Three weekends remain, as the number of contenders for college football’s most prized individual award gradually dwindle. Handicapping the 2015 Heisman Trophy race has become a more manageable process now that teams have played nine or 10 games. But it’s on these remaining weekends that hardware will be won. And as Leonard Fournette’s recent descent has shown, no assumptions can be made until all of the biggest games have been played.
Heisman Trophy Rankings
10. QB Luke Falk, Washington State
Falk has the requisite numbers, 35 touchdown passes and 4,067 yards to rank No. 2 nationally in both categories. Mike Leach’s pupils always have the numbers. But Leach is touting his sophomore as a legit Heisman contender because of his role in Wazzu’s unexpected 2015 uprising. The Cougars are 7-3 and ranked for the first time in nine years after upsetting UCLA on a game-winning Falk touchdown strike with three seconds left … aka a Heisman moment.
9. QB Keenan Reynolds, Navy
Is there a slight career achievement element to the candidacy of Reynolds, who last week became the all-time NCAA leader in rushing touchdowns? Possibly. But the senior leader of the Midshipmen has also been the driving force of one of the best seasons in the modern history of Navy football. With Reynolds as the leading rusher and scorer, the Mids are 8-1, ranked No. 16 and one of the favorites to nab a Big Six bowl berth.
8. WR Corey Coleman, Baylor
No receiver this season has been more unstoppable than Coleman, who’s caught 61 passes for 1,229 yards, and is tied for the nation’s lead in touchdowns with 20. He’s just seven scores from tying a single-season mark for TD receptions that Louisiana Tech’s Troy Edwards set in 1998. However, Coleman’s quest of becoming the rare Heisman-winning wide receiver took a big hit last week. In the Bears’ biggest game of 2015 against Oklahoma, he caught a season-low three balls for a season-low 51 yards, and failed to score for the first time all year.
7. RB Dalvin Cook, Florida State
In a different year, like 2013 or 2014, Cook almost certainly would be ranked in the top 5. He’s every bit as talented as this season’s upper echelon of backs. And he’s delivered signature moments, such as overcoming a bad hammy to rush for 222 and two scores versus Miami and going for 194 yards and a touchdown against top-ranked Clemson. But the fact that the Seminoles have lost twice and are out of any title contention has hurt Cook’s exposure and Heisman chances.
6. RB Christian McCaffrey, Stanford
Fair or not, McCaffrey’s Heisman bid took a hit when the Cardinal lost last Saturday to Oregon. Does it make sense? No. The Stanford D was the issue in Week 11, not McCaffrey who amassed more than 200 all-purpose yards for the seventh time this season and easily leads the country in the category. The sophomore still has a chance for upward mobility and an invitation to the ceremony in New York, with high-profile games against Notre Dame and the Pac-12 South champ, if Stanford beats Cal Saturday.
5. QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Just like his team, Mayfield has enjoyed a steep ascent since the Sooners defeated Baylor in Waco last weekend, 44-34. The stats meet the Heisman criteria, 31 touchdown passes and the second highest QB rating in the country. And Mayfield’s gritty, blue-collar demeanor will be like catnip to voters. If Oklahoma keeps pushing toward a playoff berth with wins over TCU and Oklahoma State, Mayfield will continue to soar, with a great shot of becoming the top vote-getting quarterback.
4. QB Deshaun Watson, Clemson
Rising young superstar. Quarterback of the nation’s No. 1 team. Yeah, Watson is going to get a lot of love from voters in a few weeks. He’s blossomed up to expectations in his second year, leading the Tigers to a 10-0 start, including high-visibility wins over Notre Dame and Florida State. Still, Watson is close to peaking in this competition. His numbers don’t pop on the resume, like they do for others, and his next three games with Wake Forest, South Carolina and North Carolina won’t allow for many Heisman moments.
3. RB Leonard Fournette, LSU
Seemingly a sure thing just a few weeks ago, Fournette has begun to slide. In a way, he’s been a victim of his own incredible start … and of an LSU team that’s lost two straight, while not giving him any support against Alabama or Arkansas. Fournette will wind up on a lot of ballots, because he’s the most recognized name in college football and because his immense talent is indisputable. However, 31 yards on 19 carries against Bama—so late in the season—was a flop that could wind up being too big to overcome.
2. RB Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State
No one right now has a better shot of bumping Derrick Henry from the top spot than Elliott. As the focal point of an offense that’s otherwise lacked consistency, he’s rushed for at least 100 yards in every game. Even better, though, he potentially has three high-visibility games up ahead, this week’s visit from Michigan State, the trip to Ann Arbor and the Big Ten title game with unbeaten Iowa, provided the Buckeyes and Hawkeyes win their divisions. And if Elliott proved anything last year, it’s that he’s a strong finisher.
1. RB Derrick Henry, Alabama
The needle moved decidedly in Henry’s direction after he blasted LSU for 210 yards and three touchdowns in the game of the year for both teams. Even better, it drew a clear distinction with Leonard Fournette, who was shut down on the same night. Every time Bama has faced a quality opponent, Henry has delivered, including a second straight 200-yard effort last Saturday at Mississippi State. He’ll be tough to deny, though voters will be watching closely on Dec. 5 when the Tide faces Florida and its 10th-ranked run defense.