There are a number of things that are taken into account when selecting Heisman candidates: breakout games, dominance, consistency, and how much he’s accounted for the team success. My list has players that demonstrate all of those traits, which is the reasoning behind what will be a quite shocking turn of events after an equally surprising shake-up from last weekend’s slate of games. A few major losses and a couple of startling decisions have shifted the College Football Rankings in a considerable way. As the rankings move around, so do my top five Heisman picks, as one change won’t affect my outlook towards this player, while another change is well deserved, and I’ll explain why for both. Here’s my list of Heisman candidates for the Heisman Trophy (brace yourself):
5. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma.
This first surprise of my list comes with quite a boom (Boomer Sooner, that is)! The 6’2” junior has been spectacular for the most part this season, throwing for at least three touchdowns in eight of nine games. His No. 12-ranked Sooners have one blemish on their record this year—a 24-17 upset at Texas—but Mayfield had a solid 20-of-28, 211-yard outing with one touchdown pass in the loss. Beyond that, he has decimated defenses with major throws and major scores, his best coming at Kansas State last month (20-of-27, 282 yards, five touchdowns, no picks). Mayfield’s strongest game may have statistically been his worst, as he led a 17-point comeback for an Oklahoma win at Tennessee, despite completing only 48 percent of his passes and throwing two interceptions (he also threw three touchdown passes and ran for another). With nothing but ranked teams left on the regular season slate (No. 6 Baylor, No. 15 TCU, No. 8 Oklahoma State), Mayfield has a lot more ground he could cover in his candidacy for the Heisman.
4. Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor.
There’s no end zone that this man can’t find. Coleman was on the cusp of losing Heisman heat before a couple of discouraging performances by other candidates and a monstrous game of his own not only saved his spot, but also elevated his status. Despite losing Seth Russell for the season, Coleman was able to pick up where he left off with his best game of the season, catching 11 passes for 216 yards and two touchdowns from the arm of true freshman quarterback Jarrett Stidham, who made his first career start. Coleman is now eight touchdown catches from setting a FBS record. It will be a tough road (next three games: vs. No. 12 Oklahoma, at No. 8 Oklahoma State, at No. 15 TCU) to get there, but there’s no shadow of a doubt that more outstanding outings will only strengthen this stud receiver’s chances at hoisting the big trophy.
3. Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama.
My top-five list has been a revolving door for Henry, who may just stay here after decimating a tough LSU defense for 210 yards on 38 carries, with three touchdowns to boot, in a decisive 30-16 ‘Bama win over the Tigers. Henry’s scoring streak has hit 14 games, and after being left out of last week’s list, he is definitely in the mix for surpassing the two men before him for the Heisman, as his performance has pushed the Crimson Tide to No. 2 in the College Football Playoff rankings. His next opponent, No. 17 Mississippi State, held him to 36 yards last year. Henry’s statement game was against LSU, but his masterpiece could come on the Bulldogs’ field Saturday. Leonard Fournette, in my opinion, is still the best back in football, but Henry is making the bigger impact for a team that is surely and strongly in contention for a national title.
2. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson.
While the Tigers have clawed their way in the national title picture, so has Watson in the Heisman race, going from a random prospect to a sleeper favorite. Clemson wouldn’t be No. 1 in the College Football Playoff ranks without his versatility and tremendous playmaking, as evidenced in his 297 yards in the air and 107 yards on the ground in his team’s 23-13 win against Florida State. Watson hasn’t thrown a pick in three straight games, and those games have also seen him thrown seven touchdown passes and scramble for at least 54 yards. It’s a Cinderella rise for this talented quarterback, who wasn’t able to showcase his abilities for a full season due to injuries (culminated with a torn ACL). He has only one hurdle to overcome on his way to this award, but games at Syracuse, vs. Wake Forest and at South Carolina can pad a resume that could turn more voters his way.
1. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State.
He’s no Fournette, but he doesn’t need to be. Elliott stirs the drink for No. 3-ranked Ohio State, who has gone through a back-and-forth quarterback drama between J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones, as the former was suspended for a DUI charge over the weekend of the team’s bye week. He certainly improved upon his 2014 numbers at Minnesota last year by rumbling for 114 yards on 26 carries with a touchdown this past weekend. Elliott has a 14-game streak of 100-plus rush yards, and that’s sure to continue Saturday at Illinois. He is the difference between Ohio State being in the College Football Playoffs and it being in just a bowl game.
Missing: Leonard Fournette (No. 1 last week) and Trevone Boykin (No. 2 last week).
Don’t be too shocked, folks. Fournette was riding just about the highest of any player in the nation before entering Tuscaloosa, being held to a paltry 31 yards on 19 carries. Yes, Alabama had the nation’s top run defense, but Heisman contenders shine in losses as well, something that Fournette didn’t do. Meanwhile, Boykin was simply awful at Oklahoma State, tossing four interceptions in a dismal 49-29 loss in Stillwater. One can’t play that bad and remain relevant in the Heisman voting, while others are making marks elsewhere.