Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson has jumped out to an early lead in Heisman Trophy projections.
It’s not uncommon to see an individual player storm to the top of the Heisman Trophy race before the season’s first month. Think of Marcus Mariota, for example, who was nearly a wire-to-wire winner as a junior at Oregon.
It’s become far more common, however, for a player to sprint to the front of the line from relatively obscurity — sometimes, as in the cases of Jameis Winston and Johnny Manziel, as redshirt freshmen making their first career starts.
Lamar Jackson wasn’t quite that unknown, after a 2015 season that saw him close strong as Louisville’s unquestioned starter. But after three weeks of this fall, the sophomore quarterback has gone from trendy and attention-worthy to the hottest name in college football.
Can he keep it up? Maybe, maybe not. But here’s one way to look at it: If he can run through Florida State, there’s no reason to think Jackson can’t maintain this pace the rest of the way.
1. Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
It wasn’t hard to imagine Louisville beating Florida State. It was somewhat difficult to picture Jackson maintaining his unbelievable pace against the Seminoles’ defense, however. So much for that: Jackson threw for 216 yards, ran for 146 yards and accounted for five touchdowns, putting on another sublime performance to take early control of the Heisman race.
2. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
Pull his string and watch McCaffrey tear through Southern California. In his third game against the Trojans in roughly a year, McCaffrey ran for 165 yards, added 73 yards receiving and scored twice in Stanford’s 27-10 win. That’s just more of the same for one of college football’s very best.
3. Donnel Pumphrey, RB, San Diego State
Pumphrey is the nation’s leading rusher by a huge margin — by nearly 50 yards per game on Jackson, in second — after gaining 220 yards in the Aztecs’ win against Northern Illinois. That’s two games over 200 yards in as many weeks for Pumphrey, who should no longer be flying under the radar in this Heisman race.
4. Jabril Peppers, LB, Michigan
The do-everything star leads his team in tackles and the nation in tackles for loss, has been electric in the return game and has been featured as a dynamic tool in the Wolverines’ offense. After a somewhat slow start to his career, Peppers is more than matching the expectations that greeted his arrival as the country’s consensus top recruit.
5. J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State
The wins and the nearly error-free games continue to add up for Barrett, with Oklahoma and its defense the junior’s latest victim. While his numbers haven’t been jaw-dropping in terms of total yardage, you only need to watch the Buckeyes’ attack to see how Barrett has progressed since an uneven 2015 season.
ON THE CUSP
Alabama QB Jalen Hurts
California QB Davis Webb
Clemson QB Deshaun Watson
Georgia RB Nick Chubb
Houston QB Greg Ward Jr.
Miami (Fla.) QB Brad Kaaya
Texas Tech QB Patrick Mahomes
Washington QB Jake Browning