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Forget About a Mountain West Heisman

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Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo, who led the Mountain West in total offense last season, is one of four conference QBs on the early Heisman Trophy Watch List. Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images.
Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo, who led the Mountain West in total offense last season, is one of four conference QBs on the early Heisman Trophy Watch List. Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images.

In case you missed it — and it’s hard to see how you could’ve since the presentation ceremony is less than seven short months away — the 2013 Heisman Trophy Watch List has been released.

Thirty players are on the list compiled by The Heisman Pundit/CBSSports.com, and unless some player out-Manziels 2012 Heisman winner Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M and comes out of nowhere to win the 2013 statuette, the 79th Heisman will be in possession of someone on this 30-man list come December.

Check that.

Make that a 29-man list, as 13 names into the alphabetical compilation we find Notre Dame QB Everett Golson, whom — shockingly — we learned only days ago is no longer fighting for the Irish.

What isn’t a shocker is that 24 of the 29 players on the list play for schools belonging to the traditional “Power Six” conferences (i.e. the ACC, American Athletic/Big East, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 or SEC).

The watch list is dominated by Pac-12 and SEC candidates (six apiece) and also includes five players from the Big Ten, three apiece from the Big 12 and ACC and one from the American Athletic.

Of the remaining five players, four  — Fresno State senior quarterback Derek Carr, Nevada junior QB Cody Fajardo, San Jose State senior QB David Fales and Utah State junior QB Chuckie Keeton — will call the Mountain West Conference home this fall. The only other outlier is Northern Illinois senior QB Jordan Lynch.

By any measure, the resumes of the MWC quarterback quartet are certainly Heisman Watch-worthy:

• Carr is coming off a season in which he paced the MWC and ranked among the nation’s top eight in passing yards (4,104) and touchdowns (37) en route to earning Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year honors.

• Fajardo, a second-team all-conference selection last season, led the MWC and ranked 10th in the FBS with an average of 325.6 yards of total offense per game.

• Fales topped all FBS QBs with a 72.5 completion percentage in 2012 and finished third in passing efficiency (170.8) while setting no fewer than seven school single-season passing records.

• Keeton was a first-team 2012 All-WAC selection as sophomore after establishing single-season school marks in completions (275), passing yards (3,373), total offense (3,992), TD passes (27) and completion percentage (67.6).

Impressive credentials all, but do any of the four have a shot at getting invited to the presentation ceremony, let alone walk off with one of sports’ most prestigious individual awards itself?

Heisman history says there’s a better chance of tomorrow seeing the Stars and Stripes flying proudly from the tallest flagpole in downtown Pyongyang.

OK, maybe the odds aren’t that long, but consider:

  • During the last 50 years — that’s right, a full half-century — there’s been only one Heisman winner (Brigham Young’s Ty Detmer in 1990) who didn’t suit up for Notre Dame or a current Power Six school.
  • During the last 25 seasons, only 12 non-Power Six, non-Notre Dame players have finished among the top-five Heisman Trophy vote-getters in any given season, ranging from Detmer in 1990 to Boise State QB Kellen Moore (fourth in 2010).
  • Only five of those 12 have managed to crack the top three: Detmer in 1990 and ’91 (third), San Diego State tailback Marshall Faulk (third in ’92), Division I-AA Alcorn State QB Steve McNair (third in ’94) and Hawaii QB Colt Brennan (third in 2007).
  • The highest-placing vote-getter in the 14 seasons of the MWC’s existence has been Utah QB Alex Smith, who came in fourth in the 2004 voting — 690 points behind winner Matt Leinart of USC.

So if winning the dang trophy is basically out of the question, the question remains which MWC player is the best bet to garner the most Heisman votes this season?

Given that it’s become a quarterback-centric honor — 11 Heismans have gone to QBs in the last 13 seasons — you can’t go wrong with either Carr or Fales, two proven, NFL-ready passers who are sure to rack up big numbers again playing for two of the MWC’s best teams.

And, hey, if you happen to catch a CNN glimpse of the North Koreans saluting Old Glory between now and the end of the season, go ahead and bank on a 2013 Heisman winner from the Mountain West Conference.