Heisman Top 10: Barkley and Mayfield Neck-and-Neck

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We head into the first weekend of October, and a clear 1-2 lead the Heisman Trophy race. Penn State’s Saquon Barkley remains atop the projection this week, barely holding off Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield.

The two occupied each of the top spots in every publication used to tabulate this week’s ranking, and hold a sizable lead over the fast-surging No. 3 candidate.

Notable this week is that preseason favorite Sam Darnold fell completely out of the projections. No outlet ranked the USC quarterback this week after his 164-yard, one interception showing in a 30-27 loss at Washington State. Darnold ran for a pair of touchdowns, but his anemic passing numbers docked him badly.

Others Receiving Votes

• UCLA QB Josh Rosen

• Houston DT Ed Oliver

• Miami RB Mark Walton

• Oklahoma State WR James Washington

10. Alabama Crimson Tide QB Jalen Hurts

The thing about Jalen Hurts is that neither he nor any of his first-string Alabama teammates have had to play much this season. Thus, Hurts padding his resume hasn’t been in the cards.

So, you have to consider his 12-of-19, two-touchdown passing and 101-yard, one-touchdown rushing game in the Tide’s bludgeoning of Ole Miss would be inflated had the Rebels more competitive.

Scary to think that the only thing preventing Jalen Hurts from receiving more Heisman praise is that Alabama’s actually too good.

9. West Virginia Mountaineers QB Will Grier

Will Grier and West Virginia were off last week, so no opportunity to bolster his standing. But even with four games, and much of the rest of this week’s Heisman Top 10 having played five, Grier boasts some of the most impressive numbers.

He’s thrown for 13 touchdowns against just three interceptions, and scored a pair of rushing touchdowns his last time out. Grier arguably has the most room to improve his ranking this week, with the Mountaineers traveling to play unbeaten and No. 8-ranked TCU.

A strong showing (and win) there, and Grier could catapult into the Top 5 next week.

8. Penn State Nittany Lions QB Trace McSorley

The Teammate Effect apparently has no impact on this year’s Heisman race — at least, not yet — as Trace McSorley returns to the Top 10 without dinging Saquon Barkley.

The two both being in pursuit of the award is reminiscent of 1994, when Kerry Collins and Ki-Jana Carter were both finalists.

McSorley threw for two touchdowns and rushed for a third against Indiana. Coming on the heels of a heroic, final drive to beat Iowa, McSorley joined his teammate in the Heisman spotlight.

7. San Diego State Aztecs RB Rashaad Penny

Despite surpassing 100 yards rushing for a fifth consecutive game — and doing so despite feeling as though he “was going blind” — Rashaad Penny lost ground this week. Such is the plight of the Group of Five Heisman contender.

The outlets that track the Heisman race, and thus the voters represented, have a preconception regarding the Group of Five. A player can’t just have a good game; and make no mistake, at 107 yards rushing against the nation’s No. 21 defense, with a touchdown scored on a wheel route reception, Penny had a good game.

The expectation set for a Group of Five player, however, is that he must put up exceptional numbers every single week.

6. Oklahoma State Cowboys QB Mason Rudolph

Mason Rudolph was an absolute boss in Oklahoma State’s road win over Texas Tech, completing more than 71 percent of his pass attempts; throwing for three touchdowns; and rushing for two more scores.

And he dropped a spot in this week’s Heisman projection. Huh. I just compile the results, folks, I’m not responsible for what they say.

5. Louisville Cardinals QB Lamar Jackson

Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson did exactly what he needed to against an overmatched, FCS opponent. Jackson passed brilliantly and ran circles around Murray State, finishing with three touchdown passes, one score on the ground (with 100 yards rushing to boot) and played a blemish-free game.

Louisville is in action tonight against an outstanding NC State defense. Jackson’s presented with his best opportunity to either push himself back to the front of the Heisman chase, or lose ground since the Cardinals played Clemson a few weeks ago.

4. Washington State Cougars QB Luke Falk

Sometimes, Heisman projections have a strong recency bias. It’s a big reason November typically plays such a pivotal role in shaping the scene for New York.

With that mind, Luke Falk went from barely registering a blip on the Heisman radar to appearing in the Top 4. Based on the majority of seasons, that would be enough to send the Washington State quarterback to NYC.

Falk basically went Shang Tsung on Sam Darnold, snatching the USC quarterback’s Heisman soul in a 30-27 upset victory over the Trojans. While running back Jamal Morrow did a lion’s share of the work on the play, Falk’s shovel pass touchdown in the fourth quarter has Heisman highlight material written all over it.

3. Stanford Cardinal RB Bryce Love

Aside from Pac-12 counterpart Luke Falk, no play made Heisman moves this week as dramatic as Bryce Love. Rushing for a program record 303 yards to close out the month September over 1,000 yards will do that.

Love even received an impressive endorsement for his Heisman candidacy, from someone who has been in this chase before.

2. Oklahoma Sooners QB Baker Mayfield

Baker Mayfield did not play last week — but if Bedlam rival Mason Rudolph losing ground after a five-touchdown performance is any indication, that doesn’t seem to matter much.

Mayfield’s showing in Week 2 at Ohio State keeps him firmly neck-and-neck with Saquon Barkley in this early stretch of the Heisman race. By virtue of Barkley appearing No. 1 for a second straight week, Barkley is the unofficial September Heisman winner — not always (or even often) distinction that plays well for December.

1. Penn State RB Saquon Barkley

James Franklin’s master plan bore fruit last week. Saquon Barkley did not have the kind of performance that would typically keep a player at No. 1.

Baker Mayfield having the week off, Stanford sporting two losses and Luke Falk jumping into the race after appearing nowhere in the mix for the prior month certainly helped Barkley keep from losing the top spot on a night in which he averaged 2.8 yards per carry.

But Franklin’s decision to have Barkley return kicks, more than anything else, ensured the Penn State running back is still No. 1.