Baker Mayfield ended each of the last two seasons with Heisman-worthy numbers, and earned an invitation to New York in 2016. Should the Oklahoma quarterback continue at his current pace, he just might join recent Sooners quarterback Jason White and Sam Bradford in the exclusive club of winners.
Mayfield surged into a tie in this week’s The Open Man Heisman Top 10, receiving as many overall points and first-place votes as reigning Heisman winner Lamar Jackson. Baker Mayfield was the talk of college football following his 386-yard, three-touchdown performance at Ohio State.
Waving Oklahoma’s flag at midfield may have also helped Baker Mayfield’s case. A little flash never hurts.
In a demonstration of just wildly the Heisman Top 10 fluctuates at this early juncture in the season, Ohio State had two players squarely in the mix last week — J.K. Dobbins and J.T. Barrett — and neither received a single point from any of the outlets used to tabulate the ranking.
Otherwise, however, the swing this week wasn’t overly dramatic. Two new names join the Top 10, replacing Barrett and Dobbins.
HEISMAN IMPLICATION GAMES
Clemson at Louisville: Lamar Jackson strengthened his case in defeat last year at Clemson. A win over the defending champion Tigers, who have been especially salty on defense through two games, might again elevate the reigning winner to unreachable heights before October arrives.
Stanford at San Diego State: Two running backs in the Others Receiving Votes category, Bryce Love and Rashaad Penny, meet in a late-night tilt at The Q. Penny leads the nation in rushing yards after gashing Arizona State. A strong performance against Stanford could launch the most realistic non-power conference campaign since Jordan Lynch was a finalist in 2013.
LSU at Mississippi State: Nick Fitzgerald and Derrius Guice both linger in the background of early Heisman conversation. One could surge ahead in what has been an entertaining and competitive series the last few years.
OTHERS RECEIVING VOTES
• Mississippi State QB Nick Fitzgerald
• Oregon QB Justin Herbert
• Penn State QB Trace McSorley
• San Diego State RB Rashaad Penny
• Stanford RB Bryce Love
10. OREGON RB ROYCE FREEMAN
Of the many disappointments in Oregon’s 2016 season, Royce Freeman rushing for “just” 945 yards is one. Now, 945 is a solid output, and a 5.63 YPC average is remarkable. But after he’d set an Oregon single-season record in 2015, Freeman embarked on his junior year with both Oregon’s career record and the Heisman Trophy as realistic goals.
Both may have simply been deferred for a season.
Freeman makes his return to the Heisman Top 10 heading into Week 3 and already one-third of the way to his 2016 rushing total.
9. USC RB RONALD JONES II
There are various instances in the Heisman Trophy’s history of teammates siphoning votes from one another. Rashaan Salaam’s 1994 win might be owed to Kerry Collins and Ki-Jana Carter doing so. Willis McGahee might have won in 2002 were it not for the groundswell around Ken Dorsey.
This year, Ronald Jones II’s immediate Heisman rise coincides with a slight dip for teammate Sam Darnold, the overwhelming preseason favorite who is now looking up at fellow quarterbacks Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson and Josh Rosen.
Tracking this throughout the season will be an interesting experiment, as I’m curious to see if the two ever meet in the dead-center of the Top 10. It could well happen this week when Jones, who has 275 yards and five touchdowns through two games, faces a shaky Texas rush defense.
8. OLE MISS QB SHEA PATTERSON
Shea Patterson breaking into the Top 10, and even outpacing a pair of candidates after beating up on South Alabama and UT-Martin, is the trend I find most surprising at this early point in the season. Patterson’s numbers through two weeks are indeed impressive: His 918 yards and nine touchdowns both lead college football.
Ole Miss faces its first real test when it makes a rare trip into Pac-12 Country Saturday to face Cal. The Golden Bears pass defense has been virtually nonexistent for the past half-decade, including entering Saturday ranked No. 120 in the FBS. Patterson should be able to post huge numbers yet again.
