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.
There are so many incredible quarterbacks to watch in college football, led by Louisville‘s Lamar Jackson, the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner. But Jackson has quite a few fellow QBs right on his tail in the early season Heisman positioning. Here is our QB-dominant top five after two weeks:
1. Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville: Lamar Jackson reminded the country once again Saturday that he is the best playmaker in college football. In Louisville’s 47-35 win over North Carolina, the reigning Heisman winner combined for six touchdowns — three through the air and three on the ground. Jackson had over 500 total yards — 392 passing and 132 rushing — for a second straight week and has shown noticeable progression as a passer.
It’s only two games, but Jackson’s completion percentage is 64.7 percent so far, a significant leap from 56.2 percent in 2016. He looks more comfortable going through his progressions and working from the pocket. He had a few misfires against UNC, but made up for it with a few tremendous throws, including a beautiful deep ball to Jaylen Smith for a 75-yard score after side-stepping a free blitzer.
2. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma: It looks like Baker Mayfield is going to give Jackson a run for his money in his effort to become just the second player to win consecutive Heismans. Mayfield was spectacular in Oklahoma’s huge road win over Ohio State. The Sooners senior torched the talented Buckeyes defense for 386 yards and three touchdowns in the 31-16 win that was not as close as the final score may suggest.
The game was tied 3-3 at halftime before the fiery Mayfield stole the show with a nearly flawless second half. In the final two quarters, Mayfield was 16-of-17 passing for 228 yards and all three of his touchdowns. Every time it looked like the Buckeyes had a chance to get the ball back and close the gap, Mayfield made a play. His escapability and excellence when a play breaks down is just part of what makes him so good. He’s also incredibly accurate — 46-of-55 (83.6 percent) through two games — and has a knack for the big moment.
3. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State: Saquon Barkley’s numbers weren’t eye-popping, but he was clearly the best player on the field in Penn State’s rivalry win over Pittsburgh. The Panthers dominated the time of possession and kept things close in the first half, but whenever PSU needed a spark, Barkley provided it. Barkley finished the game with 88 yards on 14 carries, including a powerful eight-yard score early in the fourth on a play where he bulldozed over a handful of defenders.
Barkley was also Penn State’s leading receiver on the afternoon and ran a perfect route on his 46-yard TD catch in the third quarter. The junior can do it all.
4. Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State: Oklahoma State’s offense is living up to the offseason hype so far and senior quarterback Mason Rudolph has a big part in that. In the Cowboys’ 44-7 win over South Alabama, Rudolph threw for 335 yards and three touchdowns, setting a school record for passing yards in the process. He now has 9,352 yards in his OSU career and has eight total touchdowns — six passing, two rushing — in two games in 2017. In those two games, wins over Tulsa and South Alabama, OSU has combined for 1,145 yards of offense and 103 points. Pretty good.
5. Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA: Things went a little more smoothly for UCLA and Josh Rosen in Week 2 compared to the wild 34-point comeback over Texas A&M in Week 1. In a 56-23 win over Hawaii, Rosen had no trouble picking apart the Rainbow Warriors defense, completing 22-of-25 passes for 329 yards and five touchdowns. Since he went 9-of-23 in the first half against A&M, Rosen has completed 48 of his last 61 attempts. That’s a 79 percent clip.
Rosen and the Bruins, now ranked No. 25, face a pretty tough test in Week 3 when they travel across the country to face Memphis, one of the better teams in the AAC, for a noon ET kick. Memphis’ Week 2 game against UCF was canceled because of Hurricane Irma, so the Tigers are well-rested. Rosen will need to be at the top of his game.
Also considered …
Sam Darnold, QB, USC: Darnold was brilliant in USC’s dominant 42-24 win over Stanford, throwing for 316 yards and four touchdowns. But he also threw two more interceptions, giving him four through two games. He needs to cut down on the turnovers.
Ronald Jones, RB, USC: Jones had 116 yards and two more touchdowns in the win over Stanford, giving him 275 yards and five scores while splitting carries with stud freshman Stephen Carr.
Shea Patterson, QB, Ole Miss: Ole Miss sophomore Shea Patterson threw for a school record 489 yards and five touchdowns in a 45-23 win over UT Martin on Saturday. In two games, Patterson has thrown for 918 yards and eight touchdowns while completing 76.9 percent of his passes.
Rashaad Penny, RB, San Diego State: With 413 yards in two games (No. 2 in FBS), Rashaad Penny is filling in admirably now that NCAA rushing leader Donnel Pumphrey is in the NFL. In Saturday’s win at Arizona State, Penny rushed for 216 yards on just 18 carries (including a 95-yard TD run), had a 99-yard kickoff return TD and a 33-yard TD catch.
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