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The Heisman Five: Saquon Barkley Strengthens Case as Running Backs Take Hold of Race

Saquon Barkley's three-touchdown day against Michigan keeps him in front of the Heisman race, but a number of running backs, plus Baker Mayfield, are making their case as well.

Bryce Love was off and Saquon Barkley was piling up style points right from the jump against Michigan, burning the nation’s top defense for a 68-yard carry on his first play. The crazy thing about this Heisman race is how it became even more running back heavy, with Notre Dame’s Josh Adams running through rival USC on a national TV stage. So we’ve had to bump our top defensive player, Alabama star Minkah Fitzpatrick, to make room for the Irish standout. Not only does our Heisman field have a very heavy running back vibe, it also has a very strong Northeast feel to it, with two of the candidates hailing from Pennsylvania (Barkley and Adams) and a third, Jonathan Taylor, being from New Jersey.

1. Saquon Barkley, Penn State, RB: Don Brown’s Michigan D led the nation in total defense entering Week 8, but the Nittany Lions torched them for 42 points as Barkley ran for 108 yards on just 15 carries to go with 53 yards receiving, finding the end zone three times on the night. How’s this for versatility: Barkley now has five catches that have gone for 40 yards or longer. Two of the other RBs on this list—Love and Taylor—have combined for five catches all season. Barkley can open his lead in this race even further if he can help Penn State to a win over a very talented—and angry—Ohio State team in Columbus.

2. Bryce Love, Stanford, RB: Love’s 10.3 yards per carry is his best argument for the Heisman. It doesn’t help his cause that his games are getting seen by a lot fewer people than Barkley’s, but Notre Dame’s domination of USC this weekend ensures he’ll have three marquee games remaining—at Washington State in two weeks, against Washington the week after and then the season finale against the Irish. He should be able to pad his stats even more next week against an Oregon State D that is No. 102 in the nation against the run.

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3. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma, QB: He keeps putting this program on his back and did so again this weekend to rally the Sooners back from two TDs down against Bill Snyder’s fearless Kansas State team. Mayfield went 32 for 41 for a season-high 410 yards and two touchdowns and ran for a season-high 69 yards and two more TDs in a 42–35 win. His touchdown-to-interception ratio is 19–2.

4. Josh Adams, Notre Dame, RB: The 6'2", 225-pounder had another big game marked by a huge run, ripping off an 84-yarder against USC en route to a 19-carry, 191-yard game. It was Adams’s sixth carry of 60 yards or longer this year, matching Love’s total. Adams’s 9.3 yards per carry average also is getting up into Love territory. He’s now got a legit shot to get to New York if not win this thing. His one negative is a 19-carry, 53-yard performance (2.8 per) against a pretty salty Georgia defense.

5. Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin, RB: He overcame an early fumble to go for 126 yards against Maryland as the Badgers romped. He became the fastest Wisconsin freshman to reach 1,000 yards in terms of carries, surpassing the 1,000-yard mark on his 130th attempt, breaking James White’s freshman record of 138 carries from the 2010 season. It’ll be an uphill climb for Taylor to win the Heisman, especially given that he only has one catch and this is such a deep crop of star running backs.