Heisman Watch: Lack of marquee games produces no major changes

Who leads the Heisman Trophy race after Week 9?
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Week 9 wasn’t the most impactful slate of college football, especially if you enjoy watching top-10 teams go down. As it happened, five programs ranked in the top 7 of the AP Poll enjoyed byes this week. That meant the final Saturday in October failed to spark a shakeup atop the polls.

Not coincidentally, the same could be said for the Heisman race. College football’s primary Heisman contenders mostly maintained the status quo over the weekend. Two candidates in our Heisman Watch top five—LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Alabama’s Derrick Henry—were off, while the rest took care of business on the field.

But perhaps Week 9 was simply the calm before the storm. The first weekend in November has the potential to stir up the race for the Heisman Trophy.

Week 9 Heisman Watch

1. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
2. Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU
3. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
4. Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama
5. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford

State of the frontrunner

Week 9 Takeaways: Three biggest things we learned from the week

​Fournette and the Tigers took the week off on Saturday, but the extra rest couldn’t have come at a better time for the Heisman frontrunner. Next week Fournette faces his toughest test yet on the road against Alabama. The Crimson Tide boast perhaps the country’s best front seven, ranking third nationally in rushing defense (2.6 yards per carry allowed). Fournette could make his biggest statement of the season in Bryant-Denny Stadium while simultaneously positioning LSU as the SEC favorite.

Rising contenders

Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame
Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

Kizer didn’t begin the season as Notre Dame’s starting quarterback, but he’s done his part in helping the program remain in the College Football Playoff race.

Kizer came through when it mattered on Saturday in a road game against undefeated Temple. The Owls, who came in boasting the AAC’s best defense, held a 20-17 lead over the Irish with 3:48 to play. Kizer responded on his team’s ensuing drive, completing all four of his pass attempts and running for six yards. The sophomore capped the drive with a 17-yard pass to receiver Will Fuller, which gave Notre Dame a 24-20 lead it wouldn’t give up.

Instant Analysis: Notre Dame keeps playoff hopes alive with win at Temple

​Kizer knows a thing or two about leading Notre Dame from behind. He’s done it three times this season in wins over Virginia, USC and now Temple. The young passer has grown into a headliner for a playoff-caliber team, one that lost starting quarterback Malik Zaire to injury. ''It all comes with experience,” Kizer told reporters after the win over Temple. “When you go out there and you do it once or twice, that's how it's going to end up being.”

The quarterback wasn’t perfect on Saturday, throwing two interceptions against the Owls. But Kizer is one of the primary catalysts for a team that could finish the season with only one loss.


Falling contenders

J.T. Barrett, QB Ohio State

Ohio State fans were reminded of Barrett’s star potential two weeks ago, when coach Urban Meyer finally tabbed the redshirt sophomore as the starter for the Buckeyes’ game against Rutgers. Barrett responded with 324 yards and five touchdowns in a 49-7 win. Suddenly the quarterback looked like the answer to Ohio State’s offensive woes.

Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett arrested on OVI charge Saturday morning

Now the Buckeyes will have to return to Cardale Jones at quarterback for at least one more week. Last weekend the school suspended Barrett for its Nov. 7 matchup with Minnesota after the redshirt sophomore’s arrest early Saturday morning on charges of operating a vehicle while intoxicated. Ohio State issued the suspension for next week’s game because the team was off on Saturday.

Of course, Barrett was an unlikely Heisman candidate even before the misdemeanor arrest. He’d seen serious action in only a couple of games this season as Jones’s primary backup. But had Barrett led the Buckeyes to wins over Michigan and Michigan State and helped them finish undefeated, he might’ve reached New York. His Heisman candidacy now is much weaker.

Heisman video of the week

Boykin is so good, even rival coaches appreciate his talent. On Thursday Boykin traded a high-five with West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen after a successful scramble.

Heisman lookahead

No. 17 Florida State at No. 3 Clemson

At season’s end, this game likely will have determined whether the ACC is represented in the playoff. Watson has blossomed into one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the Heisman race. Meanwhile, the ‘Noles will hope to spoil their rivals’ playoff hopes.

No. 5 TCU at No. 12 Oklahoma State

Instant Analysis: Oklahoma St. stays perfect with wild win over Texas Tech

The season is 10 weeks old, but TCU is facing its first ranked opponent this Saturday. That’s why all eyes will be on Horned Frogs quarterback Boykin against the Pokes. The dual-threat signal-caller compiled 472 yards of offense and four total touchdowns in last week’s 40-10 win over West Virginia.

No. 4 LSU at No. 7 Alabama

Fournette isn’t the only running back who can break out next weekend. Keep an eye on Alabama’s Henry, who has 376 rushing yards (6.3 per carry) and four touchdowns in his last two games. If Fournette falters, Henry could supplant him in the Heisman race.