The SEC got a Week 1 Heisman statement from a running back but maybe not the one most would’ve expected. While LSU’s Leonard Fournette had a good first game, Georgia’s Nick Chubb had a great one.
Fournette was coming off a monster season and a summer of Heisman hype. Chubb was returning from a major knee injury and months of uncertainty. Now they’ve swapped statuses in the stiff-arm trophy sweepstakes.
Here’s how the league’s early contenders – and their competition around the country – stack up after one week of games:
RB Nick Chubb, Georgia – So much for easing back into it. Less than a year after tearing three knee ligaments, Chubb carried the ball a whopping 32 times Saturday against North Carolina. He gained 222 yards, second most in the country and most among Power 5 backs. Chubb scored twice, including a 55-yard breakaway that clinched a victory and answered any question about his post-injury explosiveness. Perhaps we should temper our excitement a tad, considering the Tar Heels ranked 122nd nationally in run defense last season and surrendered six hundred and forty-five rushing yards to Baylor in their bowl game. Still, this was vintage Chubb. Dating to the end of his fantastic freshman season in 2014, he has rushed for 100-plus yards in each of his last 14 full games, totaling 2,290 yards in that stretch. Heisman trophies are won with consistent excellence, and when healthy, that’s this guy’s M.O. Next opponent: Nicholls State
RB Leonard Fournette, LSU – He didn’t hurt himself, but LSU’s ugly loss to Wisconsin also didn’t help him. Heisman winners typically come from national title contenders, and the Tigers looked nothing like one of those Saturday. While Fournette produced 176 total yards on 26 offensive touches, he had no viral-video highlights and no help from his teammates. If it’s another disappointing season for the Tigers, he could put up Heisman-worthy numbers and not get an invitation to New York (again). Next opponent: Jacksonville State
QB Chad Kelly, Ole Miss – Had the Heisman been handed out at halftime of Monday night’s game against No. 4 Florida State, Kelly might’ve won the darn thing. He’d produced 266 total yards and 3 touchdowns, firing lasers left and right, to build a 28-6 lead against the shell-shocked Seminoles. Then Kelly netted 62 total yards and turned it over three times in the second half as the Rebels choked in spectacular fashion. He’s probably still going to put up enormous numbers this season, but it’ll take doing that against Alabama and LSU to put him seriously in the conversation. Next opponent: Wofford
RB Jalen Hurd, Tennessee – He rushed for 110 yards, but it took 28 carries to get there. Against Appalachian State. Facing an undersized defense, the 240-pound star looked almost timid, struggling to break tackles and averaging 3.9 yards per carry. Give him credit for the game-winning touchdown in overtime – he pounced on a Joshua Dobbs fumble in the end zone – but Hurd was otherwise underwhelming against allegedly inferior competition. Next opponent: Virginia Tech
WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama – It’s really hard to win the Heisman as a wide receiver. Harder still when you catch 2 passes for 9 yards in your most high-profile matchup of the season. Southern California didn’t do much right in its blowout loss against the Crimson Tide, but All-America cornerback Adoree’ Jackson kept Ridley in check. Alabama’s lack of an elite passer and reliance on the running game – including dual-threat freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts – figure to affect Ridley’s numbers this season. Next opponent: Western Kentucky
QB Lamar Jackson, Louisville – A caveat: Charlotte’s defense is horrendous. Even so, throwing for 286 yards, rushing for 119 and producing 8 total touchdowns in one half is absurd.
QB J.T. Barrett, Ohio State – Another caveat: Bowling Green’s defense stinks. Still, producing 379 total yards and a school-record 7 touchdowns in two-and-a-half quarters is ridiculous.
QB Deondre Francois, Florida State – The redshirt freshman has played exactly one college game. But what a game: 419 passing, 59 rushing yards in a comeback win against No. 11 Ole Miss.
RB Christian McCaffrey, Stanford – Another 210 all-purpose yards against Kansas State. Yawn. And that was without the electric 96-yard punt-return TD negated by penalty. He’s still filthy.
RB Dalvin Cook, Florida State – Despite an inexplicable fumble on his way to the end zone, Cook had 91 rushing and 101 receiving yards in the Seminoles’ crazy comeback win against Kelly and Ole Miss.
QB Deshaun Watson, Clemson – Heisman favorite hit 55.9 percent of his passes, threw 1 TD, 1 INT against Auburn. Watson’s 269 total yards were his fewest in the last nine games.
IF WE VOTED TODAY
1. Deondre Francois
2. Nick Chubb
3. J.T. Barrett
4. Lamar Jackson
5. Christian McCaffrey
* Follow Kyle on Twitter @KyleTucker_AJC. Reach him at Kyle.Tucker@ajc.com.