Saquon Barkley was not the spectacular Heisman contender on Saturday that we’ve seen rip apart Big Ten defenses in the past. But despite a rough outing, Barkley is still a leader in the race to claim the trophy as the nation’s best player.
Halfway through the season, new contenders are emerging to challenge Barkley, while some previous competitors had their stocks fall after losses.
Barkley sits at No. 2 in the nation in all-purpose yards — the main case of his Heisman campaign. He has accrued 649 yards on the ground, 395 in the air, and has 10 total touchdowns — including six rushing, two receiving, one on a kickoff return, and one passing. The Penn State junior has been a Jack of all trades despite not excelling in any single category of his game.
Game’s like Saturday’s against Northwestern may come back to haunt him. Barkley had -1 yard at halftime and saved some face with a pair of second-half touchdowns, including a 53-yard rushing score, to finish with 75 yards on the ground. He had just nine yards receiving and no kickoff returns for a season low in all-purpose yards.
Sports illustrated still rates Barkley as the top contender, with Bruce Feldman saying that he’s leading despite not having much success in the run game this year.
“In four of six games this season he’s been held below 100 yards rushing, but it’s the other areas of his game as the centerpiece of a top-five team that will win him key votes,” Feldman wrote.
At this point in the season, Stanford’s Bryce Love is Barkley’s biggest threat to win the Heisman Trophy. The junior running back has torched PAC-12 defenses all season long — averaging 10.5 yards per carry for nine touchdowns in 2017. In the Cardinal’s upset win over No. 20 Utah, Love put up season-low numbers, even though he rushed for more than 150 yards once again this year. Yes, his season low of 152 yards on the ground is better than all but two of Barkley’s rushing performances this year.
Washington State’s Luke Falk could also give Barkley trouble if he continues to thrive for the rising Cougars. The senior quarterback threw for 282 yards and three touchdowns as his eighth-ranked team cruised to 6-0 with a win over Oregon 33-10. Falk leads the nation in touchdown passes with 19, is third in the nation in passing yards with 2,000, and is fourth in the nation with a completion percentage of 71.8 percent.
With an outside shot now as one of the top five contenders, according to Sports Illustrated‘s Feldman, Alabama defensive tackle Minkah Fitzpatrick surged into contention with a crazy performance against Texas A&M Saturday — tallying five tackles, including two for a loss, an interception, and a forced fumble. He leads the team with 4.5 tackles for a loss this season and also blocked a kick earlier this season.
Lamar Jackson’s hopes of defending his Heisman from last season are sinking further away. The Louisville quarterback has passed for 1,990 yards this season, but has not rekindled his spectacular form from last year as the Cardinals fell to 4-2 this weekend.
Baker Mayfield’s loss to Iowa State didn’t help his cause either as the Sooners’ playoff hopes are in jeopardy after the weak loss. Mayfield has the numbers to back up his Heisman case — the nation’s highest completion percentage, 15 touchdowns, and 1,635 yards in the air. He’s still waiting in the shadow of both Love and Barkley, according to Feldman.
“He’s still in decent position,” Feldman wrote. “But he’s going to need both backs above him to stumble if he’s going to push for the award.”