Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Heading into the second half of the 2013 season, the college football season has become clear: The play at the quarterback position has been top notch, all but negating a non-quarterback from even being mentioned among the midseason Heisman Trophy candidates.
A similar story line is starting to form from a team standpoint. We are now well entrenched in conference action and the wheat is being separated from the chaff, which should set up some marquee matchups down the stretch with severe BCS implications.
HEISMAN HIERARCHY: The top six Heisman candidates are Oregon's Marcus Mariota, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, Clemson's Tahj Boyd, Georgia's Aaron Murray, Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater and Florida State's Jameis Winston. What do all these players have in common? They are all quarterbacks on powerhouse programs.
Mariota has inched his way to the head of the Heisman class with a truly remarkable Week 6 effort against Colorado, passing for 355 yards and five touchdowns, while rushing for another two scores. That was all without top weapon D'Anthony Thomas on the field. On the season, Mariota has played lights out, throwing for 1,358 yards and 14 TDs, without an interception. He also has added 338 rushing yards and seven more scores. No Chip Kelly, no problem for Oregon, which may just ride its quarterback into a BCS title shot.
Of course, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner may have something to say about that. Manziel was off this past weekend, but has not suffered a sophomore slump in the least, completing over 70 percent of his passes this season, for 1,489 yards and 14 TDs, against four INTs. He also has rushed for 314 yards and three scores.
Boyd is coming off his best game of his career, torching Syracuse for 455 yards and five TDs in Clemson's big win at the Carrier Dome. Boyd has completed 66 percent of his throws for 1,449 yards and 14 TDs against two interceptions.
No quarterback has played tougher competition through the first month of the season than Murray. Georgia's savvy signal caller has delivered, completing almost 65 percent of his throws, for 1,534 yards, with 14 TDs and three INTs, adding three more scores on the ground.
Louisville's Bridgewater continues to impress with his steady performances and remains in the Heisman hunt, having completed 71.7 percent of his throws for 1,562 yards and 16 touchdowns with just one INT.
Then there's the wildcard. Could Florida State's freshman phenom pull a Manziel and defy the odds and win the Heisman? If Winston keeps playing like he has, he may just find himself at the Heisman ceremony with a real chance of taking home the hardware. Winston torched Maryland for 393 yards and five touchdown passes this past weekend and has completed 73.2 percent of his passes on the year for 1,441 yards and 17 TDs against two INTs.
PAC-12 BEVY: It is clearly the year of the quarterback and no conference has as much quality depth at the position than the Pac-12. Mariota carries the banner for the league with his play under center, but isn't the only signal caller putting up big numbers on the West Coast.
In fact, it isn't Mariota who leads the conference in passing, but rather Oregon State's Sean Mannion, who has thrown for a ridiculous 2,018 yards and 21 TDs in five games. Washington State's Connor Halliday is just behind with 1,993 passing yards and 13 TDs.
California's Jared Goff (1,821 yards, 9 TDs), Arizona State's Taylor Kelly (1,732 yards, 14 TDs), Utah's Travis Wilson (1,406 yards, 11 TDs), Washington's Keith Price (1,394 yards, 11 TDs), UCLA's Brett Hundley (1,059 yards, 9 TDs) and Stanford's Kevin Hogan (937 yards, 11 TDs) give the conference a leg up in terms of gun-slinging potential.
WHERE TO GO FROM HERE: The stars finally seemed aligned in at College Park, as Randy Edsall's Maryland Terrapins opened the season with four straight wins and really looked to turn the corner heading in the right direction, earning a spot in the Top 25 this past week. Well, any momentum gained in September was abruptly halted in October, as Maryland tied an NCAA record for the most lopsided loss by a ranked opponent, getting completely outclassed in Tallahassee this past weekend in a 63-0 drubbing by ACC power Florida State.
The Terps lost their quarterback to injury (a familiar theme from 2012) in the second quarter, as C.J. Brown took a shot to the chest and did not return. Maryland was helpless on both sides of the ball the rest of the way and only mustered 234 yards of total offense. compared to FSU's 614.
It turns out that Brown is listed as day-to-day to start the week with a concussion. It is good news for Maryland, which needs its dual-threat QB back in the lineup with ACC play in full swing. While Maryland is markedly better than the last couple of seasons, putting the Terps in the Top 25 may have been a bit premature. After the whipping laid on them by the Seminoles, there is obviously plenty of work left to do in College Park.
NO PLACE FOR THAT IN THE GAME: The hot topic in football at any level is the protection of players. Talk is cheap, however, when a player isn't disciplined for a blatant cheap shot.
The Texas/Iowa State game last Thursday is a perfect example of failing to protect a player. After scoring on a touchdown run to take a lead in the third quarter, away from the play, Texas wide receiver Mike Davis eyed up defenseless Iowa State defensive back Deon Broomfield and dove straight into Broomfield's legs.
The only other cheap shot as blatant as that one that comes to mind is when the Mean Machine's Nate Scarborough (Michael Conrad) was taken out after scoring a touchdown by prison guard Bogdanski (Ray Nitschke) in the original "Longest Yard."
