Approximately halfway through the college football season, frontrunners for the Heisman Trophy are starting to emerge. While the race normally decides itself much later in the season, several players have stood out so far.
Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson—only a true sophomore—has exploded onto the scene, putting up an astounding 28 total touchdowns (14 passing TDs and 14 rushing TDs) through only five games. He has amassed 1,625 passing yards and 688 rushing yards and has gone from relatively unknown to college football’s most exciting player. A true dual-threat quarterback, Jackson has a powerful arm, incredible quickness and elusiveness. He single-handedly shredded the Florida State defense for 5 touchdowns and a QBR of 97.1 in a 63-20 blowout victory. He certainly stands as the front-runner at this point in the race, but recent years have seen early-season favorites like Geno Smith and Leonard Fournette go from favorites to distant finishers in the final voting. Jackson is by no means a lock.
Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey finished second in last year’s Heisman voting and is certainly the most multi-dimensional player in the college game. He is an excellent running back, receiver, and returner who shattered Barry Sanders’ record for all-purpose yards in a season with 3,864 last year. He’s had a solid year thus far but has not been Heisman-worthy. A shocking statistic is that he has yet to score a touchdown in an away game in his college career. He was limited to just 49 rushing yards at Washington and 35 rushing yards against Washington State.
The best player on one of the nation’s best teams, Deshaun Watson has thrown for 1,568 passing yards and 18 touchdowns. However, he has already thrown 7 interceptions and has yet to score a rushing touchdown, but Watson is a proven winner and leader who will certainly stick around in this race for the rest of the season. He even beat Lamar Jackson head-to-head in Clemson’s 42-36 victory over Louisville.
Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett has led the No. 2 team in the country to a perfect 5-0 record. He has thrown for an efficient 15 touchdowns to only 3 interceptions. He also has four rushing touchdowns. Like Watson, Barrett is a seasoned veteran who demonstrates poise.
Greg Ward, Jr. of Houston has been a trendy sleeper pick but his chances took a huge hit when Houston fell at Navy on Saturday night, 46-40. Houston has few marquee games left on its schedule, which would seem to hurt Ward’s chances. A November matchup against Louisville will be huge for both Jackson and Ward. He has already thrown for 1,684 passing yards in five starts.
No defensive player has won the Heisman trophy since Darren Woodson in 1997. Michigan jack-of-all-trades, Jabrill Peppers, reminds us of Woodson in many ways. He plays linebacker, safety, punt returner, and even makes appearances at running back and wide receiver. On Saturday, Peppers had two touchdowns and a 63 yard run in a 78-0 thrashing of Rutgers. On the defensive side of the ball, he has 2.5 sacks and ranks fifth nationally in tackles for loss, at 1.9 per game. He also has one punt return touchdown on the year.