By Joel Devick
Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State – last week’s stats: 20 rushes, 56 yards, four receptions, 51 yards
If the season ended today, Saquon Barkley would win the Heisman trophy. Not only would he win, he would blow out the competition. Barkley, a junior running back, put on a multifaceted show in the Nittany Lions’ destruction of Indiana on Saturday. Not shown in his slightly subpar stat line are the 98-yard kickoff return touchdown he had on the first play and the trick play that gave him a 16-yard passing touchdown. If Barkley keeps it up, the ceremony in New York will be a foregone conclusion.
Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma: bye week
Baker Mayfield has been the best quarterback in the Power 5. Although he didn’t play this week because the Sooners had a bye, the impact of Mayfield’s play is still large. Even after losing the offensive weapons that surrounded him last year, such as Samaje Perine, Joe Mixon and Dede Westbrook, and having to work under a new coach in Lincoln Riley, Mayfield hasn’t missed a beat. The Sooners and Mayfield will welcome the Cyclones of Iowa State to Norman on Saturday.
Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville – last week’s stats: 18-for-26 249 yards, three touchdowns, seven rushes, 100 yards, one touchdown
The Cardinals faced off against an in-state FCS outfit in Murray State, and Lamar Jackson had little trouble in dismantling the Racers by the end of the first half. Jackson was out of the game in the third quarter and had added another nice chunk of yards to his now whopping 2,073 season total. The disappointing Clemson loss still lingers for Jackson, but if he can keep doing what he did against Murray State on Saturday at No. 24 NC State, he will be just fine.
Bryce Love, RB, Stanford – last week’s stats: 25 rushes, 301 yards, three touchdowns
Bryce Love has seemingly come out of nowhere to be the leading rusher in the nation with 1,088 yards in five games. Love, a junior running back, has stepped into the big shoes that Christian McCaffery left to fill when turning pro over the offseason. Love torched Arizona State on Saturday, as all three of his rushing touchdowns were 40 or more yards. Love and the Cardinal will have their work cut out for themselves on the road at No. 20 Utah, which defense has given up only 86 yards per game.
Luke Falk, QB, Washington State – last week’s stats: 34-for-51 340 yards, two touchdowns
Another newcomer to the list, Luke Falk not only was on the winning side against fellow Heisman candidate Sam Darnold and the USC Trojans on Friday, but Falk largely outplayed Darnold throughout the contest. Falk, a senior fourth-year starter, is playing well, having thrown only two picks and ranking fourth in the nation with a 74.5 percent completion rate. The Cougars are undefeated and rank inside the top 15 for the first time since 2003, and it is largely because of Falk. WSU travels to a tough environment at Oregon on Saturday.
Oklahoma State’s Top Candidate
Mason Rudolph, QB – last week’s stats: 27-for-38, 376 yards, three touchdowns, 11 rushes, 50 yards, two touchdowns
Mason Rudolph showed his true mettle after the tough loss the previous Saturday to TCU. Rudolph and the Cowboys’ offense bounced back in a 41-34 shootout win against Texas Tech on Saturday. After an errant first-quarter pass was intercepted and returned for a Red Raiders’ touchdown, Rudolph buckled down and ended the night with an absurd stat line, including two touchdowns using his legs. Rudolph and OSU have a bye Saturday, and they need to eliminate mistakes to contend come January.