So here we are moving into November, the final month of the regular season of college football. When I last checked in on the Heisman race in early October it seemed Penn State running back Saquon Barkley was the clear favorite to win the trophy.
But what about now? That’s what I’ll try to explore in the next several hundred words. From my perspective, there are seven legitimate candidates left. Now, I’ll still provide my Top 5, but I’ll also give you short bios on the two players I feel still have a shot. As for the rest? Well, they’ve fallen off the radar for various reasons.
These are my Top 5 players if the season ended today. Check out RoadTripSports.com for our updates on the Heisman race.
My Top 5 after Month 1 (in case you need a review): 1. RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State; 2. QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma; 3. QB Lamar Jackson, Louisville; 4. QB Luke Falk, Washington State; 5. RB Bryce Love, Stanford.
Let’s dive in.
1. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State. Barkley’s spotlight has dimmed a bit since our last article, and the gap between him and the rest of the field is certainly closing. But, despite his team’s loss to Ohio State last weekend, Barkley remains the nation’s leader in all-purpose yardage at 206.5 yards per game. He doesn’t lead the nation in any one category, but he’s been the driving force behind Penn State’s 7-1 start. He has scored touchdowns rushing, receiving, passing and returning. Against Ohio State he rushed for 44 yards and a touchdown, along with returning the game’s opening kickoff for a score. So he didn’t have a great game, but Ohio State’s defense also came up big after Barkley made his early statement. He has games remaining against Michigan State, Rutgers, Nebraska and Maryland. So, there are opportunities to rack up big numbers as the season concludes. What he likely won’t have is that early December showcase to make one final statement, unless Ohio State completely falls apart. The path still exists for Barkley to win the award, and I don’t think voters are going to forget what he’s done to this point. But to maintain that edge, he’ll need to be near-perfect down the stretch.
2. J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State. Ok, so it seems like Barrett has been a part of the Heisman discussion for years to no avail. In fact, Barrett wasn’t even in my preseason Top 25 because, frankly, I hadn’t seen improvement from him. Well, this year he’s been on a slow burn statistically but against Penn State it built to a critical mass. Barrett threw for 328 yards and 4 touchdowns, along with rushing for 95 yards in the victory over Penn State. Barrett’s play down the stretch fueled that comeback. But there is more to it. Barrett is on his way to having his finest overall statistical season. He’s thrown for 2,166 yards, 21 touchdowns and an amazing 1 interception. He’s been an effective piece of Ohio State’s running attack with 454 yards and 5 touchdowns. He’s been consistent all season. He just hasn’t been hugely productive until the past two to three games. That bodes well for the stretch run, which includes games against Iowa, Michigan State, Illinois and Michigan. Barrett’s final four games look a little tougher than Barkley’s, but he and the Buckeyes control their own destiny when it comes to the Big Ten title game, and that could eventually give Barrett a leg up. But not quite yet. The Spartans have been their kryptonite lately and Michigan won’t be an easy out, even as average as the Wolverines are playing right now. Survive that stretch and Barrett has a real chance to overtake Barkley at the tape.
3. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma. I’m still a believer in Mayfield’s shot at winning this award, and the next big hurdle comes this weekend against Oklahoma State. In fact, it’s a “Heisman Eliminator” game (I’ll explain in a bit). Mayfield and the Sooners received a gift this past weekend — a TCU loss. It puts the Sooners further in control of their own destiny when it comes to reaching the Big 12 title game and their outside shot at reaching the College Football Playoff (remember that the Sooners are the team that beat Ohio State, if you need a reason why they have an outside chance). OU also has a pretty tough road the final month, but with wins over Oklahoma State, TCU, Kansas and West Virginia that would lead the Sooners to the Big 12 title game, perhaps against the team that dealt their one loss to them — Iowa State. If the Sooners get that far Mayfield is going to be a huge part of that run. With 2,628 yards, 25 touchdowns and 3 interceptions, along with 190 yards rushing and 4 touchdowns, Mayfield has a penchant for big plays in big moments, and the next two weeks should provide him with opportunities to remind voters of that ability. But failing to reach the Big 12 title game at this point would probably mean the end of Mayfield’s candidacy, as would a loss this weekend.
4. Josh Adams, RB, Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish have emerged as a legitimate College Football Playoff candidate and Adams has been the driving force. He’s rushed for 1,169 yards and 9 touchdowns so far this season. That puts him among the Top 5 in the nation. He’s also, sneakily, among the nation’s Top 10 producers in all-purpose yardage per game (156.38 yards per game). The Irish are 2-1 against ranked teams, and that one loss is to No. 2 Georgia by a point. Two ranked teams loom ahead in Miami (FL) and Stanford. There is plenty of opportunity for Adams to improve his standing among voters and improve the Irish’s chances of reaching the CFP.
5. Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State: Remember that “Heisman Eliminator” game? Here’s the other half of the equation. Rudolph is having one of the best seasons of any quarterback in the game. In fact, he’s No. 2 in the nation in total offense per game (366.0 yards per game), leads the nation in passing yards (2,866 yards) and has just five interceptions. He’s the biggest reason the Cowboys are still in the race for the Big 12, but that legitimacy faces its biggest test when it hosts Oklahoma this week, as does Rudolph’s chances of becoming a Heisman voting favorite. He has the numbers. But he doesn’t have Mayfield’s profile. With a win on Saturday that changes. With a loss on Saturday that chance goes away.
The other two legitimate contenders
These two players are still, to me, legit Heisman contenders. But they’re outside my Top 5 and need some help.
Bryce Love, RB, Stanford. Part of my Top 5 a month ago, Love is still No. 2 in the nation in all-purpose yardage (200.86 yards per game), but doesn’t have Barkley’s versatility. He’s the nation’s leading rusher by yardage (1,387 yards). He can make his statement down the stretch as the Cardinal sets out to make the Pac-12 title game. Wins over Washington, Washington State and Cal would allow the Cardinal to get there. Plus, there’s the finale with Notre Dame. No one player on this list has a tougher final month than Love, and that’s part of the reason he’s not in my Top 5.
RB Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin: No. 4 in the nation in rushing yards with 1,185 yards and 11 touchdowns. He suffers under the weight of Wisconsin’s weak schedule, but what if the Badgers go 13-0, which means a win in the Big Ten title game? And what if Taylor is the reason? Things could get interesting. But he needs some help.
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