As week five of college football comes to an end there’s a new player to break out into the Heisman conversation. This week featured a combination of versatility and explosiveness through all the candidates that played this week. While it seems like there is a clear favorite to win, it’s still early and anybody’s race. Going into week six, here are the leading candidates.
1. Saquon Barkley, RB Penn State: Barkley remains atop the Heisman rankings for the second straight week with a display of versatility on the field. His statistics were quiet with only 20 rushes for 56 yards and no rushing touchdowns, but he did go 1-for-1 passing the ball for 16 yards and a touchdown, and returned a 98-yard touchdown on the opening kickoff. Barkley looks like the most electric player in the nation and has made Penn State a must-watch game every week. If history repeats itself, it should be Barkley’s trophy to lose. Since 2000, three running backs have won the award, Reggie Bush in 2005, Mark Ingram in 2009, and Derrick Henry in 2015. Those three backs averaged 2,173.3 yards from scrimmage and 22 touchdowns. Barkley is on pace for 2,559 yards and 18 touchdowns, making him an early but overwhelming favorite.
2. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma: Barkley is the favorite player to win the Heisman, but the quarterback is the favored position to win and Mayfield has been the most efficient quarterback in the nation. After missing this week due to a bye, Mayfield still leads the nation in many categories. He ranks third in pass completion, first in yards per attempt, sixth in touchdowns, and first in passer efficiency. And he has yet to throw an interception this year. In one word, Mayfield’s game has been all about efficiency, making every throw count. As long as Oklahoma wins and Mayfield continues to play at this rate, his name will be in the center of the Heisman talks. After all, 14 of the past 17 Heisman winners have been quarterbacks.
3. Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State: Rudolph took a step back after week four’s loss to TCU, but he bounced back against Texas Tech. Rudolph went 27-for-38 for 376 yards, three touchdowns, and a 91.0 quarterback rating, while also rushing 12 times for 50 yards and two touchdowns. It was a huge statistical performance for Rudolph, who seemed like the lone bright spot in the Oklahoma State offense. Leading his team on a 79-yard drive while capping it off with a 14-yard, go-ahead touchdown was the tip of the iceberg. For the year, Rudolph ranks second in passing yards, yards per attempt and touchdowns and is third in passer efficiency. Rudolph’s production is what is keeping his name in the conversation, but he’ll need to do something special to even think about winning.
4. Bryce Love, RB, Stanford: Bryce Love replaces Sam Darnold after his explosive outing against Arizona State. Love rushed the ball 25 times for 301 yards and three touchdowns. To put those numbers in perspective, Stanford had 501 total yards and Love accounted for 301, just over 60 percent of the team’s production. Love leads all running backs in rushing yards, yards per attempt and is seventh in touchdowns. The impressive part isn’t his overall statistics, but his production in Pac 12 play. In two games, he has 564 yards, four touchdowns, and averages 10.3 yards per carry. Lastly, his runs are record breaking as well. Love has six rushes of 50 yards or more and only 10 players in FBS history have done that in an entire season. He’s only four games in. He’s also on pace for 2,611 yards for the season, not including a bowl game, which is only 17 yards short of Barry Sanders' all-time record of 2,628 yards. Assuming Stanford makes a bowl game, and Love remains healthy, he should easily break that 30-year record.
5. Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville: At this point Jackson makes the list mostly because he was the Heisman winner last year. This week the Cardinals blew out Murray State with Jackson going 18-for-26 for 249 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed seven times for 100 yards and a touchdown, all in the first half. Historically, Jackson is only 13 yards away from being the seventh player in ACC history to rush for 10,000 career yards. However, Jackson’s season statistics and low strength of schedule don't appear to be enough to warrant a repeat Heisman victory, barring a meltdown by other candidates and a huge finish to Louisville's campaign.