Is Melvin Gordon still a viable Heisman candidate?


Prior to the 2014 college football season, Melvin Gordon was one of several players considered to have high odds of being named the 2014 Heisman Trophy Winner.

According to Bovada’s pre-season odds, at 12/1, Gordon was among a group of three players (with Auburn QB Nick Marshall and Baylor QB Bryce Petty) behind Florida St. QB Jameis Winston (9/2), Oregon QB Marcus Mariota (5/1), and UCLA QB Brett Hundley (10/1) who were predicted to have the best odds at winning the ultimate prize.

Georgia running back Todd Gurley (14/1), Oklahoma QB Trevor Knight (18/1), Notre Dame QB Everett Golson (20/1) and Alabama running backs Derrick Henry and T.J. Yeldon (20/1 each) rounded out the top eleven.

Ohio State QB Braxton Miller, considered a Heisman favorite following his 2013 campaign, made an early exit form the list after a pre-season injury left him out for the year.

Less than two months into the season, major changes are occurring, but it’s not necessarily bad news for Gordon, in fact, Gordon remains one of a handful players given high preseason odds to be listed in the most recent ESPN Expert’s Heisman Poll.

Currently, ESPN shows a close race for the top spot between Todd Gurley (49 votes) and Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott (38 votes).

These rankings were, of course, released before today’s news that Gurley has been suspended indefinitely during an investigation into unspecified violations of NCAA rules. That investigation could have huge Heisman implications, as Gurley and Gordon are far and away considered the top two backs in the country.

Regardless of Gurley’s investigation outcome, Gordon currently sits in the fourth spot (16 votes) in the ESPN Expert Poll, settling in behind Mariota (17 points) and ahead of Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper (15 votes). Golson is the only other player in the poll with double-digit votes (11).

Vegas has less confidence in Gordon’s chances at the Heisman than ESPN, however, as Bovada currently lists his odds at 20/1, although those odds have not been updated since the announcement of the investigation surrounding Gurley.

Melvin Gordon breaks into the open field on a long touchdown run against USF. Jim Oxley photograph.

Playing in an offense that has been incapable of throwing the ball (149.8 yards per game, 116th in all of college football), Gordon has racked up 871 yards – at 8.3 yards per carry – and 9 touchdowns, adding 5 catches for 27 yards and a score.

Those numbers were certainly buoyed by a 13 carry, 253-yard, 5-touchdown performance in a rout over Bowling Green, and stand in spite of a 17 carry, 38-yard effort against Western Illinois.

The odds are against Gordon in more ways than one. Going back to Ron Dayne’s Heisman campaign in 1999, just two running backs have taken home the honor since: Reggie Bush (which was later vacated) in 2005 and Mark Ingram in 2009.

All other Heisman winners since 2000 have been quarterbacks.

One thing Heisman voters may use in favor of Gordon is Wisconsin’s inability to pass. Gordon is basically Wisconsin’s entire offensive attack at this point, and opposing teams know it.

He is rushing against a stacked box on nearly every play, and still averaging 8.3 yards per carry. That in and of itself is an impressive feat, but for Gordon to warrant serious Heisman consideration come season’s end, Wisconsin will need to be a relevant football team.

No player has won the Heisman on an unranked team since Bo Jackson in 1985, so Gordon, and the Badgers, have their work cut out as they continue conference play.

This Saturday Wisconsin takes on an Illinois squad that just two weeks ago gave up 208 yards to Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah and 458 total rushing yards, so Gordon should have a chance to add another large chunk of yards to his season total, furthering his chances of a Heisman-worthy season.