7. LSU RB DERRIUS GUICE
Derrius Guice opened 2017 chugging along at a nice pace. His output isn’t astronomical at this point — which isn’t to disparage 224 yards and four touchdowns in two games — but continuing at such a rate over the course of the season would make him a shoo-in for New York.
The first opportunity to really bolster his resume comes this week at Mississippi State. Each of the last three games in the series have come down to a single possession. Following the recent trend, Guice may be presented with the kind of game-breaking moment on which Heisman reels are made.
6. USC QB SAM DARNOLD
After a quiet Week 1, preseason Heisman favorite Sam Darnold looked every bit the part against No. 14 Stanford. He carved up what has consistently been the Pac-12’s best defense for 316 yards and four touchdowns on 21-of-26 passing…and actually lost ground this week.
Last week, I pointed out Mason Rudolph’s underwhelming showing after playing on FS1. Darnold’s stellar performance went head-to-head with Baker Mayfield and Oklahoma, which kicked off a half-hour earlier on ABC. FOX conceding start time to ABC in the Saturday prime-time window is confounding.
The placement of Heisman candidates based on TV placement could be one of the more intriguing developments to track in this year’s race.
5. OKLAHOMA STATE QB MASON RUDOLPH
Speaking of Rudolph, he registered numbers in Week 2 that in certain ways, were almost identical — 335 vs. 303, three touchdowns with no interceptions for a second straight week — and his production even dipped in others: 8.8 yards per attempt, down from 12.6, and 65.8 percent completions vs. 83.3. Nevertheless, he moved up in this week’s Heisman Top 10 after leading Oklahoma State past South Alabama, a lesser opponent compared to Week 1 counterpart Tulsa.
Why is this?
Oklahoma State’s Friday night Week 2 contest at South Alabama aired on ESPN 2 and reached triple the audience of the Cowboys’ Week 1 game on FS1.
Again: Item to note as the season unfolds.
4. UCLA QB JOSH ROSEN
One could argue Josh Rosen has played the best six quarters of football among anyone in college football this season. Coming off the torrid and historic comeback win over Texas A&M, in which Rosen threw four touchdowns in the fourth quarter, he followed up with five scores against Hawaii.
Rosen’s now tied with Shea Patterson for most passing touchdowns in college football. If he can deliver at a similar pace against a good Memphis team — an opponent that functions as a definite Admiral Ackbar date on the Bruins’ schedule — Rosen will be well-positioned for a Heisman push heading into Pac-12 play.
3. PENN STATE RB SAQUON BARKLEY
Somewhat surprisingly, Saquon Barkley was outperformed by Pitt counterpart Qadree Ollison in certain key rushing statistics (88 yards on 14 carries vs. 96 yards on 15 carries), but the Penn State star’s impressive contribution in the passing game (four catches for 45 yards) and two touchdowns keep him right on pace for a trip to New York.
In its one outing this season, Penn State’s Week 3 opponent, Georgia State, gave up 5.7 yards per carry. Look for James Franklin, who hasn’t been bashful in his efforts to inflate Barkley’s production early on this season, to feed the beast early and often.
1t. LOUISVILLE QB LAMAR JACKSON
After lingering in the background throughout the offseason, Lamar Jackson raced ahead of preseason favorite Sam Darnold in just one week of competition. He’s now running alongside Baker Mayfield in a race that wouldn’t surprise me if it went to New York.
Parlaying September buzz into a December nomination is exceedingly difficult, making what Jackson did last year all the more impressive. The Clemson game proved vital in solidifying Jackson’s Heisman case.
Brent Venables’ unit underwent some changes in the offseason, but remains as nasty as ever. This could be the second resume-shaping contest of the early season. The first…
1t. OKLAHOMA QB BAKER MAYFIELD
Baker Mayfield put on a show Saturday at Ohio State. After a lackluster performance against the Buckeyes a season ago, the Oklahoma quarterback played with an edge at The Horseshoe.
He split first-place votes with Jackson among the outlets used for the ranking. After two seasons knocking on the Heisman door, that performance in Week 2 was Mayfield threatening to kick down the door.