A few days ago, Stepfan Taylor was largely considered a dark horse candidate, at best, for the Heisman Trophy.
What a difference a game can make.
Taylor has rocketed into the early Heisman discussion after his performance in Stanford's win over then-No. 2 Southern California on Saturday. And while he might not quite be up near Geno Smith and De'Anthony Thomas on most Heisman watch lists just yet, Taylor deserves a long look from voters based on his production thus far.
Pac-12 fans, in particular, already know all about Taylor. He was a second-team all-conference selection in 2011 after rushing for 1,330 yards and 10 touchdowns in Stanford's 11-2 season. The year before that, he was honorable-mention all-Pac-12 after rushing for 1,137 yards and 15 TDs in the Cardinal's 12-1 campaign.
Now, Taylor is gaining respect nationally after his performance on Saturday helped put him on the radar.
On Sunday, the senior running back was named the Walter Camp National Offensive Player of the Week after he turned in 213 all-purpose yards and a pair of touchdowns in Stanford's 21-14 win over the Trojans.
In three games, all wins for now-No. 9 Stanford, Taylor has 338 yards and three touchdowns, plus 10 receptions for 89 yards and another TD.
Each of Taylor's touchdowns against USC tied the score: his 59-yard TD run in the first quarter helped Stanford knot it up 7-7, and his 23-yard TD catch from Josh Nunes in the third tied it at 14 and gave the Cardinal momentum to win the game.
He finished with 153 rushing yards--without getting stopped once in the backfield--on 27 carries, and he also caught a team-high five passes for 60 yards.
His totals Saturday bring Taylor's career totals to 3,108 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns, plus 66 receptions for 580 yards and four more touchdowns.
So Taylor has the stats, and now he has a Heisman-esque performance in a big win.
But can he follow in the footsteps of Toby Gerhart and Andrew Luck to give Stanford a Heisman Trophy finalist for the fourth consecutive season?
Absolutely, especially if the Cardinal keep winning.
Stanford's schedule sets up nicely for Taylor to have a real shot at this award. The Cardinal have road games against Washington, Notre Dame, Oregon, and UCLA remaining in the next couple of months, plus a home game against a tough Arizona team the first week of October.
If he performs well in those games, Taylor's Heisman stock should continue to rise--especially if the Cardinal win, make it to the Pac-12 Conference championship game on November 30, and, perhaps, make a BCS bowl game.
In the meantime, the 5-foot-11, 215-pound Taylor is off to a great start. As a result, so is Stanford.
If he can keep it up, we just might have another Cardinal landing at Times Square this December.
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- Heisman Trophy