What many expected to be the most interesting Heisman race in history took a major hit Saturday when reigning winner Sam Bradford suffered a shoulder injury -- and a loss -- against BYU. Bradford will not need surgery to repair the sprained AC joint in his right (throwing) shoulder, but will miss two to four weeks. Now, the question is: Can Bradford still repeat if he returns healthy and the Sooners win out?
First, those are both big ifs. Second, don't forget Oregon quarterback Dennis Dixon. In 2007, Dixon was neck-and-neck with Tim Tebow before blowing out his ACL and missing the last two-plus games of the season. Despite playing splendidly in nine games that year, Dixon couldn't even sniff an invite to New York City after missing time.
My guess is Bradford will get a little more leeway than Dixon because he's the reigning winner, and because he'll be missing games against Idaho State and Tulsa (if he's out only two weeks) as opposed to crucial conference games (Dixon's Ducks lost to Arizona, UCLA and Oregon State without him). We're a long way from all of these things happening -- Bradford must get well first, and the Sooners must fix the holes on their offensive line -- but it's fun to think about. The Watch wishes Bradford a speedy recovery.
As for the rest of the list...
Last week: 21-of-29 passing, 317 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT; 7 rushes, minus-3 yards in a 59-20 victory over Louisiana-Monroe
Heisman-o-meter: McCoy set the bar so high last year that when he doesn't produce a typical 80 percent passing day, we're shocked. This may not have been McCoy's cleanest effort to date (mainly because of the interception), but there's no reason to move him down after a 300-yard passing day in a game that was essentially a glorified scrimmage. The real Heisman question coming out of this game is: Should Texas receiver Jordan Shipley (8 receptions, 180 yards, 1 TD) start getting some love?
Up next: Saturday at Wyoming
Last week: 10-of-15 passing, 188 yards, 1 TD; 2 rushes, 1 yard, 1 TD in a 62-3 victory over Charleston Southern
Heisman-o-meter: After all the offseason talk about Tebow improving his throwing motion, it didn't look all that different Saturday. Of course, Urban Meyer didn't even let Tebow play two full quarters, so there wasn't much to see. Tebow could've gotten a bit more help from his receivers when he was in, though, as they dropped two passes that would have been touchdowns. All told, Tebow looked like Tebow, and that's really all we can take away from this game.
Up next: Saturday vs. Troy
Last week: 3 receptions, 77 yards, 2 TDs; 2 punt returns, 29 yards in a 24-10 victory over No. 13 Georgia
Heisman-o-meter: Bryant didn't get many looks against Georgia, but he made them count when he did. The Cowboys threw to Bryant just six times, but his two touchdown catches were the two biggest plays in the game (aside from the unnecessary roughness penalty on Georgia just prior to Bryant's second score). For Bryant to win the stiff-arm statuette, he'll have to find a way to be more productive even when defenses bring safety help, as the Dawgs did on Saturday. He'll also have to avoid committing mental errors, like costing his team yardage by letting two punts drop.
Up next: Saturday vs. Houston
Last week: 7 rushes, 95 yards, 2 TDs in a 37-17 victory over Jacksonville State
Heisman-o-meter: Dwyer had a spectacular start to the season. On the game's first play from scrimmage, he took an option pitch and, with the help of three crushing blocks, raced untouched 74 yards for a touchdown. Later he somersaulted in from short range for another score. With the outcome never in doubt and the Yellow Jackets set to play Clemson on Thursday, Dwyer did not play the second half. He should be fresh for an early season showdown with fellow Heisman contender C.J. Spiller.
Up next: Thursday vs. Clemson
Last week: 10 rushes, 137 yards, 2 TDs; 2 receptions, 23 yards; 1 kickoff return, 18 yards in a 52-13 victory over Maryland
Heisman-o-meter: After rushing for 698 yards and eight TDs in his last three games of 2008, the Bears' gamebreaker picked up right where he left off, taking his second carry of the season 73 yards for the score (thanks, in part, to a little downfield blocking from a helpful receiver). Best, who played a little more than two quarters, wasn't even the headliner Saturday evening; quarterback Kevin Riley was. If Riley plays the rest of the season like he did on Saturday, Best will have a lot of room to run.
Up next: Saturday vs. Eastern Washington
Last week: 16 rushes, 103 yards, 3 TDs; 4 receptions, 32 yards in a 34-7 victory over Portland State
Heisman-o-meter: Well, it looks as if that shoulder surgery worked just fine. The Quizz appeared in 2008 form on Saturday, darting in and out against the Vikings in a little more than two quarters. His best run was his last. He took the handoff going left, stopped, went back to the right, stopped and then went right up the middle for a 43-yard touchdown. Portland State still hasn't touched him.
Up next: Saturday at UNLV
Last week: 26-of-38 passing, 329 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs; 6 rushes, minus-8 yards in a 14-13 victory over No. 3 Oklahoma
Heisman-o-meter: Bradford's injury shouldn't take away from BYU's play, particularly the defense's heroic goal line stand in the fourth quarter and Hall's poise at the finish. Facing what should prove to be one of the nation's nastiest defenses, Hall stood tall in the pocket and delivered several strikes knowing he'd get crunched. On the game-winning drive he made a clutch, fourth-down throw to Dennis Pitta and led the Cougars to the end zone. Hall would rank even higher had he not thrown two picks, including an up-for-grabs one to OU's Ryan Reynolds. Still, at the end of the season, how many Heisman contenders will be able to say they have a win over the Sooners? My guess: not many.
Up next: Saturday at Tulane
Last week: 15-of-18 passing, 315 yards, 4 TDs; 2 rushes, 1 yard in a 35-0 victory over Nevada
Heisman-o-meter: Many readers wrote in last week to voice their displeasure over Clausen not making the preseason Watch. Those readers looked pretty smart after the Irish quarterback torched Nevada in about three quarters. He definitely deserves recognition here, but let's also maintain some perspective. Clausen was facing a defense that last year ranked last nationally against the pass. Plus, receiver Michael Floyd did most of the work on two of those TD passes, turning a short pass into a 70-yard catch-and-run and then grabbing a slightly underthrown jump ball for 88 more. Overall, though, Clausen delivered a near-flawless performance.
Up next: Saturday at Michigan
Last week: 26 rushes, 150 yards, 1 TD; 3 receptions, 35 yards, 1 TD in a 34-24 victory over No. 7 Virginia Tech in Atlanta
Heisman-o-meter: Ingram was pretty quiet in the first three quarters, but he erupted in the fourth with 81 rushing yards and two touchdowns. 'Bama used him in a variety of ways, including as the lone back in the Wildcat formation, and he would've amassed more yardage had he not lost a direct snap on one of those plays. Considering he's the focal point of the offense on a team built to run the ball, don't be surprised if Ingram remains in the Heisman discussion deep into the year.
Up next: Saturday vs. Florida International
Last week: 29-of-40 passing, 353 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT; 3 rushes, 5 yards in a 31-7 victory over Akron
Heisman-o-meter: Quarterbacks Blaine Gabbert of Missouri and Jacory Harris of Miami almost landed in this spot, but The Watch decided to go with someone who was on this list for much of last year. By halftime, Clark had thrown for 254 yards and didn't look like he missed 2008 playmakers Derrick Williams, Deon Butler and Jordan Norwood. Despite a lackluster start to the second half, Clark still set a career high in passing yards.
Up next: Saturday vs. Syracuse