With the college football season drawing to a close in the month of October and turning over to November soon, the Heisman Trophy race has yet to see a candidate grab a firm hold of the lead. When the voting is done at the end of the season, the odds are good that the Heisman Trophy winner will be a household name playing for a big-time football program, but Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato may be worthy of at least an invitation to New York for the ceremony.
Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott has the biggest wins and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota continues to pile up big numbers. Georgia running back Todd Gurley may have taken himself out of the running and Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston has to overcome historic trends to have a shot at a second trophy. Despite what could be a wide-open race, Cato’s chances to win the Heisman Trophy look to be about as good as Marshall’s chances to play in the College Football Playoff, even with a 13-0 regular season capped with a Conference USA Championship.
Cato is still one of the more entertaining players to watch in college football, and he is a huge reason why Marshall is on the run it is. Through seven games this season, Cato has averaged 273.1 yards per game with 1,912 passing yards and 19 touchdowns, with six interceptions. Those numbers put him right on par with Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson (1,996 passing yards, 19 touchdowns, 6 interceptions), but Cato lacks the kind of schedule that will draw national attention the way Golson’s or any other candidate will, although Cato is putting up those numbers on roughly 10 fewer pass attempts per game compared to Golson. But are these Heisman-caliber numbers?
If the Heisman Trophy was an award for the most valuable player in college football, Cato would have a much stronger argument in the Heisman debate. The Heisman instead is awarded to the best player in college football. As far as numbers go, Cato is a very good player, but to make a run to New York, he will have to go on a tear in the second half of the season. His completion percentage will need to improve (58.3 percent this season) and he will need to stop being intercepted (six in the last five games).
It may be too late for Cato to make a case to be the first non-power conference Heisman Trophy winner since BYU’s Ty Detmer won the Heisman in 1990 and Houston’s Andre Ware took it home in 1989, but an invite to New York should be considered an honor. Last season, Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch was one of six Heisman Trophy finalists. If the Heisman Trust opens up the ceremony to a large number of finalists again, Cato could easily be considered for one of the invites to New York.
Heisman Showcase: No. 24 LSU vs. No. 3 Ole Miss
Okay Bo Wallace, consider this your turn to make some noise in the Heisman conversation. The Ole Miss quarterback may have some catching up to do in the Heisman race, especially behind in-state rival Dak Prescott, but this week Wallace leads the undefeated Rebels into Tiger Stadium to take on LSU under the lights. An impressive victory on the road against LSU can do wonders for launching a Heisman campaign. Just ask Prescott.
Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sports writer covering the Philadelphia Eagles and college football.