Heisman Top 10: Saquon Barkley Pulls Ahead

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Saquon Barkley’s heroics in prime-time last week push the Penn State running back into the lead of the latest Heisman Top 10.

The combination of Barkley’s show-stealing effort at Iowa, and Oklahoma State laying an egg against Big 12 Conference counterpart TCU, broke up the brief Bedlam one-two setting the pace a week ago.

Just one week remains before someone claims the prestigious September Heisman. In the meantime, the following is the pulse of the Heisman race heading into Sept. 30.

OTHERS RECEIVING VOTES

Washington QB Jake Browning

Ohio State RB J.K. Dobbins

Washington State QB Luke Falk

Alabama RB Damien Harris

Virginia Tech QB Josh Jackson

Penn State QB Trace McSorley

Texas Tech QB Nic Shimonek

10. ALABAMA QB JALEN HURTS

I can’t say I expected Jalen Hurts’ return to the Top 10 this week. Alabama’s thorough deconstruction of previously unbeaten Vanderbilt didn’t require the sophomore quarterback’s dual-threat skill set much; in fact, freshman Tua Tagovailoa accounted for both of the Crimson Tide’s touchdown passes against the Commodores.

On the season, Hurts has four touchdown passes — just one more than Tagovailoa — but his 360 yards rushing lead the team.

9. OREGON RB ROYCE FREEMAN

The nation’s leader in rushing touchdowns tacked on another in Oregon’s loss last week at Arizona State, despite the Ducks only giving him 15 carries.

Falling behind early limited Freeman’s opportunities, but with a 5.4-yard per carry average, he operated at an impressive rate nonetheless.

8. WEST VIRGINIA QB WILL GRIER

Former Florida Gators quarterback Will Grier has enjoyed quite the career resurrection at West Virginia. Grier was ousted from UF and put on a year-long NCAA suspension after failing a PED test in 2015, but resurfaced as the perfect protege for Dana Holgorsen.

Grier has 13 touchdown passes against just three interceptions, and multiple touchdown passes in all four West Virginia games. Grier’s racked up almost 1,400 yards through the air, with another 150 (plus two touchdowns) on the ground.

7. STANFORD RB BRYCE LOVE

Saquon Barkley’s monster performance in prime time may have overshadowed one of the most impressive, one-man shows any college running back has had in recent years. Bryce Love absolutely decimated UCLA during real Pac-12 After Dark Hours, going off for 263 yards on 30 carries. His 8.8 yards per carry were A SEASON LOW.

While Stanford’s .500 record might further complicate the otherwise compelling Heisman case college football’s leading rushing is making, some interesting perspective via Pac-12 Network’s Ashley Adamson:

6. SAN DIEGO STATE RB RASHAAD PENNY

Conditions at Air Force last week were hardly ideal for…well, anything football related. Rashaad Penny came in the nation’s leader in rushing and all-purpose yards, but the rain-slicked turf limited him to just 2.9 yards per carry for a half against the Falcons.

Once the driving rain and 25 MPH wind gusts ceased, however, Penny averaged 10 yards per carry and scored a career-best three rushing touchdowns.

5. USC QB SAM DARNOLD

Sam Darnold’s Heisman chase is complicated, and will continue to be complicated with each passing week. The USC quarterback’s numbers don’t stack up to fellow Top 10 quarterbacks Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson, Mason Rudolph, or even crosstown rival Josh Rosen (who fell out of the rankings this week).

But the context of Darnold’s seven interceptions — multiple coming on dropped passes — and his ability to flip a switch in crunch time, as was the case the past two weeks against Cal and Texas, have kept him right in the hunt.

Preseason favorites historically have a difficult time maintaining voter interest. If nothing else, Sam Darnold’s theatrics have kept intrigue high, which should benefit his candidacy — so long as USC continues to win.

4. OKLAHOMA STATE QB MASON RUDOLPH

Mason Rudolph jumped all the way to No. 2 in last week’s Heisman Top 10. His mixed performance against TCU — accounting for three touchdowns but also throwing two picks with a completion percentage barely above 50 — docked him this week.

In fact, while Rudolph’s composite is a solid No. 4, fifth was the most frequent spot in which outlets used to compile the ranking had him projected.

A prime-time matchup with Texas Tech and rising dark-horse candidate Nic Shimonek this Saturday provide a new opportunity for Rudolph to make for a Bedlam Heisman race.

3. LOUISVILLE QB LAMAR JACKSON

Lamar Jackson’s dip was short-lived. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner battered overmatched Kent State for two passing touchdowns and a third rushing — not necessarily the most eye-popping performance, given the opponent — but setting the Louisville career touchdown mark garnered Jackson all-important headlines.

The Kent State performance provided a palate cleanser after Clemson. Jackson and the Cardinals get another stat-padding opportunity this week vs. Murray State, then face an impressive NC State bunch on a short turnaround Oct. 5.

2. OKLAHOMA QB BAKER MAYFIELD

Baker Mayfield’s pregame promise to “spank” Baylor didn’t quite come to fruition. The winless Bears taking Mayfield’s Sooners to the edge, while Saquon Barkley was playing Hero Ball in Iowa City, probably cost the Oklahoma quarterback the lead this week.

CAN BAKER BOUNCE BACK TO WIN THE ALL-IMPORTANT SEPTEMBER HEISMAN?!

In case you were wondering, I don’t think it’s all that meaningful Mayfield dropped behind Saquon Barkley this week. Mayfield still threw for three touchdowns despite Oklahoma going primarily with the rush vs. the hapless Baylor defense; plus, it’s not as if the quarterback is responsible for defensive deficiencies.

1. PENN STATE RB SAQUON BARKLEY

Very specific moments often define a Heisman season: Robert Griffin III delivering a laser against Oklahoma in 2011, Cam Newton leading Auburn back past Alabama in 2010, Desmond Howard striking the Heisman pose after his punt return touchdown in 1991.

Saquon Barkley came through with the closest such moment anyone will see in the month of September last week at Iowa. His receptions of eight yards on a third-and-long in Penn State territory provided a manageable fourth down, then another catch of 14 yards in the final seconds made the game-winning score possible.

The overall and all-around monster night Barkley put together propelled him into the lead of this week’s Heisman Top 10, garnering the top spot both with composite score and most first-place votes.