ACC Football 2012 Heisman Watch: Week Nine

Don’t Look Now, But UNC’s Giovani Bernard is Flying Up Our List of the ACC’s Top Playmakers

The ACC no longer has a viable national title contender, thus we have no Heisman candidate to speak of, either. So as promised, for the remainder of this season, we’ll now be compiling a watch list for the fictional Chris Weinke Award, to honor the best player in the ACC. These posts will remain under “Heisman Watch” for the purposes of consistency and SEO, however. Have other nominees? Submit your ballots below.

1. Tajh Boyd, QB/Clemson (2,095 total yards, 19 total TD, 6 INT, 67.1 percent completion) (LW: 1)

Boyd and the Clemson offense failed to look all that great against Virginia Tech, but that’s only when compared to their usual standards of individual and collective excellence. Though the junior passer was just 12-for-21 with 160 yards passing, he also managed 27 yards on the ground. His three touchdowns on the day were still well worth praise, too. The accuracy drop under pressure — especially when they had a lead for the large majority of the contest — is still a concern, but no need to extrapolate it out until we see a trend.

2. EJ Manuel, QB/Florida State (2,253 total yards, 15 total TD, 4 INT, 71.5 percent completion) (LW: 2)

EJ Manuel shook off a rocky start against Miami to set up a decisive victory in the fourth quarter, but without a single touchdown directly attributable to him, it’s hard to move him up from second. On the other hand, his passing improved throughout the evening, and once again, he made smart decisions to tuck it and run when necessary. With Chris Thompson now out for the season, we may see the weight of the offense transferred back to Manuel; an interesting development as he tries to improve his team’s title chances and his draft stock, too.

3. Giovani Bernard, RB/North Carolina (1,194 all-purpose yards, 12 TD) (LW: 4)

When taking into account the time he’s missed (2.5 games), Bernard’s numbers stand out even more, and they’re already pretty impressive. And Saturday’s game was more of the same, as he racked up 209 total yards. But it doesn’t even tell the full story. In one of the zanier plays of the weekend, Erik Highsmith‘s late fumble ended up in the hands of Bernard for the touchdown, thanks to the running back’s heads-up play. While the Heels ultimately lost, it was that fumble recovery that put them in position to win with just three minutes to go.

4. DeAndre Hopkins, WR/Clemson (52 catches, 845 yards, 9 TD) (LW: 3)

Hopkins only managed three catches on Saturday, yet he made sure they counted, averaging 22.7 yards per grab, while also snagging a touchdown. As mentioned with Boyd, Clemson’s offense was missing a beat in that contest, and it showed in the production of every playmaker. They’ll all need to rebound if they hope to continue their winning ways to end the year.

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