Heisman Watch: Wilson poised to follow in Cam Newton's footsteps
Like Cam Newton before him, Russell Wilson has clearly heeded the advice of Too $hort, who once told us to "get in where you fit in."
One year after Newton transferred to Auburn and won the Heisman Trophy in his first season, Wilson is positioning himself for a similar run at Wisconsin.
He was a star at North Carolina State, a former ACC Rookie of the Year and the conference's leader in total offense last season, but he seemed to fly under the radar nationally. But with the Badgers, Wilson has taken his skills to a new level and thrust himself into the Heisman race. He ranks second in the nation in passing efficiency (213.4), completing 75.8 percent of his passes; Wilson's highs with the Wolfpack were a 127.5 rating and a 59.3 completion percentage.
It's why he could join Newton as back-to-back transfers to win, though to find a case more similar to Wilson's, you have to go all the way back to Doc Blanchard (1945). Newton, like O.J. Simpson (1968) and Mike Rozier (1983) before him, had all spent time at a junior college before landing at the school where they won, while Blanchard had gone directly from North Carolina to Army.
Certainly, Wilson has benefited from an increase in the level of talent around him, especially in the running game -- the Badgers average 238.3 yards per game on the ground; N.C. State never rushed for more than 123.3 yards per game in Wilson's three seasons -- but it's Wilson and the dynamic ability he brings that is key to Wisconsin's national title aspirations and it's what makes him a more viable candidate than the team's top rusher Montee Ball.
Wilson's debut is only part of the shake up in the Watch as South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore rises and Nebraska's Taylor Martinez falls out. As a refresher, here's
Not only did he get the better of Arizona's Nick Foles (239 yards and one TD) in one of the weekend's most anticipated QB duels, but Luck also showed he can deal with some adversity on the road as his two favorite targets, tight end Coby Fleener and receiver Chris Owusu, left with injuries. The end result was his first 300-yard game of the season, and the fifth of his career, as he helped the Cardinal to extend what is now the nation's longest active winning streak to 11 games.
The Gamecock's workhorse continues his climb up the Watchman's list. Now the national leader in yardage and carries, Lattimore played two halves that standing on their own would have been impressive. He ran for 118 yards and two scores on 13 carries in the first two quarters, then followed it up with 24 carries for 129 yards and a TD in the second in posting a career-best 246 yards. You'll find concern here about the heavy workload Lattimore is getting this early in the season; the 37 carries were the third time he's had at least that many touches in a game.
This was Moore at his surgical best. In the first half alone, he shredded the Rockets for 298 yards and three TDs on 19-of-23 passes for a QB rating of 234.4. He finished with a career-high 32 completions, his fourth career five-touchdown game and he went over 400 yards for the first time in seven games. Moore could have a similarly gaudy statistical day this week. Tulsa had its fill of elite QBs, allowing 375 yards and a score vs. Oklahoma's Landry Jones and 369 yards, while Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden registered 369 yards and three TDs.
The only thing that could stop Griffin was Mother Nature as he continued his blazing start to the season. He had completed a staggering 90.9 percent of his passes (20 of 22) in leading the Bears to scores on their first five drives and eight of the nine that he played in before the game was stopped in the third quarter due to lightning. RGIII leads all FBS passers with a 244.5 rating, and most amazingly, he has as many incompleted passes (8) as TDs throws.
Jones kept the Sooners' BCS title aspirations intact and he stepped up when it mattered, leading an eight-play, 83-yard drive ending with a 37-yard strike to Kenny Stills for the go-ahead TD. He also passed Sam Bradford as Oklahoma's alltime leading passer and jumped to eighth on the Big 12 list as he moved ahead of Major Applewhite with 8,490 yards. But Jones had a chance to take the lead in the Watchman's eyes with a big performance and didn't come through as he was held under 200 yards for the first time in 26 games.
Richardson torched the Mean Green for runs of 71 and 58 yards, averaging 15.1 yards per carry en route to a career-best rushing total and a tie for the national lead with eight rushing touchdowns. By comparison, it took Mark Ingram seven games to get that many scores in his Heisman-winning season. It's a torrid pace and if Richardson could maintain it if Alabama played a 14-game season (SEC title game and a bowl), he would only then tie 1988 Heisman recipient Barry Sanders for the FBS record of 37.
Wisconsin is a run-oriented team, and that doesn't figure to change, but Wilson is adding a rarely seen wrinkle to the offense. His 347 passing yards made him just the ninth Badger to throw for 300 yards -- the first since 2008 -- and his 384 total yards were the fifth highest in school history. He'll get one more chance to fine tune things before Wisconsin opens up Big Ten play against Nebraska as it hosts South Dakota, which ranks 90th out of 121 FCS schools in passing offense (242.6 ypg).
Wait, Rich Rodriguez is gone, isn't he? One week after throwing for 338 yards, Shoelace looked every bit the QB that was at the controls of RichRod's spread as he completed just seven passes, while running 26 times, one for a 52-yard gain. It was the most attempts he has had since running 27 times against Penn State on Oct. 30, and should be cause for concern given the number of times he was banged-up last season. While he seemed to make strides in the passing game vs. Notre Dame, this was a step in the wrong direction.
The streak is over. The question is, should we be concerned about
Trailing 34-7, Keenum directed the Cougars to their biggest comeback win ever as they scored 28 unanswered points. The sixth-year senior also moved past Tim Rattay and into a tie with Timmy Chang for fourth on the alltime TD pass list with 117; he is now four behind Ty Detmer for third. Keenum's only blemish was throwing his first interception of the year, which ended a streak of 90 attempts without one to open the season.