As the season has seen the rise of Mississippi State football, quarterback Dak Prescott has emerged on the scene as one of college football’s best. Is Prescott the best player in college football? That is up for debate, but if the season were to end today, he would have a very strong case to be named the Heisman Trophy winner of 2014. There is no question he is currently one of the hottest names in the race.
That became just a little more official in the past few days as the Heisman Trophy’s official website added Prescott to the list of profiled players in consideration for the award. Prescott is one of eight quarterbacks currently listed on the Heisman website, and the fourth player from the almighty SEC. Other quarterbacks include Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, Baylor’s Bryce Petty and Florida State’s Jameis Winston. Winston may still be a long shot to repeat and Mariota picked a rough week to take a loss. At the same time, Prescott had a fantastic week to score a big victory against a top 10 opponent, Texas A&M. This week, Prescott looks to take the lead in the Heisman race as Mississippi State is set to host Auburn in another colossal SEC West match-up in Starkville.
Before the season started there were a number of comparisons between Prescott and another former Heisman Trophy winner from the SEC, Florida’s Tim Tebow. There are a number of similarities between Prescott and Tebow, beginning with size. It just so happens there is another similarity between the two. Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen was the offensive coordinator at Florida when Tebow played for the Gators and won a Heisman Trophy. If you watched Tebow at Florida, then you may think you are seeing the same offense play out at Mississippi State. This is because the offense is the same as Mullen ran at Florida, and Prescott can do everything Tebow was capable of doing. What is notably different between the two is Prescott’s passing ability. Prescott is a more polished version of Tebow and has more to show off in the passing game than Tebow tended to have.
At first glance, Prescott’s numbers may not impress you, but the Mississippi State offensive leader is averaging 10.1 yards per pass attempt, and he has thrown 13 touchdowns to just two interceptions at this point in the season. Keep in mind that included two games against teams that were ranked in the top 10 at the time, with one game at LSU and the other at home against Texas A&M. He currently holds the highest passer rating in the SEC, and he has more rushing touchdowns than any other quarterback in the conference with six, one more than Mariota and Winston have combined.
Prescott is not the best player in the country, and he may not even be the best player in his own conference (Georgia running back Todd Gurley is pretty darn good), but sometimes the Heisman Trophy competition can be heavily influenced by players making signature plays in the most important games. So far, Prescott has helped lead Mississippi State to a top-three ranking and they could be eying the number one spot in the polls with a victory over Auburn this weekend. If that is not fuel for a Heisman campaign, what is?
Heisman Spotlight Game: No. 3 (AP)/4 (Coaches) Mississippi State vs. No. 2 Auburn
This should go without saying, especially after taking a detailed look at Mississippi State’s Prescott. This week is a huge game for the Heisman conversation, and Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall should not be overlooked. Marshall is every bit as dangerous leading the Tigers offense and a win for him in this game could lead to Marshall rising in the Heisman hunt.
Heisman Spotlight Game, Honorable Mention: No. 5/3 Baylor vs. No. 9/12 TCU
This game deserves to be mentioned as well, given the impact it has on the Big 12 race. It is also a significant hurdle for Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty to clear before once again detailing his place in the Heisman picture. Petty was the Big 12’s offensive player of the year in 2013 as he led the Bears to a Big 12 title and appearance in the Fiesta Bowl. He will not face many stingy defenses this season, but TCU looks to have arrived on the scene at just the right moment. TCU took down Oklahoma last week and now heads to Waco to try and slow down Petty and the Bears offense. If Petty puts up big numbers here, he will certainly earn it.
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.