Another year, another November victory lap toward the Heisman Trophy?
The stage is set for Baker Mayfield to follow in the footsteps of Lamar Jackson and head to New York with the result a mere formality as the Oklahoma quarterback moved into the lead in Week 10 and saw it cemented in Week 11.
Contenders Josh Adams (Notre Dame) and Saquon Barkley (Penn State) have seen their College Football Playoff-fueled campaigns fade, leaving the number of players tugging on Mayfield’s coattails that much smaller when it comes to legitimate threats.
Barkley may still wind up with a seat at the ceremony, as could, and probably should, the defending winner, Jackson, who leads FBS in total offense at 417.9. But Stanford’s Bryce Love, the nations’ rushing leader with 1,622 yards, currently stands as Mayfield’s biggest competition, and even that charge has lost some steam.
Love did have the nugget of a regular season-ending clash with a Notre Dame team in the midst of a playoff chase, but now that the Fighting Irish have been knocked out of that talk by Miami, that matchup in South Bend is no longer what it once was. Granted, Love can still make the most of his first game west of the Mississippi and gain the attention of some voters who may haven’t seen him enough this year.
The thought of taking the lead from Mayfield, the nation’s leader in passing efficiency (202.1), and sitting second in passing yards (3,559) and total offense (379) AND having his team in position to make the playoff is going to be hard to swallow.
In 2014, the first year of the playoff, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota won by 1,284 points over Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon and Alabama’s Amari Cooper, the only vote to date in the CFP era that didn’t include another QB or RB from a playoff school. Mayfield could be in a similar spot, unless Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor gets a level of support that his case has been lacking.
Before we look at the players who are set to rise and fall in the race this week, here’s a look at the Forecaster’s virtual ballot with, you guessed it, Mayfield at the top.
1. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma QB
2. Bryce Love, Stanford RB
3. Saquon Barkley, Penn State RB
Mark D. SmithMark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
ON THE RISE: Lamar Jackson, Louisville QB
Winning a second trophy was out of the equation for Jackson when the Cardinals fell out of the CFP hunt, but it always seemed a given that the defending winner would wind up in New York for the ceremony. Only one returner that made it through a full season healthy wasn’t invited — Florida State’s Jameis Winston in 2014 — making Jackson a given. But his stars are backing it up as he’s now the first QB in history with consecutive seasons of 3,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing, and he has a chance to get Louisville to eight wins with victories over Syracuse and Kentucky.
Jamie RhodesJamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports
ON THE RISE: Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin RB
Sitting on 1,525 yards on the season — which is third in FBS behind Love’s 1,622 and San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny with 1,602 yards — Taylor has an opportunity to boost his resume against the best rush defense he’s seen on the season with Michigan. The now 24th-ranked Wolverines are allowing 110.3 yards per game and 3.27 per carry and haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher since Saquon Barkley got to them for 108 and two touchdowns on Oct. 21. Will it be enough to generate some late buzz? Should Taylor have a big day and keep the Badgers on track for an undefeated season, his profile should rise.
Jeff HanischJeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
ON THE RISE: Kerryon Johnson, Auburn RB
Johnson just burned then-No. 1 Georgia for 167 yards and in helping vault Auburn into the playoff hunt and he’s had at least 116 yards in five of the last six games and is sure to put up another this week against Louisiana Monroe, which is 114th in FBS in giving up 212.2 yards per game. Of course, his hopes lie on what comes after that in facing No. 1 Alabama in the Iron Bowl, but and Johnson is very late to the party, but he's moving in the right direction.
John ReedJohn Reed-USA TODAY Sports
FALL GUYS: Josh Adams, Norte Dame RB
The 33 Trucking campaign took another hit against Miami, with Adams limited to just 40 yards on 16 carries and he hasn’t hit the century mark since Oct. 28 against NC State. Navy, which is giving up 165.8 ypg (64th in FBS), could be just what he needs to get back on track. It would be a measure of revenge after the Midshipmen beat the Fighting Irish last year 28-27, but it’s unlikely to get him to the ceremony as Notre Dame stumbled out of the CFP picture.
Jasen VinloveJasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
FALL GUYS: Saquon Barkley, Penn State RB
Speaking of players whose chances faded with their team’s playoff aspirations. Barkley, second in FBS in all-purpose yards at 184.6 per game, had his last 100-yard game in that aforementioned October game against the Wolverines. He remains a threat to finish in the top three or four, but he’s been supplanted by Love as the best running back, and is in danger of Taylor passing him by as the Big Ten’s best back.