Kalen Ballage has opportunity to ramp up Heisman campaign

With two bad defenses on the horizon, Ballage can propel himself into the award's conversation.

If you somehow haven't heard, Arizona State junior running back Kalen Ballage had quite a game on Saturday night.

He scored a whopping eight touchdowns against Texas Tech and set a Pac-12 record that tied a national record.

With his amazing performance, Ballage garnered national attention and even drew in some Heisman attention.

I know it sounds strange, but believe it folks — the Kalen Ballage Heisman train has already left the station.

Yeah, it's only two weeks into the season, but a breakout game like that is a perfect springboard for him to become more than just a fringe candidate.

Eight-touchdown games like that don't come around often, as it's only happened one other time, so it's not out of the realm of possibility for Ballage to get some Heisman hype.

Moreover, the upcoming schedule for ASU features less-than-stellar defenses that he could take advantage of and produce big rushing numbers.

This Friday, when the Sun Devils go on the road to face University of Texas San Antonio, provides the perfect opportunity for Ballage to his campaign.  

The UTSA Roadrunners (1-1) should not be much trouble for the Sun Devils (2-0) as a whole, so it will be interesting to see how this spotlighted running back is featured.

Last weekend, he scored six of his eight touchdowns in the direct snap "Sparky" formation. If ASU offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey continues to use that formation, there will be a much higher chance of Ballage scoring touchdowns in goal line situations.

UTSA is a lower-tier team with a defense that won't be able to compete in the trenches with the Sun Devils, which means he shouldn't have any trouble adding on to the momentum that was created against TTU.

On Friday, the UTSA game will be nationally televised on ESPN2 at 6:30 p.m. — 9:30 ET — providing a chance to many Eastern Time Zone voters to be exposed to Ballage, which is crucial especially following his nationally broadcasted extraordinary performance last weekend. 

Let's be real, there's no way that a majority of East Coast Heisman voters stayed up until 2 a.m. to watch his eight touchdown game. They just didn't.

That's probably the main reason Stanford's Christian McCaffrey didn't win the Heisman last year. His games started at 7:30 p.m. PT, so they were played in the middle of night on the East Coast. The eventual winner, Derrick Henry of Alabama, played most of his games during East Coast primetime, giving more people a chance to watch him play.

If ASU and TTU played during the afternoon in Tempe, then more of the country would have seen his game, and he'd be even more talked about.

Nonetheless, this Friday Ballage will reach a much larger, national audience, giving him the opportunity to impress more Heisman votes.

Luckily for him, UTSA is not the last game to potentially put up video game numbers. 

Another opportunity to boost his Heisman hopes will present itself when the Cal Golden Bears roll into Tempe on Sept. 24.

Although it will be a late start, Ballage and the Sun Devils should be able to feast on a porous Cal rushing defense that ranks fifth-worst in the nation and has allowed 6.8 yards per carry.

Last weekend, Cal gave a up a miserable 281 rushing yards to San Diego State running back Donnell Pumphrey, a Heisman candidate.

One would think that if Cal had trouble dealing with Pumphrey and the SDSU running game, then they'll probably have even more trouble containing Ballage.

At this point if you're Ballage, you have to be licking your chops when you look at the upcoming schedule. Both UTSA and Cal have below average defenses that he could run wild on.

Furthermore, if he runs well in the next two weeks, he'll get two games against USC and UCLA to start off the month of October. Those games will have Pac-12 South implications and, to gain ground in the Heisman race, it's imperative he performs well against those big time opponents.

Right now, Ballage is a fringe Heisman candidate who just jumped onto the national footprint with a record-breaking performance. If he follows up his pervious Texas Tech showing with remarkable games against UTSA and Cal, he will be in the thick of the Heisman contenders as the Sun Devils' schedule shifts towards the meat of the Pac-12.

Reach the columnist at mpharri7@asu.edu or follow @Harris_Mark7 on Twitter.

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