The term “Heisman moment” has been exhausted. We tend to say this a lot about games and players, and most of it never materializes.
But what Kenneth Walker III did against Michigan in a 37-33 win--taking over a football game in a way running backs rarely do--was what a Heisman moment actually looks like.
Now, that’s not to say he will win or should win. We’re heading into Week 10, and others will likely have their chance to produce moments like this. But after soaring up the odds board over the course of the season, things are different now.
Walker’s final tally against the No. 2 scoring defense in the country: 23 carries, 197 yards and five touchdowns.
He’s now run for 1,194 yards, and he’s done so despite being the center point of an offense without a great deal of weapons (outside of him, of course). And yes, Michigan State is firmly in the Big Ten and College Football Playoff mix.
Walker is now 5/1 to win the Heisman.
Can he do it? Absolutely.
Will he do it? This part gets a bit more complicated.
The Heisman is still very much a quarterback award, and Walker still trails Alabama’s Bryce Young and Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud. After such a strong start, Matt Corral is now 5/1 as well. (Not to derail this opening or anything, but I wouldn’t bet Corral.)
Although we saw wideout DeVonta Smith crash the QB party last season, something I was very much in favor of, this is still a QB award. I can’t possibly say that enough, and I can’t possibly hate it anymore.
To win at a different position, you must have an outlier season. You must deliver in ways that seem almost larger than life.
At the moment, Walker is that outlier. And after Saturday, one of the more dominant running back performances in recent memory, he has a shot.
In a few weeks, Walker and Michigan State will be able to validate this performance at Ohio State. Heck, he can validate it this week against a Purdue team that has done plenty of upset hunting.
As long as Sparty continues to win, no matter how ugly it might be, he has a chance. What a player.
The Appetizer: Football Tidbits and Observations
1. Now, let’s talk about Jim Harbaugh. I went on the VSiN airwaves last week and said that Harbaugh had done an “amazing” job this season. Up until the game against Michigan State, I meant it. It is still baffling, however, just how poorly he has fared in games like this. Michigan closed as a four-point favorite and had a ton of momentum throughout much of this game. It then came undone like we’ve seen so many times. Harbaugh now has a losing record against Michigan State and Penn State, and he has never beaten Ohio State. Michigan is still having a decent year, but the optics are pretty brutal after this one.
2. Let’s go back to the Heisman for a moment. Kenny Pickett ticket holders, we’ve got problems. Pitt’s loss to Miami is pretty much a deathblow to our hopes. While I won’t incinerate my 75/1 ticket yet, we need a lot of help. The good news? He threw for 519 yards and three touchdowns. The bad? He threw two interceptions and lost as a nine-point favorite at home. Not good.
3. Cincinnati is flirting with chaos. Although the Bearcats are 8-0, the last couple of weeks have not exactly helped the College Football Playoff resume. After struggling against Navy as a 29-point favorite, Cincinnati was sluggish against one-win Tulane as a 28-point favorite. While the Bearcats won by 19, it wasn’t dominant. And after being so good against the spread (and overall) early on, these are the kinds of performances that can hurt in the coming weeks. I am fascinated to see where the College Football Playoff selection committee has Cincinnati ranked this week and beyond.
4. Speaking of, what a hilarious and meaningless exercise it is to release playoff rankings right now. The selection committee will give us their first Top 25 on Tuesday night, which means absolutely nothing. In fact, let’s just be honest. This entire practice is a way for ESPN to manufacture excitement for the playoff and sell ads. I don’t hate the hustle; in fact, I appreciate it. But just keep that in mind when you are really mad about something when these are released for the next month.
5. The ending of Clemson-Florida State delivered an all-time gambling moment. While shocking, you could still see it developing as the Seminoles attempted last-second tomfoolery pitches down four points. Not only did Clemson’s defensive touchdown with no time left give the Tigers the cover, it also changed the total. Clemson closed as a 9.5-point favorite; the total closed at 47.5. Final score: 30 to 20. Sometimes, gambling is cruel, rewarding and weird. It depends on what side you had.
