ACC Football 2012 Heisman Watch: Week Four

Clemson Quarterback EJ Manuel Put in Yet Another Big Performance, Vaulting Him Back Into the Heisman Watch’s Top Spot

What appears below is a quasi-realistic (read: crapshoot) view of which ACC players could potentially win the sport’s highest honor, the Heisman trophy. We’re looking at these players with the typical lens — winning team, team’s best player, signature moment (TBD) and statistical excellence. And if every player in the ACC completely drops out of the running, then this turns into the Weinke award (after the conference’s most recent Heisman winner, Chris Weinke)…

1. Tajh Boyd, QB/Clemson (822 total yards, 6 passing TD, 1 INT, 73.3 percent completion) (LW: 3)

Boyd once again leads one of the country’s best offensive attacks, and this year, he’s doing it with improved accuracy and decision-making. The junior quarterback’s numbers may not reach the gaudy heights they did early in 2011, but he’s not taking unnecessary risks either. That may change a bit as his top target gets back into to full speed, though. He’ll also be tested thoroughly once ACC play is in full swing, and it’s likely he’ll be involved in much closer contests as well, meaning he won’t be pulled early (as he has been).

2. EJ Manuel, QB/Florida State (611 total yards, 7 total TD, 1 INT, 71.2 percent completion) (LW: NR)

Competition and lack of extended playing time have hurt Manuel up to now (he’s only thrown 59 passes over three games), but that all changes starting this week against Clemson. Previously, the ‘Noles have opened with a strong dose of Manuel, and with the advantage of a very effective rushing attack, have benched the starters by halftime. Win or lose, the high-powered Tigers offense is unlikely to extend them the same luxury this Saturday, meaning Manuel should see more snaps. If he comes up big, we may just see another shift at the top of this list as well.

3. Ryan Nassib, QB/Syracuse (1,201 total yards, 10 total TD, 3 INT, 66 percent completion) (LW: 2)

Nassib picked up his first win this season after yet another big performance last week against the Stony Brook Seawolves. Throwing just 35 passes (low for him, anyway), the senior still racked up 335 yards and three scores. The chemistry he’s developed with homerun target Marcus Sales is paying huge dividends, and it’s opening up his other receivers for wide-open looks in every part of the field. Syracuse may very well be a .500 team this year, but it’s hard to argue those losses are due to Nassib.

4. Sammy Watkins, WR/Clemson (119 all-purpose yards, 1 TD) (LW: NR)

Watkins will get his stage to create a masterpiece on Saturday — the chance to put up an enormous game against one of the nation’s best defenses. You saw that explosiveness come right back last weekend, but now, the transition period’s over. This list wouldn’t be complete without one of the game’s most exciting players, and that’s why Watkins appears here after just one contest. We’re giving him points for projected returns, but I’d be shocked if he fails to reach those high standards.

5. Duke Johnson, RB/Miami (643 all-purpose yards, 6 TD) (LW: NR)

His team may not look all that great, but freshman Duke Johnson is well on his way to being a star for the Hurricanes. He’s averaging two TDs and 214 yards per game — and just one of those contests was against a slouch opponent (last week versus Bethune-Cookman). Will Georgia Tech‘s defense manage a gameplan to stop him? So far, it’s been a tall order; one only facilitated by a large, early lead.

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