Ranking the Heisman Favorites Heading into Week 8
And in Week 8, a familiar name is ready to join the race. Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields will make his season debut Saturday afternoon when the Buckeyes host Nebraska.
As we've noted previously, these rankings are subject to change more than usual. What's the best way to compare players with three appearance to those with five? It's an ongoing, imperfect process that is unique to the 2020 season.
While the order is based on actual production, it's meant to reflect an "if voting ended today" mindset. As a result, Heisman trends and players' reputations were considered, too.
Justin Fields and Others to Know
Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
Ohio State's top priority is winning the Big Ten and earning a spot in the College Football Playoff. If that happens, Fields should put up excellent numbers along the way. Since he finished third in Heisman voting last season, he's starting from an advanced position. That particular boost will be valuable in his pursuit of Lawrence and Jones.
Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
Though he produced at a solid rate in a rotational role over the last two seasons, Waddle has emerged as a superstar in 2020. He's recorded at least five catches for 120 yards in all four of Alabama's games, totaling 557 yards and four touchdowns.
Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
Harris shouldered a heavy burden in a victory over Georgia, carrying the ball 31 times for 152 yards and a score. He's one yard shy of 500 for the season and has an FBS-best 11 touchdowns on the ground to go with eight receptions for 86 yards.
5. Kyle Trask, QB, Florida
Because of COVID-19 protocols, Florida didn't play LSU in Week 7 and is slated to host Missouri next Saturday instead of in Week 8.
Once the Gators return to the field, Kyle Trask will attempt to make up for a struggling defense. Last time out, he completed 71.9 percent of his passes for 312 yards and four scores. But that wasn't enough for Florida, which fell at Texas A&M 41-38.
If Clemson, Alabama or Ohio State finishes undefeated—and it's likely at least one will—that loss would be problematic for Trask compared to Lawrence, Jones or Fields.
But with 996 yards and 14 touchdowns against only one interception in three games, Trask has elite production. He'll remain in the conversation until Florida exits the SEC picture.
4. Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
Houston built a 26-14 edge Friday, but Zach Wilson kept BYU's undefeated season—and his Heisman candidacy—alive.
During the final minute of the third quarter, his touchdown pass to Dax Milne helped make it 26-21. After a dreadful 13-yard punt by Houston, Wilson tossed a go-ahead score to Masen Wake. Wilson sealed the game with an 18-yard touchdown pass to Milne, and BYU added a late score for a 43-26 road victory.
Wilson finished 25-of-35 for 400 yards and four touchdowns with zero interceptions and also ran for a team-high 40 yards. He's thrown for 1,641 yards and 12 scores with one pick and run for 100 yards and six scores for the 5-0 Cougars.
As long as BYU is undefeated, Wilson will be at least on the periphery of the Heisman debate.
3. Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
When your worst performance of the season features 73 yards and a score on 13 touches, you're OK. When that worst performance happened in a 73-7 win, it's nowhere close to a concern.
The bigger issue for Travis Etienne—relative to the Heisman race—is he shares the backfield with Lawrence. The faster the quarterback puts games out of reach, the fewer chances Etienne will have to produce before heading to the sideline.
Someone with 710 scrimmage yards and six touchdowns in five games should not be an unlikely winner. But, hey, that's life at Clemson.
2. Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
Lawrence is still the runaway favorite, and suggesting otherwise would be disingenuous. Though Jones has enjoyed a stellar year, his Heisman chances hinge on Lawrence messing up.
But, my word, what a start.
Georgia has a spectacular defense. That was evident before the Alabama game, and it remains true after—it simply did not show against the Crimson Tide because of Jones. He completed 24 of 32 passes for 417 yards and four touchdowns with one interception.
Jones remains atop the FBS with 13.2 yards per attempt and is second in completion percentage (78.3; Wilson is first, 78.7) and yards per game (379.5; UCF's Dillon Gabriel is first, 439.0). He's thrown for 1,518 yards and 12 scores against two interceptions in four games.
1. Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
Can anyone slow Lawrence?
Georgia Tech certainly didn't have the answer. Well, the junior did throw his first interception of the year, but Lawrence shook off the mistake to pile up 404 yards and five scores. He helped lead seven touchdown drives in 10 first-half possessions.
Lawrence has passed for 1,544 yards and 15 touchdowns in five games. He's not running as often as he did in 2019—though it's been unnecessary so far—but has four scores on the ground.
Surpassing him will not be impossible. But since Jones and Wilson threw for 400-plus yards and four touchdowns apiece and merely matched Lawrence, it's clear how difficult it will be to catch him.