With everyone's preseason Heisman Trophy favorite stumbling, who takes his place?
For the Watchman, the answer was a surprisingly easy one: West Virginia's Geno Smith.
September has had its share of stars. Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas has averaged a stunning 15.3 yards per play in racking up seven TDs, but Oregon has another strong contender in running back Kenjon Barner. Ohio State sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller looks better than anyone could have expected running Urban Meyer's offense, but as discussed last week he faces the same roadblocks as other teams with postseason bans in this era. Then there is UCLA's Johnathan Franklin, and on and on. But it's Smith who has been its most dominant while fitting the historical profile of a Heisman winner.
He's first in the nation in completion percentage, second in passing efficiency (209.8) and he's been consistency stellar as the poster boy of a team with BCS title aspirations. Yes, he's untested. So far his Mountaineers have faced 1-2 Marshall and FCS opponent James Madison, and he's unlikely to face much opposition this week against Maryland. But we've already seen Smith tear up top teams like he did against ACC champion Clemson in last year's Orange Bowl.
As we move on to this week's rankings, where Smith rises, Barkley falls and Franklin makes his debut, here's a look back at where things stood after Week 2. And as always remember this represents the Watchman's ballot if the season were to end today.
Last week: 34 of 39 passing for 411 yards and five TDs; two rushes for 18 yards in a 42-12 win over James Madison
Season (two games): 66 of 75 passing for 734 yards and nine TDs; 10 rushes for 83 yards and one TD
Watchman's take: Through two games, Smith has as many incompletions (nine) as touchdown passes, though it's a familiar storyline in the Big 12. A year ago, Robert Griffin III had eight TD passes and eight incompletions at this point in the season. Smith will have to wait to see if he can follow in RGIII's footsteps, but for now he can take solace in becoming West Virginia's alltime passing leader as he ran his career total to 8,191 yards in the win over James Madison, eclipsing the previous mark of 8,153 set by Marc Bulger.
Next up: Saturday vs. Maryland
Last week: Three rushes for 62 yards and one TD; three receptions for 73 yards and one TD; four punt returns for 87 yards in a 63-14 win over Tennessee Tech
Season (three games): 13 rushes for 228 yards and four TDs; 11 receptions for 154 yards and three TDs; three punt returns for 52 yards.
Watchman's take: Tired of hearing about how much Thomas is doing on limited touches? Think how the Ducks' opponents must feel. Black Mamba had 222 total yards and two touchdowns -- coming on a 59-yard run and a 16-yard reception -- in the rout of Tennessee Tech, all while getting his hands on the ball 10 times. He's currently tied for fifth in FBS, averaging 14 points per game along with 158.3 yards. Thomas and Oregon will get a step up in competition this weekend as they host No. 22 Arizona, but will the Wildcats offer up much resistance? They allowed 636 yards against Oklahoma State and are 61st in the nation in total defense.
Next up: Saturday vs. No. 22 Arizona
Last week: 20 of 41 passing for 254 yards and two INTs in a 21-14 loss at No. 21 Stanford.
Season (three games): 66 of 109 passing for 813 yards, 10 TDs and three INTs.
Watchman's take: Barkley spent most of his final trip to Palo Alto trying to elude the constant pressure from Stanford's defense. The end result was four sacks, Barkley's first game without a TD pass since Nov. 20, 2010 against Oregon State and his lowest completion percentage (48.8) since the eighth start of his freshman year against Arizona State. Barkley had his dud and now has plenty of chances to play his way back to the top of this list with four games against currently ranked teams (No. 22 Arizona, No. 3 Oregon, No. 19 UCLA and No. 11 Notre Dame) still on the schedule.
Next up: Saturday vs. Cal
Last week: 16 of 30 passing for 249 yards, four TDs and one INT; 12 rushes for 75 yards and one TD in a 35-28 win at Cal.
Season (three games): 48 of 78 passing for 611 yards, seven TDs and two INTs; 56 rushes for 377 yards and five TDs.
Watchman's take: When he was on, he was jaw-droppingly good. The highlights: a 55-yard touchdown run when Miller juked safety Alex Logan, and an improvised game-winning 72-yard TD strike to Devin Smith. But Miller was also inconsistent during stretches, including a third quarter in which he directed the Buckeyes on four drives, the longest of which went eight yards. In what's a positive sign as OSU looks for a running option outside Miller, he didn't lead the team in carries against Cal.
Next up: Saturday vs. UAB
Last week: 14 of 19 passing for 342 yards, two TDs and one INT; three rushes for 20 yards and two TDs in a 56-20 win over Florida Atlantic.
