The national title picture is far from clear, but the Heisman Trophy race appears to be another story.
Cam Newton, Auburn's Mack truck of a quarterback, continued to pull away from the field as he ran around, past and over LSU in another showcase performance.
No, there's no debate over who's in the lead, and clearly you're in complete agreement. The vast majority of e-mails in the Watchman's inbox revolve not around the top of this list, but a quarterback who has yet to make an appearance.
In any other season, USC's Matt Barkley would already be in the thick of things. He's thrown 20 touchdown passes to four interceptions and ranks sixth nationally in passing efficiency (167.3) -- but this isn't any other season for Barkley or the Trojans. Their probation keeps them from playing in a bowl game and they've been barred from the BCS standings -- but it doesn't exclude them from individual awards.
Barkley is eligible, but should he be a contender?
It's not as if a player on a team on probation hasn't won before. Andre Ware won in 1989 while Houston was under sanctions that kept it from appearing on national television, mainly because his stats were otherworldly. Barkley's not lacking for TV exposure, but it's almost as if the Trojans have fallen out of the national consciousness (I haven't paid as much attention to USC this season). And unlike Ware before him, who set 26 NCAA records in '89, Barkley's stats aren't gigantic enough to make up for his program's probation. But what I think is also holding Barkley back is the sins of the past, as in this past summer. I have a hard time believing my 900-some fellow voters would be willing to throw their weight behind another Trojan so soon after Reggie Bush tarnished the trophy's image.
Still, Barkley has a chance to make a compelling argument for himself Saturday against No. 1 Oregon. I'm not saying he has a shot at winning the Heisman, that's not likely this season -- but if he delivers against the Ducks, he could certainly give voters, and the Watchman, something to think about.
Also, you'll find Arkansas' Ryan Mallett missing this week. The mainstay was knocked out of his second straight game Saturday and it's just too hard to keep him in for now while other players are catching fire.
Before I unveil this week's top 10 contenders, here's a look back at the rankings after Week 7.
Last Week: 10-of-16 passing for 86 yards; 28 rushes for 217 yards and two TDs in 24-17 win over LSU
Season: 90-of-138 passing for 1,364, 13 TDs and five INTs; 157 rushes for 1,077 yards and 14 TDs
Where to begin? He had the campaign-defining run in which he carried another Heisman hopeful, Patrick Peterson, into the end zone. He bulled over another helpless defender on his way to another TD. Oh, and he's now broken Auburn great Jimmy Sidle's 47-year-old SEC record for rushing yards by a quarterback and 1971 Heisman winner Pat Sullivan's Tigers mark for 26 combined TDs in a season. There's no bigger show in the game right now.
Next Up: Saturday at Ole Miss
Last Week: 20 rushes for 123 yards and two TDs; one reception for 25 yards in 60-13 win over UCLA
Season: 134 rushes for 971 yards and 11 TDs; four receptions for 121 yards and one TD
James continued rewriting the Ducks record book, equaling Jonathan Stewart's mark with his 14th career 100-yard game. No runner has been consistently better (James leads the nation with 161.8 yards per game) but the way Newton's been playing, that's not enough. If he wants to make a real run at the top spot on this list, he needs to deliver a statement. Will he do it against the Trojans?
Next Up: Saturday at USC
Last Week: Idle.
Season: 105-of-151 passing for 1,567 yards, 16 TDs and one INT; eight rushes for minus-11 yards
Moore had the week off, though you could almost say he's had four of the last six weeks off. He's only played two complete games (Virginia Tech and Oregon State) and has sat out large portions of four blowouts. In all, Moore has missed 98 1/2 minutes of play, the equivalent of more than seven quarters. If he maintained his average of 89.5 yards per quarter, that's over 650 yards the Bronco is missing out on.
Next Up: Tuesday vs. Louisiana Tech
Last Week: 16-of-22 passing for 270 yards, three TDs and two INTs; four rushes for minus-2 yards in 49-0 win over Purdue
Season: 118-of-181 passing for 1,505 yards, 15 TDs and four INTs; 75 rushes for 410 yards and three TDs; two receptions for 19 yards and one TD
This was all about putting on a show for Pryor, and not because of what happened at Wisconsin. It was a year ago vs. Purdue that Pryor committed four turnovers as the Buckeyes lost in West Lafayette. He played just over a half Saturday and never ran on a designed run as he led OSU to TDs on six of their first eight possessions, though he wasn't without his missteps -- he had his fourth multi-interception game.
