By Kevin McGuire
Just like an Oscar would follow an actor or a Pulitzer would follow a journalist for the rest of their life, so does the Heisman Trophy follow a standout football player for a lifetime. Quarterbacks tend to lead the Heisman Trophy race, and this year is no different. Let’s take a look at Clemson’s quaterback Tajh Boyd.
QB Tajh Boyd, Clemson
The 2013 ACC Preseason Player of the Year got off to a fast start this season. Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd passed for 270 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for two more in a season-opening victory over Georgia, confirming Boyd as one of the top Heisman contenders this season. Boyd and Clemson are coming off of a bye week and Boyd was not needed much in week two against South Carolina State, so his numbers may be lacking compared to some other candidates at this point in the season. But Boyd absolutely belongs in the conversation.
Boyd’s best shot at winning the Heisman Trophy will come with Clemson piling up wins on a track that could send the Tigers to a BCS Championship Game. Leading Clemson to an ACC title would be beneficial, but getting the Tigers into their first BCS Championship Game could put Boyd over the top compared to other candidates. Of course, an undefeated run in the regular season could make him the favorite along the way. Can Clemson avoid a loss? Boyd would also help his cause by improving his completion percentage (entering the week with 60.4 percent) and cutting down on interceptions.
Over the last couple of seasons, Boyd has been good for about an interception per game. Carson Palmer (USC, 2002) and Jason White (Oklahoma, 2003) each won the Heisman Trophy with 10 interceptions, but they combined for 73 touchdowns between their Heisman seasons. Last season, Boyd had 36 touchdowns, so he is capable of having a touchdown total that overcomes a double-digit interception total. Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel had the highest interception total for a Heisman winner since White, with nine interceptions.
This week, Clemson is on the road in ACC play at North Carolina State. The Wolfpack routed Clemson in Raleigh in 2011, 37-13. Will Clemson avoid an upset that could derail Boyd’s Heisman campaign before October? Or will Boyd put together a standout performance in the only college football game on the Thursday night schedule?
Heisman Match-Up of the Week
Utah State at USC: One of the dark horse Heisman candidates is Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton. The playmaking quarterback leads Utah State into the Los Angeles Coliseum this weekend against the USC Trojans. A victory on the road could benefit Keeton’s Heisman campaign. Players from schools like Utah State typically have to put up such gaudy numbers that it makes it impossible not to consider them. Keeton already has 12 touchdowns to just one interception with 923 passing yards. What hurts Keeton is already having a loss to Utah, but he played well and can possibly make up for it by leading Utah State to a victory this weekend at USC. Keeton could realistically receive an invite to New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation, but his chances of becoming the first player from a non-BCS AQ program since BYU’s Ty Detmer in 1990 are likely slim.
USC has a player worth noting as well. Wide receiver Marqise Lee is among the top receivers in the country and had 1,721 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns a year ago. His 2013 season is off to a sluggish start after three games with 221 yards and just one touchdown. If USC can turn around their offense though, Lee will be a key part of it. However, history appears to be against Lee. The last wide receiver to win the Heisman Trophy was Michigan’s Desmond Howard in 1991 and just three receivers have ever won the Heisman.
Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sports writer covering the Philadelphia Eagles and college football. McGuire is a member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. Follow McGuire on Twitter @KevinOnCFB. His work can be found on Examiner.com.