The second weekend of college football is upon us and that means it's another chance for some of the top Heisman candidates to build their resumes in the season's early going.
It's not so much that the Heisman will be won in these games ... but it could very well be lost.
Here are the games this weekend that will have the most impact on the Heisman race:
No. 2 USC at Syracuse -- Front-runner Matt Barkley gets a chance to boost his standing in the Northeast region of the Heisman electorate by playing in front of New York media. This type of exposure is invaluable, and another strong game by Barkley will further enhance his stature in the race. It's an even bigger opportunity for wide receiver Marqise Lee to build on some early momentum and perhaps steal some of Barkley's thunder.
No. 11 Michigan State at Central Michigan -- It's not so much that a big game by Le'Veon Bell against Central Michigan will impress the voters. It's that another outing like his 210-yard effort last weekend against Boise State will help confirm that he's not just a flash in the pan, that such production is going to be the norm this season from the Spartan back. Another 150-yard-plus game keeps his name at the forefront of voters' minds. A sub-par game and he probably gets shrugged off for now.
No. 13 Wisconsin at Oregon State -- Montee Ball wasn't as productive as expected last week against Northern Iowa. On the other hand, not too many voters were paying close attention and his 120 yards passed the smell test, at least at first glance. Voters are more likely to take note of what he does against Oregon State. Obviously, another 100-yard-plus effort will benefit his campaign somewhat. It's expected, after all. But a rough outing will signal to voters that he might not be the player he was last year.
Fresno State at No. 4 Oregon -- The draw here is the remarkable touchdown-to-touches ratio of De'Anthony Thomas. I have a feeling it is going to be the central stat of his candidacy. Last season, he scored 18 touchdowns on just 140 touches and against Arkansas State this past Saturday he scored three touchdowns on eight touches. Forget the lackluster team matchup and everything else involved -- I want to see if the sophomore phenom can keep it up.
Washington at No. 3 LSU -- This game features a couple of Heisman dark horses. Washington has quarterback Keith Price and LSU has running back Kenny Hilliard. The way for Price to become a factor in the race starts with him leading a mega-upset against the Tigers. Otherwise, the one to watch here is Hilliard, who looks like he is on his way to a special season. Another dominating effort out of him and the Heisman chatter might get started.
No. 14 Nebraska at UCLA -- Taylor Martinez had a career passing game against Southern Mississippi last weekend, but has he truly turned a corner as a passer or was it just a fluke? Although UCLA isn't an especially formidable opponent, I think this matchup will give us a clue as to where Martinez stands. If he has another efficient passing game and leads Nebraska to a win, he's got to be considered a legit Heisman candidate.
HEISMAN GAME OF THE WEEK
No. 7 Georgia at Missouri -- If Aaron Murray is to make a serious run at the Heisman Trophy, it all begins here. The Bulldogs schedule contains a dearth of high-profile matchups, so Murray will have to make the most of every opportunity. A lot of eyes will be on this game since it is Mizzou's SEC debut. If Murray puts up good numbers against the Tigers in an impressive win, he'll be firmly entrenched as a contender. On the other hand, Missouri's defense can put a quick end to the notion of Murray as Heisman candidate. This game will help determine how much of a role the SEC East ultimately will play in this year's Heisman race.