Derek Carr: Best in the West?

William Mancebo

It's been roughly three weeks since Fresno State launched a Heisman campaign for its star quarterback. How does he stack up against other regional hopefuls?

Six weeks into the 2013 season, everything has gone according to plan in the Central Valley. The Bulldogs are undefeated, nationally ranked and possess the Milk Can Trophy for the first time in eight years. Senior quarterback Derek Carr has deservedly received a fair share of attention for his eye-popping numbers thus far, and the university has propped him up as a Heisman dark horse in order to capitalize on the attention it has received.

The question still remains, though: Will the campaign add up to an invitation to New York?

No one will know for sure until the regular season is over, but with Fresno State on a bye this Saturday, it may perhaps be worthwhile to examine just how well Carr stacks up against the West's other Heisman hopefuls thus far. I decided to utilize Bovada's Heisman odds to determine the field and (with apologies to DeAnthony Thomas) will focus exclusively on the listed quarterbacks from the Mountain and Pacific time zones: Marcus Mariota, Brett Hundley and Kevin Hogan.

Att Comp Pass% Pass Yds Rush Yds TD TO Rating YPG
Derek Carr 259 183 70.7 1864 58 20 4 152.23 384.4
Kevin Hogan 107 67 62.6 937 127 12 5 162.62 212.8
Brett Hundley 119 78 65.5 1059 242 12 4 158.54 325.2
Marcus Mariota 134 76 56.7 1358 338 21 0 176.33 339.2

Two things stand out in this table of standard counting statistics. First, Hogan's passing numbers are dwarfed by the other three because Stanford's offense has been surprisingly pedestrian thus far, despite a handful of comfortable wins and a big victory over Washington last weekend. Second, the fact that Mariota has yet to turn the ball over is a surprising development. It is worth noting, however, that his completion percentage has dropped roughly 12 points from last season and he has yet to see the field in the fourth quarter thus far in 2013. Oregon's offense has been that good. Bettors don't seem to mind these developments so much, either, since he is currently the frontrunner for the award.

Carr's numbers are boosted by a healthy volume of screen passes, but he is the only quarterback of the four to have accumulated substantial numbers late in games. This was most evident in his late drives against Rutgers and Boise State, and the argument can be made that he may also be the only quarterback with real Heisman moments thus far. Brett Hundley's scintillating second half against the Nebraska Cornhuskers aside, the Bruins, Cardinal and Ducks have played just two games in which the opposition was within one touchdown.

The biggest challenges for Carr are mostly tied to the schedule disparity between Fresno and its Pac-12 neighbors. Not only are the Bulldogs ranked lower in the national polls, they are also substantially lower in more sophisicated measures like the Sagarin rankings and don't face a single opponent who currently ranks above 75th. It will take a conference championship and consistent prolific numbers to have a chance, and at Carr's current pace that will look like this:

Att Comp Pass% Pass Yds Rush Yds TD TO YPG
Derek Carr 622 439 70.6 4474 139 48 10 384.4

With regards to passing yards per game, only Case Keenum and Graham Harrell in recent years met the benchmark that Carr is currently sitting upon, and neither got into the Downtown Athletic Club. Colt Brennan earned a Heisman invite in 2007 with a similar stat sheet and a Sugar Bowl berth, and he is probably Carr's best comparison at this point. He will need a truly historic season, in other words, to be a serious candidate.

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