Heisman Watch: Nix closes on Penix just as Oregon shadows Washington

Oregon and its quarterback are well positioned for success down the stretch.

Welcome to our weekly look at the Pac-12’s leading Heisman Trophy candidates via an assessment of the top players in the conference. Consider this one Heisman voter’s view of the landscape. The rankings are based on individual performance, value to the team and quality of competition. And yes, we consider defensive players.

One notable aspect of Oregon quarterback Bo Nix’s pursuit of the Heisman Trophy is how closely it tracks the Ducks’ quest for the Pac-12 title and potential berth in the College Football Playoff.

Early-season attention but not the favorite.

High-quality play on a weekly basis.

A strong showing in Washington, but not quite enough.

November momentum and post-Washington dominance.

That trajectory describes Nix’s individual performance as well as Oregon’s overall performance. And, with three weeks left in the regular season, both player and team are in prime position to achieve their objectives.

The Ducks trail Washington by one game and would clinch a spot in the Pac-12 championship game if they won their final three games (USC, Arizona State, and Oregon State). Meanwhile, Nix trails Huskies quarterback Michael Penix Jr. by a half-step in the Heisman Trophy race.

Penix is still the betting favorite at 1.5-to-1, according to the most recent BetMGM odds, while Nix is 2-to-1 after a stellar performance against Cal. (He was 6-to-1 last week and 30-to-1 in late October.)

In other words, Nix and the Ducks are within striking distance of capturing both the Pac-12 title and the Heisman Trophy from their Seattle rivals in the Pac-12 championship game on December 1st.

Our most recent Heisman Trophy Watch…

1. Washington QB Michael Penix Jr.

Last week: 1

Key stats: 355.7 yards per game, 9.9 yards per attempt, 26 touchdowns

Comment: Penix (256 yards passing) was second fiddle to tailback Dillon Johnson (256 yards rushing) in the USC victory. The result, however, dropped the Trojans out of the Pac-12 title race, knocked Caleb Williams out of the Heisman race, and did nothing to undermine Penix’s position.

2. Oregon QB Bo Nix

Last week: 2

Key stats: 78.1% completion, 180.1 efficiency rating, 25 touchdowns

Comment: When a well-thrown ball bounced off the hands of receiver Tez Johnson, Nix was credited with an interception. So, if we’re being honest, he only has one pick this season. The efficiency is simply astounding.

3. USC QB Caleb Williams

Last week: 3

Key stats: 175.9 efficiency rating, 9.5 yards per attempt, 28 touchdowns

Comment: Williams’ key statistics (completion percentage, yards per attempt, and efficiency) have improved year over year, but his Heisman campaign has slowed. Such are the dangers that reigning champions face in their attempts to repeat: The bar for success has been raised.

4. Arizona QB Noah Fifita

Last week: 5

Key stats: 76.2% completion, 164 efficiency rating, 14 touchdowns

Comment: Fifita’s numbers are exceptional for a freshman, especially considering he was a backup for the first month. Consider that he scores one touchdown every 13.5 passes attempted, whereas Penix scores one touchdown every 12.5 attempts.

5. Colorado QB Shedeur Sanders

Last week: 4

Key stats: 320.2 yards per game, 70.1% completion, 24 touchdowns

Comment: The most telling statistic of all is 46 sacks allowed by Colorado through nine games (by far the most in the Power Five). Sanders has performed admirably in the face of constant defensive pressure and the absence of an effective running game.

6. Oregon WR Troy Franklin

Last week: 6

Key stats: 105.1 yards per game, 16.3 yards per catch, 10 touchdowns

Comment: Franklin had only six catches and one touchdown in the rout of Cal, and he was overshadowed by fellow receiver Tez Johnson. But he remains the conference’s toughest matchup and the focus of every opponent’s attention.

Also considered (alphabetically): Arizona State WR Elijhah Badger, OSU LB Andrew Chatfield, Arizona WR Jacob Cowing, Oregon DL Brandon Dorlus, Utah DE Jonah Elliss, OSU OL Taliese Fuaga and Joshua Gray, Stanford K Joshua Karty, UCLA Edge Laiatu Latu, Arizona LB Jacob Manu, OSU TB Damien Martinez, Arizona WR Tetairoa McMillan, Washington WR Rome Odunze and Cal TB Jaydn Ott

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