Week One of the college football season was full of surprises and excitement as upsets ruled the weekend. Week Two had its own crazy moments and breakout performances. Amongst all of the first week chaos and second week blowouts were some individuals who started a path to winning the Heisman. The early going will never make or break any player’s candidacy, but these last few weeks do give us a good idea of who to watch for in the near future. We will be returning to track the Heisman race at different points throughout the season, and this is our first check on the front runners.
The Preseason Favorites
Deshaun Watson QB, Clemson
Last Week: 27-53 for 292 yards, 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. 10 rushes for 55 yards in 30-24 win over Troy
This Week: vs. South Carolina State (0-2)
Watson finished third in Heisman voting in 2015 and entered the 2016 season as one of the favorites for the award. He was able to make enough plays in a tough week one matchup against Auburn to come away with the narrow victory. Week Two was an unspectacular performance against Troy in which he threw two interceptions and barely won. Watson still has Wayne Gallman as his running back, and he also re-established his connection with receiver Mike Williams who was returning from injury. Watson did not put up spectacular numbers in Week One or Two, but his team did get the win. He should be able to pad his stats in a Week Three matchup against FCS opponent South Carolina State.
Leonard Fournette RB, LSU
Last Week: Did Not Play in 34-13 win over Jacksonville State
This Week: vs. Mississippi State (1-1)
Fournette struggled in the first half of the game against Wisconsin, but he was able to salvage a decent statistical day in the second half. Ultimately, though, Fournette had trouble against the Wisconsin front seven for most of the day and was not able to do enough to help his team win. The loss is not all on him as the play calling was suspect at times (three straight passing plays on the second LSU drive of the game) and quarterback Brandon Harris threw a costly interception. LSU was able to get back on track in Week Two against Jacksonville State despite Fournette’s absence. He will try to return in Week Three with a big game.
Dalvin Cook RB, Florida State
Last Week: 11 rushes for 83 yards and 2 touchdowns in 52-8 win over Charleston Southern
This Week: at Louisville (2-0)
Dalvin Cook was not the best FSU offensive player on the field in Week One (that was quarterback Deondre Francois), but he still had a solid game against a tough SEC defense. While there was not much space for Cook to show off his explosiveness, but Cook did show his usefulness as a receiver out of the backfield. FSU won in a blowout in week two so Cook’s touches in the running game were limited. A Week Three matchup with #10 Louisville will likely be high scoring, so Cook has the potential to put up big numbers.
Christian McCaffrey RB, Stanford
Last Week: OFF
This Week: vs. USC (1-1)
Contrary to last year when they lost to Northwestern, Stanford was able to win their Week One game. This will go a long way toward McCaffrey’s Heisman chances. McCaffrey finished second in voting last year and he was likely hurt by Stanford’s early season struggles. If Stanford is in contention for the playoff all season and McCaffrey continues to put up all-purpose numbers, he will be cemented in the middle of the debate. McCaffrey also had a punt return touchdown called back in week, so if the return team does not block in the back or hold, then his numbers will be that much better. Stanford and McCaffrey return from the bye week to play a USC team that gave up 242 yards rushing to Alabama in Week One.
Baker Mayfield QB, Oklahoma
Last Week: 14-20 for 244 yards and 3 touchdowns in 59-17 win over The University of Louisiana-Monroe
This Week: vs. Ohio State (2-0)
Oklahoma suffered a crushing loss to Houston, but it was not all Mayfield’s doing. Mayfield played a solid game and showed off impressive arm strength. His ability to improvise on a broken play is second-to-none, but unfortunately he was not able to escape the Houston defense on many occasions. Mayfield was sacked five times and held to minus-one rushing yards. After a blowout win in week two, Ohio State comes into Norman as well as a chance for Oklahoma to save their season and redeem the early loss to Houston.
The Early Season Heroes
Lamar Jackson QB, Louisville
Last Week: 20-39 for 411 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception; 21 rushes for 199 yards and 4 touchdowns in 62-28 win over Syracuse
This Week: vs. FSU (2-0)
Just look at the numbers. Jackson has accounted for 13 touchdowns through two games, and that’s after he sat out the second half in Week One. Louisville can prove they are for real in Week Three against Florida State, and Jackson can cement himself as a Heisman frontrunner. His odds of winning the award have already dropped from 100-1 to 8-1. Plus he does things like this.
J.T. Barrett QB, Ohio State
Last Week: 14-22 for 149 yards; 16 rushes for 55 yards and 2 touchdowns in 48-3 win over Tulsa.
