B/R's 2022 Heisman Trophy Rankings: Key Candidates Entering Week 4

David KenyonFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 20, 2022

B/R's 2022 Heisman Trophy Rankings: Key Candidates Entering Week 4

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    Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. celebrates a touchdown against Kent State during an NCAA football game on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)
    Michael Penix Jr. | AP Photo/Stephen Brashear

    Conference play is set to begin around much of college football, and those results will lead to more regular changes in and build excitement for the 2022 Heisman Trophy race.

    Through three weeks, most programs have played a favorable nonconference slate with maybe one marquee—or even simply one competitive—game. It's important to avoid making grand proclamations for Heisman contenders along the way.

    We can, simultaneously, use the evidence at hand to create a (flexible) group of tiers to separate the candidates.

    Long-term expectations are still considered, but the rankings are largely a direct reflection of actual performance.

Tier 5: Early Long Shots

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    FAYETTEVILLE, ARKANSAS - SEPTEMBER 17: Raheim Sanders #5 of the Arkansas Razorbacks runs the ball in for a touchdown in the second half of game against the Missouri State Bears at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium on September 17, 2022 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The Razorbacks defeated the Bears 38-27.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
    Raheim Sanders | Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    Players listed here aren't necessarily expected to stick in the Heisman discussion, but they've performed well to date.

    Raheim Sanders, RB, Arkansas: Sanders ripped apart the Missouri State defense for 167 yards on the ground, 75 as a receiver and two touchdowns. He ranks second nationally with 185.7 all-purpose yards per game. We'll know plenty about Sanders' outlook after the Hogs take on Texas A&M and Alabama over the next two weekends.

    Mohamed Ibrahim, RB, Minnesota: Colorado's porous run defense had no chance to stop Ibrahim, who scampered for 202 yards and three touchdowns in Minnesota's blowout win. Ibrahim has 464 rushing yards and seven scores this season.

    Drake Maye, QB, North Carolina: After an idle weekend, Maye remains at 1,076 offensive yards and 13 total touchdowns with one interception for the 3-0 Tar Heels. The upcoming trio of Notre Dame, Virginia Tech and Miami will start to reveal if Maye is a legitimate contender.

    Marvin Harrison Jr., WR, Ohio State: Not the OSU receiver we expected, but still a standout! Star target Jaxon Smith-Njigba's hamstring injury has shoved Harrison into the spotlight, and he's responded with 18 catches for 342 yards and five touchdowns.

    Spencer Sanders, QB, Oklahoma State: The senior quarterback has a very reasonable case to leave the tier. So far, Sanders has accumulated 1,026 offensive yards and 13 total touchdowns against a soft schedule. But that's going to change soon. Oklahoma State is idle in Week 4 before traveling to Baylor to open October.

    More to Know: Coastal Carolina QB Grayson McCall, Illinois RB Chase Brown, Iowa State WR Xavier Hutchinson, Michigan RB Blake Corum, Purdue WR Charlie Jones, Syracuse RB Sean Tucker

Tier 4: Expectations > Results

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    MADISON, WISCONSIN - SEPTEMBER 17: Braelon Allen #0 of the Wisconsin Badgers scores on a 39-yard touchdown run in the first quarter against the New Mexico State Aggies at Camp Randall Stadium on September 17, 2022 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images)
    Braelon Allen | John Fisher/Getty Images

    Don't label them non-factors, but these preseason candidates have an uphill battle to contention.

    Jaren Hall, QB, BYU: Oregon smacked BYU in Week 3, dropping Hall to a less compelling spot on the Heisman list. His passing stats are fine—827 yards and five scores with one interception in 112 attempts—but Hall cannot afford many setbacks in this discussion.

    Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida: Since his explosive night opposite Utah, Richardson is 24-of-53 for 255 yards with zero touchdowns and four interceptions. He's also rushed for only 28 yards over the last two weeks.

    Deuce Vaughn, RB, Kansas State: Losing to Tulane is always a problem. Vaughn, who managed 111 yards on 28 touches in the loss, needs a strong performance on the road at sixth-ranked Oklahoma this weekend.

    Tyler Van Dyke, QB, Miami: Drops are a problem for Miami's wideouts, and an injury to key receiver Xavier Restrepo isn't helping, either. Van Dyke, nevertheless, only has 671 yards and three touchdowns. Miami beat two overmatched teams and fell on the road at Texas A&M. Nothing close to a Heisman resume so far.

    Devon Achane, RB, Texas A&M: The speedy back collected 130 yards and a touchdown in A&M's victory over Van Dyke and Miami. Achane is 15th nationally with 150 all-purpose yards per game, but the Aggies' unconvincing performances are concerning.

    Braelon Allen, RB, Wisconsin: Numbers likely won't be the issue for Allen. Wisconsin steamrolled New Mexico State behind 86 yards and three touchdowns from the sophomore back, who's rushed for 332 yards and five scores. The challenge is the Badgers already lost once, and they travel to Ohio State in Week 4.

