Heisman Watch Week One: Bell, Barkley Best Competition On Opening Weekend
When South Carolina’s quarterback Connor Shaw injured his shoulder, forcing him into the locker room, the Gamecocks were more than allowed to feel a little fear. But any worry that Shaw might have created for the Gamecock faithful disappeared as a result of the performance Marcus Lattimore was putting on against Vanderbilt on college football’s opening night.
Lattimore rushed for 110 yards and two touchdowns against the Commodores defense, providing just the right spark for the Gamecocks to outlast a very game Vandy squad. In the 17-13 South Carolina victory, Lattimore provided the offensive weapon the Gamecocks needed all game, and when Shaw returned in the second half, it was the threat and usefulness of Lattimore that allowed South Carolina to escape an upset bid. All in all, a good start to Lattimore’s 2012 campaign.
Though Montee Ball wasn’t a show stopper — and his team didn’t put on a show-stopping performance against Northern Iowa — Ball was effective and impressive enough Saturday to give his Heisman candidacy the start it needs in this long-haul of a season. Ball rushed for 120 yards and a score on Saturday against the Panthers, and added 31 yards receiving to put himself just over the 150 mark for the day.
Ball and Wisconsin will need stronger showings against the strong defenses to come, but given their prowess last season against Big Ten defenses — with Ball proving key — it’s safe to expect big things out of the Badgers and Ball in 2012.
Matt Barkley’s first pass Saturday went for 75 yards and a touchdown. It was that kind of day for Barkley and USC in the Trojans’ 2012 debut. Barkley finished the game with 351 yards and four touchdowns, picking up just where he left off in 2011 — a year that saw him break a handful of Pac-12 and USC records.
Barkley ended up sitting a significant part of the game after USC had run the score to a good distance, as back up Max Wittek got some snaps. Barkley and USC will head out to the east coast next to meet Syracuse, which will give Barkley another shot at putting up some impressive numbers early in this Heisman race.
In wasn’t ever close in Morgantown on college football’s opening weekend, and Geno Smith had a lot to do with it. The senior’s 323 yards and four touchdowns passing helped West Virginia crush Marshall in its opening contest, and started Smith’s campaign for the Heisman with a bang.
Smith also grabbed 65 yards on the ground and added a rushing touchdown to showcase just how big of a threat his arm and feet are against defenses. Certainly no one on the field shone as brightly as Smith, who will next get to flex his dual-threat attack against FCS James Madison. If Smith can collect a big game there, he could be well on the way to being in this conversation for the long haul.
Michigan State’s Le’Veon Bell may have been somewhat under the radar coming into the 2012 season, but his performance during college football’s opening week likely changed that for good. Rushing for 210 yards and two touchdowns in a nationally televised, Friday night showdown with Boise State, Bell squarely placed himself in the early Heisman conversation with one of the weekend’s best performances.
Bell was a dark horse Heisman candidate coming into the season following a 2011 where he collected nearly 1,000 yards on the ground and more than 350 yards receiving for a Michigan State team that was part of the national conversation all season. With a victory over the top-25 ranked Broncos to start their season, it looks like Sparty — and by extension Bell — will be around for the long haul this year.
On The Radar:
Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas
Oregon’s duo of athletes had themselves a couple of games against Arkansas State. But their dual production somewhat diminishes from the personal achievement. Can either break out as the star?
A rough start to Robinson’s much-hyped campaign for a Heisman against Alabama has probably set him back significantly. Can he recover?
←2012 Preseason Heisman Watch: Robinson, Barkley, Lattimore Lead Loaded Class