Heisman Watch: Quarterbacks emerge as contenders in race
Don’t look now, but quarterbacks are suddenly making some noise in the race for the Heisman Trophy.
A couple of signal-callers did more than enough in Week 5 to garner some Heisman love. TCU’s Trevone Boykin helped the Horned Frogs dominate Texas. Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield threw for three touchdowns against West Virginia to keep his squad unbeaten. And Seth Russell did his best Bryce Petty impression in Baylor’s first true test of the season against Texas Tech. Through September, quarterbacks had stayed quiet in the Heisman race. Now it seems any one of these players has the talent to impact this year’s award.
Week 5 Heisman Watch
1. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
2. Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU
3. Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama
4. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
5. Seth Russell, QB, Baylor
State of the frontrunner
LSU’s star continued his surge through the first half of the season in a matchup with Eastern Michigan. Fournette ran for 233 yards and three touchdowns on 26 carries against the overmatched Eagles, becoming the first player in SEC history to rush for more than 200 yards in three straight games.
Fournette has already compiled 846 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on the season, both of which are the most by an LSU player through four games in program history. His rushing total is also the most by any FBS player through four games since 2000. If Fournette matches his current per-game rushing average (216 yards) next week against South Carolina, he’ll pass his rushing total from 2014 (1,034 yards) in just five games.
Common sense suggests Fournette’s numbers eventually will fall back to earth. But right now the Tigers’ sophomore is head and shoulders above any other contender for the Heisman Trophy.
Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
Seth Russell, QB, Baylor
This was the performance Baylor fans needed to see from Russell. The Bears’ quarterback, who stepped in this season for departed star Bryce Petty, entered Saturday’s matchup with Texas Tech as the FBS leader in passing efficiency (218.86). But Russell reached that mark in games against SMU, Lamar and Rice. A hot Texas Tech team—albeit one that gave up 55 points the previous week to TCU—would be a different challenge for the junior.
Russell answered the call with a huge day against the Red Raiders. He recorded 367 yards of offense (286 passing, 81 rushing) and accounted for six total touchdowns to help Baylor average a whopping 8.9 yards per play. “I thought Seth was really sharp,” Bears coach Art Briles told reporters.
Going forward, Russell must grab the spotlight in Waco if he hopes to contend for the Heisman. Running back Shock Linwood ran for a career-high 221 yards—the fourth-highest total in Baylor history—along with two touchdowns against Texas Tech. Russell is more important to the Bears’ offense right now, but it would benefit him to continue making plays with his legs. Recent history suggests dual-threat quarterbacks are the most viable Heisman candidates.
Nick Chubb, RB Georgia
C.J. Prosise, RB Notre Dame
Georgia’s matchup with Alabama was going to be a put-up or shut-up game for the Bulldogs’ rushing game. That meant Chubb would go a long way in proving his Heisman worth. But the Crimson Tide left Athens with a 38-10 victory and made Chubb look much more human along the way.
Chubb’s stat line alluded to a strong day for the sophomore: He rushed for 146 yards and one touchdown on 20 carries. But those numbers were a little misleading. The bulk of Chubb’s production came on an 83-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, when Alabama had already built a 28-point lead. Take away that run and Chubb averaged a mere 3.3 yards per carry against the Crimson Tide.
This doesn’t mean Chubb can’t emerge as a top-flight Heisman contender. After all, the Dawgs aren’t likely to face a defensive front as daunting as Alabama’s the rest of the season. But Heisman candidates put on big performances on big stages, and in Georgia’s most high-profile game of the year, Chubb didn’t pass the test.
Heisman video of the week
Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott somehow escaped a scrum to tack on this impressive 75-yard touchdown against Indiana, his longest during a game in which he recorded 274 yards and three scores on the ground.
Washington at No. 17 USC
Many dismissed USC in the Pac-12 race after its early loss to Stanford. But after Arizona State upset UCLA on Saturday, expect a bigger spotlight for the Trojans this Thursday night. That also means extra attention for quarterback Cody Kessler as a Heisman candidate against the Huskies.
No. 10 Oklahoma at Texas
Oklahoma’s experiment with the Air Raid offense seems to be working. The Sooners rank 10th nationally with 42 points per game, and a big reason for that is quarterback Baker Mayfield. The Texas Tech transfer could turn more heads by taking advantage of a hapless Texas squad in the Red River Rivalry.
No. 7 LSU at South Carolina
The next stop on the Leonard Fournette Tour of Pain comes in Columbia, where South Carolina ranks 13th in the SEC in rushing defense (4.89 yards per attempt). Say your prayers, Gamecocks.