A Heisman watch looking at the top 10 players heading into Week 7 of the college football season. Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson are still battling it out.
Heisman pacesetter Lamar Jackson and his Louisville Cardinals had the weekend off, allowing the rest of the contenders to gobble up a little more of the voters’ attention. A few players made the most of the opportunity, but none with more success than Washington quarterback Jake Browning, who, like Jackson, is less than two years removed from high school. And like Jackson, Browning is getting accustomed to posting record-setting numbers.
With almost half the season completed, we break down how the contenders are lining up for this season’s Heisman Trophy.
10. Baylor QB Seth Russell
The Bears are the highest ranked Big 12 team, navigating an offseason of chaos and the first five opponents to reach mid-October unscathed. While Russell doesn’t get all of the credit, he does deserve a big chunk of it. He’s returned from a potentially career-ending neck injury to throw 14 touchdown passes and rush for three more, while providing the program with valuable leadership. Before Saturday’s bye week, Russell helped rescue Baylor in Ames by engineering three scoring drives in the final quarter.
9. Houston QB Greg Ward Jr.
Ward is a top-10 Heisman talent, with the numbers to back it up. But a big part of his candidacy was rooted in piloting the Cougars to a prefect season and playoff contention. Well, there goes that. Not only did Houston fall to Navy, but Ward also was less than perfect, committing three turnovers, including a pick-six by Josiah Powell. Ward did account for a slew of yards and four scores, but he’ll need to out-duel Louisville’s Lamar Jackson next month just to climb back into the top five.
8. Texas A&M QB Trevor Knight
The Aggies are 6-0 for the first time in more than two decades. That wouldn’t have happened without the addition of Knight, who left Oklahoma looking for a second chance. He’s gotten it in College Station, where his veteran leadership and scrambling ability have been revelatory for a program not long ago mired in controversy. Knight is an imperfect passer, but he accounted for well over 300 yards and five scores, capped by the game-winner in Saturday’s overtime victory against Tennessee in a battle of unbeaten top 10 teams.
7. Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey
His production is way down. His team won’t be relevant on the national stage in the second half of the season. McCaffrey is quickly fading from serious Heisman contention. Although, his overall skill set, name recognition and ability to pile up numbers keep him in the top 10 for the time being. He was a complete non-factor in a second straight Cardinal loss, unable to find daylight against the Washington State defense before sitting down in the second half with what appeared to be a hip injury.
6. Florida State RB Dalvin Cook
On a night that quarterback Deondre Francois calmly stared down the blitz in the Noles’ one-point thriller over rival Miami, Cook continued to be his team’s offensive workhorse. He rushed for 150 yards on 27 carries, often to make his own yards near the line of scrimmage, while also hauling in a 59-yard touchdown pass on a wheel route. Cook is making a very strong case for this year’s top all-around running back, despite receiving intermittent support from his passing game and front wall.
5. Michigan LB Jabrill Peppers
Peppers went home to New Jersey Saturday night to show off for his family and friends in the Garden State. It was vintage Peppers, who rushed three times for 74 yards and a pair of touchdowns, chipped in a pair of tackles, and had an explosive punt return nullified by a penalty in a half of work. The Wolverines’ schedule is littered with more possible blowout victims in the second half, which could somewhat dampen Peppers’ production in all three phases of his multi-faceted game.
4. Washington QB Jake Browning
Browning is one of the young faces of today’s Husky football. And U-Dub is among the buzziest programs in the sport through six weeks. Browning delivered a game for the ages in Washington’s rout of rival Oregon, throwing six touchdown passes and running for two more while surgically completing 22-of-28 passes. With two of his toughest tests in the rear view mirror, including Stanford, Browning is near the top of the nation’s charts in passing efficiency, firing 23 touchdown passes to just a pair of picks.
3. Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett
Barrett has had better days in Columbus, especially through the air. He was just 9-of-21 for 93 yards, a touchdown and a pick in the win over Indiana, but he did rush for a game-high 137 yards and another score on 26 carries. Barrett will get a high-profile opportunity to get back on track this week, when his Buckeyes travel to Madison to face a Wisconsin defense that has been one of the nastiest in the country during the season’s first half.
2. Clemson QB Deshaun Watson
Now, this is the Watson who’s liable to unseat Lamar Jackson and rise to the top of the Heisman rankings. The week after Watson’s Tigers defeated Louisville and Jackson in a classic, the Clemson quarterback was crisp and in charge on the road against a notoriously salty Boston College defense. Watson went 14-of-24 for 266 yards, four touchdowns and no picks. Plus, he’s getting more support from running back Wayne Gallman, wide receiver Deon Cain and tight end Jordan Leggett, which will help boost his production in the second half of the year.
1. Louisville QB Lamar Jackson
There has been no more outstanding player during the season’s first half than Jackson, who has electrified fans—and frustrated opposing coordinators—with his explosiveness. Through five games, he’s accounted for 2,313 total yards and 28 touchdowns, slicing through defenses as if he’s a solo act in a time-lapse video. Despite not getting the win, Jackson was the best player in the biggest game of the year so far, slapping 457 yards on Clemson the Saturday prior to this past weekend’s Cardinal bye week.