Next Up: Saturday at Minnesota
Last Week: 23-of-35 passing for 323 yards and five TDs; 19 rushes for 112 yards
Season: 66-of-111 passing for 1,046 yards, 14 TDs and five INTs; 100 rushes for 870 yards and 12 TDs
Yep, he can throw, too. T-Magic obliterated Eric Crouch's Nebraska record of 193 passing yards by a freshman, and after totaling three passing TDs in the first six games, he matched that number by halftime and finished with five. Martinez delivered with his legs as well, recording his fifth 100-yard rushing game. It looks like he rebounded just in time for a huge Big 12 North showdown with Missouri.
Next Up: Saturday vs. Missouri
Last Week: Five receptions for 157 yards and two TDs in 51-41 loss to Nebraska
Season: 62 receptions for 1,112 yards and 14 TDs; three rushes for eight yards
Color me impressed. Heading into last weekend, Nebraska's Prince Amukamara had been thrown at 19 times in six games and had allowed four receptions. Against Blackmon, he allowed three catches for 129 yards and a TD on six targets, including an 80-yard reception on a flea flicker in which Amukamara got spun around. Amukamara won the game, but the game within the game went to Blackmon.
Next Up: Saturday at Kansas State
Last Week: Idle.
Season: 97-of-143 passing for 1,319 yards, nine TDs and five INTs; 137 rushes for 1096 yards and nine TDs
His first real tests of the season proved two things everyone assumed that they would: 1) Shoelace couldn't continue his record-breaking start; and 2) his body can't handle the physical pounding he's taking (though his shoulder is expected to be fine for Penn State). Disappointments in those measuring-stick games dropped his stock, but let's not forget that he's only 398 yards from breaking Beau Morgan's 14-year-old record for rushing yards by a quarterback, and he has five games to do it (though he'll have competition in that pursuit).
Next Up: Saturday at Penn State
Last Week: 26-of-38 passing for 404 yards, four TDs and one INT; six rushes for eight yards in 47-42 win over Kansas State
Season: 180-of-270 passing for 2,373 yards, 18 TDs and four INTs; 76 rushes for 384 yards and six TDs.
A former All-America in the 400-meter hurdles, Griffin can still dominate with his legs, but he's clearly made strides as a passer, as he's thrown for at least 380 yards in three of the last four games. While he's leading the Big 12 in passing efficiency, total offense and points responsible for, his most impressive stat may be that he's helped Baylor get bowl eligible for the first time as a Big 12 member.
Next Up: Saturday at Texas
Last Week: 20-of-28 passing for 190 yards, three TDs and one INT; four rushes for 11 yards in 38-28 win over Washington State
Season: 133-of-200 passing for 1,728 yards, 19 TDs and five INTs; 31 rushes for 242 yards and two TDs
He didn't have the monster day most expected against Washington State's porous defense, but he did post his fourth game with at least three TD passes this season, and his 19 TDs are six more than he had all of last season. Plus, he's got the Cardinal off to its first 6-1 start since 1970. This week he'll head to Seattle to meet Jake Locker in the QBs Draftniks Can't Stop Fawning Over Bowl.
Next Up: Saturday at Washington
Last Week: 11-of-20 passing for 185 yards, one TD and one INT; seven rushes for 93 yards and one TD in 38-7 win over Air Force
Season: 116-of-174 passing for 1,450 yards, 13 TDs and four INTs; 52 rushes for 281 yards and three TDs
Dalton, who has averaged 33 rushing yards per game at TCU, must have gotten the memo that 2010 is the Year of the Dual-Threat QB. He did his best Newton/Martinez/Robinson impersonation, running for a career-best 93 yards, including a 47-yard scamper. Dalton has now led the Horned Frogs to 21 straight regular-season wins dating back to 2008.
Next Up: Saturday at UNLV