A Heisman watch looking at the top 10 players heading into Week 11 of the college football season. Texas’ D’Onta Foreman and Penn State’s Saquon Barkley make their debuts in the rankings.
It’s November, that time on the calendar when everything players and teams do is magnified. So, while it appears Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson is an unstoppable Heisman force, the jockeying behind him is getting interesting. And the race continues to add new contenders, such as running backs D’Onta Foreman and Saquon Barkley of Texas and Penn State, respectively. Heat up now, when conference races are being decided, and the reward could be an all-expenses-paid trip to New York City as a finalist.
Through 10 weeks of the 2016 season, here are the top 10 contenders lining up for this season’s Heisman Trophy.
10. Penn State RB Saquon Barkley
Barkley is making his first appearance in this space, and it is well deserved. Something special is happening in Happy Valley, and Barkley has been the face of that resurgence under James Franklin. He had a rough stretch in the first half of the year, but voters are mostly concerned about what stars do in crunch time. Barkley is peaking when it matters most, rushing for at least 150 yards in three of the last four games. When he was held to 99 rushing yards against the Buckeyes, he still played a central role in the Lions’ upset of Ohio State by averaging over eight yards per carry.
9. Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey
It’s too little, too late to seriously contend for the Heisman, but McCaffrey has resumed reminding the country that he’s still one of the premier players in college football. A week after rushing for 169 yards and two scores against Arizona, he went for a season-high 199 yards and another score in the Cardinal’s bowl-clinching defeat of Oregon State. McCaffrey should continue ringing up big numbers against the feeble defenses of Oregon, Cal and Rice, but it’s highly unlikely to impact the opinions of voters.
8. Florida State RB Dalvin Cook
It was a rough night in Raleigh for Cook, who desperately needed to follow-up last week’s statement effort against Clemson with another notable performance. Instead, he was bottled up by NC State and held well below 100 yards on the ground for the first time since Sept. 17 against Louisville. Cook is one of the most talented offensive players in the country, which isn’t being lost on NFL scouts. But the support has been spotty all season, from the offensive line to sharing a backfield with a true freshman, so his top end is set no higher than No. 4 or No. 5.
7. Texas RB D’Onta Foreman
The wait is over. The Longhorns’ 250-pound bruiser has got to be on the Heisman short list after he ambushed Texas Tech for 341 yards and three touchdowns on 33 carries. Yeah, the Red Raider defense performs at a Southland Conference level, but Foreman has been ultra-consistent, ripping off at least 100 yards in each of his last 10 games. And this latest effort is splashy enough for him to begin getting attention, especially now that Heisman voters are really getting tuned into the action in November.
6. Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield
Mayfield remained hot, helping to bail out his Sooners on a night they struggled to shake loose from Iowa State. He threw at least four touchdown passes for a fourth consecutive game, spreading the ball around for a change to four different teammates. Mayfield has been the catalyst for Oklahoma’s six-game winning streak and rise back up the Big 12 charts, and he’s going to surpass last year’s numbers, when he finished fourth in the final Heisman vote.
5. Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett
Yeah, Barrett has been up-and-down this season, a microcosm for his team’s offense. But he’s not going away, certainly not as long as the Buckeyes remain in the College Football Playoff chase. Just when it looked as if Barrett might be ready to fade from serious contention, he goes out and torches No. 10 Nebraska exactly when Ohio State was pining for a momentum building win. OSU pummeled the Huskers, 62-3, with Barrett completing 26-of-38 for 290 yards, four touchdowns and no picks.
4. Washington QB Jake Browning
Browning received a fair amount of help from receivers Dante Pettis and especially John Ross, one of the most exciting playmakers that not enough of the country has seen in action. But Pettis and Ross were well supported, too, as Browning continued unleashing beautiful, catchable balls for his receivers to haul in. Six of those tosses went for touchdowns, three to Ross and three to Pettis. The sophomore gets his best chance in weeks to climb north, when blazing USC visits Seattle this weekend.
3. Michigan LB Jabrill Peppers
It wasn’t the most memorable or highlight-worthy game for Peppers. The Wolverines didn’t need him to be otherworldly in their 59-3 smackdown of overmatched Maryland. Peppers was once again featured on offense, defense and special teams. But his output was more pedestrian than normal, five tackles, a stop for loss, two carries for 14 yards and a 14-yard return. Still, this is arguably the most complete football player in the country, and the voters are already aware of it.
2. Clemson QB Deshaun Watson
Watson was delivering one of his sharpest efforts of 2016, running for a score and dissecting the Syracuse secondary for 169 yards and two touchdowns on 13-of-16 passing prior to halftime. And then he landed hard on his throwing shoulder, ironic considering how well he’d been pitching the ball. Fortunately for Watson and the Tigers, he could have played if necessary, but it wasn’t necessary in a game that was over even before he suffered the injury. The team feels he should be available this Saturday against Pitt.
1. Louisville QB Lamar Jackson
The good Cards showed up this week, blasting Boston College, 52-7, to amass some much-needed style points in the College Football Playoff chase. And, of course, Jackson was the catalyst, accounting for seven touchdowns and more than 400 yards of total offense. The sophomore continues to be the most prolific and exciting amateur football player. Plus, it’s not as if any of his competitors in the Heisman race have been lighting it up with nearly as much consistency.