Through the first 5 weeks, Lamar Jackson, Louisville’s electric quarterback with both serious passing and running talent, has a huge lead in mid-season Heisman voting polls. However, as we know too well, things can change quite quickly. Take Leonard Fournette, quite possibly the best running back in the country, had a lead similar to Jackson’s through the first half of the season last year. However, he wasn’t even a finalist for the Heisman Trophy after a weak showing against Alabama, and only finished 6th in Heisman voting. Below is our analysis of the front-runners to win the Heisman Trophy through the first 5 weeks of the 2016 College Football season.
Heisman Favorite: Lamar Jackson, Louisville Cardinals
Through the first 5 weeks of the season, Lamar Jackson has blown everyone else out of the water, in possibly the most impressive campaign ever (through 5 weeks). Jackson has averaged an incredible 463 yards per game of total offense (325 passing, 138 rushing), which is second in the country only to Patrick Mahomes, who has faced noticeably weaker competition thus far. Jackson also leads the country in total QBR, with a rating of 92.8, which is more than 2 points higher than the next quarterback.
In addition, Jackson has average 4.6 passing TD’s per game as well as 2.8 rushing TD’s per game, which makes him responsible for 33.6 points per game. Jackson is first in the country in points responsible per game and is on pace to shatter Colt Brennan’s current record of 27.4 points responsible per game back in 2006.
What’s even more impressive is that Jackson has sustained his unbelievable play against 2 of the best teams in the country. Jackson played fabulously against Florida State (362 yards from scrimmage and 5 total touchdowns), who was widely regarded to have one of the best defenses in the country before Jackson humiliated them. While the Louisville Cardinals fell to the Clemson Tigers last week, Jackson still played brilliantly and kept the game close, as he recorded 475 yards of total offense as well as 3 total touchdowns.
Don’t sleep on him: Christian McCaffrey, Stanford Cardinals
Given that McCaffrey has established himself as a clear front-runner for the Heisman (behind Jackson obviously) and is still considered to be having a “bad” season really speaks to how amazing of a player he is.
Even in his “off” season, McCaffrey has averaged 158.5 yards from scrimmage per game, which is just 26 yards per game less than Dalvin Cook, who leads the country in this stat. In addition, McCaffrey leads the country with 214.5 all-purpose yards per game, which is definitely off of his record pace from last year, but nonetheless still incredible. McCaffrey has also averaged 1 touchdown per game, which is impressive as well.
What’s most impressive about McCaffrey’s campaign thus far is that he has completely carried Stanford through this season. McCaffrey has carried the team, touching the ball on 46.8% of Stanford’s plays. While McCaffrey might have been ineffective last week, that was largely the rest of the offense’s fault; his offensive line had trouble blocking Washington’s defensive line and due to Burns’ inexperience, Washington could afford to jam the box with defenders. Stanford’s offensive line, which is weaker than in year’s past, as well as Ryan Burns, Stanford’s inexperienced and ineffective quarterback, are the only things holding McCaffrey back from being as good as he was last season.
Do not forget about him: JT Barrett, Ohio State Buckeyes
While most of the Heisman attention has been focused on Lamar Jackson, for quarterbacks at least, JT Barrett has been quietly putting together an impressive campaign as well. Barrett has averaged 222 passing yards per game and 51 rushing yards per game through the Buckeyes’ first 4 games, which is above average, but not amazing. However, Barrett has averaged 4.25 TD’s per game so far, which means he is responsible for 25.5 points per game. Barrett is 4th in the country in points responsible for per game, behind Jackson, Mahomes, and Webb, and just is a tiny bit off of the record pace Colt Brennan set back in 2006.
Even though Barrett’s stats, especially touchdowns per game, are impressive, they certainly aren’t Heisman worthy. However, what makes Barrett so appealing has been the Buckeyes’ dominance so far. Barrett, Ohio State’s quarterback and captain of the Buckeyes’ offense, has led them to victories of 67 points (Bowling Green), 45 points (Tulsa), 21 points (Oklahoma), and 58 points (Rutgers). Oklahoma, once considered the overwhelming favorite to win the Big 12, was absolutely destroyed by Barrett and the Buckeyes at home, only adding onto Barrett’s impressive resume.
Dark Horse: Jake Browning, Washington Huskies
While Jake Browning’s stats don’t jump off of the page, he is certainly a major contender to win the Heisman this year. Browning is 5th in the country in Total QBR and 6th in the country in completion percentage and has only thrown 2 interceptions so far, all suggesting that Browning is completely in control as he is one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the country. Browning’s 3.6 TD’s per game and 223 passing yards per game are certainly above average but are nothing super special either.
What’s easily the most impressive part of Browning’s resume is that he has commanded one of the most powerful offenses in the country. Washington was ranked 5th in last week’s AP Rankings and has continued to trend upward, fueled by Browning’s stellar performance. The Huskies racked up easily the most impressive win of the season last week when they absolutely obliterated the Stanford Cardinals, 44-6, which proves that Browning and the Huskies can beat up on stronger teams as well.
Other Heisman front-runners:
Jabrill Peppers, Michigan Wolverines
He’s a super talented player and has shown tremendous potential and big play ability on offense, defense, and special teams.
Deshaun Watson, Clemson Tigers
He’s quite possibly the best quarterback in the country, and just took down the Louisville Cardinals and outplayed Lamar Jackson, the current Heisman favorite.
Greg Ward, Jr., Houston Cougars
He doesn’t quite have the stats the other contenders do, but he sure knows how to win. Houston’s only loss in the past 2 seasons came when Ward was hurt against UConn.
Mitch Trubisky, North Carolina Tar Heels
He leads the country in touchdown to interception ratio (13:0) and completion percentage (76%) and is 6th in passing yards as well as 7th in yards per attempt.
Data courtesy of ESPN, FOX Sports, CBS Sports, NCAA.com, Wikipedia, and Football Reference. Thanks for reading!
Written by Jason Platkin
Cover Photo Credits: Getty Images