We’ve now reached that point where a Heisman Watch each week is a requirement. The final month of the regular season is upon us and there is plenty of jockeying for college football’s highest award.
So, through Week 10 here is how I see my Top 5 Heisman hopefuls. Plus, if any contenders have dropped off, I’ll note those at the end. Check out RoadTripSports.com for our updates on the Heisman race.
My Top 5 last week (in case you need a review): 1. RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State; 2. QB J.T. Barrett, Ohio State; 3. QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma; 4. RB Josh Adams, Notre Dame; 5. QB Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State.
Let’s dive in.
Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma. For the first time this season Mayfield is on top of my Heisman update. There are a few of factors here. First, his Sooners are in the race for not only the Big 12 title but also the College Football Playoff. Second, his 598-yard, 5-touchdown showcase in Bedlam reminded everyone just how good Mayfield is. Third Saquon Barkley just hasn’t quite been himself the past few games and Penn State’s two-game losing streak certainly puts a damper on his candidacy. Mayfield is now second in FBS in passing yards (3,226 yards), second in total offense (378 yards per game), tied for third in passing touchdowns and first in passing efficiency. Mayfield and his Sooners have another big game with TCU this Saturday, and if he has another big game against one of the nation’s top defenses, he’ll be a hard candidate to hold down. He isn’t a lock yet in my opinion, but the pieces are there for him to put a stranglehold on this in the coming weeks.
- Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State. Part of Barkley’s appeal has been his ability to do many different things. But at his core he’s a running back, and lately he has not excelled at that part of his game. In his last two games against Ohio State and Michigan State he’s failed to rush for more than 63 yards. He’s had just one 100-yard rushing game in his past five games and his Nittany Lions have lost two straight. Truth is Barkley hasn’t been a huge producer on the ground in Big Ten action (the 211-yard game against Iowa and the 108-yard game against Michigan are his top games), but you could rely on his contributions in other areas. Even those are starting to wane a bit, especially in the pass game, where he has just 16 receptions and 1 touchdown in his last five games. He remains No. 2 in all-purpose yardage (195.67 per game). But he’s No. 48 in the nation in yards per carry (a still-healthy 5.68 yards per carry). He’s also No. 28 in rushing yards (864), No. 31 in rushing yards per game (91.0) and No. 27 in rushing touchdowns. How much you care about that comes down to personal preference, I suppose. But his key function in the Nittany Lion offense is to run the ball and his numbers aren’t moving the needle, nor are they leading to PSU wins. The latter, more than anything, compels me to drop Barkley to No. 2. He has some tasty matchups coming up, but Barkley may be more reliant on Mayfield faltering at this point than his own success. He’s a similar player to Christian McCaffrey at this point, with one key difference — McCaffrey continued to run the football at a high level even as he contributed in other areas. Barkley, the past month, hasn’t.
Bryce Love, RB, Stanford. Love is a beast and a monster in that McCaffrey mold. He is third in the nation in all-purpose yardage (184.38 yards per game), second in yards per carry (9.64), second in total rushing yards (1,456 yards) and first in rushing yards per game (182.0). Oh, and the 12 rushing touchdowns, too. But he has a couple of problems. First, he missed a game due to injury. Second, Stanford has lost three games this season. That keeps Love in the running, but not at the head of the class.
- Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin: At this point, regardless of the team’s schedule, you must respect what Taylor has done. He has six 100-yard rushing games, four against Big Ten teams. Plus, he’s scored 12 rushing touchdowns and is among the Top 5 in rushing yards (1,368 yards). If the Badgers remain undefeated and go to the Big Ten title game there is a chance they could turn over the entire Big Ten race with a win over the East Division champion (which could be Michigan State at this point). If the Badgers get there and win, Taylor will likely be a big reason why, thus keeping him in the hunt. But he has that true freshman thing working against him, much like Adrian Peterson did some years ago when it came to this award. To me it’s the quality of his schedule. It’s just not there like it is for some of the other teams on this list. There’s nothing he can do about that.
- Josh Adams, RB, Notre Dame. Adams remains a part of the race for now, but that 22-yard performance against Wake Forest was unfortunate timing, even if it was tied to health issues (he only played one quarter as head coach Brian Kelly said Adams was “run down”). It ended a streak of four 100-yard rushing games. He has a quality prime-time opportunity against Miami (FL) to make a new statement.
Not out, but in real trouble
Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State: If Mayfield is the primary contender for the Heisman in the Big 12, I don’t see how he can overtake Mayfield right now. OSU has two losses to TCU and to Oklahoma — which conveniently meet this weekend. So, one of those teams will have two losses but the Cowboys don’t have the tiebreaker. But if OSU loses to Iowa State this weekend, the Cowboys basically have no chance of getting to the Big 12 title game. Plus, if OU beats TCU this weekend then Mayfield retains his Heisman lead on Rudolph. Ideally Rudolph needs to have a huge game in a Cowboys win and for Mayfield to have a horrible game in a loss to TCU to stem the tide. Both of those seem unlikely. But since it’s not a given he remains on the outside looking in for one more week.
J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State. Yes, he teased us again. After that huge win over Penn State in which he played one of the best games of his career he laid an egg against Iowa, throwing four interceptions in a 55-24 loss. That will be hard to come back from.
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