Checking out the Heisman hopefuls

Saturday, October 16th 2004, 12:14 pm
By: News On 6

In the midst of one close campaign - Kerry vs. Bush - there's another one gaining steam. Let's call it Orton vs. Peterson.

Purdue quarterback Kyle Orton is my Heisman frontrunner. The 6-foot-4, 226-pound senior has tossed 18 touchdowns and just two interceptions in leading the undefeated Boilermakers to No. 5 in the polls. Orton is completing 69.2 percent of his passes and has a passer rating of 181.3.

Those are PlayStation numbers.

Orton and the Boilermakers face their biggest test of the season today at No. 10 Wisconsin. The Badgers rank No. 1 in the nation in total defense (198.3 yards per game).

It says here Orton finds a way - and he keeps his lead in the Heisman horse race.

Oklahoma freshman running back Adrian Peterson - apparently a good name for talented rushers - burst onto the scene with 225 yards on 32 carries last week against Texas. Peterson has already moved past last year's Heisman winner, Oklahoma quarterback Jason White (remember him?), on most watch lists. Peterson will get his next chance next week against Kansas State.

No. 1 Southern California has two Heisman hopefuls, quarterback Matt Leinhart and running back Reggie Bush. Having two candidates doesn't bode well for their Heisman hopes, but it does make a second consecutive national title a good possibility. The Trojans, behind Leinhart and Bush, will beat up on undefeated and 15th-ranked Arizona State and its Heisman longshot Andrew Walter today.

California quarterback Aaron Rodgers is making noise in the race with his 78.3-percent completion rate. He carved up Southern Cal last week, but couldn't pull off the upset. As long as the No. 8 Bears keep winning, Rodgers could hang around. The Bears should have no problem with UCLA today.

The top three on my ballot (subject to change): Orton, Bush and Peterson.

Top 25 Action

- No. 4 Auburn (Heisman hopefuls: RB Carnell Williams, QB Jason Campbell) drops Arkansas.

- I've been riding the bandwagon of No. 6 Virginia (RB Wali Lundy). No time to jump off. The Cavaliers take down No. 7 Florida State (RB Leon Washington) in a thriller in Tallahassee.

- No. 9 Texas (RB Cedric Benson) isn't playing Oklahoma this week. So that means the Longhorns win against Missouri (QB Brad Smith).

- No. 11 Utah (QB Alex Smith) gets a chance to impress the pollsters by whipping up on a BCS-conference team. The Utes hang about 60 in drilling North Carolina.

- No. 12 Georgia (QB David Greene, stock fading) beats Vanderbilt.

- How is No. 13 Tennessee (vote QB Erik Ainge in '06) ranked behind Georgia? Didn't the Volunteers beat Georgia just last week? Isn't Tennessee's only loss to No. 4 Auburn? I don't know, yes and yes. More ammo for a playoff. The Vols stop Mississippi.

- No. 14 Michigan (WR Braylon Edwards) takes out Illinois.

- No. 16 Oklahoma State's Vernand Morency leads the nation in rushing at 173.8 yards per game. With a big game in the Cowboys' win against No. 23 Texas A&M today, Morency could climb into the top three.

- No. 19 Minnesota features two of the top 19 rushers in the country. Laurence Maroney is 10th with 135.8 yards per game, and Marion Barber III is 19th with 107.0 yards per game. That two-headed rushing attack is enough to take down Michigan State.

- No. 21 Boise State (QB Jared Zabransky) remains unbeaten against Tulsa.

- Alabama upsets No. 24 Southern Mississippi at home.

- No. 25 Ohio State remains in the rankings by slipping past Iowa.

Other Games

Georgia Tech (vote Calvin Johnson in '07) stops Duke; Clemson beats Utah State; Virginia Tech tops Florida A&M, N.C. State (T.A. McLendon, if he stays healthy, could be a candidate next year) has too much defense for Maryland.

Florida (vote Chris Leak in '05) knocks off Middle Tennessee State, and Ron Zook doesn't go into any frat houses this week; South Carolina stops Kentucky.

Closer to home: Take Georgia Southern over Appalachian State, and Fort Valley State to stop Tuskegee.

- Last week: 9-8 (Ouch). Week before last: 15-10. Season: 114-32 (78 percent).