Heisman Top 10: A Bedlam One-Two Leads Through 3

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The 112th installment of Bedlam will not commence until November, but early indicators of the annual Oklahoma-Oklahoma State rivalry tilt suggest more than bragging rights are at stake in 2017.

Through three weeks of the college football season, quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Mason Rudolph are 1-2 in The Open Man Heisman Top 10, tracking reputable media rankings and Las Vegas (not Latvia) odds on the sport’s top individual honor. All this Oklahoma out in front of the early Heisman race has me with a good mind not to ask you to the box social.

Now, if I had to guess which way Rodgers & Hammerstein would lean if they were Heisman voters, I’d suspect for Mason Rudolph considering Oklahoma!‘s Gordon McRae is sporting undeniable Cowboy orange above. Then again…he’s singing about carriage wagon, which suggests an affinity for the Sooners. Shirley Jones never asks if there’s a danger of rollover, which might be pertinent.

At the risk of redundancy, it’s worth point out in light of a few abnormalities this week that the Heisman Top 10 fluctuates wildly in the month of September. Five different Western teams are represented in the Top 10, and just one from the SEC. Oh, and that SEC squad with a Top 10 candidate at this juncture based on the data? He’s from Mississippi State, a program in the midst of a seven-decade conference title drought.

OTHERS RECEIVING VOTES

Alabama QB Jalen Hurts

Clemson DT Dexter Lawrence

Penn State QB Trace McSorley

Houston DT Ed Oliver

Washington WR/Ret. Dante Pettis

10. STANFORD RB BRYCE LOVE

Despite his team’s 1-2 start, Bryce Love’s individual numbers are eye-popping enough that he sneaks into the Top 10. Love is second in the nation in both total rushing yards and all-purpose yardage, and his 12.2-yard per carry is easily tops among players with at least 20 touches. And Love has 43.

9. MISSISSIPPI STATE QB NICK FITZGERALD

Nick Fitzgerald compiled some impressive numbers in Week 1 and 2 wins that ranged from OK (Louisiana Tech) to eh (Charleston Southern). Frankly, however, I’m somewhat surprised he isn’t positioned higher after bombarding SEC West rival LSU with four total touchdowns, two rushing and two passing. This might be a case of representing the non-name brand SEC program, or hesitation after Dak Prescott was the runaway winner of the September Heisman a few years ago.

Whatever the reasoning, Fitzgerald’s putting up early numbers that, if he continues into November, will earn him airfare from Stark Vegas to New York.

8. SAN DIEGO STATE RB RASHAAD PENNY

The nation’s leader in rushing yards (588) and all-purpose yards (774) has the start of a truly magical season. Rashaad Penny has powered San Diego State back into the Top 25 with a pair of wins over Pac-12 competition, the second of which over Stanford is arguably the biggest non-conference win for the Aztecs in the modern era.

Penny’s current all-purpose pace isn’t far from the record-setting numbers Christian McCaffrey produced in 2015. McCaffrey averaged 276 per game that year; Penny’s at 256, but the average can jump quickly with a big showing at Air Force on Saturday.

7. OREGON RB ROYCE FREEMAN

Royce Freeman’s production dipped dramatically in 2016, commensurate with the overall decline plaguing the Oregon Ducks. He embarked on his junior season needing to replicate his stellar 2015 in order to leave as the program’s all-time rushing leader.

He’s well on track to smash LaMichael James’ mark, while at the same time blazing a trail to New York in the same manner James did. Freeman is fifth in the nation in rushing yards through three weeks at 460, and he’ll surely pad that total against a struggling Arizona State run defense. But even more staggering: Freeman’s scored nine rushing touchdowns, three more than the next-most prolific player in college football.

6. USC QB SAM DARNOLD

Sam Darnold’s Heisman candidacy at this juncture functions as a fascinating case-study in voter habits. Darnold embarked on 2017 the clear favorite, a role that rarely leads to an invitation to New York — much less taking home the hardware.

And indeed, Darnold’s Heisman stock has suffered as a result of numerous interceptions and overall numbers that aren’t necessarily the most impressive.

However, Darnold’s had the opportunity to deliver in the clutch, engineering USC’s overtime-forcing drive with just 45 seconds remaining last week against Texas. He then hit Deontay Burnett for a touchdown pass on the first play from scrimmage in overtime. It’s those late-game heroics that often define a Heisman candidacy.

5. UCLA QB JOSH ROSEN

I was heartened to see outlets not punish Josh Rosen for last week’s loss at Memphis. Yes, the Heisman does function ostensibly as a team award; a winner like Paul Hornung playing for a losing team sounds like a fever dream in this day and age, as even Robert Griffin III’s victory with three losses in 2011 was seen as somewhat surprising.

Rosen’s fourth-quarter interception and fourth-down miss late against Memphis apparently didn’t obfuscate from the exceptional performance he had, scoring five touchdowns on the day and passing for 463 yards. Rosen has been a one-man wrecking crew since the second half of the Texas A&M opener, piling up 13 passing touchdowns — two more than Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph against arguably better competition.

4. LOUISVILLE QB LAMAR JACKSON

Defending Heisman winner Lamar Jackson was cruising right along on a pace that would send him back to New York through two games. Then came a buzzsaw in the form of the Clemson Tigers.

Though Clemson asserted its dominance on the ACC, Jackson did finish last week’s marquee matchup with solid statistics. He passed for 317 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for a respectable 64 yards on the Tigers’ outstanding defense. The reigning champ was not docked too drastically, but he has fallen out of the Top 3 after Week 3.

3. PENN STATE RB SAQUON BARKLEY

After Week 1, I joked that James Franklin’s use of Saquon Barkley on special teams was a transparent ploy to garner the Heisman candidate gaudier numbers. In reality, Franklin could have done much more to pad Barkley’s statistics in Week 3 against a badly overmatched Georgia State bunch.

Barkley carried just 10 times and went without a rushing touchdown, though 142 yards receiving on four catches with a score helped to compensate. The meat of Barkley’s Heisman resume was built in Week 2 at the expense of Pitt, which you’ll see is a recurring theme in this week’s Top 10.

2. OKLAHOMA STATE QB MASON RUDOLPH

Houston’s David Klinger threw 11 touchdown passes in a game in November 1990. That’s a record I’m confident will stand for a very long time, in part because few coaches are so cruel as to leave a quarterback in to hang 84 points on an FCS opponent, as the Cougars did that day vs. Eastern Washington.

Pitt’s not an FCS opponent, and Mason Rudolph may well have been able to throw 11 touchdowns against the Panthers last week, considering all five of his scoring throws came before intermission. Mike Gundy let off the gas, but not before Rudolph had 497 yards through the air.

On the strength of that beat-down, Rudolph trails only one rival — and that’s rival in the literal sense — in the Heisman Top 10.

1. OKLAHOMA QB BAKER MAYFIELD

Head coach Willie Fritz will turn Tulane into a dangerous team sooner than later, and it became evident early against Oklahoma in Week 3. The Green Wave took a 14-7 lead until…Baker Mayfield happened.

On the heels of his flag-worthy performance against Ohio State, Mayfield stayed atop the Heisman Top 10 with a four-touchdown afternoon as the Sooners rolled over Tulane.