Heisman Watch Week 1: Lamar Jackson takes an early lead

Matt McClain,

Sports Blogger,


The 2016 college football season kicked off this weekend, and it was the best opening weekend in the sport’s history. Wisconsin stunned LSU in Green Bay. Texas played host to an upset against Notre Dame. Florida State scored 33 unanswered points to come back and beat Ole Miss. How could I forget Houston? A kick six propelled them over Oklahoma. So much happened in Week 1, so it’s hard to pick out the top Heisman contenders. Here’s who leads the way after a crazy first week:

QB Lamar Jackson, Louisville (74 percent passes completed, 286 yards, six touchdowns; 119 rushing yards, two rushing touchdowns)

Jackson went on a tear and broke Louisville’s record for total touchdowns scored in a Thursday night game. Yes, I know Louisville faced Charlotte, a team that pales in comparison, but Jackson scored eight touchdowns. Jackson scored more points by himself than most teams did. The Cardinals’ next opponent is Syracuse, so Jackson faces a slightly more difficult challenge.

QB J.T. Barrett, Ohio State (68 percent passes completed, 349 yards, six touchdowns; 30 rushing yards, one rushing touchdown)

Ohio State's J.T. Barrett could not be stopped Saturday, scoring seven touchdowns. (Eleven Warriors/Flickr)
Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett could not be stopped Saturday, scoring seven touchdowns. (Eleven Warriors/Flickr)

Barrett played an almost flawless game against Bowling Green on Saturday. After he threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown, Barrett was mistake-free. This spot should be considered 1B, because I’m splitting hairs between Jackson and Barrett. Next week, the Buckeyes face Tulsa, and I have a feeling Barrett will make the list again.

RB Nick Chubb, Georgia (222 rushing yards, two rushing touchdowns)

Nick Chubb looked in mid-season form Saturday. He made his return from a left knee injury that sidelined him for the latter half of 2015. Chubb carried the ball 32 times. Even more astonishing,he averaged almost seven yards per carry. I’m surprised I didn’t have to turn off my Xbox after a performance like that. Chubb should put up even better numbers next week when Georgia hosts Nicholls State.

RB Christian McCaffrey, Stanford (126 rushing yards, two rushing touchdowns)

Stanford's Christian McCaffrey got the scoring started early for the Cardinal with two touchdowns. (jonathangray845/Flickr)
Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey got the scoring started early for the Cardinal with two touchdowns. (jonathangray845/Flickr)

McCaffrey showed everyone why that guy was shouting Heisman behind him after the Rose Bowl. McCaffrey was the difference for Stanford on Friday night. The Cardinal beat Kansas State 26-13. He scored twice, which bodes well for the 2016 Heisman campaign. McCaffrey waited until the third week of October in 2015 to score two touchdowns on the ground. Stanford has an off week, but after that the Cardinal hosts USC for their Pac-12 opener.

QB Greg Ward Jr., Houston (58 percent passes completed, 321 yards, two touchdowns)

Houston had arguably the most impressive performance of the week. It beat semifinalist Oklahoma 33-23. Houston’s leader, Ward, schooled an Oklahoma defense that looks different from when we last saw it. He wasn’t the most accurate quarterback, but his receivers were doing little to help him. Ward’s stats will be inflated after next week. Houston plays Lamar on Saturday.

Honorable Mentions

QB Jalen Hurts, Alabama (55 percent passes completed, 118 yards, two touchdowns; 32 rushing yards, two rushing touchdowns)

Alabama put the hurt on USC, both literally and metaphorically. Hurts didn’t have enough repetitions as a passer to stand out, but he did a fine job with the few he did get. Alabama plays Western Kentucky on Saturday.

QB Deshaun Watson, Clemson (56 percent passes completed, 248 yards, one touchdown)

Watson was average Saturday, but still better than most. The touchdown he threw was a perfect back shoulder throw to the end zone. Auburn is a weird place to play (see Kick Six, Miracle at Jordan Hare), so Watson should be better next week against Troy.

QB Chad Kelly, Ole Miss (54 percent passes completed, 313 yards, four touchdowns)

Kelly hangs on by a thread to be an honorable mention, but four touchdowns is much better than average. Kelly threw three interceptions to go with his four touchdowns. Another loss puts Kelly out of the race, but the Rebels play Wofford next Saturday.

OSU’s top candidate

QB Mason Rudolph (72 percent passes completed, 191 yards, two touchdowns)

The Cowboys’ signal caller had a solid day against Southeastern Louisiana, but not good enough to put himself in the Heisman conversation. If Rudolph put up those numbers against a Big 12 opponent, more eyebrows would have been raised. Rudolph split time with Taylor Cornelius and John Kolar in a 61-7 blowout. The Cowboys host Central Michigan next week.


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