Each week throughout the season, Dr. Saturday will highlight the five players we think are the top Heisman contenders. The list will change often early in the season before the true candidates separate themselves from the pack.
Heisman ballots are out.
Electronic ballots went out to the hundreds of media members and former Heisman winners who will vote to crown the 2017 recipient. Some may have already filled out their ballots, but most wait until the conclusion of the upcoming championship weekend.
A few of the leading candidates, including heavy favorite Baker Mayfield, will be in action this weekend. Will anybody to make a final push past Mayfield before Monday’s voting deadline?
1. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma: At this point, it would take a miserable performance against TCU in the Big 12 title game for Baker Mayfield not to win the Heisman. He is just a step above the rest of the field, despite the antics against Kansas that had him stripped of his captaincy on senior day. He missed OU’s first offensive series, too, before entering the game and picking apart the West Virginia defense.
He threw only 17 passes in the 59-31 win, completing 14 of them for 281 yards and three touchdowns. Mayfield is up to 4,097 yards and 37 touchdowns (both second-best in the country) with just five interceptions on the year. His completion percentage is 71.4 and his quarterback rating is 203.3 are No. 1 nationally.
If he and the Sooners wrap up the Big 12 as expected with a win over TCU in the conference title game, Mayfield, who finished second in 2016, will likely wrap up the Heisman race, too.
2. Bryce Love, RB, Stanford: It’s looking more and more like Stanford will have another Heisman runner-up, with running back Bryce Love joining the likes of Toby Gerhart (2009), Andrew Luck (2010 and 2011) and Christian McCaffrey (2015).
Love is still hobbled by a gimpy ankle, but has continued to put up 100-yard efforts in big games. Even though the game was inconsequential for the Pac-12 race, Love put up 125 yards on 20 carries in a 38-20 win over Notre Dame. Washington’s win over Washington State clinched the Pac-12 North for Stanford, meaning Love will have the chance for a showcase on a big stage Friday night against USC in the conference title game.
Love needs 152 yards to become the second player to reach 2,000 yards this season. He would do so despite missing half of the Oregon game and the entire Oregon State game because of the ankle injury.
3. Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin: Just behind Love’s 1,848 yards is Wisconsin freshman Jonathan Taylor, who is third in the country with 1,806 rushing yards after putting up 149 yards and a touchdown in the Badgers’ win over Minnesota — a win that capped off a perfect 12-0 regular season.
As we’ve noted in past weeks, Taylor has kept a freshman season pace pretty close to Adrian Peterson’s from 2004, when he set the (official) NCAA freshman record with 1,925 yards in 13 games. If Taylor puts up 120 yards against Ohio State in Saturday’s Big Ten title game, he would break Peterson’s record. Could he put together the kind of performance to vault him up Heisman ballots and put Wisconsin in the College Football Playoff?
4. Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville: Lamar Jackson took it to rival Kentucky in what may have been the last college regular season game of his career. The 2016 Heisman winner completed 15-of-21 passes for 216 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 156 yards. Jackson is now tenth in the country in both passing (3,489) and rushing (1,443) yards with 42 total touchdowns (25 passing, 17 rushing).
Entering bowl season, Jackson is closing in on his Heisman-winning numbers. With a game to go, Jackson’s numbers look like this: 241/399 (60.4), 3,489 yards, 25 TDs and 6 INTs passing with 1,443 yards (6.9 avg) and 17 TDs rushing. Jackson won the award with these numbers: 230/409 (56.2 percent), 3,543 yards, 30 TDs and 9 INTs passing with 1,571 yards (6.0 avg.) and 21 TDs rushing.
5. Rashaad Penny, RB, San Diego State: Rashaad Penny won’t win the Heisman, but will he earn the coveted invitation to New York City? His Mountain West competition is really lacking compared to the other candidates, but his statistics make a strong case. In SDSU’s win over New Mexico, Penny registered the 29th 2,000-yard season in FBS history. He finished the game with 203 yards and two touchdowns, giving him 2,027 yards and 19 touchdowns on the year. In his last four games, Penny has combined for 912 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Kerryon Johnson, RB, Auburn: Johnson has played a huge role in Auburn’s route to the SEC title game. He has rushed for 100 yards in four straight games, combining for 271 yards in the wins over Georgia and Alabama, both of whom were ranked No. 1 at the time. For the season, despite missing two games, Johnson has 1,276 rushing yards and 17 scores. He could earn a trip to NYC with another big game against UGA in Atlanta.
Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State: Penn State finished the regular season 10-2, so there’s a pretty good chance we’ll see the final game of Saquon Barkley’s collegiate career, assuming he declares for the NFL draft, in a New Year’s Six bowl. Penn State blew out Maryland on Saturday, and Barkley’s services weren’t needed too much. He finished the game with 77 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries, giving him 1,134 yards and 16 scores on the year to go with 47 catches and 594 yards receiving. His 179.5 all-purpose yards per game rank second behing Penny.
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