This Week: vs. Oklahoma (1-1)
Now that Barrett has the Ohio State quarterback job all to himself, he can play without any distractions. Things started pretty poorly in Week One as Barrett threw a pick-six early in the game, but he recovered to have a great game. He tied the school record for touchdowns thrown in a game and also ran for another score. In week two he played well as Ohio State got out to an early lead and never looked back. Week Three brings a key matchup against Oklahoma, and Barrett will have a chance to prove that Ohio State is a national title contender and he should be considered a Heisman favorite.
Nick Chubb RB, Georgia
Last Week: 20 carries for 80 yards and 1 touchdown in 26-24 win over Nicholls State
This Week: at Missouri (1-1)
In Week One, Chubb showed no signs of the knee injury that ended his 2015 season. He was a workhorse that carried the ball over 30 times in a hard fought win over North Carolina. Georgia’s first year head coach Kirby Smart was committed to the run, and ran the ball 48 times in the game as opposed to just 20 passes between two quarterbacks. The uncertainty under center continued in Week Two, as the Bulldogs struggled against an FCS opponent. Chubb also did not have the greatest day, but he continued to get over 20 touches. Coach Smart will likely continue to feed Chubb in Week Three against Missouri.
Deondre Francois QB, Florida State
Last Week: 25-32 for 262 yards, 3 touchdowns and 1 interception in 52-8 win over Charleston Southern.
This Week: at Louisville (2-0)
Francois led a come from behind win in week one that would have been impressive for a junior or senior. He’s just a freshman – and still, he threw for over 400 yards in his first game. Florida State had a reputation for coming back to win games when Jameis Winston was the quarterback, and Francois was able to continue that tradition. The comeback against Ole Miss was the biggest in program history and had a great deal to do with Francois’ play. He put up big numbers in a Week Two blowout, but another major test will come this week against Louisville. Time will tell if he can play this well for the entire season, but things look pretty good so far in Seminole land.
The Dark Horses
Greg Ward Jr. QB, Houston
Last Week: Did not play in 42-0 win over Lamar.
This Week: at Cincinnati (2-0)
Greg Ward was one of two players with 2,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing last year. The other was Deshaun Watson. In Week One against Oklahoma, Ward showed off his arm more than his legs. He looked very comfortable in the pocket, and showed good touch on the deep ball. Houston as a team outplayed Oklahoma in week one, and most of that had to do with Ward’s play. Houston will be favored in every game until their November 17 matchup against Louisville. If they win out and Ward plays well, he will have a good case for the Heisman.
Jabrill Peppers DB/LB, Michigan
Last Week: 8 tackles, 2 TFL
This Week: vs. Colorado (2-0)
Peppers does not really have a position, but since he does everything well, he has a chance to win the Heisman. Coach Jim Harbaugh utilizes Peppers in so many different ways that teams struggle to properly prepare. It’s not implausible for Peppers to end the season with a defensive, receiving, rushing, passing, and return touchdown. He does everything for Michigan and if they are the best team in the country at the end of the season, Peppers has a chance.
Kalen Ballage RB, Arizona State
Last Week: 13 carries for 137 yards and 7 touchdowns. 2 catches for 28 yards and 1 touchdown
This Week: at UTSA (1-1)
If there’s any way to rocket you’re way into the national conversation, Ballage might have shown it last week. His eight total touchdowns tied the NCAA record for touchdowns in a game and he only touched the ball 16 times in the whole game (if you count his kick return). He scored half the times he touched the ball! Ballage has an extremely outside chance of being in the Heisman discussion, but if he keeps finding the endzone, anything is possible.
Donnel Pumphrey, RB San Diego State
Last Week: 29 carries for 281 yards and 3 touchdowns, 4 catches for 29 yards in a 45-40 win over CAL
This Week: at Northern Illinois (0-2)
If you have the time this Sunday at 2:30 p.m., tune in to watch the nation’s leading rusher try to build on his stellar senior season. Since he plays in a smaller conference, Pumphrey likely needs to rush for over 2,000 yards to be in the conversation for the Heisman, but that is certainly within the realm of possibility after rushing for 281 yards last week.
Patrick Mahomes, QB Texas Tech
Last Week: 38-53 for 540 yards, 5 touchdowns and 2 interceptions; 11 rushes for 44 yards and 1 touchdown in 68-55 loss to Arizona State
This Week: vs. Louisana Tech (1-1)
Texas Tech throws the ball as much as any team in the country. This is because they like to, and because they have a very capable quarterback in Mahomes. He has put up huge numbers in the first two weeks, and already has over 1,000 passing yards through just two games. If Mahomes wants any chance at the Heisman, he needs to keep producing, and Texas Tech needs to make noise in the Big 12 with some upset victories.