The Heisman Trophy has become more of a quarterback-driven award with the amount of numbers put up by college offenses at a breakneck pace.
But Mike Gundy may find himself not only as a teammate of a Heisman-winning running back in Barry Sanders, but the coach of one.
Oklahoma State has ramped up its Heisman hopeful campaign for running back Chuba Hubbard over the past several weeks, and the redshirt sophomore has been doing his best on the field to try to get his name into the mix for the trophy awarded to college football’s most outstanding player.
“The good thing is, I don’t even have to make a case for him, I think he’s done it for himself,” Gundy said Tuesday. “He’s done it over and over and over. … What he’s done up to this point, and if good Lord willing he stays healthy and keeps going, he’s going to have some good numbers. …
“I don’t think we have to do much promoting him at all. I think the country is pretty aware of how impressive he is, and what kind of year he’s had.”
Hubbard is currently on pace to rush for over 2,100 yards in the regular season, which would make him the first Big 12 Conference running back to eclipse that mark since Ricky Williams (2,327 yards) in 1998 – when he won the Heisman at Texas.
That same year, the league’s leading passer was Kansas State’s Michael Bishop with 2,844 yards. Over the past five years, there have been 25 Big 12 quarterbacks to throw for more than that – proving the shift in offensive focal points in the conference. If Hubbard rushes for more than 1,900 yards – which he is just 296 yards shy of doing – he would become just the ninth player in the history of the Big 12 or Big Eight Conference with 1,900 yards rushing in a single season.
He’s rushed for at least 100 yards in each game this season, except for one. He rushed just eight times for 44 yards in the blowout of FCS opponent McNeese – a game some Heisman contenders could use to prop up their numbers.
“He’s been impressive against good teams,” Gundy said. “… I think he’s laid the groundwork himself, and as Mr. (Boone) Pickens used to say, ‘You don’t want to look in the bag yet and see what’s in there.’ So I don’t want to do that.”
Media always speak of a “Heisman moment” that stands the eventual winner out above the rest of the crowd.
And for Gundy, that came this past weekend when Hubbard rushed for 223 yards and two touchdowns against TCU – making him the first running back to ever rush for 200 yards on a team coached by Gary Patterson, who has been in coaching since the early ’80s and been the head man at TCU for 19 years.
His performance against TCU was bolstered by touchdown runs of 92 and 62 yards, maintaining his lead among the country’s top runners for most rushing plays of at least 20, 30, 40, 50, 70 and 80 yards.
“I think TCU was pretty good,” Gundy said. “Coach Patterson is a good friend of mine, and I say this out of respect, there’s never been anybody who has rushed for 200 yards against him and he’s been coaching a long time – and I think that was while he was an assistant, a coordinator and a head coach.
“He’s played against some good backs. … Go back 25 years, and take into account all the running backs that he’s competed against while he was calling plays, and I bet you there are going to be some good ones and nobody’s ever done what Chuba did.”
The odds makers took notice of the TCU game, too.
Following the TCU game, Caeser’s Palace booking odds now has Hubbard with the sixth-best odds of winning the Heisman – moving from a 50-1 odds to 25-1, behind four quarterbacks and a defensive end.
Other running backs who had been in Heisman talks have fallen behind Hubbard.
Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor and Clemson’s Travis Etienne – who had nine carries for 212 yards and two touchdowns against an FCS opponent last weekend – each have 75-1 odds in the Heisman race.