It is mid-October, which means the College Football season is heating up. We truly have a good enough body of work to look at which players are ready for a run at the legendary 25-pound trophy named Heisman.
And in no particular order, here are the players I have on my Heisman Watch List. Every week, even if I don’t write about it, I always talk about my Heisman Watch list on my new podcast Across The Goal Line with my co-host Robert McCachren.
Lamar Jackson, QB Louisville
One of the greatest beginnings to a season in college football history. Jackson has otherworldly tangible talent. He leads his teams in passing yards and is the team leader in rushing yards. Through Week 7, he has passed for over 1806 yards and has rushed for 832 yards. He has 15 passing touchdowns and 15 rushing touchdowns. That is only through seven weeks. Many quarterbacks won’t get 30 touchdowns this season. But, that’s what makes Lamar Jackson who he is. Jackson, at the quarterback position, is the fifth-leading rusher in the FBS and he is the FBS leader in rushing touchdowns, from the quarterback position!
Those are all of his tangible talents, but this sophomore quarterback is a leader and has the respect of his team. His team looks to him when they are down and in a jam. He is the playmaker of the offense and he does not melt under the bright lights.
The Clemson game told me everything I needed to know about Jackson. Down 28-10 at halftime, he and the offense came out on fire. They started the second half with 26 unanswered points on a very good Clemson Tiger defense. Jackson never lost composure during the whole game no matter if the score was 28-10 or 28-36. He just has that baller mentality. He never quits and he goes 100% every play he is on the field. I love it.
Even though the Clemson game didn’t end in his team’s favor, it definitely won over many of the people watching him on primetime. After the game, he didn’t throw his receiver under the bus for not getting upfield and getting the first down. Instead, he took responsibility for the loss and took the loss like the veteran leader he has grown to be.
Deshaun Watson, QB Clemson
Last year, he was the premiere athlete at the quarterback position in college football. This year, he and his offense started very slow. He struggled to be the “Deshaun Watson” that we had deemed him to be. He had a slow start to the season opening up against Auburn on the road and at home against Troy. In those two games, his completion rate has about 53% and his adjusted QBR was 60.6. That is way below the bar Watson has set for himself. From Week 3 and on we have seen more of the Deshaun Watson we expected to see.
This year when the lights shined the brightest, Watson showed up. On Week 5 against Lamar Jackson and the surging Louisville Cardinals, Watson reintroduced himself into the Heisman race. He did throw three interceptions and one on a critical drive in the fourth quarter, but in Watson-like fashion he came back after being down 38-26 to win the game 42-38. Watson manufactured two straight touchdown drives in fourth quarter to give the Tigers a chance to win the game.
Yes, he started the season very slow. However, I like that after the second game of the season against Troy, he addressed his below average play. After that press conference, we were back to seeing the Deshaun Watson we wanted to see.
Through Week 7, Watson has thrown for 1950 yards, 20 touchdowns, and eight interceptions. He has also contributed 279 yards on the ground and one score. If he can continue to win and play at a high level, people will start to forget his first two games of the season.
Jalen Hurts, QB Alabama
Surprisingly enough Jalen Hurts is still not on many people’s Heisman List, but he has been on my radar since Week 2. He is the quarterback of the best team in college football. How is this kid not getting any recognition? It’s because his numbers don’t really jump at you. He has 1385 yards passing, nine passing touchdowns, and three interceptions. On the ground, he has 428 yards and eight touchdowns. The kid is very special.
He is the first freshman to start for Nick Saban, ever! He is only 18. Think about what you were doing at 18 and I mean really think about it. Many of us were flunking our first year of college Spanish, drinking at frat parties, and making “Mom, I’m broke. Please send money” signs for College Gameday. This true freshman beat the odds and became the starting quarterback of the University of Alabama.
He has passed every test in front of him with flying colors. He beat USC in his first game on a neutral field. He has played some of his best ball against Ole Miss, Arkansas, and Tennessee.
Most noticeable game being his last game against rival Tennessee on the road when he gained 275 yards rushing and passing and scored three times using his legs. That Tennessee game is not even his best statistical game, but this game was probably the most important game he has played. It really showed the whole nation that he should be on everyone’s Heisman watch list.
Even though his numbers don’t jump off the screen at you, his play on the field does jump out to me. He is playing some of the most efficient ball from all FBS quarterbacks. He doesn’t put his team in bad situations and he has the respect of his peers. Many college quarterbacks don’t do these things, but as a freshman, Jalen Hurts is a leader of men and that can’t be measured in the stat books.
J.T. Barrett, QB Ohio State
J.T. Barrett, just like Deshaun Watson, has managed Heisman hype in previous seasons and going into this season he was definitely on everyone’s Heisman watch radar. But during this season, he hasn’t been the consistent player we know he can be. Even though he has gained 1641 total yards and has scored 20 touchdowns, it just feels like he can do so much better.
Barrett and Watson are having almost completely different years. Watson started off slow and has picked up steam now. While, Barrett started off very hot out of the gate. In two of his first four games, he completed 70% or more of his passes. Also in that four game stretch, he completed no less than 63% of his passes.
In his last two games he has not played up to his standards. In the Indiana game, he posted his career-low in adjusted QBR (46) in any game that he started and finished. In the first half of the Wisconsin game, he and his team struggled to move the ball. Barrett lead the troops in the second half and they escaped the upset at Camp Randall. All of his three touchdowns came in the second half and overtime.
Out of all four players on my Heisman watch list, J.T. Barrett has to show me he can keep the Indiana game and the first half of the Wisconsin in his rear view mirror. I think he can do that.
Heisman Watch Honorable Mention
Michigan defensive back/linebacker Jabrill Peppers is one of the most dangerous players in College Football. He is on the verge of being on my Heisman watch list. He is a game changer for the Wolverines on defense. He can play defensive back and he is even strong enough to come down and play linebacker. He also leads the country in punt return yards. The Wolverines have also used him to spark their offensive. In their last game, Peppers scored two rushing touchdowns. This player is probably the only player in the country that has the possibility to score every kind of touchdown. He can do everything on the football field. There hasn’t been a player like him since Charles Woodson, and Woodson and Peppers have something in common. The Maize and Blue.
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