We are three weeks away from knowing who the Heisman Trophy finalists are. We have two more weeks of regular season games and a final week of conference championship games. So here are my Top 10 Heisman hopefuls as we enter Week 12 of the season.
My Top 5 last week (in case you need a review): 1. QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma; 2. RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State; 3. RB Bryce Love, Stanford; 4. RB Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin; 5. RB Josh Adams, Notre Dame.
Let’s dive in.
1. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma. I was in Norman, Oklahoma, for the Sooners’ 38-20 win over TCU. Mayfield ended up with 333 yards passing and 3 touchdowns, along with 50 yards rushing. Now, running back Rodney Anderson was the star in this game (and file that name away for next year), but this is Mayfield’s team. The Sooners are riding a wave of momentum and, assuming they win out they’ll represent the Big 12 in the College Football Playoff (or at least I believe they will at 12-1 and as Big 12 champions). If so, Mayfield will be the biggest reason why. He’s the best candidate among teams that are legitimate CFP contenders for the Heisman, which is why he tops the list.
2. Bryce Love, RB, Stanford. Love is the best running back in college football. Saquon Barkley may be able to do more things, but Love is the best running back. And he has the numbers to back it up. Love now has 1,622 yards and 15 touchdowns after rushing for 166 yards and 3 touchdowns against Washington last Friday night. It was a nice showcase game for Love (if you were watching). Love has two problems. First, there’s the fact that Stanford is not a national title contender. Second, he’s limited to being a running back, unlike his predecessor, Christian McCaffrey, who had value in the passing game and return game. In all honesty, it’s the first part — Mayfield — that is going to hold Love back more than the second.
3. Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin: I really went back and forth on Taylor and Saquon Barkley at No. 3. But the fact is Taylor is the better back right now. Taylor’s 157-yard performance against Iowa last weekend was his seventh game of 100 yards or more rushing. He faces the same issues Love does and he doesn’t have Barkley’s value in the receiving and return game. But since Barkley’s value in this race is waning, Taylor moves into the Top 3. I’m not sure he’s an NYC invitee just yet. But he’s closing in.
4. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State. I think at this point voters are going to remember the hot start that Barkley had to the season, but his slow finish to this season is going to keep him from winning the hardware. Against Rutgers he rushed for just 35 yards, but scored twice. It was his third sub-100-yard rushing game in a row. Plus, he was no factor in the passing or return game. He’s in danger of falling out of being a finalist entirely.
5. Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State: Rudolph is not a threat to usurp Mayfield at this point, but he can spoil the party if the pair tangle again in the Big 12 title game. Rudolph is one of the game’s top quarterbacks, has 30 touchdown passes this season and is closing in on 3,000 yards for the season. He’s also one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the college game. Votes for Rudolph might feel like a nod to a great career, but as I try to fill out a Top 5 he feels like the most likely choice at this point.
Not out, but in real trouble
Josh Adams, RB, Notre Dame. Two straight sub-100-yard games have put Adams on the outside looking in.
J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State. Ohio State had a great game against Michigan State, but Barrett threw two interceptions in addition to two touchdowns. If he gets votes at this point it will be a nod to a fine college career.
Will Grier, QB, West Virginia. Grier isn’t going to win this award. But with 3,440 yards and 35 touchdowns it’s time to acknowledge that he could end up becoming a Top 5 performer by season’s end — and he’s a nice name to file away for 2018.
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