Two PAC-12 players entered the year being labeled as front runners for the Heisman trophy: Arizona QB Khalil Tate and Stanford RB Bryce Love. These two haven’t exactly lived up to their preseason expectations and find themselves off of my list, for now. I give you my top five PAC-12 Heisman hopefuls after the first quarter of the 2018 college football season:
5. Gardner Winshew II – QB – Washington State (3-0)
Winshew II has slung the rock all over the field for the first three games of the Cougars’ season. He currently has the youngest team in the conference sitting at 3-0. In those three wins, the Cougars have won by an average of 44-14. Winshew II currently leads the NCAA in pass completions with 117. He’s on pace for 468, which would be the most by a QB since current NFL QB Case Keenum completed 492 in 2009, for the University of Houston.
4. Manny Wilkins – QB – Arizona State (2-1)
Wilkins gets a boost for leading the Sun Devils to a thrilling 16-13 comeback win over then ranked #15 Michigan State in week two, where he accounted for over 400 yards a touchdown. The senior QB ranks inside the top 10, nationally, in passing yards with 958. Wilkins does a nice job at protecting the football. He’s only thrown one on the year thus far. As long as he doesn’t commit turnovers, ASU will have a good shot at a PAC-12 title appearance.
3. Steven Montez – QB – Colorado (3-0)
Another surprise, and potential sleeper, out of the PAC-12 South is Colorado, due to their QB play. Montez has completed nearly 75% of his passes (69/84) and averages nearly 10 adjusted yards per attempt. He played a big part in spoiling Nebraska HC Scott Frost’s coaching debut in a 33-28 win, where he completed 66% of his passes and threw for 350 yards and 3 touchdowns. After three weeks, Montez has thrown for 855 yards and 8 touchdowns. Montez’ numbers are actually quite similar to Wilkins’. But Arizona State’s loss to San Diego State has to hold some weight. Because of this, Montez gets the edge.
2. JJ Arcega-Whiteside – WR – Stanford (3-0)
A WR at number two? Yeah. In Bryce Love’s absence, a potential star has emerged onto the scene at Stanford University, and he has one of the cooler names in college football, JJ Arcega-Whiteside. The 6’3″ wideout has been a human highlight reel for the Cardinal. He has only caught 13 passes but has five(!) touchdown receptions, which means every 2-3 passes he catches is for six points. With a 24.9 YPC average, he is a homerun threat every time he lines up on the field. Arcega-Whiteside is on pace to finish with 20 touchdown receptions, which would put tied at number 10, all-time. My only worry is that when Love gets going, it could impact his numbers in a big way.
1. Justin Herbert – QB – Oregon (3-0)
I can hear it now… “You’re just an Oregon homer!” You wouldn’t be wrong, however, after two and a half games, Herbert’s numbers are ridiculous. The last three Heisman trophy winning QBs averaged a total of 52 touchdowns their respected year. Herbert is on pace for that exact number, even without a bowl game. Herbert’s 12 touchdown passes are second in the nation, behind Hawaii QB Cole McDonald, who has an extra game on him. Remember when I said that Montez’ AYPA was near 10? Herbert’s is over 11, and he averages six more yards per completion. The Ducks are going to have to rely on his arm to win them games, and when season is all said and done, we could be looking at a Mariota type season from him.