Tebow, fellow Heisman contenders face major tests ahead

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If you haven't paid much attention to the Heisman Trophy race, don't fret. It's about to get really interesting. Over the next two weeks, many of the top contenders will face major tests, ones that have a huge impact on their chances to carry the stiff-armed statuette in December. And after these two weeks, The Watch will crown its annual Halfway Heisman winner. Alas, a trip to New York will not be included for the recipient.

Last week: Idle

Season: 44-of-68 passing, 643 yards, 6 TDs, 1 INT; 55 rushes, 271 yards, 5 TDs

Heisman-o-meter: Come Saturday, you'll probably sick of the 24/7 coverage devoted to the will-he-or-won't-he-play storyline following Tebow. On Monday, Gators coach Urban Meyer acknowledged the quarterback has been free of post-concussion symptoms for several days, but Tebow had yet to be cleared to play. And while The Watch has no idea if he will take the field next Saturday, we can definitively say that his Heisman hopes will take a hit if he doesn't. The LSU matchup figures to be the landmark game on Florida's schedule, and, without it, Tebow would have to assemble a Heisman résumé based on performances against Georgia and South Carolina (and possibly the SEC Championship game). Would that be enough? Maybe. But having a good effort against LSU would make his case much stronger.

Up next: Saturday at No. 4 LSU

Last week: 23-of-31 passing, 422 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT; 8 rushes, minus-32 yards in a 37-30 victory over Washington

Season: 100-of-148 passing, 1,544 yards, 12 TDs, 2 INTs; 23 rushes, minus-45 yards

Heisman-o-meter: After Clausen moved up to No. 2 last week, a slew of Clausen haters wrote in to ridicule the ranking. But on Saturday, the quarterback continued his virtually spotless play this season with another fourth-quarter comeback. Still hampered with that turf toe injury on his right foot (but looking much better physically than he did against Purdue), Clausen completed 4-of-4 passes for 57 yards on the Irish's last drive of regulation, taking advantage of 6-foot-6 tight end Kyle Rudolph on the go-ahead touchdown pass with 1:20 left. Clausen wasn't perfect; he threw a backward pass that was returned for touchdown, he was intercepted once (though Armando Allen should never have let that pass bounce off his hands). Not to mention, Golden Tate's fleet feet were responsible for much of Clausen's 422 passing yards. Yes, I realize he hasn't beaten a team with a winning record or a defense that ranks higher than 49th in total yardage, but the quarterback with the best passing efficiency in the country more than deserves this spot.

Up next: Oct. 17 vs. USC

Last week: Idle

Season: 103-of-145 passing, 1,145 yards, 9 TDs, 5 INTs; 28 rushes, 61 yards 1 TD

Heisman-o-meter: One of the reasons The Watch voted for McCoy over SamBradford last year was because of Longhorn's impact on his team's running game. (He ran for 561 yards and 11 TDs last season.) This year, we have yet to see McCoy unleash his true speed, in part because Texas hasn't needed him to against the likes of Louisiana-Monroe, Wyoming, Texas Tech and UTEP, and Mack Brown doesn't want to subject him to unnecessary hits. The guess here, though, is that, come Oct. 17 in Dallas, you will see McCoy again making plays with his feet. The Horns' ground game with Tre' Newton, Vondrell McGee and Co. is much more effective when McCoy is a threat to tuck it and run.

Up next: Saturday vs. Colorado

Last week: 23-of-42 passing, 270 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT; 1 rush, 3 yards in a 37-13 victory at Miami (Ohio)

Season: 116-of-174 passing, 1,493 yards, 13 TDs, 3 INTs; 14 rushes, 41 yards, 2 TDs

Heisman-o-meter: The Bearcats seemed to go into cruise control after taking a 20-0 lead, and Pike didn't exactly look like a Heisman winner. According to The Associated Press, "Tony Pike had a so-so game ... The senior came in with a 70.5 percent completion percentage, but repeatedly forced throws against a defense stacked to stop the pass." Pike however did have a nice TD pass, throwing while scrambling to the right to Mardy Gilyard in the corner of the end zone. Pike's next game, against South Florida, looms as a huge opportunity to make a Heisman statement.

Up next: Oct. 15 at South Florida

Last week: 19-of-28 passing, 202 yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs; 4 rushes, minus-30 yards in a 21-20 victory over No. 8 Oklahoma

Season: 69-of-112 passing, 1,008 yards, 8 TDs, 5 INTs; 12 rushes, minus-61 yards, 1 TD

Heisman-o-meter: After throwing two interceptions in his first four passes (both after trying to attack with long throws) against the nation's top-ranked scoring defense, Harris settled down, opting for underneath receivers. At one point he hit 12-of-13 passes, including touchdown throws to tight ends Jimmy Graham and Dedrick Epps (the second throw traveling through a lot of traffic). Harris later hit a wide-open Travis Benjamin for a 38-yard score. While the five interceptions this season are disconcerting for a Heisman candidate, the 'Canes quarterback now has wins over No. 18 Florida State, No. 14 Georgia Tech and No. 8 Oklahoma. No other candidate even approaches that.

