Heisman Trophy 2017: Ranking the Top 10 Candidates Ahead of Week 13

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistNovember 22, 2017

Heisman Trophy 2017: Ranking the Top 10 Candidates Ahead of Week 13

0 of 10

    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Baker Mayfield is running away as the Heisman Trophy favorite in the same way Lamar Jackson sprints past defenses.

    That's a rather fitting notion, considering Jackson has sprinted past early-season front-runners Saquon Barkley and Bryce Love. Those two running backs remain in the chase, but Mayfield and Jackson are steadily ahead of the pack.

    At this point of the Heisman race, the watch list's third tier includes players with superb resumes who are larger factors for non-winning votes. Of that group, there are three quarterbacks and a running back who should finish in the top 10.

    While the ranking is subjective, total production, key performances and historical trends shaped the order.

10. Kerryon Johnson, RB, Auburn

1 of 10

    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    By the numbers: Kerryon Johnson didn't play against Clemson and Mercer in September, but he's otherwise been a steady force for the Auburn Tigers offense. The junior ranks ninth nationally in yards per game (130.2) and is tied for seventh in rushing touchdowns (16).

    Signature moment: Though he set a career high with 204 yards against Ole Miss on Oct. 7, Johnson grabbed the nation's attention during Auburn's 40-17 thrashing of then-No. 1 Georgia on Nov. 11. He rumbled to 167 yards on the ground and sealed the triumph with a 55-yard touchdown catch.

    Week 13 prediction: Alabama hasn't surrendered four yards per carry this seasonor since October 2015, for that matter. Johnson will avoid a season-low day opposite the Crimson Tide, but he'll miss the century mark for the third time in 2017.

9. Rashaad Penny, RB, San Diego State

2 of 10

    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    By the numbers: Rashaad Penny dropped off the Heisman radar following consecutive San Diego State losses in October, but three straight 200-yard outbursts have demanded a return. He's not going to win, but the Aztecs running backwho has 22 total touchdownsleads the nation with 1,824 total rushing yards and 223.8 all-purpose yards per game.

    Signature moment: No moment will sway the majority of voters to consider Penny a top choice, but a small group will recognize his seven games of 170-plus rushing yards. He torched Arizona State for 353 all-purpose yards on Sept. 9 and recently shredded Nevada for 429.

    Week 13 prediction: Penny's regular-season finale comes opposite New Mexico, which surrendered 323 rushing yards to UNLV last Friday. Although he'll fall short of 200 as a rusher, 150 yards on the ground to highlight 250 all-purpose yards is still spectacular.

8. J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State

3 of 10

    Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

    By the numbers: J.T. Barrett unceremoniously exited the trophy-hoisting conversation with four interceptions at Iowa, but he's returned to the "deserves votes" portion of the discussion. Through 11 games, the Ohio State Buckeyes senior ranks fifth in the FBS in passing touchdowns (32) and sixth in completion percentage (66.9). Barrett has contributed 605 yards and eight scores on the ground, too.

    Signature moment: The horrid performance at Iowa will prevent Barrett from winning the award, but the 18-point comeback he orchestrated against Penn State was a Heisman-caliber moment. In the 39-38 victory, he completed 33 of 39 passes, threw four touchdowns and set a school record with 423 yards of total offense.

    Week 13 prediction: Michigan presents a challenging matchup for J.T. Barrett, the passer, since the Wolverines boast the nation's No. 1 defense in that area. However, the Buckeyes will likely be content to let J.T. Barrett, the runner, control the game. He'll edge past 225 total yards in a victory for Ohio State.

7. McKenzie Milton, QB, UCF

4 of 10

    Corey Perrine/Getty Images

    By the numbers: UCF Knights QB McKenzie Milton has attempted just 17 passes in the fourth quarter all season, yet he's all over the national leaderboards. The sophomore is second in completion percentage (69.6), yards per attempt (10.6) and rating (186.2), 12th in touchdowns (26) and 13th in yards per game (292.8). Add in 373 yards and five scores as a runner, and Milton is a worthy candidate.

    Signature moment: UCF improved to 10-0 with a 45-19 triumph at Temple. So, for the ninth time, Milton ensured the Knights wouldn't need a game-changing play. Since they've registered nine victories of 10-plus points, his consistent excellence should be sufficient.

    Week 13 prediction: South Florida, which is 9-1 and ranked 22nd in the AP poll, will head to Orlando for a battle to decide the AAC's East Division champion. USF quarterback Quinton Flowers may record better numbers, but Milton will show off his elite efficiency with 300-plus yards of offense and guide the Knights to a perfect regular season.

6. Jalen Hurts, QB, Alabama

5 of 10

    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    By the numbers: Similar to Milton, Alabama Crimson Tide QB Jalen Hurts has rarely been needed in the fourth quarter. He's thrown just 19 passes during the final frame. Nevertheless, he sports the 11th-best rating (160.4) in the FBS and is 16th in yards per play (7.9). Hurts has gathered 2,514 yards of total offense, accounted for 22 touchdowns and lost two turnovers.

