Battle of Backs: Ingram nearly loses top spot to Stanford star
Stanford's Toby Gerhart nearly overtook Mark Ingram for the top spot
Ingram held on when he scored a 70-yard TD to finish off Mississippi State
Clemson's C.J. Spiller proved he can do it all after throwing TD pass vs. N.C. State
Quarterbacks have won eight of the last nine Heisman Trophies, and while that string of domination could continue this year with either Colt McCoy or Tim Tebow, The Watch is high on running backs. Backs fill the top three spots, and six of the top 10 and have been prominent on this list all season.
Per our end-of-the-year elimination process, this list will be narrowed to eight next week and five the week after. Then, on Dec. 7, we will unveil our top three choices, which will be how this final ballot will be sent to the Heisman Trophy Trust.
1. Mark Ingram, Alabama, RB, Soph.
Last week: 19 rushes, 149 yards, 2 TDs; 1 reception, 9 yards in a 31-3 victory at Mississippi State
Season: 194 rushes, 1,297 yards, 10 TDs; 25 receptions, 225 yards, 3 TDs
Heisman-o-meter: This is how close the Heisman race is: Until Ingram broke free for that 70-yard touchdown run to finish his night, The Watch was considering Toby Gerhart in this spot. Until then, the most memorable part of Ingram's evening was his 1-yard TD run, on which his helmet came off, leading to a nasty cut above his eye. With Alabama meeting Chattanooga this week, be careful to not read too much into Ingram's numbers. His candidacy will come down to his last two regular-season weeks (at Auburn and against Florida in the SEC Championship game).
Up next: Saturday vs. Chattanooga
2. Toby Gerhart, Stanford, RB, Sr.
Last week: 29 rushes, 178 yards, 3 TDs; 1 reception, 9 yards in a 55-21 victory at No. 11 USC
Season: 262 rushes, 1,395 yards, 19 TDs; 8 receptions, 87 yards
Heisman-o-meter: The Cardinal's big back makes another jump up this list, almost landing the top spot after gashing the Pac-10's former glamour team. Each time Gerhart touched the ball he seemed to run for seven, eight, nine yards a pop before really getting loose in the fourth quarter. For the second straight week he had a fumble that led to an opposing touchdown, but for the second straight week it was a minor storyline. Instead, the major news coming out of the game was this: Gerhart has a legitimate shot to win this thing.
Up next: Saturday vs. Cal
3. C.J. Spiller, Clemson, RB, Sr.
Last week: 18 rushes, 97 yards, 1 TD; 3 receptions, 48 yards, 1 TD; 1 kickoff return, 13 yards; 1-of-1 passing, 17 yards, 1 TD in a 43-23 victory at N.C. State
Season: 153 rushes, 836 yards, 6 TDs; 24 receptions, 382 yards, 4 TDs; 16 kickoff returns, 543 yards, 3 TDs; 6 punt returns, 191 yards, 1 TD; 1-of-2 passing, 17 yards, 1 TD
Heisman-o-meter: Just when you thought Spiller had done it all this season he does something that he hadn't done all year: throw a TD pass. His second-quarter scoring toss to Xavier Dye was the fifth different way he has accounted for a TD this season. For good measure, he added a 16-yard TD run around the left side (he should've been tackled in the backfield) and a 34-yard TD catch on a wheel route (he was wide open). No player can beat a team in more different ways than Clemson's back of all trades.
Up next: Saturday vs. Virginia
4. Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska, DT, Sr.
Last week: 3 tackles, 2 solo; 2 quarterback hurries in a 31-17 victory at Kansas
Season: 56 tackles, 31 solo; 13 tackles for loss; 5 sacks; 1 interception; 8 passes broken up; 19 quarterback hurries; 1 forced fumble; 3 blocked kicks
Heisman-o-meter: For the second time in three weeks, Suh didn't have his usual impact on the game. In fact, he was hardly noticeable on Saturday. Jayhawks lineman Jeff Spikes, who was benched last week, moved from right tackle to right guard and stoned Suh all day. He was also neutralized by occasional double teams and a constantly moving pocket. When highlight videos are made for all of the postseason award shows, they will not include any of Suh against Kansas.
Up next: Saturday vs. Kansas State
5. Dion Lewis, Pittsburgh, RB, Fr.
Last week: 21 rushes, 152 yards, 1 TD; 1 reception, 8 yards in a 27-22 victory over Notre Dame
Season: 224 rushes, 1,291 yards, 13 TDs; 17 receptions, 142 yards, 1 TD
Heisman-o-meter: It may be hard to grasp the concept of a 5-foot-8 freshman being the nation's most outstanding player, but Lewis is making a case (even though he's not getting the recognition nationally). On his 50-yard score, he demonstrated his vision, shiftiness and acceleration, and somehow got by safety Sergio Brown without being touched. Lewis also could have walked in for a touchdown in the first quarter, but quarterback Bill Stull badly misfired on his throw. The Big East Offensive Player of the Year race should be an interesting one, but Lewis would be my tepid leader at this point.
