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Is Todd Gurley A Legitimate Heisman Candidate?

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Running back Todd Gurley's Heisman chances take a hit since he doesn't line up in shotgun or under center, but if the quarterbacks falter, he'll be there to seize the award. Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images.
Running back Todd Gurley's Heisman chances take a hit since he doesn't line up in shotgun or under center, but if the quarterbacks falter, he'll be there to seize the award. Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images.

For decades, Georgia fans looked for the next Herschel Walker. Fans looked for a powerful runner that could take it between the tackles or bounce it outside for big gains.

It took more than 30 years, but it seems Todd Gurley has stepped into that role and is considered the second coming of Walker. But is it enough for him to get Heisman consideration?

We all know the candidacy of Johnny Manziel, AJ McCarron, Jadeveon Clowney and other greats around football, but Gurley began receiving recognition last year when he rushed for 1,385 yards and 17 touchdowns. He's started the year with 377 yards and four touchdowns, including a 154-yard effort against Clemson and 132-yard effort against South Carolina.

He currently ranks 11th in NCAA with 125.7 yards per game and has faced tougher defenses compared to the 10 players ahead of him. Imagine what his stats will look like after he faces Kentucky (allows 185.7 rushing yards per game) or Auburn (172 ypg). Even LSU gave up 213 yards to Auburn last week.

The only defense Gurley could have trouble with is Florida, which has always been strong against the run.

What will it take for Gurley to be considered for the Heisman, let alone win it?

Quarterbacks Must Falter

As we've seen in past history, quarterbacks are always going to be the favorites to win the award. Coming into the year, guys like Manziel, McCarron, Braxton Miller and Marcus Mariota were going to get all of the focus because of their position.

A bad game or two could hurt any of their chances, just like we saw with Collin Klein last year. 

If McCarron has another bad game like he did against Virginia Tech, you can expect him to be out of the running. You already may be able to strike Miller's name off the ballot due to nagging issues with his knee.

That would leave guys like Manziel and Mariota. For Manziel, winning the award a second time is even harder than the first. Voters expect to see more out of him this time around and he can't have an off game. For Mariota, it's going to come down to how he performs against UCLA and Stanford. If he struggles, that could be it for his Heisman chances.

SEC players generally get a pass for an off game because the conference is so tough. Players from other conferences might not be so lucky. Teddy Bridgewater will be a good example of that as Louisville has one of the easiest schedules of any national title contender in recent memory.

The Magic Number: 2,000

That seems to be the number a running back needs to hit to have a good chance at winning the Heisman. Mark Ingram finished just a few yards shy of that in 2009, while Reggie Bush had 2,218 in 2005. Ron Dayne totaled 2,034 rushing yards in 1999 and Ricky Williams had 2,386 total yards in 1998.

If Gurley can get near that mark, there's no question he'll be in the discussion. He ran for more than 1,500 total yards last year and I see no reason why he can't add another 500 yards this year. He's currently on pace for 1,624 total yards, but as I stated earlier, teams like Auburn, Kentucky, Tennessee and Appalachian State are still left on the schedule.

He could easily make up the extra yards in those games and get near 2,000.

It's going to come down to what the quarterbacks do. If someone like Mariota continues to light up the scoreboard, there's no way Gurley will win the Heisman. But if any of them make a mistake, Gurley will be right there to capitalize.