,680 passing yards, 67%, 14 TD, 3 INT; 91 carries, 676 rushing yards, 10 TD

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

And if you want to leave a comment on this post, use the box below. All comments need to be approved by a moderator.

Advertisement

BTN Plus on BTN2Go

BTN Plus on BTN2Go

all times ET
Today
7:00 PMIllinois at Penn St.Watch
Tomorrow
7:00 PMWisconsin at IndianaWatch
8:00 PMPurdue at NebraskaWatch
Thursday Jan 25
6:00 PMIowa at MarylandWatch
7:00 PMSt. Francis College at Ohio St.Watch
8:00 PMOhio St. at IowaWatch
8:00 PMMaryland at NorthwesternWatch
Friday Jan 26
5:00 PMPenn State NationalWatch

Watch hundreds of live non-televised Big Ten events via BTN Plus on BTN2Go.