    Signature moment: When the Tide traveled to Mississippi State in Week 11, they actually required a late score from Hurtsand he came through. The sophomore connected with Calvin Ridley to convert a 3rd-and-15, then hit DeVonta Smith for a 26-yard touchdown on the next snap. Hurts recorded 282 total yards in the 31-24 Alabama win.

    Week 13 prediction: The 2017 Iron Bowl should epitomize a defensive struggle. Auburn and its No. 10 overall defense will contain Hurts for a majority of the contest, limiting him to 50 rushing yards while keeping him below 200 passing yards. But it'll be enough for the Tide in a hard-fought win.

5. Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin

6 of 10

    Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    By the numbers: Jonathan Taylor has been a model of consistency, having posted no fewer than 73 rushing yards in game. He's failed to reach 100 yards in just three contests, and the freshman exited one tilt early due to a leg injury. The Wisconsin Badgers running back is No. 3 nationally in both rushing yards per game (150.6) and yards from scrimmage (1,657).

    Signature moment: Five 100-yard and three 200-yard games later, Taylor lacks a standout performance in a huge matchup. His 132 rushing yards last week opposite Michigan were superb, but he'll need an impressive showing in the Big Ten Championship Game to keep pace with Barkley and Love.

    Week 13 prediction: Wisconsin might start slowly, but that's nothing new. It shouldn't be an issue anyway, since Minnesota ceded a combined 648 rushing yards in November losses to Michigan and Northwestern. Taylor will reach the century mark to help the Badgers claim Paul Bunyan's Axe for the 14th straight year.

4. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

7 of 10

    Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

    By the numbers: After three weeks of mostly uninspiring results, Saquon Barkley sliced Nebraska for 224 combined rushing and receiving yards. He crested the 1,000-yard mark as a runner in the process. The Penn State Nittany Lions back has contributed to a touchdown in four different ways, tallying 20 scores through 11 games.

    Signature moment: Rival Ohio State clinched a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game, so Barkley's most memorable performances are locked in. Earlier in the year, he amassed career-high 358 all-purpose yards during a thrilling win at Iowa. Barkley also shredded an elite Michigan defense for 176 total yards and three scores.

    Week 13 prediction: Of the five opponents currently ranked in the AP Top 25 that Maryland previously encountered in 2017, the lowest team rushing output was 215 yards. The Terps are headed for another rough day when Barkley scampers for 130 yards and adds 50 more as a receiver in a blowout win.

3. Bryce Love, RB, Stanford

8 of 10

    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    By the numbers: Although his pace has slowed, Bryce Love still has an FBS-best 172.3 rushing yards per game for the Stanford Cardinal. Plus, his 8.8 yards per carry leads all running backs with at least 10 attempts per contest. The junior has scored in all 10 appearances, totaling 16 on the season.

    Signature moment: In Week 11, Love propelled Stanford to a 30-22 victory over then-No. 9 Washington. He scampered for 166 yards and three touchdowns, the last of which sealed the upset for the Cardinal. Love is the only player to record a 30-yard carry outing against Washington this season.

    Week 13 prediction: The major question entering Week 13 is Love's health. A lingering ankle injury hampered him last Saturday, yet he reached 100 yards opposite Cal. Notre Dame's 52nd-ranked rush defense likely won't hold Love below triple digits if he's capable of handling 20 carries.

2. Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

9 of 10

    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    By the numbers: All right, inhale. Louisville Cardinals QB Lamar Jackson has thrown for 3,273 yards with 23 touchdowns and only six interceptions while tallying an impressive 8.7 yards per pass attempt. He also ranks 15th nationally with 1,287 yards rushing, and that ability is an important reason the junior is the only player averaging at least 400 yards of total offense. He's responsible for 40 touchdowns. OK, exhale.

    Signature moment: During a 38-21 victory over Virginia in Week 11, Jackson etched his name into NCAA history as the first player to notch back-to-back seasons of 3,000 passing and 1,000 rushing yards. If that's not enough for you, his lowest single-game output of total offense is 333 yards. He's reached 500 yards twice.

    Week 13 prediction: Jackson will be looking for redemption when Louisville faces Kentucky on the road. And redemption, he will find. The Wildcats have surrendered 440-plus yards in five of the last six games, and Jackson will account for 375 himself to conquer the in-state rival.

1. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

10 of 10

    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    By the numbers: Oklahoma Sooners QB Baker Mayfield stands atop the country with a 70.8 completion percentage, 11.6 yards per attempt and a 199.3 rating. He's second in passing touchdowns (34 to Drew Lock's 38), third in yards per game (346.9) and has only tossed five interceptions in 329 attempts.

    Signature moment: For most voters, Mayfield's 598-yard obliteration of rival Oklahoma State on the road will be his defining moment. An unnecessary gesture at Kansas will lead others to invoke the "integrity" clause as reason to choose someone else despite his excellent year. Fair or not, that's the truth.

    Week 13 prediction: The school announced Mayfield will not start against West Virginia on Saturday, though he will play. It's unclear exactly how long he'll remain on the sideline, but don't expect that to last. Mayfield will return to direct Oklahoma past a Will Grier-less Mountaineers team (broken finger) and wrap up the Big 12 regular-season title.