Pat Fitzgerald … will find himself at the center of a firestorm, now that Northwestern has started 0-2 with losses in two games that the Wildcats were 100 percent expected to win. The fact that the most recent one came at home against FCS Illinois State will only increase the heat. The fact that that the score was 9-7 will turn the flames to inferno. Now, the ‘Cats will have to muster themselves to even salvage the season, and face this slate in the next eight weeks – Duke, Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan State, Indiana, Ohio State and Wisconsin. If Northwestern – which was expected to contend in the Big Ten West – is 2-7 at the end of Nov. 5, Fitzgerald may need a fire extinguisher just to get into his office.
Mark Stoops … isn’t much better off than Fitzgerald. Kentucky wasn’t expected to be 2-0 right now, but most of the Wildcats’ fans certainly hoped for at least 1-1. (Personally, I did pick 0-2.) But the 45-7 shellacking at the hands of a supposedly down Florida team will only turn up the heat in Lexington. Two very winnable games are coming up at home against New Mexico State and South Carolina. If Kentucky doesn’t win both of those, the ‘Cats may start posting want ads before the end of the season.
Will Muschamp … isn’t in danger. Yet. But my prediction about his woeful offense has been spot-on. South Carolina has averaged 13.5 points in its first two games in the Muschamp era, and while the game this week against East Carolina SHOULD be more than winnable, this is Muschamp-ball. A very easy game can look very hard when you’re only gaining three yards per play. After ECU, there’s Kentucky, Texas A&M and Georgia before the supposed breather against UMass. There’s no way that South Carolina will fire Muschamp, even if he goes 1-11 this year. But that will make expectations for 2017 so much larger, meaning that I’ve already penciled in the top spot on next year’s hot seat for Mr. Muschamp.
Steve Addazio … took the heat off a little bit with a 26-7 win over UMass. At least Boston College didn’t lose this week, and the Eagles managed to score some points. But this week, reality will set in when BC travels to Virginia Tech to face a Hokies team on the rebound. After that will come two likely wins against Wagner and Buffalo, but then the ACC schedule begins in earnest, and we fully expect the pedestrian nature of Addazio’s offense to be fully exposed. By the end of the year, the Dazz will be at or near the top of this list.
Les Miles … got a bit of a respite with an easy win over Jacksonville State. But the LSU offense is still showing gaping cracks and weaknesses, even without Leonard Fournette, who sat out the week with an ankle injury. LSU goes to Auburn this Saturday, and I expect the game to be a true Tiger-fight. If Miles loses this week – which is definitely possible – the calls for his neck will be loud and numerous by the time the sun rises on Sunday. Every week is a must-win situation for Miles.
- Christian McCaffrey, RB, Jr., Stanford (Last week: 2)
This week: Did not play
This season: 22 carries for 126 yards, 2 TDs; 7 receptions for 40 yards
Stanford (1-0), OFF
McAffrey gains, not through a notable performance, but simply by not playing and allowing his closest Heisman competition to underperform. He’ll get a chance to prove himself in the Cardinal’s Pac-12 opener this week against the Trojans. (Next: vs. USC)
- Deshaun Watson, QB, Jr., Clemson (Last week: 1)
This week: 27-of-53 for 292 yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs; 10 carries for 55 yards
This season: 46-of-87 for 540 yards, 4 TDs, 3 INTs; 21 carries for 76 yards
Clemson (2-0), beat Troy, 30-24
A second unspectacular week for Watson, this time against a much lesser opponent. A win is a win, but this simply isn’t Heisman-worthy. There are too many other great players on this list for Deshaun to be able to win with barely .500 passing and multiple interceptions. (Next week: vs. South Carolina State)
- J.T. Barrett, QB, Sr., Ohio State (Last week: 4)
This week: 14-of-22 for 149 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs; 16 carries for 55 yards, 2 TDs
This season: 35-of-53 for 498 yards, 1 TD, 0 INTs; 22 carries for 85 yards, 3 TDs
Ohio State (2-0), beat Tulsa, 48-3
Barrett was once again convincing, even in a romp against overmatched Tulsa. While he didn’t throw for any scores, he did continue to bedevil defenders with his legs, running for 55 yards and two scores. His real challenge will come this Saturday on the road in a very hostile environment. (Next week: at Oklahoma)
- Greg Ward Jr., QB, Sr., Houston (Last week: 3)
This week: Did not play
This season: 23-of-40 for 321 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs; 18 carries for 1 yard
Houston (2-0), beat Lamar, 42-0
Ward sat out with a shoulder injury, but could have played if it had been a conference opponent. In his place, his backup, Kyle Postma, was mildly effective, though there was definitely a difference between him and Greg Ward. (Next week: Thursday at Cincinnati)
- Baker Mayfield, QB, Sr., Oklahoma (Last week: 7)
This week: 14-of-20 for 244 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs
This season: 38-of-53 for 567 yards, 5 TDs, 0 INTs; 13 carries for (-1) yards
