Todd Gurley is your way too early Heisman frontrunner

Todd Gurley had four all-purpose touchdowns against Clemson. (USATSI)
Todd Gurley had four all-purpose touchdowns against Clemson. (USATSI)

Todd Gurley is the best running back in college football.

After a career-best performance in Georgia's season-opening win against Clemson on Saturday, he'll be the first name mentioned by many in the conversation for the best player in college football. September is a time when the Heisman Trophy conversation seems meaningless, especially when viewed in hindsight. Recent results, including back-to-back Heisman wins by redshirt freshmen, support that notion.

But starting on Sunday, Todd Gurley will be the player with the most hard evidence supporting his Heisman "candidacy." Gurley needed only 15 carries to collect a career-high 198 yards and three touchdowns in the win, adding a momentum-swinging 100-yard kickoff return touchdown to complete one of the most impressive individual performances of the weekend. 

Geno Smith was famously in this position in 2012. After Dana Holgerson and West Virginia lit up the scoreboard in its early-season schedule, Smith was a supposed lock for the year-end conversation. Then Colin Klein surged to the front when West Virginia started to lose. Then we finished with a Heisman race where Manti Te'o finished second to some new guy named Manziel.

Gurley has a couple of advantages over Smith, starting with his position. While the Heisman has been dominated by quarterbacks recently, the running back position is not tied as closely to winning and losing. Texas A&M quarterback Kenny Hill is the player most likely to get a Geno Smith-type surge, as the Aggies' schedule should provide at least another month of wins and scoreboard-breaking performances -- at least until Texas A&M travels to Mississippi State on Oct. 4 or Tuscaloosa on Oct. 18. 

Another advantage for Gurley is Georgia's depth at the running back position. Keith Marshall, Nick Chubb and Sony Michele may eat into Gurley's numbers, but dividing the carries limits the hits on the Bulldogs star, which in theory increases the chances he stays healthy all season. And if Gurley is healthy all season, Georgia should be in SEC title contention and eyeing a spot in the College Football Playoff. 

The ceiling for Todd Gurley, and Georgia, in 2014 will be reset again next week after traveling to Columbia to face South Carolina. A repeat of Week 1's show puts the Bulldogs in the driver's seat for the SEC East and furthers the Gurley hype. A loss sets both trajectories back for a few weeks. 

But no matter what happens next week in Columbia, Todd Gurley will still be the best running back in college football, and that's reason enough to watch every week.

CBS Sports Writer

Chip Patterson has spent his young career covering college sports from the Old North State. He's been writing and talking about football and basketball for CBS Sports since 2010. You may have heard him... Full Bio

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