by Rob Joyce
The halfway point of the college football season is essentially here, and what should have been a quiet Week 7 was instead the wildest weekend to date. On a week in which there were no games between two ranked teams, four of the Top 10 and seven of the Top 25 lost, throwing the playoff picture into utter chaos – at least we have Alabama to provide a sense of familiarity.
The same goes for the Heisman race. The players we thought were the favorites in the preseason have largely fallen out of the picture, either due to individual or team performance. Halfway through the season, here are the five contenders for college football’s most prestigious award:
5) Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin:
A true freshman, he’s taking the Big Ten by storm as Wisconsin is quietly 6-0 and ranked fifth in the nation. He has three 200-yard performances already this year, with 986 yards and 10 touchdowns overall. Only two players can best his 7.8 yards per carry, and he’s almost single-handedly hide the Badgers’ deficiencies in the passing game. The one thing going against Wisconsin is the schedule – outside of a Nov. 19 game against Michigan, there isn’t a chance to have a “marquee” game against a high-profile opponent that all Heisman winners have as a stamp on their seasons.
4) Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma:
Passing efficiency isn’t the sexiest stat, but no one does it better than Mayfield. He leads the nation with a 207.3 efficiency. What does that mean? It means that he has 17 touchdowns to one interception (only Ohio State’s JT Barrett is better, with a 21-to-1 ratio), while leading the nation with a 72 percent completion rate. It means he is 13th in pass yards (1,937) despite attempting at least fewer 30 passes than anyone in the top 30. A loss to Iowa State wasn’t great, but a bid to the Big 12 title game should still be enough to get Mayfield to New York for the third straight year.
3) Saquon Barkley, Penn State:
The junior’s rushing numbers don’t stack up to others nationally (649 yards in six games), but he’s doing other things to make up for four sub 100-yard games. He has 395 yards receiving, picking up at least 45 yards in all but one game. Combined he has 1,044 yards from scrimmage, averaging eight yards per touch. He has a kickoff return for a score, averaging 32 yards per return. Heck, he even has a passing touchdown. The offense of the No. 2 team in the country runs through Barkley, and a big game this weekend against Michigan will only boost his Heisman stock.
2) Lamar Jackson, Louisville:
The Cardinals’ 4-3 record is likely going to prevent Jackson from repeating, but the reigning Heisman winner is putting up absurd numbers regardless. He’s fourth nationally in passing (2,322 yards, 16 touchdowns, five interceptions) and 15th nationally in rushing (690 yards, 10 TDs). He’s accounted for over 320 yards of offense in every game and scored at least three touchdowns in six of seven contests. Consider this: the ACC record for most all-purpose yards per game belongs to Jameis Winston (303 yards per game). Jackson is averaging 430 yards by himself.
1) Bryce Love, Stanford:
Christian who? The successor to the do-it-all wunderkind McCaffrey, Bryce Love has taken the reins in Palo Alto and run with them – literally. His 1,387 yards are nearly 300 more than anyone else in FBS, and no one else with more than 100 carries is within 2.5 yards of his 10.3 yards per attempt. The junior has scored a touchdown in every game this year, had runs of at least 50 yards in every contest, and had 263 yards against UCLA and 301 against Arizona State the following week. His season-low came last Saturday, when he was “limited” to 147 yards on 17 carries in a 49-7 drubbing of Oregon because he barely played in the second half. At 5-2 if the Cardinal can finish with fewer than three losses it’s Love’s trophy to lose.