USC quarterback Mark Sanchez will get a stiff test from the Ohio State defense on Saturday.
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The game that college football fans have been talking about since the end of last season will have implications not only on the national championship picture but also on the Heisman race. When No. 1 USC and No. 5 Ohio State play Saturday in Los Angeles, as many as five players (Buckeyes running back Beanie Wells, Trojans quarterback Mark Sanchez and USC running backs Joe McKnight, Stafon Johnson and C.J. Gable) could emerge as the early front-runner for the stiff-armed statuette.
1. Beanie Wells, Ohio State, RB, Jr.
Last week: Did not play in a 26-14 victory over Ohio.
Season: 13 rushes, 111 yards, 1 TD; 3 receptions, 10 yards.
Heisman-o-meter: It's impossible to know how much Wells' absence affected Ohio State's offense in its lethargic win over the Bobcats, but the Buckeyes obviously didn't look the same without him. As of Monday, Wells was expected to play against the Trojans. If Wells is healthy enough to pull off what former Buckeyes quarterback Troy Smith did in beating defending national champion Texas in 2006, he'll have an enormous head start on the field.
Up next: Saturday at No. 1 USC.
2. Tim Tebow, Florida, QB, Jr.
Last week: 21-of-35 passing, 256 yards, 2 TDs; 13 rushes, 55 yards in a 26-3 victory over Miami.
Season: 30-of-49 passing, 393 yards, 3 TDs; 22 rushes, 92 yards.
Heisman-o-meter: The Hurricanes harassed Tebow for much of the night, making him look nothing like the Heisman winner from last year. In the fourth quarter, Tebow (and Percy Harvin) started making plays in the running game and finished as the team's leading rusher. Despite the preseason chatter about the Gators' deep stable of backs, Tebow remains the team's best running threat. Whether that translates into Heisman No. 2 is another matter.
Up next: Sept. 20 at Tennessee.
3. Chase Daniel, Missouri, QB, Sr.
Last week: 16-of-17 passing, 245 yards, 3 TDs in a 52-3 victory over Southeast Missouri State.
Season: 42-of-62 passing, 568 yards, 6 TDs, 1 INT; 9 rushes, 46 yards.
Heisman-o-meter: Daniel was nearly perfect on the night (his lone incompletion was an overthrow to tight end Chase Coffman) and did all this damage in less than two quarters, leading the Tigers to touchdowns on all five drives he directed. (The big quarterback news from this game was that highly regarded freshman Blaine Gabbert played, thus ending speculation whether he would redshirt.) Now Daniel faces a Nevada defense that just gave Texas Tech's Graham Harrell (19-of-46 passing, 2 INTs) fits.
Up next: Saturday vs. Nevada.
4. Knowshon Moreno, Georgia, RB, Soph.
Last week: 18 rushes, 168 yards, 3 TDs; 3 receptions, 30 yards in a 56-17 victory over Central Michigan.
Season: 26 rushes, 227 yards, 6 TDs; 5 receptions, 83 yards.
Heisman-o-meter: Moreno really didn't get loose until the second half when the game was already a blowout. But when he did get loose, he was electric, capped by the gold-medal-caliber hurdling job on the end of a 29-yard gain in the third quarter. That may be the most athletic move we see by a Heisman candidate this season.
Up next: Saturday at South Carolina.
5. Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech, WR, Soph.
Last week: 7 receptions, 158 yards, 1 TD in a 35-19 victory at Nevada.
Season: 16 receptions, 231 yards, 2 TDs.
Heisman-o-meter: While his quarterback had his aforementioned struggles, Crabtree was his big-play self, catching passes of 50 and 82 yards. The latter went for a score that gave the Red Raiders a 28-12 lead with 12:59 remaining in the game. Because Tech's next two games come against SMU and UMass, we won't get a good reading on Crabtree until the Red Raiders start Big 12 play on Oct. 4.
Up next: Saturday vs. SMU.
6. Mark Sanchez, USC, QB, Jr.
Last week: Idle.
Season: 26-of-35 passing, 338 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT; 1 rush, 6 yards.
Heisman-o-meter: Saturday's game against Ohio State will be Sanchez's fifth career start but his second against the No. 5 team in the country. His first came last year at Oregon, a 24-17 loss, so the fourth-year junior has yet to prove himself in a big game at the college level. If he can on Saturday, he could very well be next week's No. 1.
Up next: Saturday vs. No. 5 Ohio State.
7. Sam Bradford, Oklahoma, QB, Soph.
Last week: 29-of-38 passing, 395 yards, 5 TDs, 2 INTs; 3 rushes, 3 yards in a 52-26 victory over Cincinnati.
Season: 46-of-60 passing, 578 yards, 7 TDs, 2 INTs; 3 rushes, 3 yards.
Heisman-o-meter: The Sooners may have the best offense in the nation, and the highly accurate Bradford runs it quickly and efficiently. Bradford and Oklahoma's no-huddle offense got the ball in play so fast at times against the Bearcats that it felt like a Loyola Marymount basketball game from the early '90s. And the Sooners broke out another weapon that should make Bradford and the offense even more difficult to stop: a five-receiver, empty formation.
Up next: Saturday at Washington.
8. Jahvid Best, Cal, RB, Soph.
Last week: 14 rushes, 200 yards, 3 TDs; 1 reception, 2 yards in a 66-3 victory at Washington State.
Season: 38 rushes, 311 yards, 4 TDs; 6 receptions, 65 yards; 4 kickoff returns, 103 yards.
Heisman-o-meter: The Bears' tailback with Sunday speed ran up the middle untouched on the first play from scrimmage for an 80-yard touchdown. He added an 86-yard touchdown in the third quarter and ran right onto this list. Though the Cougars' defense (116th nationally against the run) contributed to Best's big day, there's no denying what Cal's successor to Justin Forsett has done in two games against two BCS conference teams.
Up next: Saturday at Maryland.
9. Juice Williams, Illinois, QB, Jr.
Last week: 16-of-25 passing, 124 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs; 16 rushes, 174 yards, 2 TDs in a 47-21 victory over Eastern Illinois.
Season: 42-of-67 passing, 575 yards, 6 TDs, 4 INTs; 35 rushes, 184 yards, 2 TDs.
Heisman-o-meter: Just when we thought Juice's arm had caught up with his fleet feet, he goes out and breaks his own single-game rushing record for a quarterback while also throwing two interceptions. The turnovers, which also include a fumble at the Eastern 1-yard line, need to be fixed for Williams to stay on the list.
Up next: Saturday vs. Louisiana-Lafayette.
10. Pat White, West Virginia, QB, Sr.
Last week: 11-of-18 passing, 72 yards; 20 rushes, 97 yards in a 24-3 loss at East Carolina.
Season: 36-of-51 passing, 280 yards, 5 TDs, 1 INT; 29 rushes, 160 yards.
Heisman-o-meter: White backers submitted some, let's say, colorful e-mails last week after the Watch chose not to get overly excited about a five-touchdown day against Villanova and had the Mountaineers' quarterback "only" at No. 4. And on Saturday, we saw why. White did not look comfortable throwing the ball in the team's new shifting, motion offense, barely looking downfield to pass. (His longest completion was 13 yards.) A lot of credit must go to the Pirates' suffocating defense, which flushed White out of the pocket several times. His poor performance could've knocked him off this list in favor of Texas' Colt McCoy, but, since we know White's capable of better and it's early in the season, he'll remain on the Watch.
Up next: Sept. 18 at Colorado.