Season (three games): 51 of 80 passing for 842 yards, eight TDs and two INTs.
Watchman's take: As coach Mark Richt said, Murray "really delivered the mail." He threw for a career-high 342 yards and accounted for four total TDs, two of which came through the air to tie him with Eric Zeier for second on the Bulldogs' alltime list (he's five behind David Greene). The junior averaged 24.4 yards per completion before sitting out the entire fourth quarter. But he wasn't perfect; on Murray's final attempt he was intercepted in the end zone. He'll get a stiffer test this weekend vs. Vanderbilt, which ranks third nationally in pass defense.
Next up: Saturday vs. Vanderbilt
Last week: 15 of 20 passing for 230 yards, two TDs and one INT; 11 rushes for 85 yards and one TD in a 35-21 win over North Texas.
Season (three games): 43 of 59 passing for 609 yards, five TDs and two INTs; 46 rushes for 210 yards and four TDs.
Watchman's take: An interesting thought avout Klein emerged last week during the Watchman's segment on a Houston radio station: is Klein a poor man's Tim Tebow? Klein continues to deliver gutsy performance after gutsy performance and his 31 rushing TDs since the beginning of last season is the most among active quarterbacks. He'll get a chance to build his national profile with a trip to Norman on Saturday. A year ago, the Sooners held Klein to a season-low 58 passing yards and sacked him seven times.
Next up: Saturday at No. 6 Oklahoma
Last week: 25 rushes for 110 yards; four receptions for 58 yards in a 37-6 win over Houston.
Season (three games): 66 rushes for 541 yards and three TDs; eight receptions for 121 yards and one TD.
Watchman's take: Jet Ski has a date with Bruins history. The redshirt senior, who earned the nickname for his ability to leave defenders in his wake and who leads the nation in rushing yards (541) and yards per game (180.3), moved into second place on UCLA's alltime rushing list in going for 110 yards vs. the Cougars. With 3,210 career yards he's 522 from passing Gaston Green for the record. Saturday he'll get his crack at the Oregon State defense (second in the nation against the run) that shut down FBS' top rusher from a year ago, Wisconsin's Montee Ball.
Next up: Saturday vs. Oregon State
Last week: 19 rushes for 77 yards; four receptions for 20 yards in a 20-3 loss to No. 20 Notre Dame.
Season (three games): 81 rushes for 357 yards and four TDs; 11 receptions for 75 yards.
Watchman's take: He went into the matchup with Notre Dame averaging 140 rushing yards and two TDs a game; the Irish defense was allowing 3.4 yards per carry. Something had to give and it was Bell, who was kept out of the end zone for the first time this season. He seemed headed for another workhorse performance as he ran 15 times for 64 yards in the first half, but had four rushes for 13 yards the rest of the way. He took a hit, but Bell has a chance to get back in the Watchman's good graces with another spotlight game looming Sept. 29 vs. No. 12 Ohio State.
Next up: Eastern Michigan
Last week: 12 rushes for 85 yards and one TD; one reception for four yards in a 49-6 win over UAB
Season (three games): 48 rushes for 235 yards and four TDS; six receptions for 33 yards.
Watchman's take: Lattimore already owns the South Carolina records for most rushes and touchdowns in a game and TDs in a season. He added another as he ran for a Gamecocks' best 34th career TD on a two-yard run in the second quarter. Lattimore started out slowly, averaging 3.6 yards in the first half, but broke out with four second-half attempts for 56 yards. He's had light workloads the past two weeks with 12 carries vs. UAB and 13 against East Carolina, the fewest rushes he's had in a two-game stretch since he arrived in Columbia. Those days should end Saturday as South Carolina dives back into the SEC slate.
Next up: Saturday vs. Missouri
Last week: 37 rushes for 139 yards and one TD in a 16-14 win over Utah State.
Season (three games): 84 rushes for 320 yards and two TDs; seven receptions for 49 yards.
Watchman's take: Ball was back to being Ball as he posted another 100-yard game and returned to the end zone. Wisconsin needed every bit of Ball's production as it survived Utah State in Madison. Through three games, Ball has more yards than he had a year ago (272), but he also has 36 more carries and is averaging 3.8 yards per carry compared to 5.6 in 2011. His TDs are also way down as he had eight at this point last season. But it's become abundantly clear that the Badgers, whose offense is 114th in passing and 113th in scoring, will only go as far as Ball will take them.
Next up: Saturday vs. UTEP