By Kevin McGuire
We are coming down the final stretch of the college football season, which means the Heisman Trophy race is starting to wind down as well. While there appears to be some clear favorites in the conversation, there still may be some time for players to make a dent before the end of the season. That may include one of the top quarterbacks this season from the SEC.
QB Zach Mettenberger, LSU
By now, we have taken a glance at some of the SEC’s Heisman hopefuls. Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel won the Heisman Trophy last season. Georgia’s Aaron Murray has led his team to some thrilling wins this year, at times rewriting the SEC record books. Alabama’s AJ McCarron has done nothing but win. But what about the league’s second highest-rated passer, LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger?
Mettenberger trails only Manziel in the SEC when it comes to passer rating and touchdown passes. Mettenberger has thrown fewer interceptions than Manziel, but so has everybody in the SEC other than Tennessee’s Justin Worley. Mettenberger actually has the second most interceptions in the SEC but he also leads the conference in yards per attempt with 10.8 yards for each pass attempted this season, nearly half a yard more than Manziel. Mettenberger is one of three quarterbacks in the SEC to have thrown for over 2,000 yards before November, joining Manziel and Murray.
Mettenberger is a big reason for LSU’s success. His typical drop-back style has helped him become an attractive option for prospective NFL suitors in the 2014 NFL Draft. He will not break a big play with his feet, but he doesn’t even need to move much with LSU having such a strong running game.
If LSU had avoided taking two losses by now, Mettenberger would likely be a more worthy candidate in this discussion. Two losses obviously do not rule out a candidate (take Manziel last year for example), but Mettenberger will have to impress down the stretch just to get an invite to New York. Beating Alabama with a flawless performance would help build that momentum this weekend.
Heisman Watch Game of the Week
Stanford vs. Oregon: While Mettenberger and McCarron will be duking it out in a key SEC West division game, all eyes will be on Thursday night’s contest in the Pac 12 between Oregon and Stanford. At this point in the season, it seems the top two candidates for the Heisman are Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston and Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. On Thursday night, Mariota leads the Ducks into Stanford in the Pac 12’s game of the year, with the BCS championship on the line. This will be Mariota’s chance to provide a Heisman moment, for whatever that is worth, but also a chance to cement his Heisman candidacy.
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.