Heisman Top…8: Baker Mayfield’s World

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So, here at The Open Man, Your Humble Author scours the vast reaches of The Internetâ„¢ to compile the Heisman Top 10 rankings week-by-week. However, an unusual occurrence has necessitated an audible from the Heisman Top 10 this week.

More than 10 players received nods from the various sources used to determine this ranking, sure. But only eight received more than a single vote or two. That means UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton, as well as on-again, off-again contenders Mason Rudolph and J.T. Barrett do not appear this week.

Instead, The Open Man proudly presents the first Heisman Top 10: Heisman Top 8 Edition. Think of it like 8-man high school football.

8. ALABAMA QB JALEN HURTS

One outlet ranked Jalen Hurts as high as third overall, which is somewhat shocking. The Alabama quarterback is coming off an 11-of-24 passing performance against LSU, with 44 yards rushing on 14 carries, and two combined touchdowns.

On the season, Hurts has rushed for 616 yards and seven scores. He paced the Crimson Tide for a good chunk of the campaign, but Damien Harris, who has yet to surface on any Heisman rankings I have used, has taken over in both categories.

Hurts is completing just south of 61 percent of his attempts, a decent if not unimpressive total, but has just one interception against 10 touchdowns. He’s the embodiment of the primary offensive player on a top-tier team factoring into the Heisman conversation because voters often feel a need to represent title contenders.

Should the top of the race continue to fluctuate as dramatically as it has this season, Hurts is well-positioned to sneak into New York.

7. WISCONSIN RB JONATHAN TAYLOR

Jonathan Taylor’s Heisman trajectory is somewhat peculiar. He moved into the Top 4 not long ago, and didn’t do much to hurt his chances. Taylor put up unimpressive numbers against Illinois on Oct. 28, with 73 yards on 12 carries and no scores, but he rallied for 183 yards and a touchdown against Indiana.

Taylor’s Heisman positioning is likely a reflection of Wisconsin as a whole, which is just…well, sorta boring. That’s not to label Taylor’s individual play boring, but through an undefeated start, Wisconsin has been wholly efficient and wholly unspectacular, without a marquee opportunity for the running back to shine.

That changes this week in a matchup with Iowa.

6. LOUISVILLE QB LAMAR JACKSON

I personally am glad to see reigning Heisman winner Lamar Jackson hang around the rankings, despite the middling record Louisville sports. Bobby Petrino’s failure to win more with a transcendent talent like Jackson is one of the more egregious failures in recent college football, but Jackson continues to flourish.

He rushed for 161 yards and three touchdowns last time out, Oct. 28, against an outstanding Wake Forest defense. Of course, the Cardinals gave up 42 points to the Demon Deacons and lost. If Lamar isn’t back in NYC next month, he should really adopt Gene Snitsky’s short-lived catchprhase: “It’s not my fault.”

5. ARIZONA QB KHALIL TATE

Voters have a tendency to dramatically ding Heisman contenders for losses — the aforementioned Lamar Jackson is a noteworthy example — but Khalil Tate’s rise this week is an exception. Arizona lost for the first time since Tate took over its offense on Oct. 7, but the Wildcats went down swinging, turning a 28-6 gap into a 35-35 tie behind an excellent second half from Tate.

Tate’s response after struggling in the first half might have been his most impressive feat yet, all things considered. Third in the nation in rushing yards per game, 12th in total rushing yardage, and the first Pac-12 quarterback to eclipse 1,000 yards on the ground in a season, Tate is on track to become one of the most surprising Heisman finalists in recent memory.

4. NOTRE DAME RB JOSH ADAMS

Notre Dame running back Josh Adams’ candidacy wasn’t damaged despite a lackluster performance last week. The Fighting Irish remain in contention for the College Football Playoff, which certainly helps Adams’ Heisman chances. And, at 8.7 yards per carry — even after rushing for just 22 yards on five carries against Wake Forest — Adams remains one of the most explosive ball-carries in college football, not far behind fellow Heisman Top 10 8’ers Khalil Tate and Bryce Love.

3. STANFORD RB BRYCE LOVE

Though Bryce Love’s return from injury in a 27-24 loss at Washington State didn’t go quite as well as his many highlight-filled performances prior to the injury, the Stanford running back still managed yet another explosive touchdown play.

Love’s Heisman candidacy reaches what should be a make-or-break stretch here in the regular season’s final three weeks, with Playoff contenders Washington and Notre Dame both coming down onto The Farm.

2. PENN STATE RB SAQUON BARKLEY

Perhaps I should refrain from applying the phrase “make-or-break” too liberally to any of the top Heisman contenders. After all, when Penn State began its three-game stretch against Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State three weeks ago, I suggested the Nittany Lions running back Saquon Barkley needed two huge games to run away with the Heisman.

Barkley was electric in Michigan, Penn State’s one win in that stretch, and opened the Ohio State loss with a highlight-reel moment. However, his collective performance in both losses docked Barkley mightily.

He went from being the unanimous favorite to trailing Baker Mayfield, but it wasn’t necessarily a “break” period for Barkley’s Heisman hopes. Should Baker Mayfield collapse down the stretch, Barkley is well-positioned to take home the award.

1. OKLAHOMA QB BAKER MAYFIELD

Baker Mayfield is putting together a season for the ages. The brash Oklahoma quarterback has been dynamic throughout his tenure in Norman, but in 2017, he’s taken it to another level. Never was that more evident than in last week’s Bedlam matchup with Oklahoma State.

Mayfield passed for a hair below 600 yards — SIX-HUNDRED!!!! — with five touchdowns.

His No. 1 distinction this week wasn’t unanimous, which is rather shocking. Still, he has a big enough lead to suggest it will take something drastic for Baker Mayfield not to win the Heisman after two years coming close.