Can Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott continue a (very) recent phenomena this Saturday? If so, the Heisman Trophy might have his name on it by this time next month.
On Saturday, when the top-ranked Bulldogs pay a visit to Tuscaloosa to battle the Alabama Crimson Tide in a monumental matchup, Prescott will have a chance to burnish his Heisman résumé on one of the biggest and brightest of college football stages, Bryant-Denny Stadium. That’s something that came to fruition in both 2010 and 2012, when visiting quarterbacks with Heisman hopes came into Tuscaloosa and left with the trophy all but in their possession after memorable performances in wins against the Tide.
Going into the 2010 Iron Bowl, the hoopla surrounding Auburn quarterback Cam Newton was overwhelming, from the possibility of leading Auburn to an undefeated season and the BCS National Championship, to the “play for pay” scandal that embroiled he and his father, Cecil Newton for a good part of the second half of the campaign. All of those forces came to a head in Tuscaloosa, and the Tigers’ chances of winning a national championship were almost wiped out before halftime. Alabama rolled to a 24-0 lead by the midway point of the second quarter. But led by Newton’s four touchdowns (one rushing), including three in the second half, Auburn came away with a 28-27 over the Tide, earned their most memorable win in the Iron Bowl since “Punt Bama Punt” in 1972 and sealed Newton’s day to remember in New York City.
Two years later, in 2012, Alabama, imperious as ever and ranked No. 1 in the BCS, welcomed a Texas A&M team in late November led by a developing tidal wave of a quarterback named Johnny Manziel. Yes, he had already dazzled in games before, but “Johnny Football” was supposed to meet his match in Tuscaloosa, bowing to Nick Saban’s squad as almost all SEC teams outside of LSU do in Tuscaloosa. But the Aggies didn’t follow the script, and Manziel went off for 345 total yards (92 rushing) and two passing touchdowns as A&M shocked the Tide, 29-24. Less than a month later, Manziel became the first freshman to ever in the Heisman.
Once again, we skip ahead two years, and, once again, we have a visiting quarterback with realistic Heisman Trophy aspirations coming into Tuscaloosa. And just like Newton and Manziel before him, Prescott is a dual threat nightmare, an element that Crimson Tide defenses, as good as they’ve been over the years, have had a real devil of a time trying to stop. If the magical season for Mississippi State is to continue, they’ll hope the recent magic of even-year performances by dynamic quarterbacks in Bryant-Denny Stadium continues. Oh, and if that were to happen, and if the quarterback was to have a huge influence in the Bulldogs’ victory, someone behind the scenes may start to engrave Prescott’s name onto the trophy, even if Oregon’s Marcus Mariota appears to be the odds-on favorite at this moment.
The panel that makes up The A Lot of Sports Talk‘s College Football Top 25 rankings always delivers away from home when it matters the most. Once again, let’s welcome our weekly sextet: T.J. Basalla (super fan, marketing professional, WJPZ Alumni Association President), Pavan Sandhu Eckhart (Texas A&M graduate, Sales Rep at Ferring Pharmaceuticals in Dallas), Basil Mitchell (former TCU and Green Bay Packers RB), Sandy Weintraub (super fan, Director of Student Conduct and Community Standards at the University of Oregon), Adesina Koiki (Football Writers Association of America member/voter, A Lot Of Sports Talk editor-in-chief) and an anonymous assistant coach who once coached at a Division I-FBS school. If you have any comments and/or complaints, write them below on the Facebook window or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you, as always.
I still believe the men from “Stark Vegas” will lose two games, but while the undefeated streak lasts, they are still my No. 1. (Sandy Weintraub)
I’m getting a greater appreciation for how good the 2013 Seminoles were watching this year’s version. Yes, they’re winning this season, but it’s not pretty sometimes. Last year? Winning and dominating. (T.J. Basalla)
Which storyline will emerge by the time we’re done with the Pac-12 Championship Game: Marcus Mariota’s greatness leading the Ducks to the Playoff, or the mounting injuries – especially on offense – costing the Ducks another chance at playing for a national championship? (Adesina Koiki)
Everyone talked about “two SEC teams in the playoffs” since the start of the season. I think we seriously need to start talking about two Big 12 teams. (T.J.)
