The Heisman Race Heats up
We're at the halfway point of the 2017 season, and which means we're starting to get some clarity in who's the real deal for the Heisman. There's a long way to go, and plenty could happen. But let's take a look at who's starting to separate themselves as legit contenders from pretenders.
Saquon Barkley, Penn St. He's an amazing athlete, he can hurt you multiple ways: running, catching, returning kickoffs. He may be the best RB in college football. On the downside, his numbers as a rusher just aren't Heisman worthy - at least to this point. He's had two huge games rushing, yes. But 4 of his 6 games he's been held under 100 yards. And while he's 2nd in the nation in all purpose yardage, the man right behind him #3 in all-purpose yardage has nearly twice as many rushing yards as Barkley. There's still time, and the all-purpose yardage is impressive. In addition, few, if any in the game, have turned in as many head-turning, Heisman-type plays to grab headlines. Those Heisman-type moments seem to matter. Barkley remains one of the main contenders.
Bryce Love, Stanford It's finally time for the Stanford speedster to start getting some national attention. All it finally took to earn some respect was back-to-back 250+ yard games, accumulating the 4th most rushing yards through 5 games in FBS history. After his 300+ yard effort against ASU, coach David Shaw, who's not prone to exaggeration, and who recently coached Heisman runner-up & FBS single-season all-purpose yardage leader Christian McCaffrey, said of his performance, "I've never seen anything like that. Ever. It was unbelievable." Love should also get extra credit for putting up 152 yards on the road against one of the better run defenses in the country in Utah. He's now averaging 10.5 yards per carry through 6 games. He's also put up 8 straight games of 100+ rushing yards dating back to last season.
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma Yes, the Sooners were upset by Iowa St. But all is not lost for Baker Mayfield and Oklahoma. If the Sooners win out, they'll likely be in the thick of the CFB Playoff, especially with likely 3 more games against top 25 teams to come, and the return of the Big 12 Championship Game. In defeat, Mayfield still put up impressive numbers, going 24-33 for 306 yds, and 2 TD's. On the season, he's completing over 74% of his passes - best in the FBS. He also leads the nation in passing efficiency, with his 15 TD's to 0 INT's ... that's beyond impressive. Let's also not forget the Sooners have the most impressive road win of the season - that win in Columbus where Mayfield went 27-35 for 386 yards and 3 TD's. That effort, complete with his flag planting on the Ohio St. "O" as an exclamation point, remains one the most memorable performances we've seen this season.
Luke Falk, Washington State Why is no one talking about Washington St. QB Luke Falk? While all the preseason hype centered on PAC-12 QB's Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen, it's Falk who leads the nation in passing TD's (although Rosen is right behind him with one fewer game played because of a bye week). He's also one of only 3 QB's in the FBS to eclipse 2000 passing yards, and oh yeah - the Cougs just upset USC and remain undefeated, ranked 8th in the country. Falk's 71.8 completion percentage is tied for 3rd-best in the country, and perhaps even more impressive is his TD/INT rate of 19/2. The downside - WSU's final 3 games are tough. Really tough. They close against Stanford, @ Utah, and @ Washington. If Falk puts up similarly impressive numbers through that gauntlet, he'll be headed to New York.
Lamar Jackson, Louisville There will not be a repeat Heisman winner this season. It has nothing to do with Lamar Jackson's production - in fact his completion percentage is better than last year, and he's throwing for 331.7 yds/game compared to 272.5 last year. But that increase in passing yardage may be part of the problem. Jackson is throwing more, and running less - helping his future at the next level, but hurting his chances for a Heisman repeat. Staying in the pocket to deliver more throws equals less Heisman highlight reel plays. After Jackson struggled against Clemson, and a 2nd loss to N.C. State, it would take herculean numbers to put him back in the running, especially with no big hitters left on Louisville's schedule to impress voters.