Running backs continue to rule the Heisman Trophy rankings through Week 8. Another back has thrown his name into the hat after an amazing performance. However, they are all still chasing after Barkley, who reminded the nation this past week just why he is the player to beat for this year's award.
1. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
After back-to-back less-than-stellar outings, Barkley needed a performance that would re-energize his waning Heisman campaign. The Penn State star did exactly that as he helped the Nittany Lions maul Michigan, 42-13. Barkley didn’t have gaudy numbers, but he was wildly efficient as he needed just 18 touches to pick up 161 yards from scrimmage. He also had three total touchdowns, two of which came on his first three carries of the night to put Penn State up 14-0.
With that performance, Barkley is back to being the unquestioned pole sitter in the Heisman race as it comes down to the last few crucial weeks. And speaking of crucial, Barkley’s meeting with Ohio State at the Shoe this weekend could potentially clinch him the trophy if he comes out with another game like he did against Michigan.
2. Bryce Love, RB, Stanford
Bryce Love and Stanford were on a bye last week, so he retains his spot right behind Barkley in this week’s rankings. However, Love may not have the opportunity to gain ground on the Penn State star as he remains questionable to play against Oregon State this weekend due to an ankle injury he suffered in Stanford’s last game against Oregon.
It’ll be an interesting decision for head coach David Shaw to make whether he is willing to risk his Heisman candidate at Corvallis, especially with back-to-back games against the ranked Washington teams on the horizon.
3. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
For the second week in a row, Baker Mayfield and Oklahoma just narrowly avoided a back-breaking second loss of the season. This time, the Sooners had a scare against Kansas State, but Mayfield’s brilliance helped them escape Manhattan with the win. Mayfield had another sensational night, going 32-of-41 for 410 yards and two touchdowns. He also added 69 rushing yards and two more rushing touchdowns.
Mayfield’s masterful performances are definitely worth making him a Heisman finalist even if the Sooners drop out of playoff contention with another loss, but it’s becoming increasingly clear Oklahoma really do need their star quarterback to carry them all the way to the finish line given the shakiness of the Sooners defense.
4. Josh Adams, RB, Notre Dame
Notre Dame’s outstanding 49-14 win over USC vaulted the Irish into legitimate College Football Playoff contention. They couldn’t have gotten that win without the brilliance of Josh Adams, who’s remarkable 191-yard, three-touchdown effort also vaulted him into the Heisman conversation.
Adams has spearheaded an impressive Irish power rushing attack, with his 9.21 yards per carry just behind Bryce Love. He’s also right on the cusp of 1,000 rushing yards on the season, and has done so with significantly fewer carries than most other players around him atop the nation’s rushing yards list.
Another tough test looms for Adams and the Irish with NC State, but if he can continue to run wild on the Wolfpack’s impressive defensive line, he can only do his Heisman case a world of good.
5. Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin
Just like Wisconsin, Jonathan Taylor just continues to chug along. The Badgers’ freshman sensation running back picked up 126 more rushing yards and another touchdown in Wisconsin’s 38-13 win over Maryland. Taylor has had a rushing touchdown in each of his seven games this season, and remains in the top 10 in the nation with 11 overall.
With few (if any) marquee games left on Wisconsin’s schedule now that Michigan’s unranked, Taylor will need some overwhelming numbers the rest of the way to force himself higher into the top five. While Taylor should be lauded for his consistency over the course of his freshman year and has earned a spot in the top five of the Heisman race, he doesn’t quite have the wow factor (yet) that can get him over the top.
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