After a sloppy first three wins, UCLA finally looked liked a playoff contender in its win over Arizona State, and quarterback Brett Hundley looked like a Heisman candidate, too. He's on the rise in this week's Heisman Watch.

By Zac Ellis
September 29, 2014

There’s an unwritten rule in college football: When the schedule is weak, things get weird.

That held true in a Week 5 slate that didn’t feature many major matchups. Only one game combined two ranked teams, and it happened on Thursday night between No. 11 UCLA and No. 15 Arizona State. The games didn’t look promising, but they still delivered, and so did a number of Heisman storylines.

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Week 5 Heisman Watch

1. Marcus Mariota, QB Oregon
2. Todd Gurley, RB Georgia
3. Kenny Hill, QB Texas A&M
4. Amari Cooper, WR Alabama
5. Brett Hundley, QB UCLA
6. Nick Marshall, QB Auburn
7. Ameer Abdullah, RB Nebraska
8. Taysom Hill, QB BYU
9. Everett Golson, QB Notre Dame
10. Dak Prescott, QB Mississippi State

The Frontrunners

Marcus Mariota, QB Oregon
Todd Gurley, RB Georgia
Kenny Hill, QB Texas A&M
Amari Cooper, WR Alabama
Brett Hundley, QB UCLA

Brett Hundley’s supposed Heisman campaign didn’t look very promising through three games. The Bruins -- a trendy pick in the Pac-12 -- struggled to a 3-0 start with shoddy wins over Virginia, Memphis and Texas. On Sept. 13 against the Longhorns, Hundley left the game with a hyperextended elbow. Things weren’t looking up in Westwood with conference play looming.

College Football
UCLA's rout of Arizona State shows importance of healthy Brett Hundley

But last Thursday, Hundley finally showed what all the hype was about. The quarterback connected on 18-of-23 passes and compiled 427 total yards of offense and five touchdowns in a 62-27 shellacking of Arizona State. UCLA, facing an early 10-3 deficit, went on a 31-7 run to break the game open. That streak included two 80-yard touchdown passes from Hundley, who set a school record with his 13th career game with at least 300 yards of total offense.

No one was buying the Bruins as true Pac-12 contenders after one month of football. That wasn’t good news for Hundley on the Heisman front, especially as Oregon’s Marcus Mariota continued to ring up video-game numbers. But UCLA looked the part of a major threat in the conference on Thursday. The Bruins notched touchdowns on defense and special teams, and most importantly, Hundley was on fire.

If this is the real Hundley, Mariota isn’t a lock as the Pac-12’s Heisman favorite after all. One quarterback will almost certainly fall to the wayside in two weeks when Oregon travels to face UCLA.

Rising contenders

Bryce Petty, QB Baylor
Ameer Abdullah, RB Nebraska
Melvin Gordon, RB Wisconsin

Some things in life are rare, like a shooting star or a four-leaf clover. College football fans witnessed another unusual sight Saturday: Bryce Petty playing against a Power Five team.

Baylor’s cupcake nonconference schedule hasn’t helped Petty’s Heisman case. Until this weekend, the Bears’ most impressive outing came in a 63-21 win over Buffalo. Blowouts over SMU and Northwestern State didn’t exactly register on the Richter scale, and a bruised back threw another wrench in Petty’s first few weeks. If the quarterback couldn’t stay healthy, his weak schedule wouldn’t matter in the Heisman race.

But Petty finally took the field in a game that mattered Saturday against Iowa State, and he put on a stellar performance. Petty completed 30-of-44 passes for 336 yards and three total touchdowns. Two of his scores came on the ground, including a 14-yard scamper in the first quarter. Petty was able to spread the ball around thanks, in part, to the return of injured receivers Antwan Goodley and Corey Coleman, who combined for 268 receiving yards.

Though Iowa State’s defense isn’t exactly Oklahoma’s, Petty isn’t going to reach New York by feasting on non-Power Five schools. Big 12 games mean much more for Petty’s shot at the Heisman. Plus, he surely hasn’t forgotten that a conference loss to Oklahoma State last November essentially killed his Heisman campaign. Now that a seemingly healthy Petty has his weapons back on offense, we’ll have to see what he can do against Big 12 foes.

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Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Falling contenders

Everett Golson, QB Notre Dame

Notre Dame might be ranked No. 8 in the country in the latest AP poll, but we still don’t know much about the Fighting Irish. We do know at least one thing about quarterback Everett Golson: He won’t win the Heisman by playing like he did against Syracuse.

Golson lost fumbles on Notre Dame’s first two possessions against the Orange, and on the Irish’s fourth series, the quarterback threw a pick. Golson finished with four total turnovers, which overshadowed an otherwise impressive night -- he completed 32-of-39 passes and tied an FBS record with 26 consecutive completions. That was a big reason the Irish’s 31-15 victory was never truly in doubt.

"Pretty weird for me," Golson said after the game. "Definitely got to get better. Got to clean up a lot of things."

Golson knows the road doesn’t get any easier. The Irish welcome No. 14 Stanford to South Bend next week and later travel to face No. 1 Florida State, No. 16 USC and Arizona State. Committing four turnovers against any of those teams could end Notre Dame’s playoff shot.

Through four games, Notre Dame’s biggest win is against a Michigan program best described as a tire fire. That’s not exactly a useful measuring stick for Golson’s Heisman worth. If he expects to bring an eighth Heisman to Notre Dame, he’ll need to avoid similar dumb mistakes against the meat of the Irish’s schedule.

Heisman video of the week

Georgia running back Todd Gurley netted a career-high 208 rushing yards in a win over Tennessee. He also added an exclamation point by hurdling the Volunteers’ defensive back Brian Randolph.


Heisman lookahead

Marcus Mariota, QB Oregon
Arizona at No. 2 Oregon (Thursday)

Mariota will have the stage to himself Thursday night against another prolific passer in Arizona’s Anu Solomon, who’s thrown for 1,454 yards and 13 touchdowns already this year.

Everett Golson, QB Notre Dame
No. 14 Stanford at No. 8 Notre Dame

Golson and the Irish will finally be tested against a talented Stanford defense. Last week the Cardinal stifled Washington quarterback Cyler Miles into a season-low 98 yards passing, or 3.4 yards per attempt.

Ameer Abdullah, RB Nebraska
No. 19 Nebraska at No. 10 Michigan State

Nebraska is 5-0, yet no one is talking about the Cornhuskers in the Big Ten race. Abdullah, who rushed for three touchdowns and his third 200-yard game of the season against Illinois on Saturday, could get Heisman voters talking with a big-time road performance against the Spartans.

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