The past 24 hours were “Championship Saturday” in college football, and while we’ll have to wait until Sunday morning to find out who the fourth team is to make the College Football Playoff (is it Alabama or Ohio State? Ohio State or Alabama?) it feels like we have a pretty good grasp for who will take home this year’s Heisman Trophy. It almost certainly will be Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield.
Still, nothing will be official until next Saturday, as the Heisman Trust spends the next few days tallying the votes from voters across the country.
So what would our Heisman ballot look like? Here’s our top five:
1) Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
Look, fans can sit here and pretend to be outraged at Mayfield’s on-field antics (to me they’re not a big deal), but nothing he did was at any point offensive enough that it will ultimately cost him the Heisman. Mayfield has been the best player in college football this year, and to be blunt, it hasn’t been close, as the fifth-year senior tossed 41 touchdowns and just five interceptions while completing over 70 percent of his passes. In the process, he led Oklahoma to a Big 12 title, beating Ohio State in Columbus, and taking down a good, 10-win TCU club twice.
When you consider that Mayfield only got better as the season went on (he didn’t throw an interception in Oklahoma’s final four games) and that he did it in a year when the Sooners offense was in pseudo-rebuilding mode (remember, they lost a pair of 1,000 yard rushers and Biletnikoff winner Dede Westbrook off last year’s team), it makes Mayfield’s exploits that much more incredible.
There is no drama heading into next Saturday. Mayfield will be your Heisman winner.
2) Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
While it’s hard to say that Jackson was “better” this year than last year, what you can say is that he was more impressive, considering how much Louisville lost on offense. The Cardinals’ disappointing start to the season, where they went 5-4 over their first nine games, is also in large part why the reigning Heisman Trophy winner didn’t get more love nationally over the course of his 2017 campaign.
Regardless, Jackson is the only player in college football to rank in the Top 15 nationally in both passing yards and rushing yards (he finished 11th in both categories, despite playing one fewer game than many other players), while tallying 37 total touchdowns on the season.
Mayfield deserves to win this award, in the same way Jackson did last year. But no one was quietly more impressive than the Louisville junior was.
3) Rashaad Penny, RB, San Diego State
Playing on the West Coast, where virtually all his games kicked off around 10:30 p.m. ET, Penny simply never got the recognition he deserved this season. And that’s a shame, because he was the most dynamic non-quarterback in the sport from start to finish this year, ending as college football’s only 2,000 yard back in college football with 2,027 rushing yards this season. That included four straight 200+ yard games to close out his 2017 campaign, and one game – against Nevada in Week 12 – where he had a staggering 429 total yards from scrimmage.
Penny won’t take home the award, but he deserves to be in New York and honored as one of college football’s best players.
4) Bryce Love, RB, Stanford
While Penny was college football’s only 2,000 yard back, you’ve really got to wonder what Love would have been capable of had he played the entire season. The Stanford junior was just a shade under 2,000 yards at 1,973, this despite the fact that he sat out one game completely (against Oregon State, the Pac-12’s worst defense), and was limited in others with a nagging ankle injury.
Had Love stayed healthy, he likely would have been Mayfield’s biggest challenger for this award. While he never could catch Mayfield, he deserves a trip to New York like the other players on this list.
5) Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin
The true freshman from New Jersey had an incredible year for the Badgers, rushing for more than 1,800 yards and carrying the Wisconsin offense on his back for a big chunk of the season. Had Taylor had a huge game on Saturday against Ohio State, he could have conceivably been in position to steal some votes from Mayfield. But after a quiet 15-carry, 41-yard performance against the stifling Ohio State defense, he’ll have to settle for a Top-5 finish in our poll.