Each week throughout the season, Dr. Saturday will highlight the five players we think are the top Heisman contenders. The list will change often early in the season before the true candidates separate themselves from the pack.
Outside of Lawrence, Kansas, there wasn’t a whole lot that happened in Week 12.
You’ve seen it by now. Kansas’ defensive captains snubbed Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield, the Heisman favorite, for a post-coin toss handshake, and Mayfield didn’t take it too kindly. After a third quarter touchdown, he grabbed his crotch and said some bad words in the direction of the Kansas sideline.
Will that impact his Heisman candidacy? A little bit, probably. It’s a safe bet you’ll see somebody write a moralistic column explaining why they left Mayfield off their ballot. It happened for Johnny Manziel. It happened for Jameis Winston. It’ll happen for Mayfield, despite his apologies.
Antics aside, Mayfield’s on-field play makes him the clear frontrunner with two games — West Virginia and the Big 12 championship — to go before ballots must be submitted.
You know who No. 1 is, but here’s the full top five (and more) after Week 12:
1. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma: Aside from the nonsense we mentioned above, the Kansas game was just another day at the office for Mayfield. The senior completed 20-of-30 passes for 257 yards and three touchdowns in a 41-3 win where he didn’t play most of the fourth quarter. The Sooners improved to 10-1, another step along their quest to return to the College Football Playoff.
It’s hard to imagine OU being anywhere close to this position without Mayfield, who is up to 34 touchdown passes with just five interceptions. His 3,816 yards is second in the country and his completion percentage (70.8), yards per completion (16.38) and quarterback rating (199.3) are the nation’s best.
2. Bryce Love, RB, Stanford: Love’s ankle is still bothering him, but it didn’t stop him from putting up another 100-yard game — his ninth of the season — in Stanford’s rivalry win over Cal. His 57-yard touchdown run in the third quarter put his team up 17-6 and it proved to be the winning score in a 17-14 decision.
In 10 games (the ankle caused him to miss the Oregon State and kept him out of the second half vs. Oregon) Love ranks second in the country with 1,723 yards and 16 touchdowns on 195 carries. His 8.8-yard average is third in the country behind Arizona QB Khalil Tate (10.6) and Navy’s Malcolm Perry (9.6), who has lined up at both QB and RB this season.
Stanford will finish its regular season against Notre Dame on Saturday, but what happens in the Apple Cup will be of major importance to the Cardinal. If Washington upsets Washington State, Stanford clinches the Pac-12 North. The Pac-12 title game would be a big stage for Love.
3. Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin: Just behind Love among the NCAA rushing leaders is Wisconsin freshman Jonathan Taylor, who has 1,657 yards and 12 touchdowns after putting up 132 yards on 19 carries in UW’s win over Michigan. Taylor’s 132 yards is the best individual rushing performance against the Wolverines (No. 3 in total defense) this season.
As we noted last week, he’s neck-and-neck with Adrian Peterson’s freshman record pace from 2004. Through 11 games, Peterson, who finished with 1,925 yards, had 1,671 yards. Taylor isn’t far off, and because Wisconsin locked up a spot in the Big Ten title game, he has at least three games (and maybe more) remaining. If the Badgers take care of business as expected this week against Minnesota, Taylor can help his team reach the CFP with a performance on the Big Ten Championship stage.
4. Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville: We’ll say it again: Lamar Jackson deserves to make the trip to New York City once again. Louisville has had an up-and-down year, but Jackson has put up ridiculous numbers on a weekly basis. Last week, he became the first player in NCAA history to pass for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons. He added to that on Saturday in a blowout win over Syracuse. Without playing the fourth quarter, Jackson threw for 270 yards ran for 111 yards and combined for four touchdowns (2 passing, 2 rushing).
Jackson won the Heisman last season with these numbers: 230/409 (56.2 percent), 3,543 yards, 30 TDs and 9 INTs passing with 1,571 yards (6.0 avg.) and 21 TDs rushing.
In 2017, with two games to go, Jackson’s numbers look like this: 226/378 (59.8), 3,273 yards, 23 TDs and 6 INTs passing with 1,287 yards (6.8 avg) and 17 TDs rushing.
5. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State: After struggles running the ball (sometimes to no fault of his own), Penn State’s Saquon Barkley had a huge game in a home win over Nebraska. On 17 carries, Barkley put up 158 yards and three touchdowns, breaking the program record for rushing scores in the process. Barkley finally broke the 1,000-yard barrier (1,057) to go with his 14 scores. Barkley also caught six passes for 66 yards, giving him 46 catches (T-3rd among RBs) for 590 yards (2nd among RBs). Barkley’s 188.18 all-purpose yards per game rank No. 2 in the country.
Rashaad Penny, RB, San Diego State: Penny, the nation’s leading rusher (1,824 yards), wasn’t among the finalists (Love, Barkley, Taylor) for the Doak Walker Award when they were revealed Monday. His teammates and coaches weren’t very happy about it, especially after his performance against Nevada: 222 rushing yards and 4 total TDs (2 rushing, 1 kick return, 1 punt return). That’s obviously an incredible output, but it was against Nevada, one of the worst teams in the country, on the heels of 234 yards and 253 yards and Hawaii and San Jose State, two other Mountain West bottom-feeders. Penny has a great case to make it to New York, but his competition was always going to hold him back.
Khalil Tate, QB, Arizona: The Khalil Tate train finally swerved off the tracks a bit on Saturday against Oregon. Entering Autzen Stadium, his lowest rushing total as a starter was 137 yards. Against the Ducks, Tate managed only 32 yards on 14 carries to go with 159 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions through the air. Despite the off day, Tate still leads the country in rushing average (10.6 yards) with 1,325 yards on 125 attempts.
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