The Buffet: The Five Best Games of the Weekend
1. No. 13 Texas A&M (-5, 50.5) vs. No. 12 Auburn
About six weeks ago, I’m not sure we had this game circled. But now? It’s immensely compelling, and Auburn and Texas A&M are two of the hottest teams in the sport. Auburn upended Ole Miss in Week 9, winning by 11 and covering the three-point spread. The Aggies were off on Saturday, although they have won three consecutive games (and covered the number in all three). This will be a fascinating test for Auburn QB Bo Nix, who has really improved over the course of the season. Texas A&M has the nation’s fourth-ranked scoring defense, which will likely make life more difficult on a QB who really thrives off script. Auburn is no slouch in the defensive department either, and I could see this game being competitive and lower scoring. I don’t particularly love betting unders, but I might here.
2. No. 5 Michigan State (-3, 54) at Purdue
It’s shocking how real the hangover potential feels in this game. All of the ingredients are nicely in place. Michigan State is coming off a spectacular win over its rival. Sparty closed as a four-point favorite, fell behind two scores and still managed to pull off a win over Jim Harbaugh. Purdue closed as 7.5-point underdog to Nebraska, although the Boilermakers won 28-23. Purdue, of course, already beat Iowa this year when the Hawkeyes were ranked No. 2. In fact, they have assumed this role quite nicely in recent memory. While we should absolutely respect the Spartans after last week, I can’t say an upset would surprise in the least. This is a weird team and weird place to play at just the right time.
3. Arkansas (-5, 56.5) vs. Mississippi State
Mike Leach has a fascinating football team, and we saw the potential against Kentucky on Saturday. His quarterback, Will Rogers, completed an absurd 36-of-39 passes, and the Bulldogs cruised as a short underdog. Heck, they even ran the ball pretty well, which they rarely do. They have now covered in three of the past four games, although this will certainly be a pretty intriguing test. Arkansas comes into this week off a bye, and the Hogs will likely be up for this. They’re 4-1 ATS in home games this year, and this point spread speaks to the kind of team Arkansas still is despite the losses. Although neither team is ranked, the winner likely will be after this.
4. North Carolina (-2, 76) vs. No. 10 Wake Forest
At this point, it’s feeling routine to see teams ranked near or inside the top 10 getting points. We saw it with Iowa against Wisconsin last week, and the end result was a Badgers blowout. Now, unbeaten Wake Forest, which is ranked in the top 10 for the first time ever, is catching a few points at North Carolina in a game that could very well break the scoreboard. The Tar Heels have not covered the spread in four of the past five games, and they were unable to cover the 3.5-point number against Notre Dame last week. (Although they were close.) The Demon Deacons just manhandled Duke, and the offense has scored at least 35 points in every game this year. The issue? The schedule hasn’t been great. I love the season, although I’m just keeping it real. This could be a wild game, and I lean UNC.
5. Kentucky (-4, 60.5) vs. Tennessee
I could have picked a number of games to round out the top five, although I settled on one that could be a great deal of fun. Also, stylistically I am intrigued to see how these two offenses, which are very different, match up. The Wildcats were unable to muster up much against Mississippi State, as mentioned above. Given how good they have been against the spread this year, this was a rarity. Tennessee, which had a bye last week, has not covered the spread in the past two games. The Vols put up a valiant fight against Alabama early in Week 8, although the Tide’s offense eventually overwhelmed. Tennessee must have loved to see Mississippi State’s game plan last week, and the Vols are likely to test this secondary once again.
Last Call: Parting Shots on Other Games of Note
No. 3 Alabama (-28, 64.5) vs. LSU: I was at this game in 2019, the year Joe Burrow took college football by storm. That feels like a long, long time ago. How ugly will it get?
No. 7 Oregon (-6.5, 51) at Washington: It’s a tough game to play; this much we know. If Washington can just muster up enough offense, this could be an upset to keep an eye on.
No. 6 Ohio State (-15, 64) at Nebraska: I bet Nebraska last week against Purdue. That was a very bad decision. If Scott Frost has one last stand remaining, it probably has to happen here. That said, I just don’t see it.