Suddenly, we have an interesting race on our hands.
After Stanford’s Bryce Love sat out his Week 9 game with an ankle injury, the opportunity presented itself for Saquon Barkley to put the 83rd Heisman Trophy into a submission hold in Week 9 and get it to tap out before the calendar had even hit November.
But Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett grabbed the ropes — if we’re continuing this wrestling vibe — and forced Barkley to have to break that veritable figure four lock.
He was simply upstaged by the Buckeyes’ quarterback in the biggest game of the year for Barkley. While Barrett has ensured he's very much a factor, Love and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield have schedules that will guarantee they have a say in the proceedings, and let’s not sleep on the growing threat that is No. 3 Notre Dame’s Josh Adams.
But to say Barkley isn’t still in the lead would be misguided.
He remains the nation’s leader in all-purpose yards at 206.2 per game and, minus a Big Ten Championship Game berth that isn’t likely to happen without some serious help, is on pace for 2,474 yards by the time votes are due. That would be over 300 yards more than the last three running backs to win the award (Alabama’s Derrick Henry in 2015 and Mark Ingram in ’09 and Reggie Bush in ’05) averaged in their winning years.
That didn’t change with the loss to Ohio State, and while Barkley was held to 44 rushing yards and a score on 21 attempts, he still took the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown and finished with 172 yards in total. While a College Football Playoff bid is unlikely for the seventh-ranked Nittany Lions, they seem destined for a New Year’s Six bowl.
Granted, there are opportunities for those players who are still in the CFP hunt — Barrett, Mayfield and Adams — to vie for the lead while the stakes raise over the next month and into the first Saturday of December for Championship Weekend. Those are chances that all but slipped through Barkley’s fingers in Columbus, and there’s certain to be an understandable shift in focus to others in this race now that the Nittany Lions have fallen out of the CFP chase.
That’s the danger of no longer orbiting the star that the college football universe centers around. But while the Nittany Lions may no longer be a threat in the playoffs, the Heisman may still wind up in Happy Valley for the first time since 1973.
Before we dive into this week’s players who will rise and fall in the race, here’s a look at the Forecaster’s virtual ballot:
1. Saqon Barkley, Penn State RB
2. Bryce Love, Stanford RB
3. J.T. Barrett, Ohio State QB
Joseph MaioranaJoe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports
ON THE RISE: Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma QB
The Bedlam Game is upon us, with it a chance to break up the logjam atop the Big 12 standings with No. 5 Oklahoma, No. 8 TCU, No. 11 Oklahoma State and No. 15 Iowa State and all tied for first place. The Forecaster has laid it out there that Mayfield could ultimately be impacted in the vote by his on-field theatrics, but that has nothing to do with his viability as a candidate, and Mayfield may have the most to gain (or lose) this weekend in Stillwater and the following week vs. the Horned Frogs. Love’s resume has a blemish now with his sitting out last week vs. Oregon State and the race’s leader, Barkley, had a perceived setback in the biggest game on the schedule. Much like the CFP debate over Ohio State and Oklahoma should both be one-loss conference champs, Mayfield did outshine Barrett on the road. Should Mayfield dominate these next two opponents, it will amount to his planting a flag (sorry, Buckeyes) in the final month of the regular season.
Kevin JairajKevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
ON THE RISE: Josh Adams, Notre Dame RB
Adams simply torched a NC State defense that had allowed more than 95 rushing yards in a game once since September, piling up 202 yards and a score on 27 carries. He’s now averaging 8.86 per carry, good enough for second in FBS and Love is the only player with over 1,000 yards on the season to carry a better average (Love is at 10.27). The third-ranked Fighting Irish get a crack at Wake Forest and a defense that’s allowed no fewer than 190 yards on the ground in each of the past three weeks, including a whopping 427 to Georgia Tech. As a whole, the Irish’s sixth-ranked rushing offense is averaging over 317 yards per game.
Matt CashoreMatt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
ON THE RISE: Khalil Tate, Arizona QB
He’s done the unprecedented, becoming the first player in Pac-12 history to win Offensive Player of the Week in four straight weeks. Sitting 24th in total offense at 285 yards per game, Tate has rattled off four straight weeks of at least 137 rushing yards, and he’s facing a No. 17 USC defense that allowed 191 yards to Josh Adams and 106 more to Brandon Wimbush vs. Notre Dame. As if that were’t enough, he’s also an Inglewood native who will be returning home for this one. Expect a massive homecoming for Tate.
Casey SapioCasey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports
FALL GUYS: Bryce Love, Stanford RB
As broken down by Chris Huston on the Heisman Trust’s official Web site, winning the trophy missing just one game is a rarity. Florida State’s Charlie Ward is the only player to do so in the past 24 years, and that was in a year where the QB had no real rival, winning by 1,622 points over Tennessee’s Heath Shuler. That’s a long way of saying that in sitting out vs. Oregon State, Love made the possibility of his winning that much more difficult. Granted he still has the national rushing lead of 1,387 yards and has a back-loaded schedule that in the next four games sees him face No. 25 Washington State, No. 12 Washington and Notre Dame … but history tells us missing that game vs. the Beavers (one on a Thursday night that could have given him a nationwide spotlight) hurts.
Scott OlmosScott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports
FALL GUYS: Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State QB
While Mayfield stands to rise this week, Rudolph will take a step back. He just threw for 216 yards — a season low — while nursing a sore shoulder against West Virginia and produced a 58.8 completion percentage that was the senior’s second lowest of the year, trailing only the 53.7 he had in the loss to TCU. The Sooners did just give up 322 through the air to Texas Tech and have allowed more than that twice — 368 (Baylor) and 463 (Iowa State) — but that he may not be 100 percent and the fact that Rudolph was held in check last year by the Cowboys’ biggest rival (186 yards and zero TDs) weigh in Oklahoma’s favor.
Ben QueenBen Queen-USA TODAY Sports
FALL GUYS: Luke Falk, Washington State QB
If he’s still in this race after being benched last week in a loss to Arizona, Falk’s candidacy is poised to take another hit in going head-to-head with not just the Pac-12’s best hope, Love, but also an improved Cardinal pass defense. Over the last four games, Stanford has even up more than 195 yards through the air just once. Granted, a win here can revitalize the Cougars’ North Division hopes and he’s sitting just 136 yards from becoming the conference’s career passing leader, but getting back in the race after two losses in the last three games to unranked opponents may be too much of a hurdle.