Before we get started, I just want to apologize for not posting anything the last couple of days. I’ve been getting swamped with midterms and coping with the sudden death of John Dunsworth. Now that that’s out of the way, this is something I originally wanted to do weekly, but I came to the conclusion that it would get REALLY obnoxious if I did that, plus not enough would change week to week that would justify writing new stuff. So instead I’m going to do one at midseason (now) and one more the morning of the trophy presentation. These are my personal rankings, which will reflect my beliefs on the best players in college football and also factor in a little bit of how I think the voters will think (for example, no love for defensive players). If you read my weekly college football picks blog, you probably have a pretty good idea of who my top 2 is going to be. So with that, let’s begin.
5. Lamar Jackson-QB-Louisville
Lamar Jackson is the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and is quietly putting together another fantastic season. He’s completing 60% of his passes for 2322 yards (4th in the nation and leagues beyond his pace from last season) with 16 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. He’s also rushed for 690 yards (15th among all players, 3rd among QBs) on 113 attempts for 10 TDs. He’s up to his usual dominant stats and his passing has actually improved significantly over last season. The main knock on Jackson doesn’t have as much to do with him as it does the fact that his team isn’t winning like it was last year. Louisville currently sits at 4-3 with losses to Clemson, NC State, and Boston College. They also struggled against Purdue and got taken to the limit by a 1-6 North Carolina team. While I am not of the belief that your teammates should have a big impact on your Heisman campaign, history tends to show that the voters think otherwise and that’s going to be the main reason that Jackson doesn’t become the second ever two-time Heisman winner.
4. Jonathan Taylor-RB-Wisconsin
Jonathan Taylor currently sits at 986 yards rushing on 127 carries with 10 touchdowns, both 6th best in the nation. He’s doing this for a Wisconsin team that is just outside of a playoff spot in the rankings (they currently rank 5th) and are looking to win the Big Ten West for the second consecutive year on his back. Oh and did I mention he’s a true freshman? Should Taylor win the Heisman, he will become the first ever true freshman to do so (Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston were redshirt freshmen when they won). Coaches rave about Taylor’s maturity and he was given a lot of responsibility seemingly the moment he set foot on campus. One thing that might deter Heisman voters, however, is his nonexistence in the passing game. He literally has one catch on the season for 17 yards and it came in their most recent game against Purdue. However he will certainly garner votes as he is what makes this Badgers offense go and the fact that he is as young as he is will suggest that he will have a couple more cracks at the trophy in the next couple years or so.
3. Baker Mayfield-QB-Oklahoma
Baker Mayfield finished in third place for the Heisman last season, losing out to Jackson and former Clemson quarterback and current Houston Texans phenom Deshaun Watson. Mayfield may be having an even better season in 2017, which is hard to believe considering the early success he’s had with the Sooners. He’s thrown for 1937 yards with 17 touchdowns and only 1 interception and has an efficiency rating of 207.3, best in the nation while also completing 72.7% of his passes, third best in the nation. He’s led Oklahoma to some big victories, including the infamous flag-planting game against Ohio State and holding off Texas in the Red River Rivalry. The loss to Iowa State is going to hurt, but it wasn’t due to Mayfield. He led the offense to 31 points in that game while throwing for over 300 yards. I still think the Heisman eludes him in his senior season mainly because the next two guys have simply been better, there’s nothing really wrong with Mayfield’s game this season. But a Maxwell is certainly in the cards.
2. Bryce Love-RB-Stanford
So anytime I do Stanford’s games in a picks segment, I find that I always seem to talk about how Bryce Love is making Cardinal fans forget Christian McCaffrey with the way he’s playing. But can you blame me? The guy is at 1387 yards on the season on just 135 carries (10.3 average), which is tops in the nation by almost 300 yards. In fact, if he keeps at his current pace, he’ll be challenging Barry Sanders’ all-time rushing record set back in 1988. Love has been the most explosive player in the game this season, I mean Hell, how many guys can say they average gaining a first down every time they’re handed the ball? His worst game came in Stanford’s most recent bout with Oregon this past week, where he rushed for 147 yards on 17 carries with 2 TDs. The junior tailback’s main flaw is the same as Taylor’s: a lack of receiving presence. Love only has 4 catches on the year for 19 yards. In fact, his receiving numbers have declined dramatically every season that he’s been at Stanford. But the 1387 rushing yards in only 7 games is impossible to ignore. However, if Christian McCaffrey couldn’t win the Heisman despite breaking Barry Sanders’ total yards record, I can’t envision Love winning despite only breaking the rushing record, if he even reaches that point. But I also felt that McCaffrey should have won it over Derrick Henry in 2015, so I wouldn’t rule out Love just yet. Give Love a chance, as they say.
1. Saquon Barkley-RB-Penn State
This seems to be the consensus pick right now and for good reason. Barkley is the best player on the number 2 team in the nation and finds ways to contribute in every facet of the game. He’s rushing for 649 yards on 102 carries with 6 TDs, which when compared to Taylor and Love aren’t that impressive, in fact Love has more than double Barkley’s rushing yards. However, he’s also caught 29 passes for 395 yards and 2 TDs, an element that Taylor and Love have been sorely lacking. And even in games where Barkley’s been bottled up on the ground, such as against Indiana and Northwestern, he still finds a way to contribute. Against the Hoosiers, Barkley took the opening kickoff to the house and threw a touchdown pass despite only rushing for 56 yards on 20 carries. Against Northwestern, he ran for 75 yards but threw some key blocks for the Nittany Lions in their win over the Wildcats. Even if his rushing totals might not be where his competitors are, he still finds a way to leave his mark on a game.
Just Missed the Cut: Josh Rosen-QB-UCLA, Rashaad Penny-RB-San Diego State, Bradley Chubb-DE-NC State, JT Barrett-QB-Ohio State, Mason Rudolph-QB-Oklahoma State
Those are my Heisman rankings for the midway point of the season. Crazy to think the season’s already halfway gone. As I was writing this, I started talking myself into Bryce Love instead of Saquon Barkley for the top spot. I feel like if I were to do this list again next week, Love would win, that’s how close these two guys are in my opinion right now. Should be a much more fun Heisman race this year than last, which Lamar Jackson had pretty much locked up by Week 3.