Up next: Nov. 27 at West Virginia
6. Golden Tate, Notre Dame, WR, Jr.
Last week: 9 receptions, 148 yards, 1 TD; 2 rushes, 2 yards; 2 punt returns, 101 yards, 1 TD in a 27-22 loss at No. 8 Pittsburgh
Season: 74 receptions, 1,172 yards, 11 TDs; 23 rushes, 159 yards, 2 TDs; 9 punt returns, 148 yards, 1 TD; 3 kickoff returns, 62 yards
Heisman-o-meter: I will not deny that Notre Dame may be the most overexposed 6-4 college football team ever. But where would the Irish be without Tate, who produces regardless of the score? In addition to his usual receiving tricks (The Watch loved how he got up for a catch in the first quarter and dragged a defensive back five yards on his fourth-quarter TD reception), Tate returned a punt 87 yards for a score (he shook the first would-be tackler, split two others and juked the punter) against the Panthers. His two scores rallied Notre Dame from a 27-9 deficit and gave life to a team that had none. Sure, his team still lost, but Tate was the main reason Notre Dame had even a chance to win the game.
Up next: Saturday vs. Connecticut
7. Kellen Moore, Boise State, QB, Soph.
Last week: 22-of-32 passing, 299 yards, 5 TDs; 1 rush, 2 yards in a 63-25 victory at Idaho
Season: 203-of-300 passing, 2,558 yards, 32 TDs, 3 INTs; 21 rushes, minus-7 yards, 1 TD
Heisman-o-meter: Moore should give some of the credit for his big statistical day to receiver Austin Pettis (8 catches, 123 yards, 4 TDs), who made circus catch after circus catch in the blowout of the Vandals. That said, Moore made the most out of his 48 minutes of work and, with Case Keenum's loss on Saturday, probably became the alternative quarterback choice for those who are looking beyond Colt McCoy and Tim Tebow. Moore definitely has the wins and the numbers to be the candidate, but has he played enough quality opponents? Voters will have to decide.
Up next: Friday at Utah State
8. Jacquizz Rodgers, Oregon State, RB, Soph.
Last week: 18 rushes, 159 yards, 2 TDs; 4 receptions, minus-4 yards in a 48-21 victory over Washington
Season: 215 rushes, 1,148 yards, 17 TDs; 62 receptions, 397 yards, 1 TD; 1-of-1 passing, 14 yards, 1 TD
Heisman-o-meter: Though just a sophomore, Rodgers has been a favorite of The Watch for a while, and he, once again, sneaks onto the list after an impressive day, even though it was against the Huskies. He did his usual jump-cutting for big runs, and in the third quarter he showed his deceptive strength as well, powering in from eight yards out. The race to be a first-team Pac-10 running back will be a tough one this year -- with Gerhart, Rodgers and Oregon's LaMichael James -- even with Cal's Jahvid Best missing time with a concussion.
Up next: Saturday at Washington State
9. Jordan Shipley, Texas, WR, Sr.
Last week: 6 receptions, 46 yards; 2 TDs; 3 punt returns, 28 yards in a 47-14 victory at Baylor
Season: 81 receptions, 1.096 yards, 8 TDs; 22 punt returns, 303 yards, 2 TDs; 2 kickoff returns, 38 yards; 1 rush, 0 yards
Heisman-o-meter: The Texas defense and running game controlled the day against overmatched Baylor, so the aerial attack didn't get its usual work. Still, Shipley turned his few touches into two scores, the second coming on a play that called for Shipley to fake as if he was going to block before taking off on an outside route. The play was perfectly executed leading to an easy touchdown. Shipley and Tate should be the top two candidates for the Biletnikoff Award, and at this point it's hard separating the two. Tate has more receiving yards and scores (and his yards-per-catch eclipses Shipley's) and has also made an impact as a running back when needed. But Shipley has more catches, has been a bigger factor as a return man and has often not seen significant fourth-quarter minutes for a team that, unlike Tate's, has dominated its opponents.
Up next: Saturday vs. Kansas
10. LaMichael James, Oregon, RB, Fr.
Last week: 22 rushes, 150 yards, 3 TDs in a 44-21 victory over Arizona State
Season: 171 rushes, 1,193 yards, 11 TDs; 11 receptions, 128 yards
Heisman-o-meter: Saturday was built up as the return of LeGarrette Blount, but Blount, now a fifth stringer, didn't play, in part because James was so good. The Ducks' diminutive back repeatedly gashed a Sun Devils defense (especially around the left side) that entered the game sixth in the nation against the run. James had 119 yards and all three of his TDs by halftime and barely played into the fourth quarter of the blowout. Since taking over as the lead back during Blount's suspension, James has averaged 139.4 rushing yards a game.
Up next: Saturday at Arizona
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