So with the Heisman trophy winner being announced on Saturday, I thought I’d revisit the rankings I did at midseason and see where things stand now. If you’ve been keeping up with the college football season and my blog, you will know that things changed DRAMATICALLY. For reference, here were my rankings at midseason:
5. Lamar Jackson
4. Jonathan Taylor
3. Baker Mayfield
2. Bryce Love
1. Saquon Barkley
As you may have seen, Barkley fell off HARD after inconsistent performances in the Big Ten schedule. Teams were able to limit his rushing ability and he would consistently be held under 100 yards while other guys would only elevate their play. In fact, despite all the Heisman hype Barkley has gotten this year, he is not amongst the finalists headed to New York for the trophy presentation. That would be Lamar Jackson, Bryce Love, and Baker Mayfield. So with that, let’s get into my final Heisman rankings.
5. Jonathan Taylor-RB-Wisconsin
Previous Ranking: 4th
Stat Line: 273 carries, 1847 yards, 13 TDs
Jonathan Taylor has probably had one of the greatest freshman seasons in the history of college football. In fact, he is 78 yards away from Adrian Peterson’s freshman record of 1925 yards, a feat he can achieve in the Orange Bowl against Miami (FL). He is also 153 yards away from reaching 2000 yards, a mark never achieved by a freshman. The 153 yards is very feasible for him to obtain, as he has reached that total in 5 of his 13 games this season. Where Taylor’s Heisman candidacy hurts is that he’s a pretty one-dimensional player. He only had 7 receptions all season and 3 of them came in the Big Ten championship game. He also was really held in check in that game on the ground, as he only ran for 41 yards on 15 carries against the vaunted Ohio State defense. But if he continues to build on his success this season and improve his all-around game, I would expect him to rank at the top of this list within the next two years.
4. Rashaad Penny-RB-San Diego State
Previous Ranking: Just Missed
Stat Line: 275 carries, 2027 yards, 19 TDs, 18 catches, 142 yards, 2 TDs
Where does San Diego State keep finding these guys? They had Marshall Faulk back in the day and they just lost college football’s all-time leading rusher in Donnell Pumphrey to graduation and they replace him with this guy. Rashaad Penny was a bit under the radar this season, playing in the lowly Mountain West Conference, which is the main hit against his candidacy. But he shouldn’t have been, as even in a backup role last season, he still ran for 1000 yards. Naturally, he flourished in a starting role, as his 2027 rushing yards led the nation. Had he put up these numbers at a Power 5 school, though, we could very easily be talking about him as the Heisman favorite. And for a guy as big as he is (5’11 220 pounds), he is pretty active catching the ball. Guys that weight 220 typically aren’t very involved in the passing game but Penny bucks the trend a bit. He also ended the season on an absolute TEAR. Following back-to-back games where he was held under 70 yards, Penny rushed for over 200 in each of the final four games of the season, including a 253-yard performance against Hawaii. It’ll be interesting to see what NFL scouts think of this guy because I think he could be an impactful player at the next level.
3. Lamar Jackson-QB-Louisville
Previous Ranking: 5th
Stat Line: 241-399 (60.4%), 3489 yards, 25 TDs, 6 INTs, 208 carries, 1443 yards, 17 TDs
It’s hard to believe, but Lamar Jackson may have actually improved on his Heisman-winning campaign from last season. He got significantly better as a passer, forcing scouts to seriously entertain the idea of him being a successful NFL quarterback, he was able to cut down on the turnovers, and even got better as a runner, if that’s even possible. While yes, his 1443 yards are down from his 1571 last year, but that’s because he did it on 52 fewer carries, resulting in his yards per carry being almost an entire yard higher than last season (6.9 vs 6.0). What hurts Jackson’s bid to become the second ever 2-time Heisman winner is that Louisville wasn’t competing for a playoff berth this year like they were last year and while I do think that’s unfair, it does play a role in the eyes of the voters when you’re the quarterback and the player most linked to a team’s success.
2. Bryce Love-RB-Stanford
Previous Ranking: 2nd
Stat Line: 237 carries, 1973 yards, 17 TDs
Bryce Love is the only guy in my Heisman rankings who stays put from my midseason edition. At the time of my midseason rankings, I toyed with the idea of having Love in the top spot over Saquon Barkley because that’s just how good he’d been. He’s fallen off a bit but that’s in large part due to an ankle injury he suffered right before the Oregon State game, which he ended up missing (he’s the only player in my top 5 Heisman rankings who missed a game). However because it was against Oregon State, arguably the worst Power 5 team in college football, it doesn’t hurt Love nearly as much as it would if he were to miss a game against, say, USC. The only game that Love did play where he didn’t rush for 100 yards was his return from injury, where he ran for 69, so that should earn a Heisman nod right there. But, like Taylor, Love was very one-dimensional this season, as he only had 6 catches all year and only had a single game with multiple catches. But he should easily eclipse the 2000-yard mark during Stanford’s Alamo Bowl appearance against TCU, so that alone automatically puts you near the top of the Heisman discussion, especially when you play for a Power 5 team like Stanford.
1. Baker Mayfield-QB-Oklahoma
Previous Ranking: 3rd
Stat Line: 262-369 (71%), 4340 yards, 41 TDs, 5 INTs, 85 carries, 310 yards, 5 TDs
I think we can all agree on the top spot here, right? Baker Mayfield has really pulled away from the rest of the pack and this race is pretty much over. I’d be SHOCKED if it weren’t him hoisting the trophy on Saturday night and will have an angry blog to post in the morning if that happens. Mayfield completed 71% of his passes, best in the nation among qualifying quarterbacks, threw for the second most yards in the nation behind in-state rival Mason Rudolph at Oklahoma State, threw for 41 touchdowns, which was second to Missouri’s Drew Lock’s 43, and even added a running element to his game, as he was his team’s fourth-leading rusher. Oh and did I mention Oklahoma went 12-1, won their conference, and are the 2-seed in the college football playoff with a legitimate shot at their first national championship since 2000? Because that’s also important. Without question, Baker Mayfield ought to win the Heisman trophy, becoming the first Sooner to do it since Sam Bradford in 2008.
Just Missed: Saquon Barkley-RB-Penn State, Josh Rosen-QB-UCLA, Mason Rudolph-QB-Oklahoma State, Khalil Tate-QB-Arizona
Those are my final Heisman rankings for the 2017 college football season. After the Heisman is announced, I will give my favorites to win the award next year, because I have an interesting favorite in mind. Agree with my rankings? Is there somebody I missed? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.