Davis was flagged for a personal foul, but was not tossed from the game. He also was "reprimanded" by the Big 12 afterward, but received no suspension. Davis called it "playing to the whistle." It is likely that Broomfield disagrees.
The play was deemed as not "targeting," therefore did not fall under the established targeting rules. It is awfully difficult to agree with that given the video evidence.
TOP PERFORMERS: A Pac-12 shootout between Washington State and California produced over 1,000 passing yards, as WSU's Connor Halliday threw for 521 yards and three TDs and California's Jared Goff went for 489 yards and two scores.
Other quarterbacks with big games included SMU's Garrett Gilbert (484 yards, 5 TDs), Clemson's Tahj Boyd (455 yards, 5 TDs), Fresno State's Derek Carr (419 yards, 5 TDs), Florida State's Jameis Winston (393 yards, 5 TDs), Nevada's Cody Fajardo (387 yards, 2 TDs), Western Kentucky's Brandon Doughty (370 yards, 2 TDs), Arizona State's Taylor Kelly (362 yards, 3 TDs), Oregon's Marcus Mariota (355 yards, 5 TD passes, 2 TD runs), Washington's Keith Price (350 yards, 2 TDs), Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater (348 yards, 2 TDs), Baylor's Bryce Petty (347 yards, 2 TDs), Ball State's Keith Wenning (346 yards, 2 TDs), Hawaii's Sean Schroeder (342 yards, 3 TDs), Penn State's Christian Hackenberg (340 yards, 3 TDs), LSU's Zach Mettenberger (340 yards, 2 TDs), Louisiana's Terrance Broadway (335 yards, 4 TDs), Miami-Florida's Stephen Morris (324 yards, 3 TDs) and Rutgers' Gary Nova (283 yards, 5 TDs).
Several running backs put up 200 yards or more rushing this past weekend in Northern Illinois' Cameron Stingily (266 yards, 2 TDs), Boston College's Andre Williams (263 yards, 5 TDs), Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah (225 yards, 2 TDs), Toledo's David Fluellen (220 yards, 4 TDs) and Louisiana Tech's Kenneth Dixon (200 yards, 1 TD).
Others who ran wild included Miami-Florida's Duke Johnson (184 yards), Baylor's Lache Seastrunk (172 yards, 2 TDs), Ohio State's Carlos Hyde (168 yards, 3 TDs), Tulsa's Trey Watts (165 yards, 2 TDs), Bowling Green's Travis Greene (160 yards), Fresno State's Marteze Waller (157 yards, 2 TDs), Ball State's Jahwan Edwards (155 yards, 3 TDs), Western Kentucky's Antonio Andrews (155 yards, 1 TD), Central Michigan's Saylor Lavallii (151 yards, 2 TDs), Buffalo's Branden Oliver (150 yards, 2 TDs), Rutgers' Justin Goodwin (149 yards, 2 TDs, 73 yards receiving 1 TD), Tennessee's Rajion Neal (148 yards, 2 TDs), Auburn's Nick Marshall (140 yards, 2 TDs), FIU Silas Spearman III (136 yards, 2 TDs) and San Diego State's Adam Muema (134 yards, 2 TDs).
A couple of receivers eclipsed 200 yards as well, with SMU's Jeremy Johnson (18 catches, 217 yards, 3 TDs) and California's Chris Harper (13 catches, 216 yards, 1 TD) posting monster games.
The aerial display didn't end there, including Fresno State's Devante Adams (16 catches, 185 yards, 3 TDs), LSU's Odell Beckham Jr. (9 catches, 179 yards, 2 TDs), Penn State's Allen Robinson (12 catches, 173 yards, 2 TDs), Baylor's Antwan Goodley (7 catches, 170 yards, 1 TD), Ball State's Jordan Williams (9 catches, 159 yards, 1 TD), San Jose State's Tyler Winston (6 catches, 159 yards, 1 TD), Oregon's Bralon Addison (5 catches, 158 yards, 2 TDs), Wake Forest's Mike Campanaro (12 catches, 153 yards, 2 TDs), Michigan's Devin Funchess (7 catches, 151 yards), Indiana's Cody Latimer (9 catches, 140 yards), Iowa State's Quenton Bundrage (5 catches, 137 yards, 1 TD) and North Texas' Darnell Smith (8 catches, 130 yards, 1 TD).
SNEAK PEEK: Three Top 25 matchups highlight Week 7, with two coming in the SEC as 17th-ranked Florida takes on 10th-ranked LSU in Baton Rouge, while 25th- ranked Missouri heads to Athens to battle seventh-ranked Georgia. The Pac-12 has the other marquee matchup, second-ranked Oregon taking on 16th-ranked Washington.
Other interesting games on the docket include ninth-ranked Texas A&M at Ole Miss, 19th-ranked Northwestern at Wisconsin, Pittsburgh at 24th-ranked Virginia Tech and the Red River Rivalry game between 12th-ranked Oklahoma and Texas.