Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  By CORY McCARTNEY  |  Last updated 9/25/13
The email came the day after Fresno State's win over Boise State. The school had launched a Web site, DC4Heisman.com, promoting quarterback "The West's Wonderdog Underdog" Derek Carr for the Heisman Trophy. Carr has company in the underdog department with Northern Illinois QB Jordan Lynch, whose "Jordan Lynch for 6" push began this summer with lunch boxes mailed to voters (they're a play off the 'Lunch With Lynch' videos the school is producing) and Utah State's Chuckie Keeton. Ultimately, their campaigns, like those of DeAngelo Williams, Ben Roethlisberger Ian Johnson and so many others, only underscore one of the truths regarding the Heisman: no non-BCS conference player is ever going to win again. We've seen shifts in voters tendencies, with the first sophomore in Tim Tebow (Florida) in '07 followed by two more (Oklahoma's Sam Bradford and Alabama's Mark Ingram) and, of course, the first redshirt freshman last year with Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel. But the prospects for players from outside the sport's power structure are only getting worse. It's the 23 years since Houston's Andre Ware (1989) and BYU's Ty Detmer won (1990) claimed the trophy and no one from non-AQ schools has finished higher than San Diego State's Marshall Faulk, who was second in 1992. Hawaii's Colt Brennan made the last real push, taking third in 2007. Carr's No. 25 Bulldogs are unbeaten; Lynch took his Huskies to the Orange Bowl last year with another perfect season a real possibility and Keeton, despite a rough outing vs. USC, continues to dazzle. But in a season where the top candidates are well-defined, "joining the conversation" is likely their ceiling. It's not fair, but it's the reality. Before we turn to the players poised to rise and fall in the race this week, here's a look at how things stack up after Week 4: 1. Marcus Mariota, QB Oregon, RS Soph. 2. AJ McCarron, QB Alabama, RS Sr. 3. Tajh Boyd, QB Clemson, RS Sr. ON THE RISE 1. Zach Mettenberger, QB LSU, RS Sr. Overshadowed by the SEC's three other QBs whose last names start with M -- Manziel, McCarron and Murray -- Mettenberger ranks second in the conference in passing efficiency and touchdowns. But in order to truly join the race he needs a marquee win, which could come against a Georgia defense that's allowing 245.3 yards per game through the air (78th in FBS). A campaign is all about the narrative and Mettenberger can pen a redemption story back in Athens, where he began his career battling with roommate Aaron Murray for the starting job before being dismissed in May of 2010. 2. AJ McCarron, QB Alabama, RS Sr. Tuscaloosa may be the stage for a shootout as No. 21 Ole miss takes on the top-ranked Crimson Tide and that should only help to elevate McCarron's cause. The Rebels' 60th-ranked pas D has already allowed Vanderbilt's Austyn Carta-Samuels (46th in pass efficiency) to throw for 300 yard and two scores and McCarron represents a major step up in competition. He's firmly entrenched as a leading contender, but McCarron does have the potential to slip in the race in the weeks after the Rebels with a run of Georgia State, Kentucky, Arkansas and Tennessee. It's imperative he take advantage of 'Bama's only Top 25 clash until November. 3. Duke Johnson, RB Miami, Soph. He's fallen behind on the list of running backs vying to end the run of three straight QBs to claim the award, largely because he was bottled up in the Hurricanes' biggest game of the year to date when Florida held him to 59 yards on 21 carries. But with a four-game stretch beginning Saturday vs. South Florida, Johnson faces rushing defenses ranked 68th (USF), 72nd (Wake Forest) and 113th (North Carolina), along with a nice test vs. Georgia Tech's 22nd-ranked unit. He's rested, with all of nine carries since the Gators game on Sept. 7. If he's going to live up to the preseason hype, it starts now. FALL GUYS 1. Todd Gurley, RB Georgia, Soph. With a number of contenders on the field when No. 9 Georgia hosts No. 6 LSU, one will have to fall if another rises. Murray could be hurt the most, especially if Mettenberger steals the show, but as we've discussed before it's Gurley that seems to be the Bulldogs more logical Heisman fit. First in the SEC and 11th nationally with 125.7 ypg and averaging six yards a carry, Gurley could have a big day vs. the Tigers but it might not matter if the Bulldogs fall. With McCarron locked in as the SEC's top Heisman hope, overtaking him is going to mean dominating and keeping a team in the BCS title hunt. 2. Melvin Gordon, RB Wisconsin, RS Soph. On the rise in the Heisman Forecast a week ago, Gordon is getting plenty of attention as the nation's leader in yards (624) and yards per game (156) and four weeks in, he may be the Big Ten's best hope at its first trophy since Troy Smith in '06 and the first for an RB since another Badger, Ron Dayne in '99. But that push may take a hit this week. No. 4 Ohio State hasn't faced a gauntlet of yet, its defense is stout, ranking ninth against the run (79.8 ypg) and just twice in the last 10 games have linebacker Ryan Shazier and Co. allowed anyone to go over 100 yards. 3. Devin Gardner, QB Michigan, RS Jr. His performance against Akron -- 248 yards passing, 103 rushing, three total TDs and four turnovers -- didn't completely destroy his chances as the Wolverines snuck out with a victory. Plus, a quasi-letdown was expected after the big win over Notre Dame. But whatever pass he got was cashed in vs. UConn as he threw two picks, was sacked three times and lost a fumble in the 24-21 victory. Four games in and already Gardner can't afford another setback with Penn State, Michigan State, Nebraska, Northwestern and Ohio State still on the schedule. It doesn't look like a scenario that gets him to New York.
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