Lamar Jackson, quarterback, Louisville: 2,753 yards, 26 touchdowns, 1,181 rushing yards, 19 rushing touchdowns
This man does not stop. With the game well in hand, Jackson did not let up against Boston College. The Cardinals won 52-7, and Jackson scored seven times. Once again, his scoring distribution broke about even – four passing touchdowns and three rushing. Jackson, barring an injury or a cataclysmic drop in production, will be the fifth FBS quarterback to score 20 passing and rushing touchdowns in the same season. Jackson would join the likes of Cam Newton, Tim Tebow, Johnny Manziel and Colin Kaepernick. Three of those guys have a Heisman trophy. Jackson has his name etched in the trophy’s nameplate. The only way this guy doesn’t win the Heisman is if he doesn’t play the rest of this season. Louisville faces Wake Forest on Saturday.
Jake Browning, quarterback, Washington: 2,273 yards, 34 touchdowns
Browning is making a statement late in the season. He couldn’t quite match Jackson’s seven touchdowns, but he came close with six passing touchdowns in a 66-27 drubbing of California. Browning has been the leader Washington needed. The fifth-ranked Huskies haven’t been relevant nationally since 2001 when they won the Rose Bowl, but Browning is changing that. Browning’s efficiency has been outstanding. His touchdown to interception ratio sits about 11:1. That is comparable to Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota in 2014., whose ratio was 10:1. Mariota ended the season with a Heisman trophy in his hands. Washington plays USC on Saturday.
Deshaun Watson, quarterback, Clemson: 2,497 yards, 24 touchdowns
In Clemson’s 54-0 shutout of Syracuse, Watson did not play the second half due to a shoulder injury. The Tigers’ gunslinger still threw for two touchdowns in the first half. Watson said after the game he could have kept playing. This shows that the national title is Clemson’s focus, not Watson’s Heisman campaign. That’s good for every other ranking, but not this one. Watson’s absence hurt his campaign, and he will have to do heavier lifting in future games. Luckily, he will have the chance to pad his stats because Clemson doesn’t face another ranked opponent in the regular season. Clemson’s next foe is Pittsburgh. That clash happens Saturday.
Jabrill Peppers, linebacker, Michigan: 49 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 150 rushing yards, three rushing touchdowns, 257 punt return yards, one punt return touchdown
There’s so much hype surrounding Peppers, but I’m not buying it. People are impressed that he can play almost everywhere, and I am too, but I don’t think he produces enough to be a top-tier Heisman candidate. A good starting place to become a top-tier candidate would be to get an interception. Peppers hasn’t picked off a pass in his college career. Charles Woodson, the only defensive player to win the Heisman, had seven interceptions in his Heisman season. Peppers likely won’t finish with that many in his college career. Peppers is a great player, he might be the most talented in college football, but he frankly isn’t producing enough to win the Heisman. Michigan travels to Iowa to face the Hawkeyes in primetime Saturday.
J.T. Barrett, quarterback, Ohio State: 1,965 yards, 21 touchdowns, 570 rushing yards, six rushing touchdowns
Ohio State has no room for error and it played like it Saturday. The Buckeyes demolished Nebraska 62-3. Barrett threw for four touchdowns and 290 yards. It was the fifth time in his past six games Barrett threw for at least 200 yards. In the grand scheme of things, Barrett is doing what he needs to keep OSU in the playoff conversation, but he is not even in Jackson’s rearview mirror. He needs three more insane games to even come close to getting to New York. That task won’t be easy. He has to go up against one of the best defenses in Michigan. The Buckeyes face Maryland on Saturday.
Oklahoma State’s top candidate
Mason Rudolph, quarterback: 2,989 yards, 22 touchdowns
For the second season in a row, Rudolph led the Cowboys down the field late in the fourth quarter to beat Kansas State. OSU took the lead with 1:46 remaining by way of a 17-yard Chris Carson touchdown run. Rudolph threw for a season-high five touchdowns in the game, but he also threw a season-high two interceptions. The Cowboys are within striking distance of the playoff, but need a lot of help to make it. Despite its small playoff chances, OSU has a chance to win the Big 12 title. If both OSU and Oklahoma continue to win, Bedlam will be a fight for the Big 12 championship. Rudolph needs to perform Jackson-esque to catch up to the top five. OSU’s next game is against Texas Tech on Saturday.