By Kevin McGuire-
(CBS Local) The Heisman Trophy race is still up for grabs, waiting for one player to take off running with the frontrunner status. If it comes down to running, then Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon should be in the conversation as one of the favorites.
Wisconsin has had a good string of running backs over the years, and Gordon is the latest in that assembly line it would seem. Gordon is leading the nation with 1,501 rushing yards and a nation-leading 166.78 rushing yards per game. His 19 rushing touchdowns scored is second best in the nation behind only Western Michigan’s Jarvion Franklin (22 rushing touchdowns), although he also has two receiving touchdowns this season. Gordon has scored in all but one game this season. How Western Illinois was able to limit Gordon’s production in week two continues to be unexplained given the results and production in every other game this fall. Gordon has rushed for at least 120 yards in every game but the Western Illinois game, and he is coming off his third 200-yard game of the season.
This week, Gordon leads the Badgers’ running game against another Heisman candidate and his ground game, Nebraska and Ameer Abdullah. The running back showcase should double as this week’s Heisman Trophy Spotlight Game. Not only is first place in the Big Ten West Division on the line, but so is a chance to wow the Heisman voters in a head-to-head showdown. Abdullah may not be at 100 percent, but Gordon appears to be and that is good news for Wisconsin.
Wisconsin has had two Heisman Trophy winners in school history. Both have been running backs, of course. In 1954, Alan Ameche was named the Heisman Trophy winner as a fullback. A mere 55 years later, the Badgers again had a running back win the Heisman with Ron Dayne winning the award in 1999. Running backs have not won a ton of Heisman Trophies since the turn of the century. Alabama’s Mark Ingram (2009) and USC’s Reggie Bush (2005, vacated) are the only two running backs to win the Heisman since Dayne won his.
This year looks to be as strong a Heisman field as we have seen in a long time for running back candidates. Not only do we have Gordon and Abdullah from the Big Ten, but also Georgia’s Todd Gurley returns this week after serving a four-game suspension. The suspension is likely more than enough to throw Gurley out of the Heisman race in the eyes of most voters, although he looked to be one of the top candidates before being forced to sit out. How he does in his return against Auburn is something to watch regardless. Perhaps he can be forgiven with a 200-yard performance with a handful of touchdowns. If not, Gordon vs. Abdullah could settle the debate over top running back candidate.
Heisman Trophy Spotlight Game: No. 1 Mississippi State at No. 5 Alabama
Yes, the Wisconsin-Nebraska game is a very strong contender for the Heisman Spotlight this week, but so too is this pivotal SEC West battle. Dak Prescott leads undefeated and top-ranked Mississippi State to Tuscaloosa to take on Amari Cooper and Alabama with first place in the SEC West on the line, and the likely hold on a potential College Football Playoff spot. Prescott’s opportunity for a November Heisman moment can come here with a road win at Alabama, and Cooper will look to have a big day catching footballs against the nation’s top-ranked team.
Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sports writer covering the Philadelphia Eagles and college football.