Heisman Watch: Jackson Stumbles, But No One Takes Advantage

Lamar Jackson had a down week, leaving the door open for others to gain ground in the Heisman race. Did any other candidate close the gap?

Lamar Jackson
The Houston defense gave Lamar Jackson fits all night.

Does anyone want the Heisman Trophy?

It appears not, as no player is really stepping up to claim the most prestigious award in college football. Louisville quarterback, Lamar Jackson, has been the runaway leader all season long. Even he took a step back in week 12, as his team suffered an embarrassing defeat to an inconsistent Houston team.

With Jackson’s down week, would anyone else step up to close the chasm on the star quarterback? That would be a big, resounding NO. So where does that leave Baker Mayfield, DeShaun Watson, Jabril Peppers and others that had the perfect opportunity to put a little pressure on the presumed leader.

Let’s check it out in the Heisman Watch.

1. Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

Houston’s defense sacked Jackson 11 times, harassing him countless other times in an upset blowout. The usually unflappable Jackson appeared rattled  in the face of the Cougars’ front seven. Jackson rushed for a season-low 33 yards, though it was 116 before the sacks. He also completed 20-of-43 passes for 211 yards, one touchdown and no picks. Besides the numbers, it just didn’t look good, particularly on a nationally televised game in mid-November. There’s finally a path to challenge Jackson, but which contender has that resume?

2. Jabril Peppers, LB, Michigan

If Peppers doesn’t put up monster numbers Saturday and lead the Wolverines to a  win over Ohio State, he’s unlikely to attract enough votes to top Jackson, who amassed such an early cushion in this race. Peppers is a one-of-a-kind athlete, which plenty of voters are going to recognize. But many others are looking for those highlight-reel, Heisman-esque moments that catapult contenders into frontrunners. Peppers was solid in Saturday’s 20-10 win over Indiana, collecting five tackles, two stops for loss and 49 all-purpose yards, but running back De’Veon Smith was the biggest reason Michigan is still a one-loss team.

3. J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State

Lamar Jackson left the door open on Thursday night. Barrett is not one of the candidates who was able to take advantage. He once again struggled in the face of the Michigan State defense, fortunate to be a part of the winning side. Barrett completed less than 50 percent of his throws for less than 100 yards, but he was one of two Ohio State players to rush for more than 100 yards. He’ll need to be the star of this week’s Michigan game to make a surge in what has been a solid year.

4. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson

Like so many of his 2016 performances, Watson did just enough to remain in the top five, yet he didn’t do enough to really put pressure on the top couple of candidates. The Tigers defeated Wake Forest, 35-13, to wrap up the ACC Atlantic a week later than expected. Watson accounted for three scores, a pair coming from his legs, but he was just fair through the air, generating 202 yards and a touchdown on 33 attempts. With South Carolina and likely Virginia Tech up next before all ballots must be in, Watson lacks the high-profile opponents to engineer a sudden shift north.

5. Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State

At the Carrier Dome Saturday, it was vintage Cook, who rushed for more than 200 yards and scored four times to smash Warrick Dunn’s school career rushing mark. Cook also tied Greg Allen’s school career touchdown record. The Seminoles’ three losses and exit from the national spotlight have hindered Cook’s chances for the Heisman. Still, after a slow start, he’s gone for at least 100 yards in seven of his last eight games, and savvy voters recognize his standing among the country’s premier backs.

6. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

Mayfield has had better nights, taking a backseat to the downhill running of Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine. But he accounted for four touchdowns, two on the ground and two through the air, in a 56-28 road rout of West Virginia. Mayfield is the face of Oklahoma’s eight-game winning streak, and he has the requisite numbers. Mayfield is nicely positioned to finish in the top five for a second straight year.

7. D’Onta Foreman, RB, Texas

Foreman literally put his Horns—and Kansas defenders—on his back Saturday, rushing for 250 yards and two touchdowns on an exhausting, career-high 51 carries. It still wasn’t enough, as Texas somehow bowed to the Jayhawks. Foreman has a legitimate shot to surpass 2,000 yards rushing this Friday versus TCU, despite sitting out Week 2 and sharing a backfield with a true freshman. Unfortunately, and arguably unfairly, many voters have tuned out all things Texas, which still hasn’t achieved bowl-eligibility.

8. Jalen Hurts, QB, Alabama

On a night the Crimson Tide appeared completely uninspired by the prospect of hosting Chattanooga, Hurts sparked the offense much the way a veteran leader might. Big plays were scarce against the Mocs, but the true freshman had nearly as many touchdown throws (thee) as incompletions (six), while adding a couple of nifty scampers outside the pocket. While Hurts remains a long shot, he’s virtually locked down the honor of getting the most votes among freshmen — first-year or the redshirt variety.

9. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford

McCaffrey is one of the 10 best players in college football, regardless of position. He’s used the past month reminding everyone of his ability, as his amateur career likely winds to an end. It’s been shades of the 2015 McCaffrey over the past four games, highlighted by Heisman-caliber numbers and the open-field cuts that helped transform him into a household name a year ago. He took over Saturday’s rivalry game with Cal. McCaffrey compiled more than 300 all-purpose yards, including a career-best 284 yards on the ground and three touchdowns to spark Stanford to its fourth straight win.

10. Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama

You’d expect Allen to be absolutely dominant against an outmanned Chattanooga offense. However, on top of the entire Alabama team feeling flat, Allen didn’t play a whole bunch. He still finished with 6 total tackles, 2 behind the line of scrimmage. As with any defensive player (especially defensive lineman), Allen is a long shot to make a push for the Heisman even is he is the best player in the country.

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