Oklahoma (1-1), beat ULM, 59-17
Mayfield got an easy draw with ULM this week and looked like a man among boys. He continues to be technically perfect, with no INTs thus far. He’ll be part of an enormous QB battle this week when J.T. Barrett and Ohio State roll into town. The winner will likely get a big boost among Heisman voters. (Next week: vs. Ohio State)
- Leonard Fournette, RB, Jr., LSU (Last week: 5)
This week: Did not play
This season: 23 carries for 138 yards, 0 TDs; 3 receptions for 38 yards, 0 TDs
LSU (0-1), lost to Wisconsin, 16-14
Fournette suffered a bruised ankle in the game at Wisconsin and was held out against Jacksonville State. He should be back to full speed by the time Mississippi State arrives for the Tigers’ SEC opener. (Next week: vs. Mississippi State)
- Nick Chubb, RB, Jr., Georgia (Last week: 6)
This week: 20 carries for 80 yards, 1 TD
This season: 52 carries for 302 yards, 3 TDs
Georgia (2-0), beat Nicholls State, 26-24
Chubb and the Dawgs seemed to take the week off after posting a very impressive win against North Carolina. Nicholls State should have been like raw meat to Chubb, but he averaged only 4 yards per carry, and his longest run was 18 yards. (Next week: at Missouri)
- Trevor Knight, QB, Sr., Texas A&M (Last week: 9)
This week: 21-of-37 for 344 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT; 7 carries for 78 yards, 1 TD
This season: 43-of-79 for 583 yards, 4 TD, 2 INTs; 16 carries for 109 yards, 3 TDs
Texas A&M (1-0), beat Prairie View A&M, 67-0
Knight continues to look comfortable in the pocket at A&M. Yes, this was just Prairie View A&M, but some other Heisman hopefuls failed to impress against lesser competition. Knight stayed on course and, as a result, improves his Heisman standing. (Next week: at Auburn)
- Dalvin Cook, RB, Jr., Florida State (Last week: 8)
This week: 11 carries for 82 yards, 2 TDs; 1 reception for 9 yards
This season: 34 carries for 173 yards, 2 TDs; 8 receptions for 110 yards
FSU (2-0), beat Charleston Southern, 52-8
The good news is that Cook didn’t get injured in a basically meaningless game. He got just enough action to stay loose, and he did gain more than 7 yards per carry, plus 2 TDs. He’ll get his next big challenge this week when the Noles visit Louisville. (Next week: at Louisville)
- Chad Kelly, QB, Sr., Ole Miss (Last week: 10)
This week: 20-of-26 for 224 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INT; 4 carries for 14 yards
This season: 41-of-65 for 536 yards, 7 TDs, 3 INT; 17 carries for 29 yards
Ole Miss (1-1), beat Wofford, 38-13
After a nightmarish second half against Florida State, Kelly got back into his groove against FCS Wofford. This won’t add much to his Heisman portfolio, but it may help build confidence for the titanic showdown with Alabama this Saturday. (Next week: vs. Alabama)
On the bubble: Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon; Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville; Seth Russell, QB, Sr., Baylor
Keep watching: Deondre Francois, QB, Florida State; Jalen Hurts, QB, Alabama
The Big 12 is weak. Just a year ago, the Big 12 was the toast of the college football world. Four teams posted double-digit winning seasons, including Oklahoma, which reached the College Football Playoff. Fast forward to 2016 and Oklahoma already has a loss. TCU hasn’t looked right in the first two weeks. Baylor is reeling from the sexual abuse scandal that cost it a head coach. Oklahoma State just lost to a MAC team.(Regardless of how you feel about the officials’ call, there’s no way the Cowboys should have even let Central Michigan get that close.) Amazingly, Texas is the team best positioned in the Big 12 at the moment. Oklahoma can regain some respect for the conference with a win over Ohio State this Saturday, but overall, the nation isn’t worrying too much about playing teams from the Big 12.
The Big Ten is not. Nine of 14 teams from the Big Ten are currently undefeated, and five are ranked in the Top 25. Ohio State and Michigan are legitimate contenders for the College Football Playoff, and Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan State aren’t far behind. While most of this is based on perception and not on head-to-head play with major teams from other conferences, it’s clear that the Big Ten has entered the season with more than its share of teams that will give fans and voters plenty to think about as the season progresses. And if Ohio State wins at Oklahoma this week, both of these first two items will become even more pronounced.
The Heisman race is wide open. Simply put, in spite of the hype surrounding the top three candidates, none of them has started the season with an exclamation point. Other, less heralded players, however, have completely muddied the waters. Freshmen QBs Deondre Francois (Florida State) and Jalen Hurts (Alabama) have been astonishingly good thus far. And Louisville’s Lamar Jackson has put on a clinic, albeit against lesser competition. This season should provide quite an interesting Heisman horse race – and we wouldn’t be surprised at all to see someone whose name we just learned this year to win the whole thing.
Copyright © 2016 Doug DeBolt