Heisman Top 10: Saquon Barkley A Unanimous No. 1

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To deem Saquon Barkley the 2017 Heisman Trophy winner at this juncture in the season might be jumping the gun, but this week’s compilation of data for the Heisman Top 10 finds the Penn State running back is pretty close to locking up the award by Halloween.

Saquon Barkley is the first unanimous No. 1 of the rankings this season. He was close to unanimous heading into a marquee matchup with Michigan, but the perfect storm of prime-time billing on ABC; College Gameday on Penn State’s campus and thus a day of hype for the Penn State back, and Stanford’s Bryce Love being on a bye week created some distance between No. 1 and No. 2.

OTHERS RECEIVING VOTES

  • West Virginia QB Will Grier
  • Washington State QB Luke Falk 
  • Alabama CB Minkah Fitzpatrick 

10. PENN STATE QB TRACE McSORLEY

There’s a weird on-again, off-again with Trace McSorley I have discovered tracking rankings for this weekly list. He’ll resurface in the Top 10 every few weeks, and sometimes disappear without receiving an nominations at all. Heisman voters and outlets that rank these things seem to have tunnel vision as it comes to just a handful of top contenders.

Still, McSorley remaining in the conversation will be an interesting development over the regular season’s final month. He already came through once in the clutch against Iowa; similar performances down the stretch against Ohio State, Michigan State or in a hypothetical Big Ten Championship Game might be enough to usurp votes away from Saquon Barkley.

Indeed, there’s an air to this Heisman race similar to 1994. A Penn State quarterback-running back tandem — Kerry Collins and Ki-Jana Carter, in that instance — stole votes from one another, and a running back (Rashaan Salaam) from a program now in the Pac-12 sneaked into to win the award.

9. ARIZONA QB KHALIL TATE

In just three games, Khalil Tate went from relative unknown outside of Pac-12 territory to one of the most discussed players in college football. He’s averaging nearly 14 yards per carry and leading Arizona with 780 yards on the ground. Tate’s broken off four rushes of 50-plus yards, including a 76-yard score last week at Cal.

“In our eyes, he’s like a redshirt freshman,” Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez said of Tate, who just turned 19 this week. “I say pump the breaks a little bit. Hang on. He’s doing some good things, and he’ll keep getting better and better, but there will be some growing pains at the same time.”

The pains have yet to show in the three-game stretch, but should surface at some point in Arizona’s stretch run. Nevertheless, consider the highlight-reel three games Tate has put together thus far in 2017 a prelude to a full-fledged Heisman candidacy in 2018.

8. OKLAHOMA STATE QB MASON RUDOLPH

An offensively anemic performance in Oklahoma State’s win over Texas docked Mason Rudolph, but not especially badly. Rudolph still leads the nation in average passing yards despite throwing nearly 100 yards below his season average in the 13-10 victory.

With 19 touchdowns through seven games and a hefty 2,650 yards on the season, Rudolph can make a leap back into the New York picture with the Cowboys facing a high-profile stretch to close out the regular season.

7. OHIO STATE QB J.T. BARRETT

J.T. Barrett enjoyed a nice bounce back into the Heisman Top 10 last week, riding the momentum of an absolute devastating performance at Nebraska. Fickle media outlets docked J.T. Barrett after his return to the Top 5 and Ohio State on a bye week. That won’t be the case this week.

Barrett has an opportunity to take a huge leap — maybe even into the top 3? — depending on the result of Saturday’s marquee showdown between the Buckeyes and Penn State.

6. LOUISVILLE QB LAMAR JACKSON

Another outstanding individual performance nearly went for naught last week at Florida State, but Lamar Jackson’s 156 yards passing and 178 rushing provided the catalyst for Louisville’s thrilling win in Tallahassee. 

Jackson’s rushed for as many touchdowns on the season as Bryce Love, and passed for as many scores as Sam Darnold. 

5. NOTRE DAME RB JOSH ADAMS

Though he was putting up rushing numbers surpassing those of Saquon Barkley and close to Bryce Love’s FBS-leading pace, Josh Adams was nowhere on the Heisman radar until he went off for 191 yards and three touchdowns against USC.

Notre Dame plays several marquee dates in the coming weeks, starting immediately with NC State on Saturday. Another big game could push Adams into the top 3. 

4. WISCONSIN RB JONATHAN TAYLOR

At 7.46 yards per carry, Jonathan Taylor trails only Josh Adams and Bryce Love among FBS running backs. No coincidence that both appear in this week’s Heisman Top 10. 

Taylor’s production was modest against Maryland last week — at least, modest by his impressive standards — with 126 yards on 22 carries and a touchdown. 

3. OKLAHOMA QB BAKER MAYFIELD

Oklahoma’s fourth-quarter rally to hold off Kansas State was Baker Mayfield’s time to shine. Despite throwing an interception — just his second of the season — Mayfield threw for 410 yards and two scores, added another 69 yards rushing and scored two more touchdowns on the ground. 

It was Mayfield’s most impressive effort since the Ohio State game in the season’s second week. 

2. STANFORD RB BRYCE LOVE

Stanford spent last weekend on a bye, which seems to have cost Bryce Love his few first-place votes from a week ago. All swung to Saquon Barkley.

Love will get a chance to pad his resume against a struggling Oregon State team Thursday night in Corvallis. The stage pales tremendously in comparison to Saquon Barkley going head-to-head with Ohio State in what could be a de facto Big Ten North championship; however, if Love goes off with the spotlight all to himself, and Barkley struggles, the race suddenly gets a whole lot more interesting.

1. PENN STATE RB SAQUON BARKLEY

Penn State embarked on its current, three-game stretch — a stretch that would make-or-break both the Heisman candidacy of Saquon Barkley and the Nittany Lions’ College Football Playoff aspirations — with a prime-time date against Michigan.

All Barkley did was rush for 108 yards and two touchdowns, and catch three passes for 53 yards and a third score. Absurd. 

He has not necessarily locked up the Heisman Trophy…but he took a long step in that direction.