Following a 200-yard, 2-touchdown performance last weekend at Iowa, Melvin Gordon remains solidly in the No. 2 spot on the most recent ESPN Experts’ Heisman Poll.
Gordon, who has rushed for a Big-Ten record-tying 2,109 yards this season (tied with Ron Dayne), sits comfortably in second place on the poll, trailing only Oregon’s Marcus Mariota. Mariota and Gordon were the only two players to receive first- or second-place votes, with Mariota receiving seven first place and three second place votes, with Gordon taking the inverse, three firsts and seven seconds.
Here is how the ESPN panel voted:
See the poll with ESPN commentary here.
Clearly, Gordon has cemented his place as the top running back in the country, as Indiana’s Tevin Coleman is the next-most Heisman-worthy back on the list according to the voters. Coleman garnered just two votes, a third and a fifth place. The combination of suspension and injury completely has removed Georgia’s Todd Gurley, an early front runner, from the running.
Gordon and Mariota have separated themselves from the pack as the clear-cut favorites for the award, and it would take a big collapse for either to be out of the running.
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Mariota has been simply stellar this season, only throwing two interceptions on his way to a 3,103-passing yard season, throwing 32 touchdowns, while rushing for nearly 600 yards and adding nine scores on the ground.
Mariota certainly holds the upper hand, but Gordon has done his part to prove his case.
Gordon found a way to boost his already impressive rushing records with an improved receiving game this year. He’s caught 15 passes for 147 yards and two scores, which may not seem to be noteworthy, but is far and away an improvement from the three career receptions he had prior to 2014.
By the way, his rushing stats alone make him more than worthy of a trip to New York. He “only” leads the country by more than 200 rushing yards while averaging 8.3 yards per carry, the fifth best mark in college ball. He’s averaging that number despite receiving at least 100 more carries than the four backs ahead of him on the list, except for Marshall’s Devon Johnson, who’s carried the ball 184 times for 1,573 yards (8.5 per carry).
What Gordon needs to do to win the Heisman
Gordon currently needs 519 yards to break Barry Sanders‘ single-season rushing record of 2,628 yards (Sanders set the record in only 11 games).
Melvin Gordon lines up near the goal line against Nebraska. Jim Oxley photo
With potentially three games left on the schedule (if Wisconsin defeats Minnesota this weekend to earn a spot in the Big Ten Championship), Gordon would need to average 173 yards per game to reach the milestone.
Gordon is currently averaging 191.7 yards per contest, and is on pace to break the record. To do so, he will need to keep up that pace against No. 22 Minnesota this weekend (154.6 rushing yards against per game), No. 6 Ohio State (assuming Wisconsin defeats Minnesota) in the Big Ten Championship (147.8 rushing yards per game), and a ranked opponent in a bowl game.
A tall order, to be sure, but Gordon has been Wisconsin’s rock, and the Badgers will continue feeding the beast as their pass offense has yet to make a true impact.
Breaking Sanders’ record would certainly go a long way towards bringing another Heisman Trophy to Madison.
Statistics courtesy ESPN.com. Note: This post has been edited to reflect that Marcus Mariota has thrown two interceptions, not three, as previously listed.