Up next: Saturday vs. Florida A&M

Last week: Idle

Season: 17 receptions, 323 yards 4 TDs; 3 punt returns, 111 yards, 1 TD; 2 kickoff returns, 43 yards

Heisman-o-meter: Was Bryant ranked too high at No. 4 last week? Probably. But remember, he didn't play against Grambling (strained hamstring) and when he has played, he has been spectacular. (As of Monday, there were no indications that he will miss next Saturday's game.) So when looking at his numbers, consider that he has played about 10 quarters. (A.J. Green, meanwhile, has played nearly twice that many.) This weekend he faces an Aggies team that he torched last season for three receiving scores and a punt return for a touchdown.

Up next: Saturday at Texas A&M

Last week: 5 receptions, 99 yards, 1 TD in a 20-13 loss to No. 4 LSU

Season: 30 receptions, 527 yards, 5 TDs

Heisman-o-meter: Green was on the cusp of making the list last week after he had 153 receiving yards and a blocked field goal to preserve the win over Arizona State. The only reason he wasn't on The Watch was because he had little impact in the season-opening loss at No. 9 Oklahoma State, Georgia's biggest game of the season prior to Saturday. But after making an outrageous touchdown catch over perfectly positioned cornerback Chris Hawkins, Green crashes the list, despite Georgia's loss to LSU. (The sensational sophomore could've had another TD, but Joe Cox overthrew him on a fly pattern.) The Watch would put him and Bryant atop The Biletnikoff Watch list, with EricDecker, Mardy Gilyard, Jordan Shipley and Golden Tate not far behind.

Up next: Saturday at Tennessee

Last week: 51-of-76 passing, 536 yards, 5 TDs; 3 rushes, 8 yards in a 58-41 loss at UTEP

Season: 144-of-210 passing, 1,696 yards, 13 TDs, 2 INTs; 18 rushes, 51 yards, 3 TDs

Heisman-o-meter: What in the world? A week after receiving much love from The Watch, Keenum and, more specifically, the Cougars, were shocked by a UTEP team that had the look of a I-AA squad the previous week against Texas. The Watch would love to tell you about Keenum's performance, but the game was not televised, and highlights have been hard to come by. We do know this: Houston couldn't stop the run, fell behind in the second half and Keenum threw, threw and threw to get his team back in the game, eventually finishing with a career-high 536 yards (and three fourth-quarter TDs). Despite throwing 76 times, Keenum somehow avoided an interception and a fumble. What he couldn't avoid was a loss, which seriously derails his Heisman hopes, because Heisman winners don't lose to UTEP.

Up next: Saturday at Mississippi State

Last week: 29 rushes, 134 yards, 3 TDs; 2 receptions, 24 yards in a 24-16 victory over UCLA

Season: 120 rushes, 650 yards, 8 TDs; 4 receptions, 44 yards

Heisman-o-meter: Who is the best running back in college football? JahvidBest had a claim to that title, but the Bear has been stuffed the last two weeks and has dropped off this list. Meanwhile, another Pac-10 runner, the big Gerhart, has entered the discussion with his fourth 100-yard rushing game this season. Don't let his 235-pound frame fool you; Gerhart has the wheels to speed past opponents, which he did on the first of three TD runs against a good UCLA defense.

Up next: Saturday at Oregon State

Last week: 18 rushes, 72 yards; 2 receptions, 7 yards; 1 punt return, minus-2 yards; 2 kickoff returns, 103 yards, 1 TD in a 24-21 loss to Maryland

Season: 85 rushes, 360 yards, 1 TD; 10 receptions, 157 yards, 1 TD, 6 punt returns, 180 yards, 1 TD; 9 kickoff returns, 340 yards, 2 TDs; 0-for-1 passing

Heisman-o-meter: I hate myself for putting Spiller on here since he plays for a 2-3 team that just lost to Maryland. John Clay, Noel Devine, Blaine Gabbert, Mark Ingram, Ryan Mathews, Todd Reesing, Golden Tate and Ryan Williams are among the many who could make a claim for this final spot. But Spiller has been an all-purpose All-Star this season (he ranks third in the nation in all-purpose yardage), and, most importantly, did you see his amazing kickoff return for a touchdown? He broke three tackles, spun 360 degrees, lost a shoe and outraced everyone to the end zone. You will not see many more impressive kick returns.

Up next: Oct. 17 vs. Wake Forest