As the saying goes, there are only two certainties in life: death and taxes. Well, there might be a third: Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield wins the Heisman Trophy in 2017. It’s hard to argue against him; Mayfield leads the country in completion percentage (70.8), yards per attempt (11.6), adjusted yards per attempt (13), and passer rating (199.3). He is also second in the country in total QBR (92) and passing yards (3,816). Mayfield has such a big lead in the Heisman odds (1-20 as of November 13) that Bovada didn’t bother to update them. It seems like nothing, not even grabbing his own crotch, will keep Mayfield from winning the most prestigious individual award in college football. Still, there are several players that could snatch the trophy away from Mayfield’s grasp.
1. Bryce Love- RB, Stanford Cardinal
Why he could win: As of Friday, Love ranks second in the FBS in rushing yards and fourth in yards per attempt. The junior tailback is the driving force behind the Cardinal’s 26th ranked rushing attack that buoys their mediocre passing game.
Why he won’t: It’s hard for any players who aren’t quarterbacks to win the award. Since 2000, only two running backs have won the Heisman (Derrick Henry, Mark Ingram). Love would need an amazing game against Notre Dame combined with an absolute collapse by Mayfield to have a chance to win. Ultimately, I think that Love and the second player on this list will siphon votes off of one another, costing both of them the Heisman.
2. Saquon Barkley- RB, Penn State Nittany Lions
Why he could win: Barkley was a big reason why Penn State was in the mix for a playoff spot for most of the year. Along with surpassing 1,000 yards rushing for the third straight season, Barkley also ranks second in the country in yards from scrimmage and leads the team in receptions and is second in receiving yards. The junior running back has also provided a spark on special teams, averaging 30.2 yards per kickoff return with two touchdowns. His 14 rushing touchdowns are tied for 13th best in FBS.
Why he won’t: Rinse and repeat the same reasoning for Love not winning the award. Barkley may have less of a case. He isn’t ranked in the top 20 in rushing yards nor yards per attempt. Barkley also lacked consistency in 2017. He has only rushed for over 100 yards four times this season and had not accomplished the feat in four of his last five games. Barkley is a great all-purpose back, but he hasn’t done enough to catch Mayfield.
3. Khalil Tate- QB, Arizona Wildcats
Why he could win: Tate has emerged as one of the best dual-threat QBs in college football. The Arizona signal caller leads the FBS in total QBR and rushing yards per attempt. Tate also ranks 13th in the nation in rushing yards. Since spelling the injured Brandon Dawkins, Tate has become the Wildcats’ best playmaker.
Why he won’t win: As electric as Tate has been running the ball, his passing numbers are just as anemic. The sophomore QB has only thrown for more than 250 yards once, although he more than made up for it with his legs. His other passing stats don’t jump off the page either; Tate has completed just 59 percent of his passes and has just nine touchdowns compared to eight interceptions. He should be one of the Heisman favorites next year, but this year he may have to settle for just an invite to the ceremony.
4. Jonathan Taylor- RB, Wisconsin Badgers
Why he could win: Undefeated Wisconsin has the 21st best rushing attack in the nation and Taylor is a big reason why. The freshman ranks third in the country in rushing yards and fourth in yards from scrimmage. Taylor has also played consistently well all season, only failing to eclipse 100 yards rushing three times. Even in those contests, he averaged at least four yards per carry. If Taylor compiles big numbers against Minnesota and in the Big Ten title game, he should get in invite to New York City.
Why he won’t: Again, it’s hard for non-QBs to win this award. Wisconsin’s lightweight schedule also hurts Taylor’s chances to unseat Mayfield as the favorite. Combine that with his lack of versatility (just four catches this season), and Taylor looks like a darkhorse Heisman candidate at best.
5. Lamar Jackson- QB, Louisville Cardinals
Why he could win: The 2016 Heisman Trophy winner has improved his stats across the board from last year. Jackson has improved his completion percentage and his passer rating while continuing to put up video game numbers for Louisville. He ranks 15th in the country in rushing (second among QB’s), leads the nation in total yards, is second in total touchdowns, and is third in total QBR. Jackson should receive an invite to the Heisman Ceremony. However….
Why he won’t: Heisman voter seem to judge past winners tougher the next season, even if their numbers are nearly identical. If Jackson were to win this year (and he was a frontrunner at one point before he ran into Clemson) he would be the first back-to-back and multiple time winner since Archie Griffin in 1974-75. The other thing working against Jackson is the overall performance of the Cardinals. The lack of high profile games combined with his struggles in two primetime games against Clemson and NC State may be held against him in the end.