Heisman lists can't overlook Cody

Cody Kessler is in the USC Heisman QB tradition when it comes to the listing of the 2015 favorites.

There really should be no downside to Heisman hype. Pete Carroll always got that.

Pete knew you can't win a Heisman without the team having a heck of a season. Check out Pete's three -- and USC's most three -- recent Heisman winners in four years. And for historical accuracy purposes, Reggie Bush did win a Heisman in 2005. But the final accounting for USC those three years for Reggie, Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart was a 36-3 won-loss record.

And two national titles. So let the hype hit for Cody Kessler, as it has unsurprisingly for those who know how college football works for a top veteran Trojan quarterback. Especially when he's back for a third season and is the lone quarterback in the nation with more than 400 passes thrown and just five interceptions in 2014.

Stuff like that matters. Especially when people are putting together their Heisman projections. Of the 12 college football sites that have put out their leading candidates for 2015, only three have Cody outside the top five. None lower than No. 9. And one has him as high as No. 3.

Coming along after Palmer and Leinart, and then setting the USC single season record for completions -- 315, completion percentage -- 69.7, passing efficiency -- 167.1, interception rate -- 1.1, touchdown passes -- 39 (tied) and 300-yard passing games -- 7 (tied) matters.

And yet as the National Football Post concluded in tabbing Cody No. 6 on its preseason list: "He may have had the best under-the-radar season of any USC quarterback in program history, as he passed for more than 3,500 yards and 39 touchdowns. He will have a chance to be the best candidate of any West Coast player because he should put up big numbers in his second season under Steve Sarkisian."

So it's a combo of history -- Cody's and USC's -- and a look at the future with a USC offense returning starters at nine positions.

And it's pretty much consistent through the dozen projections. We'll excerpt their reasoning here starting with Bleacher Report's list: "Depending on who returns to college next season, the list of front-runners will be obvious. Trevone Boykin at TCU. Dak Prescott at Mississippi State. Cody Kessler at USC. J.T. Barrett and/or Braxton Miller at Ohio State. Samaje Perine at Oklahoma. Nick Chubb at Georgia. Leonard Fournette at LSU."

And that list came out before the playoff performance of Cardale Jones. Add him in as an OSU trifecta: Whoever gets the job could get the nod.

SBNation and Athlon Sports both have Cody at No. 4. Here's how Athlon calls it: "Generally, quarterbacks win the Heisman Trophy. In fact, only twice since Ron Dayne in 1999 has a non-quarterback (aka, running back) won the Heisman Trophy (Reggie Bush, Mark Ingram). Of those 13 signal-callers, nine of them played in the national championship game in the same year. Odds are, the '15 Heisman winner will be in this category."

USC fans can only hope this holds for Cody. Athlon puts it this way: "The USC passer quietly posted one of the best seasons in college football and did it surrounded by freshmen and injuries. He plays a premium position at a school known for producing Heisman winners and Trojans could be a playoff team and Pac-12 frontrunner.

Here's the amazing assessment of SBNation: "There are few roles better built for success than the starting quarterback for the Southern California Trojans. In just the last 12 years, Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart have taken home the Heisman, and Matt Barkley finished sixth in 2011. Kessler may be the most talented of them all. He was fourth nationally in passing efficiency and sits at 39 touchdowns to just five interceptions. The jury's out on whether Steve Sarkisian can lead a team to its highest goals, and until the Trojans compete for the Pac-12 title, Kessler's a fringe contender. At the same time, the talent is there for a run, especially with Mariota's departure."

Fox Sports, USA TODAY and 247 have Cody at No. 5: Here's Fox's take: "At 69.7, his completion percentage this season is better than Mariota's (68.3) and leads all QBs who threw for 3,500 or more yards . . . His total numbers are actually better than what Matt Leinart (3,322 yards and 33 scores) had in his Heisman-winning season . . . USC may have a shot at once again (post Bush's win being vacated) equalling Notre Dame and Ohio State's record of seven Heismans."

USA TODAY said: "Lost in Mariota's shadow, Kessler put together a spectacular season under first-year USC coach Steve Sarkisian. Like [TCU's Trevone] Boykin, he'll enter his senior season even more familiar with the new system. Also, consider another advantage: In the preseason, at least, Kessler will be the top Heisman candidate from the West Coast.

From 247, there's this: "Kessler played especially well later in the season and has plenty of talented young receivers to throw to next season. The Trojans are 9-4 right now, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they get to 10 wins next year. A USC quarterback with Kessler’s numbers on a highly ranked team will warrant a lot of Heisman consideration.

The Orlando Sentinel and AL.com have Kessler at No. 8. Here's the Sentinel's take: "Kessler thrived in Steve Sarkisian’s offense in 2014, passing for 3,826 yards and 39 touchdowns. His decision to return in 2015 helps put USC in the hunt for a Pac- 12 title and makes him one of the elder statesmen in the conference this season.

And here's how the Alabama Web site sees it: "[Kessler] quietly threw for 39 touchdowns with only five interceptions as a junior. If the Trojans can work themselves into national contention in 2015, he should enter the conversation."

You can follow me on Twitter at @dweber3440 or email me at weber@uscfootball.com.

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