Should the Bears be ranked behind TCU even with the head-to-head win against the Frogs? Let the debate begin, though I have a feeling this will work itself out in the next several weeks. (Sandy)
As I mentioned in the open, recent Heisman moments have been made in Tuscaloosa, but by players not playing for the Tide. Maybe Amari Cooper – with the help of Blake Sims – can change that on Saturday. (Adesina)
What an affirming win for Pac-12 fans to see the Sun Devils beat down the Irish in the desert. This is an off-the-radar team that controls its own destiny to make it to the playoff. (Sandy)
Urban Meyer finally got his signature win at Ohio State, and J.T. Barrett looked like a Heisman candidate in the win in East Lansing. And yet, that Virginia Tech loss is going to be an albatross around the Buckeyes’ neck the rest of the season. (T.J.)
Time to decide who will be the Buckeyes’ opponent in Indy. (T.J.)
Two of the most overlooked elements in any football game, no matter the level, are the center-quarterback exchange and the exchange between quarterbacks and running backs on handoffs. Sadly for War Eagle, mishaps on each in the fourth quarter against Texas A&M may have cost them a shot at the national title. (Adesina)
Can we stop calling Michigan State a great defense? A good defense? OK. But after watching the Oregon, Nebraska, Purdue and now Ohio State games, there is no way this defense is even close to last year’s. (T.J.)
Can they make the College Football Playoff? Probably not. Can they win out and make a New Years’ Six game? With that defense, it’s definitely possible. The Rebels could end up being the best team in the country that doesn’t make the Playoff, not that it’s any consolation to them. (Adesina)
Quietly, the Bruins are turning into the team we thought they might be at the beginning of the season. (T.J.)
Here’s hoping the possible great season for the Wildcats football team doesn’t get overshadowed by the No. 2 Wildcats men’s basketball team starting its season on Friday. Washington is up next for Rich Rod’s crew. (Adesina)
There’s no shame in losing to TCU, but did we overrate the Wildcats just a tad after defeating Oklahoma in Norman, especially given the fact that the Baylor Bears did the same last week? By 34 points? (Adesina)
I will keep asking this question until the end of the season: How did this Georgia team lose by 18 to Florida?! How?!?! (T.J.)
The harsh realities of this team were laid out in front of the nation last Saturday: They’re just not that good. Plenty of talent, yes. Just not at the level of an “elite” team. (T.J.)
The odds of this are still long, but they are no longer implausible; Duke could be 11-1 going into the ACC Title game with an outside shot at a Playoff berth. This is unreal. (T.J.)
The Thundering Herd have to appear in a the Top 25 of the College Football Playoff poll at some point this year, right? Right??? (Adesina)
Go ahead and remember Alabama’s comeback in the final minute. I’ll remember LSU not converting a late Alabama turnover into a touchdown to seal the deal, giving Alabama a chance to save its national title hopes. (Adesina)
Seeing Clemson’s stout defense against the triple-option attack of Georgia Tech’s is worth the price of admission. (Adesina)
It almost seems as if we forgot about the Badgers after their season-opening loss to LSU. That definitely will change if Wisconsin defeats Nebraska on Saturday. Either way, if you watch that game, I hope you already like the color red. (Adesina)
Is this the space where I talk about how Kaelin Clay’s brain lock at the goal line killed the Utes’ momentum and was the catalyst for Oregon laying the wood on Utah? Nah, I’ll give him a pass. (That’s what we call in the business, sarcasm.) (Adesina)
See note at No. 21 Clemson. (Adesina)
Former Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain is working wonders in Fort Collins, and given that his team actually played – and defeated – a Power Five conference school when the Rams beat a now-bowl eligible Boston College team in Chestnut Hill in late September, it wouldn’t be a surprise if this is the team that makes the New Years’ Six from a non-Power Five conference. (Adesina)
Others receiving votes:
Minnesota (12 points), Texas A&M (6), Missouri (5), Southern California (4), Louisville (3), Boise State (2), Georgia Southern (1), Miami (1)
* – To break ties, we used a three-step criteria; 1) higher number of first-place votes, 2) higher number of ballots (out of six) the teams appeared in, 3) highest single ranking by an individual pollster (e.g. if Team A and Team B are tied cumulatively and appeared in all six polls, but Team A’s highest ranking by an individual pollster was No. 7 and Team B’s highest ranking by an individual pollster was No. 9, Team A wins tiebreaker)
[Cover photo (Dak Prescott) courtesy of Wesley Hitt/Getty Images]