    More to Know: Kentucky QB Will Levis, Mississippi State QB Will Rogers, North Carolina State QB Devin Leary, Ohio State WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba

Tier 3: Safely on the Radar

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    Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker (5) throws to a receiver during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Akron, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
    Hendon Hooker | AP Photo/Wade Payne

    They're not favorites to win the Heisman, but it's unwise to ignore the production right now.

    Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Alabama: Gibbs would benefit from a big game soon, yet he's collected 388 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns. While he came up clutch in Alabama's close call at Texas, the Tide haven't needed a major impact from him. That figures to change in October against Arkansas, Texas A&M and Tennessee.

    KJ Jefferson, QB, Arkansas: Missouri State put a scare into Arkansas, but Jefferson dashed those upset dreams. He threw for 385 yards and two scores, adding 40 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Jefferson has tallied 939 offensive yards and nine scores for the 3-0 Hogs.

    Hendon Hooker, QB, Tennessee: In a rout of Akron, Hooker put together a very efficient day. He finished 14-of-18 for 298 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Tennessee takes on Top 25 teams Florida, Alabama, Kentucky and Georgia over the next six games.

    Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas: Yes, the Longhorns' long-term outlook is questionable because of quarterback Quinn Ewers' absence. Robinson, though, totaled 202 yards and three touchdowns in the triumph over UTSA. He's gained 443 scrimmage yards and scored six times this season.

    Michael Penix Jr., QB, Washington: Well, hello again. Penix, who briefly jumped onto the Heisman radar at Indiana, returns to the race because of his production in Washington's surprise 3-0 start. He propelled UW to a 39-28 win at Michigan State last weekend, throwing for 397 yards and four scores. He's up to 1,079 yards and 10 touchdowns.

    More to Know: Ohio State RB TreVeyon Henderson, Penn State QB Sean Clifford, Wake Forest QB Sam Hartman

Tier 2: Big Names to Know

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    NORMAN, OK - SEPTEMBER 10:  Quarterback Dillon Gabriel #8 of the Oklahoma Sooners throws before a game against the Kent State Golden Flashes at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on September 10, 2022 in Norman, Oklahoma.  Oklahoma won 33-3. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
    Dillon Gabriel | Brian Bahr/Getty Images

    Will Anderson Jr., Edge, Alabama: Anderson has a trio of five-tackle games, and the edge-rusher padded his stats in Bama's demolition of Louisiana Monroe. He notched one sack and returned an interception 25 yards for a touchdown.

    J.J. McCarthy, QB, Michigan: It's tough to assemble an easier nonconference slate than Colorado State, Hawai‘i and UConn. But that's not McCarthy's fault. He's a sterling 30-of-34 with 473 yards, three scores and no interceptions through the air, adding 73 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Michigan hosts Maryland in Week 4, then travels to Iowa.

    Dillon Gabriel, QB, Oklahoma: Gabriel put a hurting on Nebraska in the first game of the post-Scott Frost era. The left-hander threw for 230 yards, ran for 55 and accounted for three touchdowns in a 49-14 rout. Now, can he avoid the Kansas State trap all too familiar to OU?

    Jordan Addison, WR, USC: Addison followed up his 172-yard, two-touchdown day at Stanford with six catches for 69 yards and a score against Fresno State. The reigning Biletnikoff Award winner is settling in nicely after transferring from Pitt.

    Cameron Rising, QB, Utah: San Diego State is usually a pesky opponent—heck, the Aztecs beat Utah last season—but Rising overcame a slow start to throw a career-high four touchdowns. He went 18-of-30 for 224 yards and didn't throw an interception in the 35-7 win.

Tier 1: The Favorites

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    COLUMBIA, SC - SEPTEMBER 17: Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) scrambles out the pocket and looks down field during a football game between the Georgia Bulldogs and the South Carolina Gamecocks on September 17, 2022, at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, SC. (Photo by Charles Brock/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Stetson Bennett | Charles Brock/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Bryce Young, QB, Alabama: He threw two interceptions against ULM? Time to panic! Certainly not ideal, but Young still passed for 236 yards and posted four total touchdowns. Alabama should roll Vanderbilt this weekend before the schedule heats up quickly.

    Stetson Bennett, QB, Georgia: Bennett just keeps on thriving. Georgia wrecked South Carolina 48-7, and the senior produced his third straight game of 300-plus offensive yards. Bennett tossed two scores and ran for a third touchdown during the blowout.

    C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State: The most impressive QB line in the nation belongs to Stroud, who's notched a 72.9 completion rate with 941 yards (11.1 per attempt) and 11 touchdowns to zero interceptions. The asterisk is the competition level—Arkansas State and Toledo—over the last two weeks, but Week 4's showdown with Wisconsin is a great opportunity for Stroud.

    Caleb Williams, QB, USC: Williams guided the Trojans to another comfortable win, throwing two scores and running for two more opposite Fresno State. He's amassed 947 total yards and 10 total touchdowns in the opening month of his USC tenure.

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