Week 9 of the college football season brought a change-up to the Heisman race. Frontrunner Saquon Barkley took a step backwards, J.T. Barrett went the distance, Baker Mayfield kept the Sooners rolling, and a host of other running backs performed well enough to make this awards chase the closest it’s been all season.
The Ohio State clash last Saturday got off to a great start for Saquon Barkley and Penn State. The Heisman candidate began the game in typical Saquon Barkley fashion, running back the opening kickoff for a touchdown.
At that moment, it appeared there was nothing capable of denying Barkley the Heisman trophy. He then would strengthen his already impressive Heisman resume with a jaw-dropping 36 yard rushing touchdown to give the Nittany Lions a 21-3 second-quarter lead.
Everything was going perfectly for the Nittany Lions as they went into halftime with a commanding 28-17 advantage and a star running back who had produced two highlight-reel touchdowns. Then J.T. Barrett happened.
The Ohio State quarterback tore apart the Penn State secondary, throwing for 328 yards while completing 33 of his 39 pass attempts. Barrett punctuated his performance with a flawless fourth quarter, completing all 13 of his pass attempts and throwing for three touchdowns.
When all was said and done, a comfortable 35-20 Nittany Lion lead at the beginning of the fourth quarter had turned into devastating 39-38 loss to the Buckeyes. The loss put Ohio State firmly into the driver’s seat in the Big Ten East and delivered a massive blow to the Nittany Lions’ College Football Playoff hopes.
The game also put a dent in Barkley’s Heisman lead. Just a week after his annihilation of the Michigan defense, No. 26 bottled up by the Buckeye defensive front. He finished the game with only 44 yards on 21 carries, good for only a measly 2.1 yards per carry.
Without Barkley’s early 36-yard touchdown run, his stat line would read 20 carries for only 8 yards. That’s an abysmal 0.4 yards per carry.
It’s certainly unfair to place all of the blame on Barkley; Penn State’s offensive line was dominated by the Ohio State front four in the second half. But, the Heisman trophy is known for being a superficial “what have you done for me lately” award.
While Barkley did produce a handful of impressive plays along with the two standout touchdowns mentioned above, his performance paled in comparison to Barrett’s. Since struggling against Oklahoma way back in the second week of the season, the Ohio State signal caller has lit up the scoreboard against every defense he’s faced..
Barrett has thrown for 2,155 yards and 25 touchdowns on the season against only one interception. He’s added a further 465 yards and five touchdowns on the ground.
Before the game, Barrett’s impressive stats were brushed aside as if he — and the rest of the Buckeyes’ offense — was simply running up the score against inferior competition. That’s no longer the case following the Buckeyes’ comeback win over Penn State. Barrett is now a legitimate Heisman candidate, and probably the most likely person to swipe the trophy away from Barkley.
Baker Mayfield has also continued to pick apart any and every Big 12 secondary that’s been tasked with trying to stop him. His latest victim was Texas Tech last, placing him at a perfect 3-0 career record against the Red Raiders.
The Oklahoma quarterback threw for 281 yards and four touchdowns en route to a 49-27 win for the Sooners. On the season, Mayfield has compiled an impressive 2,628 yards through the air. He’s tallied 23 touchdowns against only three interceptions.
With the Bedlam game coming up against Oklahoma State, Mayfield has a chance to show who the best quarterback in college football really is. If Oklahoma can snag a win against a tough Cowboys team and go on to win the Big 12, he too will likely be invited to New York for the Heisman ceremony.
Barrett wasn’t the only Heisman contender to shrink the gap on Barkley last Saturday. Notre Dame running back Josh Adams shredded a solid N.C. State defense, gashing them for 202 yards on only 27 carries.
Adams has flown under the radar so far this season. But after back to back impressive performances against ranked teams — he rushed for 191 yards last week against USC — Adams has inserted himself forcefully into the Heisman discussion.
Bryce Love is also a name that will keep popping up in Heisman discussions. The Stanford tailback still leads the nation in rushing yards, despite sitting out during The Cardinals’ game last week against Oregon State.
If Love is able to recover in time for Stanford’s Washington State matchup this weekend, he too will continue to apply pressure on Barkley. At this point, only continued injury problems will deny Love a trip to New York as at least a finalist for the trophy.
Before Penn State’s loss at the hands of the Buckeyes, the Heisman trophy was Saquon Barkley’s to lose. He may not have lost it, but the chasing pack has closed the gap on his once insurmountable lead. Before, they were far behind in the distance; now they’re breathing down Barkley’s neck.